This past week has been a bit unique from the standpoint of what I expected it to be like a month ago as items began to fill up the calendar. Frequently, it is the things that are never foreseen enough to make it to the calendar page that often impact us the most. This Ministry Minute looks at those events that come at us not unexpected but also not as the center of our plans. How is it that God may use those times to direct us, perhaps re-direct us, or to get our attention to matters that are on His agenda and perhaps did not quite make it to ours? How is it that God has sought to help you adjust your sights?
The first of such events this past week was the death of my sister-in-law. On Friday, last, she turned 70, not that she was aware of it. The ‘shower of strokes’, as the doctors described them, that took place last April had taken their toll over the intervening twelve months and left her barely aware of her surroundings, except on particularly lucid days (which came less frequent as the months progressed). With stopping all but the most basic of comfort measures for her medically, we all knew that the time for her passing was near; but, that did not necessarily prepare us for its eventuality. In the last few hours of her life, I sat next to my sister-in-law and held her hand. Whether or not she knew I was there, I may never know; but, my brother knew I was there and that was a comfort to him. If my sister-in-law received some comfort from it, then the Lord is to be praised for that as well. All during those hours, her breathing was regular though rasping and she did not struggle in the least. With the experiences I have had in the past, her breathing seemed to indicate that we might be in for twelve to twenty-four or more hours of waiting. But then, in about ten minutes of time, her breathing slowed dramatically. Suddenly she was breathing only about three times a minute. That lasted for maybe three minutes at the most and then, she was gone. No fanfare, no major change, or any indication at all that the time of her death had arrived. She was just gone. In the time it usually takes for a television program to break for commercials, it was over.
Since her passing, most every day has been spent, at least in part, dealing with all that needs to be addressed; particularly when the spouse is debilitated and confined to a nursing home. There is always a bit of the calendar that was made prior to such an event that still must go forward and then there are the routine chores of life that are free to give way to the pressing needs brought about by the loss of a loved one. The mundane are suddenly recognized. How very common so much of what we fill our days with truly are.
Mundane or the filling of our precious hours with yet another meaningless chore or even the hours of one more tweet, email or on-line game can bring us to the end of our day having spent countless hours that account for nothing. At what point do we begin setting our sights each day on the things that matter? The Bible admonishes us to “…not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20 NKJV)
Such sight adjustment requires the management of our time. The hours that pass within each day will always be limited to the very same number of minutes and seconds. We cannot add sand to the hour glass. How often have you lamented at not having enough time for your Bible reading or your prayer time? It seems that from the minute we awake, the pressure of the outside world begins to fill our minutes and hours with the details of the mundane. Our sights become so fixated on putting out the small brush fires that pop up almost exponentially throughout the day that we find ourselves robbed of the time we need to simply lean back, take a deep breath and focus on the things of the Lord. We are admonished as well by the Word that our days “…are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him…”(Psalm 103:15-17 NKJV)
In just those brief seconds, my sister-in-law’s life on this earth was gone. We are eternal creatures, created by God with souls destined to live somewhere forever. Debilitated beyond any chance to recover, her life became endless minutes of pain, frustration, anxiety only to be followed by more of the same. All of the time that she had before in the 68 or 69 years she lived before the shower of strokes reduced her to the state to which she finally succumbed, had fled like smoke through a keyhole, gone and unable to be reclaimed. But what of the good she had accomplished, the things that were of the Lord? Those things are eternal. When one’s heart is right with the Lord, it is possible to redeem the time. Not that we can ever find those minutes and seconds again, but if those minutes and seconds were spent on the treasures of heaven; then they do not disappear like dust in the wind.
King Solomon, the Bible tells us was the wisest man who ever lived. Late in his life he lamented about how little value there was in everyday things. He wrote,
“Vanity[a] of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” 3 What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? 4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever. 5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose. 6 The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit. 7 All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again. 8 All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Eccl. 1:2-9 NKJV)
Pretty depressing bunch of thoughts there, aren’t they? Solomon had lived a life blessed by the Lord in ways we can only imagine and for much of his life he walked closely with the Lord. Then, as time went on, Solomon began to seek fulfillment in the wisdom that he held, in the things of this earth and his great accomplishments. His sights were no longer on things of heaven but on himself, on his ability to create and change his world. It led him into a depth of despair and disillusionment that is reflected in his writing. His sights were on the things of this earth. Solomon needed a sight adjustment. Isaiah, who did not live until 200 years after Solomon had just the right prescription for Solomon’s myopia. Myopia, also called near-sightedness and short-sightedness, the experts tell us is a condition of the eye where the light that comes in does not directly focus on the retina but in front of it, causing the image that one sees when looking at a distant object to be out of focus. Solomon was no longer allowing the Light of God’s truth to fill his vision. He lost sight of the things of heaven, they became a blur to him but instead he kept in clear focus those things that were close to him. That led to his depression. Isaiah wrote, centuries later that we are to “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished.” (Isaiah 51:6 NKJV)
When I teach basic pistol and firearms classes, one of the basic principles is sight alignment. Here are pictures of different sight alignments. Only the far left one is correct and allows for a shot on target. Each of the others will miss as shown on the white circles. To understand it better, view the sight alignment picture to the right of these first five.
In the diagram on the right you can notice several things. The front sight of the pistol (light grey) is even across the top with the back sights (dark grey with a white outline). Also the front sight is exactly in the middle of the rear sight with equal space left and right. Thirdly, the sights of the firearm are lined up directly on the center mass area of the target. Now, here is what you may not notice on this illustration. The target itself is blurry. The rear sights are blurry. The front sight is perfectly clear. You see, our eyes cannot put into focus three things at once, only one thing at a time. If our focus is wrong, then we will not hit our target accurately or consistently.
Heaven and the eternity for which we long are our target. It is somewhere down range in our life span. You may have heard of someone who was so heavenly minded they were no earthly good. Our goal is heaven but, for now, our work is here. If we focus, though on the things that are very near – the mundane of our everyday lives, the rear sights, for sake of the illustration, then we cannot hope to hit our target either. Like Solomon, we will become discouraged and distracted in what the Lord has for us here. Proper sight alignment has us focusing on the front sights, those things that we can do in the here and now that will have heavenly consequences; our prayer life, our Bible study, our witness and ministry and our relationships. We want to spend our time learning to focus on those things which will reap eternal results. To stay on target, you must keep your sights properly aligned.
The Ministry Minute is produced by True North Ministry with Rev. Dr. Ross L. Riggs