Something about the passing of our days

Something about the passing of our days

I grew up loving cricket and loving Jesus. A cricket ball in a low-hanging stocking from the patio was an occupational hazard. Any collision of those two great loves was celebrated and memorable.

CT Studd was one of those collisions. I must have read a child-sized biography of his before I reached double figures in age. Unfortunately, my forays beyond double figures at the crease were far less notable.

Charles Studd was an Englishman who lived from 1860 – 1931 and played Test cricket for England. His test career was hardly prolific (mind you, few of that era are compared to the number of tests played these days). Five Tests with a highest score of 48 and a few wickets as a bowler to go with the runs rounds of his Test career.

His most memorable cricketing moment (for an Australian) may be that he played in the infamous test in which England capitulated to the Australians giving death to some bails and rise to a small urn contains their ashes. The Ashes.

More notably, CT Studd responded to Jesus. He moved from a head awareness of the divine to a soul/spirit awakening and spiritual rebirth. It changed the course of his life and the purpose of his days.

He’d later recall:

“I got down on my knees and said ‘thank you’ to God. And right then and there joy and peace came into my soul. I knew then what it was to be ‘born again,’ and the Bible which had been so dry to me before became everything.”

CT Studd

Already a cricketer of note, his insight at the age of 23 was one that doesn’t always hit others in a lifetime.

“What is all the fame and flattery worth when a man comes to face eternity? I knew that cricket would not last, and honour would not last, and nothing in this world would last, but it was worthwhile living for the world to come”.

CT Studd

His other-kingdom-mindedness was muscular and intellectual. The latter seemed to fuel the former.

This muscular, eternal focus flung him out from England to join Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission. Studd became a missionary with a heart to spread the gospel to all. It seemed to be coupled with a touch of wanderlust as well. He served in China, India, America, England, and Sudan, before dying at the age of 70 in the Belgian Congo.

His life and life choices (are the two any different?) reflect a man willfully living out Solomon’s truth in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that The Maker has ‘written eternity on the hearts of man’. CT lived a life informed by the adventurous heavenward story laid out for him.

One of his legacies, no doubt a product of his life,  is a sweet eight-verse poem where each verse ends with the same rhyming couplet-refrain:

“Only one life ’twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

I grew up knowing only the couplet, but the eight verses take it to places deeper still.

(verse 4)
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfil,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

(verse 6)
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

‘Teach us to number our days’, another poet says before God in Psalm 90. Not a dull metronomic march, but for the purpose of prizing wisdom and seeing it as a treasure of great worth.

Some quip that an earlier chapter in their days was ‘a lifetime ago’ or ‘a whole other life’ as though there was a void of discontinuity somewhere in there. Perhaps they wish it were so. We have one life. God appoints the number of its days and the opportunities within which we can shrink or thrive.

The Maker invites you into a life greater still, where your days are limitless and uncountable; rich becoming richer. But the now-not-yet part of your story is formed through the days of your life. Not informed and dictated by them, nor sullied and tinged by an unending regret, but a patina that carries with it our context for growing in wholeness.

CT Studd seemed to get that. He got the joy that came from pursuing the eternal over the temporal. It didn’t stop him enjoying some of the temporal as well, but with an understanding of its inferior purpose within the bigger, vaster landscape of God’s Kingdom.

Some crave the end of life, the regrets too overwhelming to resolve. Some while away their days like paper in fire. But those who wring the life out of their days are those who fix their eyes on the eternal. On the One who can make ruins come to life for His glory. That’s not a short-run invitation nor a short-term invitation; it’s a party we’re all invited to; a seat at a table at which we’re all invited to feast. For eternity.

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