Four Reflections on my 45th Birthday
By Mike Augsburger
Years ago I used a sermon illustration that seemed to connect with the congregation in a unique way. I was discussing stewardship of time and the need to make the most of the time God has given.
In order to illustrate this, I brought 2 bowls to the podium. One was full of coins and the other empty. I held up the one with coins and shook it. There’s something unique about the sound of coins jingling together! I said, “Each of these coins represents a moment in your life. Time that God has given you. There are only a certain amount of coins in the bowl, and God has given us only a certain number of moments in our lives. The number is set. We can’t add to it, and we don’t know how much is in there.”
“Every moment that passes is like grabbing a coin from this bowl, and moving it to the ‘used up’ bowl.” At this point I would grab a coin or two and clank it into the empty bowl. Then I began attaching activities to those coins. Going to school—a handful of coins. Drop a few in for reading your Bible each day. Playing video games—chink, clank, into the bowl they went.
After church people commented how vivid that was in their minds, and I similarly had that same feeling. Every day we grab coins from our supply and deposit them for eternity, and we never know how much we have left.
On my 45th birthday, you might say I’ve begun to think deeply and reflectively about life. It is both long and short. It is a fight and a breeze. It is joy and sorrow. It is pain and blessing. Ultimately, it is Christ, and for me to live and to die is gain! At age 45, what are my reflections? I have four for you today.
1. Time goes faster than you can ever imagine
When I was 12 I started looking for a car for my dad and me to buy. However, waiting 4 years for my license seemed an eternity to wait. Now, I’ve been driving for nearly 30 years. As I got older my plans to enter ministry solidified, which meant 4 years of college and 3 years of seminary. That also meant I wouldn’t be getting married until I was at least 25. From my perspective, it seemed like that would never happen. Last week we just celebrated our 20 year anniversary.
When you are young time seems to creep by and all you can think about it making it go faster. Old people always say, “Time goes so fast.” Well, I must be an old person because I find myself saying, “Time is going so fast!”
Psalm 90:10, 12 have always impacted me. It says that our lives are generally 70 years, and if we’re strong, 80 years. Verse 12 continues and says, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” Young people don’t number their days and consequently they make unwise choices and youthful mistakes. Knowing the brevity of life and the limited supply of days gives me wisdom to know how to proceed. The next three reflections flow from this first one.
2. The world is fickle, God is eternal
If you’re wondering who to impress, don’t be concerned with the world. If you’re looking for direction in life, ignore what the world has to say. If you want to feel relevant, don’t find relevance in the eyes of the world. Why? Because the world can’t make up their mind and stick with anything for more than a hot second. The world has the attention span of a one-year-old sitting in front of 10 screens.
I was talking to my son the other day about styles. I was explaining that when I grew up in the 80s and 90s, styles were more static and uniform. Most of the boys in my High School had the same haircut (The bowl cut). Everybody wore black sneakers. If you didn’t have a purple silk shirt buttoned to the top then you didn’t know about fashion.
Not so today. In the same store I can see two girls who appear “with it” and one is wearing bell bottoms and the other wearing skinny jeans. Opposite styles, yet both accepted by the “in” crowd.
That reveals an “everybody does right in their own eyes” attitude which is pervasive in our culture today. We are to choose our identities and work toward self-definition and self-fulfillment. Ultimately, this is a push back against absolute truth. However, without some anchoring standard, the world will blow back and forth, up and down, and will never be able to provide the self-realization it so deceptively offers.
If you’re wondering who to impress, start with Christ. If you’re looking for direction in life, don’t leave the pages of Scripture. If you want to feel relevant, adapt the unchanging, unwavering biblical worldview which enables you to speak with clarity and relevancy on every cultural issue.
3. Focus on today, not tomorrow
This sounds completely counter-intuitive from a Christian worldview perspective! The Bible seems to speak against this when it says that wicked people have the philosophy of “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!” Sure, that kind of short-sighted thinking is definitely condemned in Scripture. What I’m talking about is different.
Think of it like this. When you are young, you want to be older. As you get older, you want to be young again. When you’re young, you can’t wait to get to your next birthday, and you are proud to announce that you are another year older. As you age, birthdays are an unwelcomed guest each year, and you find yourself hoping that people will guess you to be at least 5 years younger than you are!
As a young person wishing to be older you unintentionally gloss over all the precious and important moments of life. As you get older, you want to go back. More and more I find myself wanting to go back and re-live experiences. Unfortunately, the 1985 Delorean with the flux capacitor doesn’t exist. We can never go back. What can we do instead?
We can try as much as possible to live in the moment. Enjoy the blessings God has laid before us. Stop constantly wishing for the next stage, the next accomplishment, the next goal on the financial calendar. If this is your practice you’ll wake up one day and realized you’ve wished away your entire life and never enjoyed the precious moments along the way.
Living for today in the right way maximizes our tomorrow. Ephesians 5 says that we should redeem our time because we live in evil days! Redeeming our time means that we are to live fully in today; soaking up every chance we can get to focus on God’s blessings and those things which last for eternity.
Take a moment to enjoy God’s creation. Make sure to kiss your kids before they go to bed each night. Linger long at the dinner table as many evenings as possible, enjoying the conversation and laughter of the ones you love. By doing this, you’re setting the stage for good things in the future. Matthew 6:34 says, “Let tomorrow worry about itself.” To that, I say, “AMEN.” I want to enjoy what God’s provided for me today.
4. Love people at the expense of gaining things
Life goes so fast. The world has very little of value to offer. The greatest blessings are those God has laid before you today. Therefore, this fourth one seems like a natural place to land. Fill your life with people: family, friends, acquaintances—anyone you can love and serve for Christ’s sake. Jesus died for people. Jesus died for you, and through his sacrifice we can live eternally. Relationships are the only thing we take with us into eternity.
Our culture measures success by our houses, land, career, vacations and retirement accounts. Gaining those things is not inherently bad. However, in some cases it can come at the expense of investing in people. A dad ends up being absent for so many evenings and special events. A mom misses the precious little years because she’s busy advancing her career.
As I get older, I ask myself this question often, “Once I’m in my eternal dwelling place, what will I be happy I invested in?” If I had the chance to move to my dream destination, but had to pastor a difficult church, be riddled with stress, and neglect my kids, would that be worth it? No way. Will I be happy I died a little richer, or had a better relationship with my loved ones? I think the answer is self-evident.
Jesus didn’t die for us to have a comfortable retirement. Jesus died to save people. He loves people and so should we. On my 45th birthday, I’m mindful to arrange my life in such a way that the people God has given me to love and lead will take precedence above all else.
In our day and age, recording videos of moments in life is nearly an everyday experience. I recorded my kids arm wrestling the other day and then got a priceless video of my oldest arm wrestling my wife. I won’t tell you who won, but I will tell you that the result will not always remain the same as they both get older!
As I’m recording I’ll sometimes think, “Years from now, I’ll be watching this video wishing that I could re-live this moment.” That’s always a great reminder to focus on the right things. To ask God for help to number my days so I gain a heart of wisdom. To look for chances to redeem the time because the days are evil, and to invest as much as possible in those that Jesus loves and for whom he died.
As I finish writing this, it is late at night. My kids are in bed and my wife is waiting for me to come upstairs. These final sentences come while tears roll down my cheeks, as I consider the goodness of God in my life. Thank you Lord. I pray my 46th year of life will honor Christ and be blessed by his love and grace!