(…continued) You will be told many other things. You will be told that pleasure is the most important thing is life. You will be told that you must seek pleasure at all costs and do all you can to avoid pain. There is, of course, nothing wrong with enjoying life. Life is a gift of God and He intended for us to enjoy it. But he also commands our obedience, and God did not tell us to make pleasure the most important goal of life. There are other more important concerns, such as other people. What if your all-out pursuit of pleasure interferes with someone else’s pleasure? What do you do then? Seek your own pleasure anyway? That is what you will be told. Be yourself, find yourself, you have to be happy, and don’t allow yourself remain trapped in a place where you are not happy. In my ministry I have seen many homes destroyed and many people made miserable, just because somebody else had to be happy. When happiness and pleasure are most important, and you are not as happy as you think you should be, something has to be done. The temptation will be to get out, break your promises, give up, move on, quit trying, or whatever. But that is a small price to pay, you will be told, because you only go around once in life and you’ve got to grab all you can, as the old beer commercial used to say.
Commercials like that, no matter how brief or silly, are teaching you about life and how to live it. Who will you believe? Jesus promises not endless happiness, but that life will be hard, you will have crosses to bear, and you can be blessed by your afflictions. Jesus also promises that you don’t just ‘go around once in life,’ but offers you a life to come, a better life, in a place God will live with us and wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death or pain or crying anymore, as the Bible says.
In the meantime, Jesus promises us a peace that can be found even in the midst of turmoil. This deeper peace is found not in the selfish avoidance of pain, but in the path of duty and obedience. Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Who will you believe?
You will also be told that youth is to be much preferred over old age. This will be fine with you, now when you are still young. But as you grow older, this false teaching will begin to bother you, as it bothers many people. You will want to stay young, which is impossible; so you might be talked into buying some of the many silly products made to keep you at least ‘looking’ young (for whatever good that does). You will be told that growing old is bad and ugly and something to be ashamed of. Dr. James Dobson once commented on how foolish this is: “There are five billion people on this planet and every one of them is growing older, so why should I feel guilty about it?”
But many people do feel bad about it and try to hide it like it is something to be ashamed of. Why is that? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that many people no longer believe in God or salvation or heaven and eternal life. For them, this life is all they have. This is the kind of belief that is told us and sold us. And if there is no life to come, each day then brings one closer to eternal death and annihilation, and the advancing years are indeed to be dreaded. Time is running out, the wrinkles and grey hairs are a constant reminder, and the advertisers are there with promises to fix it all.
But we should know better, we who worship a risen Savior and have the promise of eternal life. But will we believe that and live by that, or will we believe the advertisers and worship youth? Old age is nothing to be feared or dreaded. Old age does not bring us closer to our end, but closer to that time when the trumpet will sound and our bodies will be raised and we are brought to live forever with God. There we will be done with sin and false beliefs, and God will freely and completely give us that perfect happiness and peace that we so desperately crave here.
What will you believe? Will you believe that youth must be hung on to desperately, and attempt to hide the fact that you are getting every day older? Or will you believe what has been promised you– days without end– and be freed to live every day now, young or old, to the fullest?
Let’s live by what we say we believe, and not believe what we are told by those who have no hope. Jesus said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” A little later Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.” The disciples spent three years of their lives with Jesus, and even they needed the Holy Spirit to remind them of what they had learned. So certainly for you, this Confirmation Day must not be an end to your learning, but only a beginning. You, like the disciples, need reminders of what you believe about God and how God wants you to live.
The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God, so keep in touch with that Word. Continue to worship, continue to read the Bible and pray, continue to seek to grow in your life in Christ.
II Timothy 3:14-15 — …Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Day by day,
Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by Day.
–From the 1971 musical Godspell; by Stephen Schwartz, based on a prayer by St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)