I’ll Fly Away

There is an old gospel song named “I’ll Fly Away” recorded and made famous by (among others) Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis (who, interestingly enough, is the cousin of TV Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart both of whom, it might be said, went into the entertainment business!).  The lyrics (written by Alison Krauss) go like this:

Well, some glad mornin’ when this life is o’er,
I’ll fly away.
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away.
I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away.

When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away.
Just a few more weary days and then,
I’ll fly away.

To a home where joy shall never end,
I’ll fly away.
I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away.
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away.

You probably know the tune. The title is taken, most likely from Psalm 90:9-10: “For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to and end like a sigh.  The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”

The Psalm (if not the song) brings out several important truths:

  1. All our days pass “under the curse” so to speak (v. 9a).   This sin cursed existence is carried out under the “wrath” of God (i.e., the curse upon man and the earth in Genesis 3).  You know that pain you felt this morning when you tried to get out of bed?  That was the curse.  You know that sweat on your brow as you tried to earn your daily bread today?  The curse!  You know that mistreatment at the hand of your friend or spouse?  Curse!  All our days are lived out in “a veil of tears”.  Yes, there are many delightful pleasures in life.  But there is no pleasure that we have ever experienced that has not been in some way touched by the curse.  And we have experienced no pleasure like the simplest pleasure we will one day experience in our glorified state in the eschaton. 
  2. Life will soon expire (v. 9b -10).  How long does it take you to “sigh”?  That is how quickly our lives will play out compared to eternity.  What is seventy years in light of eternity?  Even if we live to eighty those extra ten years will be spent, all things being equal, in an increasing toil and trouble as we continue to age and deteriorate physically.  We know this is true, don’t we?  I can’t believe my son, Evan, is 38?  Emilee now has five children and has lived in Wyoming, California, and North Dakota before she and Matt landed in Michigan.  My kids are already feeling some of those aches and lacking the elasticity of body they took for granted at 21.  It is but a sigh is it not?  Well, as the Psalmist says, “they (the years) are soon gone, and we fly away”.  It is a comforting thought that we will “fly away” to God and his great Heaven.  But that is not the point of the Psalm.  The point really is:
  3. We need to number our days to that we may spend them wisely (v. 11 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”).  A heart of wisdom is the point.  What is wisdom?  Well, a very simple but helpful definition is “to see everything the way God sees it…to evaluate everything the way God would”.  Wisdom is seeing marriage the way God does.  Wisdom is evaluating our material possessions the way God does.  Wisdom is placing the same importance on worship as God does, etc. And wisdom is investing our lives in a way that manifests that we know our days are severely limited.  Almost every Sunday morning when I have my time with the Lord, I mentally and verbally acknowledge that I only have so many Sunday’s left.  I only have a limited number of opportunities to worship him with God’s people, only have so many sermons left in me.  I also realize I only have so many opportunities in this life to be with my children and grandchildren. In other words, temporal life has a finite number of opportunities.  So…invest in the best opportunities.

At the beginning of this week purpose to keep in mind that our time is like a bank account from which we withdraw and spend 24 hours each day.  What will we have to show for that investment at the end of the week?  I like to challenge myself from time to time by asking myself at the end of the day, “What did I do today that was of any eternal value” or, “What did I do today that advanced the kingdom of God?”  We do not have to be morbidly granular in such evaluations…nobody accounts for every minute of every day spent.  But overall, did I use my life wisely today?  Before you can expel a “sigh” …it will be over…and we’ll fly away.

Terry

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