My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
You see, there’s a difference between the internal and the external. The external is fading, it’s temporary; but there’s something inside us that’s eternal, that’s from God, that’s linked to God, that doesn’t fade, that doesn’t wither.
Paul says, “Our outward man perishes, but our inward man is renewed day by day.” Whenever I read those words I always think of my first wife, Lydia. Towards the end of her life she suffered from a weak heart and yet she was an amazingly strong and active woman and continued so almost to the last week of her life. And when she felt her heart, her physical heart, failing, that’s what she would say: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” She’d learned that lesson that we don’t let the external and the physical dictate to us, that there’s an inner source of life and strength which is not subject to the weakness and fluctuations of our human body.
Eventually God called her home in tremendous victory after almost fifty years of active Christian service and she left behind her a testimony of tremendous victory. But she’d learned that secret: the outward may perish but the inward is eternal. The inward is linked to God, the inward remains a source of strength when there’s little strength left in the outward.
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart. (Psalm 86:11–12)
The psalmist there focuses on one thing that is necessary if we are to walk God’s way successfully.
First of all, he cries out, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth.” We cannot walk in God’s way unless God in His mercy teaches us that way. And then he says, “Give me an undivided heart.” And a little later he says, “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart.”
Notice the emphasis on the heart: “an undivided heart,” “with all my heart.” That’s so important that we don’t have a divided heart, that our heart is totally yielded to God, that it’s focused on God. We have no second loyalties; we have no options. All our springs are in God; all our expectations are from God.
I’ve discovered in the Christian life, the further you go in God the fewer the options. The way becomes narrower and narrower and ultimately those who come to the end of the course are those who find their total satisfaction in God. It’s not God plus something; it’s God alone. That’s an undivided heart – when we don’t look anywhere but in God for our life, our satisfaction, our peace.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by or like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:2, 4)
That’s the difference between time and eternity, the mountains were born, the earth and the world were brought forth, that’s a past tense. But when the psalmist turns to God he says, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Not, “You were God,” but “You are God.” With God there is never a past tense, never a future tense. God doesn’t indwell time; He indwells eternity. Eternity is not just a very long period of time; it’s a different mode of being. It’s something from another world. It’s higher than time. With God it’s always, you are. His name is, “I AM.” And from the serenity and the heights of eternity He beholds time.
The psalmist says that “a thousand years with God are just like a day that’s gone by or a watch in the night.” The night, in biblical times, was divided into four watches of three hours each, so a thousand years with God is just like three hours that have passed in our experience. That’s what it is to be related to God. It’s to have a relationship that extends out of time into eternity, that’s not subject to the changes and fluctuations of time, that’s anchored in the very being of God Himself.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
What does that mean, “to number our days aright”? Well, let me ask you another question. If I were to ask you, “What is the thing in your life that you find hardest to manage? What is the thing that you so often find yourself short of, that you don’t have enough of?” What would you answer?
You might perhaps think money, but in my experience there’s one thing that’s much harder to manage than money, something that I’m much more often short of than money and that is time. I believe time is the hardest thing to manage properly in our lives. I believe that the stewardship of time is perhaps the supreme test of our discipline and our real Christianity. And so I pray like the psalmist, “Teach me to number my days aright.” Teach me to set my priorities aright, teach me to give enough time to the things that matter most.
You see, your priorities of time really indicate the values of your life. Things that have low priority probably will drop off the bottom of the list. If you don’t give high priority to the things that really matter, your life will be out of order. So you, like me, need to echo that prayer, “Teach me to number my days aright, teach me right priorities, teach me to manage my time.”