Charles G. Finney, a young aspiring lawyer, was sitting in a village law office in the State of New York. It was early in the morning and Charles was alone. In the quietness of the hour the Lord began to deal with him. A series of questions crossed his mind to which he responded:
“‘Finney, what are you going to do when you finish your course?’
‘Put out a shingle and practice law.’
And the words came trembling from his lips in a whisper. ‘The judgment.'”
We all know something about judgment. Before a diploma is granted by an institution there are a series of tests that students must take, and the grade received on those tests mean either the student is approved or disapproved. A judgment is rendered based upon performance. Judgment. It is a sobering word, but it does not need to be a terrifying concept. Rather, the word can be used as a guiding principle in life, and that is how the author of Ecclesiastes uses it. “Enjoy life,” he writes. “Rejoice in the strength and vigor of youth. Walk in the ways of thine heart. But remember, that for all you say and do, God will hold you accountable. Someday you will have a date with destiny.”
Because this is true, several very practical points from our text should be considered. First, life can be a rather joyful experience. This was the original Divine design. When God created Adam and Eve, the Bible says that He brought them to a Garden called Eden. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve began to experience and enjoy the pleasures of life. There was meaningful work to do for the garden had to be attended, and the animals named. And best of all, there was fellowship with the Author of life, for the Bible says that each afternoon, in the cool of the evening, the Lord met with Adam and Eve. But then one day a tragic encounter took place.
The Bible reveals that a day came long ago when sin entered into the world. Sin entered to rob life of pleasure and meaning by blinding the intellect of man to much spiritual truth, perverting the passions, and damaging the will so that unwise and unholy decisions are often made. Adam and Eve should have fled from the face of evil. Instead, they learned first what all of their descendants have learned,
Vice is a monster of such frightful rein,
that to be hated needs but to be seen;
but seen too oft, familiar with its face,
we first endure, then pity, then embrace.
The power of sin to captivate precious souls is reflected in part by the number of people enslaved to various addictions and aggressive behaviors. In terms of addictions, one source estimates that over ten million Americans are alcoholics. In fact, the leading cause of death among young people from the ages of 16 to 24 is alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. Other estimates indicate that 23 million Americans over 12 years of age have at one time or another used illegal drugs. And aggression?
One of every four homes was touched by crime in 1985. And much of the violence is between family and friends. Dr. Paul Welter comments that, “Millions of despairing people are retreating from life through the avenue of depression, reaching for excitement or numbness through addictions, and seeking power in their weakness by turning violent.” And many depressed and anxious people turn aggressively and violently on themselves. Between the years of 1958 and 1982, some 587,821 people in the United States alone ended their lives by self-inflicted injuries, an average of about 23, 500 per year.
We obviously live in a critical age. Theologian Paul Tillich concluded, “The anxiety which determines our period is the anxiety of doubt and meaninglessness.” Young people, God wants you to know that this was not His original intent. The anxiety of doubt and meaninglessness is the result of sin. One of your classmates asked if we could share a guiding principle that would help young people not to experience a dreadful life and make decisions that would be tragic and later regretted. I believe we can help best by suggesting that each of you deal personally with the issue of sin. To deal with sin is to go to the source of all problems. Thoreau observed that, “There are a hundred men hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
We want you to strike the root of all-evil that produces addictions, unhealthy pride, and violence. In Biblical terms, this means that sin must be humbly acknowledged before God. Sin must be repented of. Sin must be turned from. God would have you turn from sin to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is declared to be the only Savior of the World. God would have you turn from sin to the Cross of Calvary and behold the precious bloodshed to redeem all who are held captive by sin. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved is still the Divine offer. Peace and joy, beauty and love, truth and wisdom, meaning in life belong to God.
These are His gifts, and they are yours for the asking. They are yours for the receiving by faith, and by following the Lord Jesus Christ. We say again, life can be a rather joyful experience by Divine design. Jesus said, “I come to give you life and that more abundantly.” There is a second point we would have you observe from the text: life involves many choices. The Bible says that we are to, “Walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes.” A practical problem immediately arises, because before our eyes are many ways. There are many paths to travel. Decisions have to be made.
Some young people are even now wrestling with the decision to go to college, keep working at a present job, or learn a trade. Pressure comes from family members and from well meaning friends about what to do. Other young people must make a decision about marriage. Still others wrestle with the decision to leave home or stay. In the midst of the options that for some seem complex and overwhelming, again the question comes, “Is there a guiding principle that will help young people not to experience a dreadful life and make decisions that will be regretted?”
The answer is yes.
In this particular matter the Bible speaks with wisdom, and reveals that the Creator of all has a will for each one of His creatures. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, my brother, I implore you by God’s mercy to offer your very selves to Him. a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for his acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart. Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this present world, but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed. Then you will be able to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect.”
Young people. God has a will for your life. Perhaps He has revealed that will to you already. Some already know by natural gifts and graces, by certain interests and abilities what they want to do in life. Others are not sure. Here is a liberating, life transforming truth. God has a plan for our life that He desires to unfold. Perhaps some of you have never even considered that the Creator has a wise and holy purpose for your life. Listen to the experience of one poet.
With eager heart, and will on fire,
I sought to win my great desire.’
Peace shall be mine’, I said;
But life grew bitter in the endless strife.
My soul was weary,
and my pride was wounded deep.
To heaven I cried;
‘God give me peace, or I must die’
The dumb stars glittered no reply.
Broken at last, I bowed my head.
Forgetting all myself, and said:
‘Whatever comes, His will be done’
And in that moment, peace was won.
Young people, God has a will for your life. There is a final thought from the text, and that is all people have a date with destiny. Understand that however you deal with the issue of sin, either to turn from it or be dominated by it; there will be a time of accountability. Understand that whether you seek the will of God in all matters of life or not, there will still be a date with destiny. There is no escaping the fact. Since your date with destiny is assured, do not retreat from life but advance now to conquer sin and to live righteously, seek the will of God, and walk humble before Him.
The story is told that there was a time during the Battle of Waterloo when Napoleon grew discouraged. Surveying the battlefield, the tough little general said to his drummer, “The English are standing firm. The Old Guard is making no progress. We are defeated; sound the retreat.” Hesitantly, the lad looked at Napoleon and protested, “Master, in all our campaigns in Europe, I have never learned to sound the retreat.” Deeply touched by the comment, Napoleon said, “All right drummer boy, sound the advance.”
Today, the signal is the same. Advance in life young people. Rejoice in thy youth. Walk in the ways of thine heart. Just remember that for all the things you say and do, you are advancing to a date with destiny. Let this truth be a guiding principle in life. May God grand you His grace. Amen.