14284501_sOn the first Sunday of the year, my friend Mark preached on Psalm 90. When he reached verse 10, he asked us to do a little arithmetic. If the verse were to be taken literally, how many years do we have left? I will be 55 this year, so 80 – 55 = 25. Still some time left, but not all the time in the world. The exercise was a good reminder of our mortality. Maybe there is something to be said for how Isaiah marks the years, by identifying a year with the death of a prominent person.

1963, the year that John F Kennedy died. 1997, the year that Mother Theresa died. 2009 was a difficult year for many of us. For many it was the year that Michael Jackson died. But for many of my friends, it was the year that Yasmin Ahmad died, the year that Anthony Yeo died. Some of us are still recovering from the many friends that we lost last year. When will it be our year? How do we confront the fact of our mortality? Isaiah gives us two suggestions.

First, root your life in God. Isaiah 6 finds Isaiah in the temple, worshipping the Lord. We are mortal. God is immortal. And God has made us this offer:

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this . . .?” (John 11:25-26 NLT)

I believe. I have believed for some time now. The passing of the years reminds me that the central reality of my life is my relationship with the Almighty, “Immortal, Invisible, God only wise. (Walter C. Smith)” Indeed I know this God as Abba. My life is in His safe hands. I need not fret about my departure from this life. Dad knows best. And nothing in this life or the life to come can separate me from His love (Romans 8: 35-39). In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah is in the temple. May 2010 find us similarly rooted in our Lord.

To be rooted in the Lord brings us to the other thing that Isaiah teaches us about how we can face the passing of the years — be faithful to your vocation. Isaiah 6: 1-8 is the record of Isaiah’s call to his prophetic ministry. It reminds us of the vocational nature of life. If my time on earth is limited, I do not want to waste my days. I want to invest my life in what God has called me to do. Frederick Buechner puts it nicely:

. . in the year that King Uzziah died, or in the year that John F. Kennedy died, or in the year that somebody you loved died, you go into the temple if that is your taste, or you hide your face in the little padded temple of your hands, and a voice says, “Whom shall I send into the pain of a world where people die?” and if you are not careful, you may find yourself answering, “Send me.”

. . . a man’s vocation is a man’s calling. It is the work that he is called to in this world, the thing that he is summoned to spend his life doing. (The Hungering Dark, San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1969, 27.)

What is my vocation? For some time now I have believed that my calling is to teach God’s Word with “relevance, accuracy, and passion” so that lives are transformed for Christ. In more recent times, there has been a further fine-tuning of that mission. I seem to be tasked to teach about the importance of relational transformation, how God’s primary way of changing lives is through relationships. This year, I will be teaching on Spiritual Mentoring in two seminaries in Singapore, and leading workshops on the same subject in Malaysia and Canada. And we are receiving many invitations to teach on the subject from churches and Christian organizations. My 2010 planner is filling up fast.

There are many things I can do and many things I would like to do, but with the passing of the years, I must be focused on what I must do — what God has called me to do. What has God called you to do?

Will I have 25 more years to live? More? Less? God knows. But in the year that _____ died, may I be found rooted in the Lord, faithful to my vocation.