Sometimes as your pastor, I feel like I’m a parent to boot. The vocations probably aren’t so different at times, and I’m always amused at how different mamas and daddies can be when it comes to giving you and me counsel.
Daddies oftentimes aren’t so nervous when it comes to raising children (at least if they’re raising a boy). Dads might offer some general advice, such as “study hard” or “save your money” or “be careful with that blowtorch.” But beyond that, they tend to let you learn things on your own.
Mamas – don’t you know! – are 180 degrees the opposite.
If I had collected all of my mother’s advice in a book, it would have been six times the size of War and Peace. My mama, probably like your mama, wanted to cover all the bases – so anytime some potentially hazardous situation crossed her mind, she would call me and offer the appropriate counsel.
“Son, I just saw something on the news: if you ever travel to Mauritania, you’ve got to get a malaria vaccination first.”
“Son, remember, next time you’re on a farm, don’t let those game roosters get near you – they like to fight.” (I lived in suburban Charlotte).
And that’s just a sampling.
But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand Mama’s thinking a little better. It’s a big, bad world out there, full of promise but also full of potential pitfalls. Mama just wants you to be prepared.
I feel a bit like Mama this morning, because while I want to give you all sorts of Godly counsel on any number of situations you might, and surely will, encounter in the years to come, I can’t do it. There’s not enough paper to contain it, and besides, it would be too much to remember.
So I ask you only this: remember one thing. Remember what Psalm 8 teaches, and it will guide you through every turn of life. In specific, remember this one thing: the triune God created you to glorify Him as you cultivate His creation – and He makes it possible for you to do that through the gift of His Son, the Savior.
You live in, and are soon to be thrust full-bore, into a world that foolishly denies the reality of its triune God. While a person’s belief in God might seem at first like a matter of private interpretation, something that doesn’t affect anyone else, in fact it does. When you begin to deny the reality of the God who made you, nothing else in this world or in your life will make sense.
So I direct you not to a million theological or philosophical arguments, but to Psalm 8, which simply and elegantly declares the glory of our Creator. He set His glory above all things; the heavens are literally the work of His fingers. Your Creator is just that powerful – just that glorious. Remember that you have been created by a personal Creator, whom David calls Lord.
You live in a world that – quite confusingly – at once makes man the measure of everything but also denies that man has inherent value. That’s why so many people your age, and indeed of all ages, tell me that they don’t think they’re worth very much. They don’t think they’re as smart, attractive, wealthy, athletic, you name it as the next person – so somehow they are devoid of value.
The psalmist in Psalm 8 thought about how great God was, and then he, too, wondered aloud, “What is man, O God, that you even think about him?”
But remember this: God created you in His image, just a little lower than the heavenly beings, and made you the crowning piece of His creative work. You have value, because the Lord made you in His image.
You are forging into a world that wonders if it has any reason for being. Ask 10 people why they’re on the earth, and you’ll get 10 different answers. Some people think life is all about pleasure. Some think life is all about making money – or fashioning a name for yourself. Some – and I’m afraid there are more in this number than I’d like to admit – don’t even think there is a purpose to life.
Psalm 8 teaches you that God put you here to have dominion over the works of His hands. The psalmist speaks of beasts and of birds and of fishes; were he writing today, he might well speak of cyberspace or of operatic music or of literature. And all the creation is your domain, your venue in which to bring out its best to the glory of the God who made all things.
Remember this: God created you, with value, for the purpose of reading and researching and planting and building – all for His glory.
Yet you also live in a world in which the soil doesn’t always cooperate, in which the words don’t always come together. You live in a world that subtly tempts you to feel worthless if you’re not a skinny supermodel. You live in a world that is shrouded in the depression that inevitably comes when you don’t think you have a purpose for living.
So the God who created you, with value, to glorify Him by cultivating His creation sent His Son to redeem you from the curse of sin. It is Christ in you who cleanses you of your sin, who heals your brokenness, who gives you new life and new understanding.
I recall arriving at college and, during orientation, receiving this little booklet, written by upperclassmen, entitled “I’d Wish I’d Known …”. It was as if the spirit of my mother – 700 miles away! – had inhabited these collegians: the substantial booklet was overflowing with one-line advice from all corners.
“I wish I’d known not to stay up all night.”
“I wish I’d known to eat right.”
“I wish I’d known not to take Philosophy 301 in my first semester.”
Well, the booklet was fine – but it only went so far. I couldn’t possibly remember all those little nuggets of advice, so I forgot them all.
All you need to do is remember one thing: The triune God created you, with value, to glorify Him by cultivating His world, and He makes your mission possible through the presence of the Savior in your life.
Remember that, and come what may, you’ll be just fine.