Counting Our Days Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days,
That we may get us an heart of wisdom.—Psa_90:12.

I expect you all like having birthdays. It is nice to have birthday letters and birthday presents and birthday parties. Well, this is a birthday text and a birthday sermon, but you don’t need to wait till your birthday to begin to use it. Sometimes we get our birthday presents beforehand, and we are not allowed to open them till the proper day. That is very tantalizing. But you needn’t keep this text till your birthday; you can begin to use it now, and the sooner you begin the better.

1. When your birthday comes round one of the things you always do is to number your years. You say, “Yesterday I was eight and today I am nine,” or, “Yesterday I was ten and today I am eleven,” and you are proud to think you are a year older, a year nearer being grown-up. Well, this verse is a prayer to God that He will teach us to number—not our years, but our days.

But what does that mean? Does it mean that we are to count up all the days we have lived, count 365 days for every year, and multiply by the number of years we have lived. That might be rather a useful exercise in math, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t do us much good otherwise. No, “numbering our days” means more than merely counting them. It means taking account of them, valuing them, so as to lay them out to the best advantage. We count our money when we count how much it will buy. We count our days when we count how much they will buy, how much we can get out of them and get into them.

It is an unusual fact, but a true one, that the more we have of a thing the less we generally value it. If we have a great many toys we grow tired of playing with them. If we have a great many pleasures we weary of them. If we have a great deal of health we often throw it away. And it is just the same with days as it is with other things—if we are rich in them, we don’t value them so much.

Now, you are very rich in days. You haven’t spent much of your life yet, and the likelihood is that you will live much longer than a man of forty, or fifty, or sixty will. You are looking forward to a long life, and perhaps you think that a day wasted doesn’t matter much.

Well, I am going to tell you something. Losing a day always matters, but it matters much more in childhood than it does when you grow up. For childhood is the storing time. It is the time of all times for storing knowledge, and character, and goodness, so that we may be able later to draw on our store. What would you think of a bee which refused to go out and gather honey on a sunny morning because the summer had just begun and there were lots of sunny days to follow? You would say it was rather foolish, would you not? and that it deserved to run short of food in the winter. But the children who waste their storing days are just as foolish as that bee, and they are sure to suffer for it.
The psalmist asks God to teach him to count—not the years, but the days; so he evidently thinks a day is a very important thing. There was a great painter of old who rose to great fame and was commissioned to paint the portrait of Alexander the Great. And the secret of his success lay in his motto. What do you think it was? “No day without a stroke.” He never let a day pass without adding a stroke to the picture he was painting.

Will you remember that motto and make it yours? Never let a day go past without giving it something to take away. Learn your lessons, and play your games, and do your tasks, but don’t dawdle. Don’t waste time, don’t fritter it away, for you will never get it back again.

A little day ran past
Without a word from me;
I thought it ran too fast,
But that could hardly be,
Because a little boy next door, they say,
Found time to speak a happy word that day.
A little day was spent
Almost before I knew;
I wondered where it went,
And so indeed would you,
If, of a sudden, at the set of sun,
You found how very little you had done.
(F. W. H., in A Garland of Verse, 131.)

2. But if you look at the text you will see that we are to count our days, to lay them out, for a special purpose. What is that purpose? “That we may get us an heart of wisdom.”

And what is a heart of wisdom? Well, it isn’t the same thing as a mind of wisdom. We may be very wise in our hearts although we are not at all clever with our heads, and we may have very wise heads and very foolish hearts. But though we can’t all have clever heads, we may all have wise hearts.
What, then, is a heart of wisdom?

Well, I think it is, first, a heart that is learning to know itself, to know its own weakness, its own temptations, and is learning, too, to guard against them.

But even more than that I think it is a heart that is learning to know other people—a heart that is big enough to make room for other people’s failings—a heart that is ready to pity, and sympathize, and help.

But most of all I think that it is a heart that is learning to know God—a heart that has found room for Jesus; for our hearts will never be really wise unless Jesus is ruling in them.

You are a year older than you were this day last year. Are you getting a heart of wisdom? Are you a year wiser, a year kinder, a year more loving and sympathetic? How are you counting your days?

Lord, help me love Thee every day,
And, as I grow,
Help me to keep Thy holy way
Of life, and so
Be Thy true loving child, I pray!
(A. R. Thompson.)