Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. (Psalms 39:5)
Last week we read the 38th Psalm in which David was very troubled over sin in his life. Apparently this sin was accompanied by a terrible sickness which only heightened his anxiety. He was dealing with the mental pressure of being out of fellowship with the Lord as well as the physical pain of being sick in his body.
As we move into the 39th Psalm, David paused to reflect upon the brevity of life and how spending our time accumulating riches and those things that will pass away is nothing but vanity (v. 6). C.T. Shedd, who was a missionary in Africa in the late 19th century, wrote a famous poem with this line: “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” C.T. Shedd lived that line. He gave up an enormous fortune and a beautiful home to go to Africa to serve Christ while living in an old run down wooden shack. Some of you may remember his name from our outreach training. He also said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” Every Christian should take into consideration how brief our lives truly are. James said your life is like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (James 4:14).
As I read this Psalm, I was struck by David’s comment in the first verse: “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.” David was struggling with his condition; he understood it was not God’s fault, but he was terribly tempted to let out a word of complaint. At the very least he wanted to give expression to his grief, but he was afraid if he said the wrong thing or if the wrong person heard it, it would bring reproach upon the Lord.
Have we stopped to consider how words spoken wrongly, in anger or disgust, can harm others? Have you considered that giving vent to anger with the tongue can seriously damage your testimony? Words often bring more pain to people than anything you can do to them physically. We may never live long enough to make up for the hurt we do by speaking the wrong thing. We must think carefully before speaking especially in front of those who do not know the Lord.
I believe David was considering this and thinking carefully. This short life affords us time to reach only a few people. Comparatively speaking, we have little influence in a world filled with billions of people. However, the ones we do influence ought to receive the best impression of us they can. C.T. Shedd and others like him thought if there is to be any influence it ought to be that which leads people to Christ. This is why he was not willing to sit still in the lap of luxury when he could spend his time and money reaching people for Christ.
David said in verse 3 that he was musing about such things—about life and so on. “Muse” means to think deeply. He was thinking deeply about these perplexing problems. Isn’t it interesting that Satan would rather see you “amusing” yourself rather than musing? “Amuse” literally means “without thinking.” We spend far too much time in amusement, don’t we? We amuse ourselves and simply do not think about what matters. “Only what is done for Christ will last.” Spend a little time thinking about that.
Pastor V. Mark Smith