C. S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
We generally want to avoid pain at all costs. Yet is impossible to live a pain-free life. And as C. S. Lewis suggested, God will use pain in our lives to get our attention.
Perhaps something has happened in your life recently that is waking you to the reality that you need to get right with God. It may have been the death of a close friend or perhaps your own recent close brush with death. Maybe some other kind of crisis has hit, showing you your need for God.
The Bible tells the story of a proud, young man who didn’t think that he needed God. This was in spite of the fact that his grandfather, King Nebuchadnezzar, had come to faith in God. In his day, Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man on the planet. He had at his disposal the treasures of the world, with thousands of slaves to do his work, day and night. This was reflected in the glory of Babylon, with its high, broad walls and hanging gardens, which were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Nebuchadnezzar once stood on the balcony of his palace, looked out across the city and remarked, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30 NIV) He was saying, “I’m king of the world!” –and he was.
We can feel that way, too. The bills are paid, our health is good, and the skies are blue. We begin to take credit for all that we possess and have accomplished. But this is when we need to be careful, because everything we have is a gift from God: our health, our family, our possessions, our career and even our very breath.
We might be like Nebuchadnezzar and think, “Who needs, or even wants, God?” But then the bottom drops out. That is what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. God told him, “Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:31 NIV).
Nebuchadnezzar suffered from some type of mental illness for a time, but then he came to his senses and believed in God. Yet his grandson Belshazzar couldn’t have cared less about Grandpa Neb – in spite of the fact that he had heard of the great miracles God had performed, like predicting the future and delivering Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace. Not only did Belshazzar not believe in God, but he went out of his way to insult and mock God. And that, by the way, is a really bad idea.
As Jim Croce used to sing, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don’t mess around with Jim.” I would add that you don’t mock God either, because the Bible says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7 NIV).
I once laughed at Christians. I thought Christianity was all a joke, and meanwhile, my life was empty and lame. I had tried partying, drinking and drugs, and I was searching. And one day, instead of mocking Christians, I actually listened to their message, and my life changed as a result.
Belshazzar, however, didn’t listen to God’s message. He ignored it, and he did so to his own peril. He had inherited everything he had from his grandfather, who had been humbled and later restored, but like many young people, Belshazzar didn’t learn from his elders. Sitting in security and splendor, young Belshazzar decided it was party time. He gave a great feast for 1,000 of his lords, no doubt in honor of some pagan god or gods. But while all this was happening, judgment was at the door. God, with his own finger, scrawled some heavenly graffiti on the wall: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin” (Daniel 5:25 NIV).
A terrified Belshazzar called in his astrologers, who could not help him. Then his grandmother told him about an old prophet named Daniel, who had helped his grandfather come to faith in God. The 90-year-old Daniel walked into the presence of the terrified young king, told him about his grandfather’s conversion, and reminded him that he knew better. Then he interpreted God’s handwriting for the young king: “Mene” meant “numbered”; “tekel” meant “weighed”; and “parsin” meant “divided.”
To loosely paraphrase, God had numbered the days of Belshazzar’s life, and the party was over. He had weighed Belshazzar’s life on the balances, and he failed the test. His kingdom had been divided and given to the Medes and Persians. Belshazzar’s number was up. The writing was on the wall.
In the same way, the Bible tells us our days are numbered (see Psalm 90:10). We don’t know when our lives will end. But rather than be depressed by this fact, it should motivate us to want to make each day count and glorify the God who made us.
So don’t waste your life and find this out the hard way. Don’t put off getting right with God like Belshazzar did. Because one day we all will be weighed on God’s divine scales.