January 26, 2015

2 years ago, I wrote about my favorite season – hunting season. The fact is the entirety of the Fall, is my favorite season. Why? That’s simple; for me it doesn’t get any better than three months of cooler weather, beautiful Fall colors, plus hunting and football season, concluding with the Christmas Holiday?

I guess that is why I am feeling a little down right now. Its mid-January, and other than the NFL playoffs (who cares, my team is out of it!), everything I love about the Fall is long gone. Now I have cold, shortened days, and 8 more months before football returns, heralding the coming Fall and my favorite pastimes!

Maybe that is my problem – time passes so quickly when you are enjoying it. And it is no different with the seasons of life.

Take for example the “season” of youth. It is fleeting. That is why the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote that those in their youth should enjoy it, with integrity and perspective. Listen…

“Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10

Another season is that of parenting. And it too is short lived. Perhaps that is why The Apostle Paul encourages dads to pursue it purposely? This is what Paul writes, under the influence of the Holy Spirit…

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

I remember how stunned I was the day I realized my major parenting days were over. I had two boys away at college and another graduating from high school. We had just moved into a new house and my youngest was upstairs doing homework. The place was a quiet as a church during prayer and I didn’t like it. I was used to lots of noise, beautiful “life in full bloom” noise, from a triplet of rambunctious boys.

I realized on that day of silence that it was indicative that my primary days of “disciplining and instructing” them was over, too. It was a sad, “dad day”. I loved being a dad. But now I was saying goodbye to a great, once in a lifetime, season.

Another special season is marriage. I know many marriages end, prematurely, due to divorce. Of course that is bad and very sad. But if I may, I’d like to reflect on the beauty of a long term relationship with a spouse; through the thick and thin of life; just as we vowed on our wedding day. Remember that vow? Here it is, in part; “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance”. Wow, does that pack a punch!

No doubt that is why the Lord wants us to make the most of it, to be redemptive and loving. Again, the Apostle Paul reminds us of such…

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her… that He might sanctify her (that is move her toward being a more spiritually dedicated Christian). Ephesians 5:25

As my marriage moves toward a 40th anniversary and watch as my in-laws move beyond their 60th, I am beginning to see the brevity of one of the longest seasons of a man’s life. Though my wife’s parents love is mature, strong and enduring, it nonetheless suffers from the Achilles heel of old age; aches, pains, pills and doctors’ appointments that keep them from some of the activities that romantic interest and outings bring. No doubt this is why the writer of Ecclesiastes warned us to enjoy our wife…

“Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 9:9

But, perhaps the hardest season to say good bye to, is the longest – a man’s career?

Most of us men will work before we wed. in fact many men feel it a necessity to get a job before they get a bride. Then we will, of necessity, work through our child rearing and marriage development days. Some of us will conclude our formal career while yet married, but we never stop working. There is always work to do; managing our property and assets – and changing light bulbs, taking out the trash and other chores around the house. We will always be engaged in our role as providers and protectors as long as health enables.

Work is a mainstay for men. In fact, so important is a career, that for many men, they will race right past child rearing and marriage, to build their career. Unfortunately, too many times men do so only to find that they haven’t built, purposefully enough, into their family. The realization of that is one of the saddest days of all.

I know work is tough at best and successful work demands a focus, our full attention. But there is a healthy boundary line between work and family and we all need to find it. That line is the divider between balance and blowing it. We all need to know the needs of our family, the needs of our career and decide where we will draw the line so we make the most of both – in balance.

We may not succeed in attaining a “hall of fame” career, while working on a “high standard” family life, but to succeed at one – the material one – while underperforming at the other – the relational one – does not a successful man make. This is why our “preacher” from Ecclesiastes writes the following…

Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun… So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:11, 17

Yet there is hope, men, for the “preacher” also wrote the following…

Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. 19 Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart. Ecclesiastes 5:18, 19

Balance is the key to a great family. And balance is the key to a fulfilling career. In each of these, the goal is finding the answer to this question; what does God want, how do we please Him as men and not ourselves? And the answer to that question is not just functional, it involves, faith (trust God and not myself), hope (God has my best future interests in mind) and love (Putting others best interests first, agape love, the love of Christ, is my real job). 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3

Finally the longest season of a man’s life is life. One day that season will end and it will be either sad or satisfying. And guess what? You won’t even know what others think of you unless you listen in on your own eulogy. But, you will know what God thinks for we shall all face Him and give an account. 2 Corinthians 5:10

What do you think? What kind of eulogy do you anticipate your family and friends giving you; your children, your wife?

That is a hard question to ask and answer but one worth facing. In fact it is the most important question we men must face, it is the one Jesus addressed to His disciples on the question of His identity …

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26

So, what is the answer for you? Where are you, today, on the scale of success and failure as measured in the eyes of God? How is your marriage; is it defined by your Christ-like love? How you doing with your children; are you building into them and gaining their respect? And what about your work and paying the bills; are you working hard and trusting God to help you get it done (Matthew 6:33) or are you working hard and trusting yourself?

Finally, I must ask, how is your soul? Are you saved? Have you trusted Jesus as your Savior, agreeing that you are a sinner, deserving of God’s wrath, but realizing that Jesus died for you, to take the punishment you deserved? And, do you accept His resurrection from the dead as proof that God’s wrath was satisfied at Calvary’s cross and as a result, now, through Christ you can have all sins forgiven and be given a new life empowered by the Holy Spirit, receiving a secure eternity with God?

If not, I recommend you do it; you “get saved”.

Receiving salvation from Jesus is only hard, if you’re stubborn. But it’s easy if your heart is broken over sin. All you need to do is to admit you’re a sinner and want God’s forgiveness and redemption through Christ. Admit it to him, in prayer or out loud. It doesn’t matter, you must just “do” it. It’s not enough to “know” it or “understand”, you must make a personal commitment, like a wedding day – you commit, personally, and then you’re married. With salvation, it’s similar. Receiving salvation entails committing to Jesus, and then you’re saved (Romans 10:9, 10). Afterward God gives you the power to live His way – successfully, satisfyingly.

As Jesus said….

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

Do you believe? Then tell God.

Are you ready for these changing seasons; kids, marriage, career, life? Don’t be surprised, don’t be sad, instead make the most of each one, make the most of the time God has given you in each one.

May God bless you.

Jim Coté