Psalm 90

A couple of weeks ago the PGA Facebook page invited golfers to submit their favorite golf jokes. Howard P. Curtis submitted the following:

Four old guys went into the pro shop after playing 18 holes of golf. The pro asks, “Did you guys have a good round today?”
The first old guy said, “Yes, but I only had three riders today.”
The second old guy said, “I had five.”
The third old guy said, “I had seven riders, the same as last time.”
The last old man said, “I set my all-time record; I had 12 riders today!”
After they went into the locker room, another golfer who had heard the old guys
talking about their game went to the pro and said, “I’ve been playing golf for a long time and thought I knew all the terminology of the game, but what’s a rider?”
The pro said, “A rider is when you hit the ball far enough to actually get in the golf cart and ride to it.” 1

According to the Psalmist, those four dudes are playing The Back Nine of their lives; where The Back Nine represents the latter years of our lives. “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty!! (Psalm 90:10)

It may be true that some of us are playing The Back Nine. According to the average lifespan of a white American male, I’ve just hit my second shot on the 15th hole; undoubtedly in the weeds or water.

Maybe that’s what the author of Psalm 90 was referencing when he said, “Even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away.” You better believe it! They fly away indeed!

It seems just yesterday that I was young; out of high school, first real job, married, kids, hopes, dreams . . . an entire slow-moving lifetime ahead. I still recall listening to a Simon and Garfunkel song when I was a teenager:

I was 21 years when I wrote this song, I’m 22 now, but I won’t be for long. Time hurries on and the leaves that are green turn to brown.”

and thinking ‘time hurries on’? 21 or 22 seems a lifetime away!

But, here it is … the “back nine” of my life and it catches me by surprise . . . it takes my breath away. How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go?

Those of you still playing the front nine (anyone under 39), let me tell you from experience, the back nine will be here faster than you think. And the truth is none of us can really be sure if we’ll even reach the back nine at all! We have no promise that we will see all the seasons of life. Some of us may have to forfeit the chance to play a full 18 holes.

That’s why the overall message of Psalm 90 is so very important: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom” (12).

Life is a gift and none of us knows how long we’ve got, so we must learn to make the most of every moment, every day, every week. Some of us need to tell someone we love that we do. Some of us probably need to forgive someone else. Some of us need to pick up the phone and talk or get in the car to visit that person we haven’t seen or spoken to for far too long. And some of us need to think about our priorities; what’s important and what’s not.

And most important of all we must be prepared for what happens when that old golf ball finally drops in the cup on the 18th hole, whenever that might be for you.

In an article titled, What’s The Best Way To Die? the author quotes Jim Cleary, a physician from Madison, Wisconsin, who specializes in palliative care and cancer-related pain relief prefers the term “healthy dying,” which isn’t as oxymoronic as it sounds. To him, healthy dying means that death is “well-prepared for.”

After bringing this question to several friends, one old standby came up quite a lot: dying of old age in my bed, surrounded by family. After interviewing dozens of hospice workers, physicians, oncologists, right-to-die advocates, and bioethicists about the best death she found that the word used almost exclusively to describe the best death was . . . ‘peaceful.’ 2

But guess what important group of professionals was left out? That’s right . . . pastors. I tell you we get no respect. Every pastor knows that the most significant factor involved in the quality of one’s passing is the issue of faith vs. doubt.

I’ll never forget as Marty McMahon was very close to death. She said, “I just don’t know how they do it.” I said,

I said, “Do what?”

She said, “How do people who know they are going to die live without Christ in their lives? How can they die in peace?”

Indeed, how can you and I die in peace?

And the answer is . . . come to know the One who promises to give His peace.

My peace I give unto you
It’s a peace that the world cannot give
It’s peace that the world does not understand
Peace to know, peace to live
My peace I give unto you.”

It’s the peace of Jesus. It’s a peace that has two dimensions to it. First, there is peace with God. This peace is the opposite of war. The good book tells us that unless and until individual sin is dealt with human beings are at war with God or I should say God is at war with us. We wage war against God as we sin. He wages war with us by allowing the consequences of sin to be played out; the ultimate consequence being “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

But God has offered us the chance for a truce. He became one of us . . . to pay the ultimate consequence for sin . . . death. “While we were still sinners,” Paul writes the Romans, “Christ died for us” (5:8).

So the question becomes, have we accepted the truce terms that God in Christ has offered?

In Romans 5:1, Paul writes, “Having been justified (made right with) by faith, we have peace with God.” That peace that enables us to face our own death, knowing that through the merits of Christ our sin is forgiven and we are therefore ready to meet our Maker in peace having no fear He will reject us because He has accepted us in His Son.

And once we have made peace with God, the door opens to the peace of God which enables us to hit the ball into the rough without throwing our club because we have this vital connection to God through conversational prayer (last week). “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything, thanking God for all He’s done and the peace that passes understanding will surround your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Philippians 4:6-7).

As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.

I don’t know if God had mercy on her husband; only God knows that. But I do know this: God will have mercy on anyone who chooses to embrace the cross of Christ. Such that when we have played out our last hole on this earth, a brand new course awaits us in heaven where there will be no mulligans, or bogies, or water hazards, or sand traps – where we’ll make a hole-in-one off every tee.

Two men were dying across town from one another. One was a very wealthy man who had amassed quite a fortune. His Victorian house was lavishly furnished with many antiques and paintings. A stylish automobile graced the drive and a boat was docked at a nearby lake. The other man never had much . . . but he loved the Lord with all his heart. The first, as he was dying, kept exclaiming, “I’m leaving home . . . I’m leaving home.” As the second man lay dying, he repeated over and over, “I’m going home . . . I’m going home.”

What’s your perspective . . . leaving home . . . or going home?