Points to Ponder: How Pressing is What is Pressing You?

Points to Ponder
How Pressing is What is Pressing You?

While driving into town to begin my workday, I was listening to David McCullough's 1776, a book on CD. I enjoy his in-depth character descriptions of the various players in the conflict between the British and their pesky American colonies in the 1770's. I could practically picture the likeness and character of King George III, American General Nathaniel Green, the youthful Thomas Jefferson, just in his twenties then. How interesting to think that many of the "Founding Fathers" were young adults. George Washington was in his early forties. We're used to seeing portraits of old white guys. Yet many were relatively inexperienced younger people who embraced a cause bigger than themselves. Could they have known?
I often try to imagine these people in their day, huddled in a drafty uninsulated cabin in winter or suffering through the humidity of July in Philadelphia. I picture Washington with some of his troops gathered around a campfire on a cold February night, making their plans, trying to ignore how cold and hungry they were; trying to get through that day with no idea as to how it would end up. I picture the scene in the rustic woodland of that day and then see the image fade in my mind, revealing that on that spot today is perhaps an exit ramp to a Wal-Mart.
The unknown and unnamed thousands who paid the price in hardship; could they have known what their sacrifices would gain for us? All of the concerns, worries, hardships, painful losses we dwell on day to day were the same pressing issues they faced in life. They were ordinary men and women. Think of how much harder life was, how much more frequent illness and death struck at home. What burdens did they carry in their hearts day to day? You think you've got problems?
Listening to these historical accounts on CD opens up a new world, a deeper perspective for me. These folks are long gone. The issues of their day are not the pressing matters of ours. Time goes on. Life goes on. You serve your own role, you make your journey of seventy or eighty years, then you pass from the stage.
"The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away" (Psalm 90:10 NKJV).
Talk along this line seems to depress some people. I wonder why. I find it useful, even inspiring. You see, the goal is not to succeed here. That's not a success that will last. Soon, even the best of us are forgotten.
What lesson can this offer to us now? It is a lesson, which I find I must revisit, and study over and over again. Ego, pride, insecurity can be the compelling forces that make us worry about position, status, and who gets the credit for what gets done.
I recall in my early days as a pastor how easily bothered I was by certain kinds of criticism. One particularly gruff old guy could say something that would play on in my mind for days. I talked this over with a pastoral counselor. He asked a question that has stuck with me ever since. "How can you take that personally?" The point being that when you are serving the Lord, you are not the person who's out front. Not that one must deny their humanity or the natural needs we all have; but in the service of others you are a vessel in the hands of another Person. As John the Baptist said when his disciples were concerned that this Jesus was drawing a bigger crowd,
"A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven... He must increase and I must decrease" (John 3:27, 30 NKJV)
I have been pondering these things as I consider the pressing issues of my own life. Everyone has concerns, goals, fears, and a host of other things that makes life what it is; this has been every generation's lot. We serve our piece of history as part of the great fabric of history (His story) as it marches on toward the conclusion, which only God knows. How pressed are you by what is pressing?
Listening to McCullough speak of the events and people of 1775, intermittently pondering what I'm dealing with 240 years from then, I glanced at the tractor-trailer making a right turn away from me. On its flat bed trailer was a load of cemetery vaults - the heavy grave liners in which someone's casket someday will be laid. Those vaults are empty now only because those who will occupy them are out and about, living their days. Folks typically aren't thinking about their vaults. Few of us do; but the Bible suggests, by implication, that we should.
"What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? (Psalm 89:48)
"So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).
Perhaps we would not take certain things so seriously - especially ourselves. And then we might take other things more seriously because our days are numbered (see Psalm 139:16).
Funny how we put a lot of value on things that quickly fade and matter little; while we let pass by the smaller, quieter things that actually could live on beyond our time. Without an eternal perspective, you can easily miss the difference.

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com