David in the fifth Psalm writes, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch (Psalm 5:3; ESV).”
For David, attention to spiritual duties was not something to put off till all other activities were complete, rather David made plans to give attention to God first, in prayer and supplication, and then through the day wait upon God (as signified by the word “watch”).
In Ecclesiastes, we read the sage advice, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1a).” Being religious and devout in our duties to God is not something to put off until we are old and have nothing better to do; rather it is an activity best sought after from a very young age. The writer in Ecclesiastes goes on to talk about growing old, and the failings of the body, and the lack of energy, and the fact that, should we live long enough, we are all going to die and return to the dust (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:1-7). If we procrastinate in righteousness, there will come a time when we simply do not have the energy or the time to make the changes we need to make in order to serve God.
Too often, men think of religion as that which they do when they have finished all their other chores, projects and activities… going to worship is what is done when its not a workday… praying is what we do before we go to bed… being religious is what you do when you are old and retired and worried about dying… and so it goes.
Yet true godliness is not what you do when you have finished everything else; true godliness is that which you do in order to establish everything else in your life, giving it meaning and purpose. It is worth mentioning that for Christians, Worship, done on the first day of the week, is not what we do to finish out the week, but is the perfect activity to begin every week.
Notice the concluding statements of Ecclesiastes, when all has been considered: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; ESV) We are created by God for the service and good pleasure of God. Life, when we get to the end, will be weighed, not according to our own individual life-goals, but according to the standards of God.
The most successful life ever lived was that of Jesus. He died poor, despised, and was only in his thirties. Yet He had focused early on pleasing God, and by the age of twelve understood that his true business in life had to be that of serving God (cf. Luke 2:49). God has given to Jesus a name above every name, and has exalted Him on high as a standard and a king for all men to follow and aspire to imitate.
Jesus, we might note, also prayed early in the morning (cf. Mark 1:35).
Starting the day off with prayer is a good exercise because it is a reminder that our life begins and ends with God. It is emblematic of a mind-set which puts God first in everything. It is symptomatic of a life centered on God and thus one more likely to be pleasing to God.
It is possible to come to God late. Jesus tells a parable of workers in the vineyard who all received the same wage, regardless of the time of day when they started, and in that parable, the day can be interpreted as the span of a man’s life (cf. Matthew 20:1-16). God’s grace is sufficient, if we repent and turn to Him, to forgive even a mostly wasted life. But how much better to avoid the wasted years and the lost time; not to mention the ever-present danger of running out of time before we make the decision to start doing right. How much better to, “remember your Creator in the days of your youth,” making God your foundation and purpose from the very beginning.
How do you begin your day? Do you start off focused on God, or is He an afterthought?
How are you spending your life? Are you serving God now, or are you waiting for a more opportune time that may never come.
The church of Christ invites you to come and worship with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis. If you have any questions or comments, please share them with us.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.