Turning 33, the age when Jesus died
I’ll be honest. I have typed and re-typed this article so many times, it’s embarrassing. This is why I believe that writing is a perishable skill. The considerable gap since my last blog post has left me fishing for words from a dried-up puddle of vocabulary in my brain. It is true that I came up with the title of this post but I haven’t had anything more to contribute for a while. I turned thirty-three on the 26th of July, sprawled on my bed with a nasty cold and this title was the best that I could come up with.
Like many of you, I engage in an annual ritual on my birthday—a moment of reflection on the past year while also sending out hopes and prayers for the future that lies ahead. As a matter of fact, the first ever article that I had written (as far as I can remember) was titled ‘Turning 25 for the Glory of God’. Well, here I am eight years later considerably more thankful, hopeful and joyful.
And thinking about thirty-three, it amazes me that Jesus saved the world at my age. Now, before your jar of theological orthodoxy cracks just thinking about the eternality of Christ and so on, let me clarify that my intention in saying that is quite straightforward. Jesus had thirty-three years on earth as a human to accomplish the task of the redemption of mankind. And he did it, faithfully.
I acknowledge that dwelling on mortality might not be the typical focus of a birthday, yet this instance was different. Reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifice had me thinking about the seriousness of life and the time that we have been blessed with. Recently, a pastor friend of mine reached sixty years, prompting me to compare our ages. Realising I’m just half his age and considering the opportunity to live through another lifetime before reaching his current years, I began to think about all that I could do within that timeframe. Yet, the Bible remind us,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.James 4:13-14
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.Proverbs 27:1
Moses famously prayed to the Lord,
So teach us to number our daysPsalm 90:12
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
How do I know that I will be alive to celebrate another birthday? What confidence do I have that I will live for another thirty-three years? What assurances do I have for tomorrow?
In truth, I possess none of these assurances, except for one: that God is good, and his plans for me are most certainly for my good. I eagerly approach the morrow with a heart full of prayer and optimism, fully aware that my strength emanates solely from Him. This does not make me sad, it makes me immeasurably happy. I am not weaker because of this truth, it makes me stronger. Because I know that my times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15). There is no power in heaven or hell, in the skies above or the earth below, that can wrest one solitary second from the span of time He has chosen to bestow upon me. I pray for more, many more birthdays, with the hope that I can live them out for the glory of God. And I know that prayer is heard by the One who is faithful and true.
Indeed, the core of the crucifixion, the essence of his death, was to liberate us from the clutches of death. Consequently, death today has no sting or victory.
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15:55-57
As Doug Wilson often points out, Jesus died so that we might die to sin once and for all, and he rose up from the grave so that we might rise in the newness of the redeemed life.
Ultimately, this entire journey has ignited a flame of courage within me. It takes courage to live life with holy abandon. By holy abandon, I mean the kind of life that is less concerned with self-preservation in light of the greater concern of God’s glory.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find itMatthew 10:39
Jesus speaks of a profound gain found within this holy abandonment. I firmly believe that the goal of our lives must not revolve around achieving the maximum impact we can have upon this world. Instead, it should be occupied with the pursuit of the maximum glory that we can bring to God daily. Pursuing the former may lead us to chase after superficial recognition since a John Piper of this world clearly has a far more impact than the average one of us does. We begin to construct strategies and draw up plans that will maximise our impact. Yet, God has not asked us to do any of that. Christ is far more pleased with the faith of a blind man crying for mercy, a bleeding woman stretching amongst the thick crowd to touch one thread of his garment, and a child who runs eagerly to be seated beside him. The essence of our existence is not to magnify our influence over the world, but rather to magnify God’s influence over our everyday lives so that we can shine as bright as we ought to, right where we are.
This is holy abandon, a desire that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Men who embody this principle construct unshakable households, lead their families with godly devotion, raise children who heed obedience, serve their local congregations, provide fatherly guidance to the fatherless, extend mercy to the oppressed, bring healing to the ailing, resurrect the spirit of the dead, preach the unadulterated Word, shepherd the flock, and are prepared to give up their lives for the cause of Christ. These are the men moulded in the likeness of the ultimate Man, Jesus Christ, who, in an act of holy abandonment, endured the cross, succumbed to death, and emerged triumphant in the resurrection for the redemption of all who place their faith in Him.
These are the men who change the world.