Author: Frank Boreham
Life moves along so smoothly with most of us that there seems to be very little difference between one birthday and another; but to this rule there is one brilliant and outstanding exception. There is one birthday on which a man should certainly take a holiday, go for a quiet stroll, and indulge in a little serious stock-taking. That birthday is, of course, the fortieth. A man's fortieth birthday is one of the really great days in his life's little story; and he must make the most of it. I live in a city which boasts a comparatively meagre population. The number of people who reach their fortieth birthday simultaneously must be very small. But in a city of any size some hundreds of people must daily become forty. And if I dwelt in such a place, I should feel tempted to conduct a service every now and again for men and women who were celebrating their fortieth birthday. People so circumstanced, naturally impressed by the dignity and solemnity of the occasion, would welcome such a service, and the preacher would have a chance of sowing the seed in ground that was well prepared, and of the greatest possible promise. The selection of a text would present no difficulty. I can think of two right off--one in the Old Testament, and one in the New--and there must be scores of others equally appropriate. At forty a man enters upon middle life. What could be more helpful to him, then, than a short inspiring word on such a text as Habakkuk's prayer: 'O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make Thyself known!'
I have been recalling, this morning, some painful memories. In my time I have several times known that peculiarly acute species of anguish that only comes to us when we discover a cherished idol in ruins. Men--some of them ministers--upon whose integrity I would cheerfully have staked everything I possessed, suddenly whelmed themselves in shame, and staggered out into the dark. It is an experience that makes a man feel that the very earth is rocking beneath him; it makes him wonder if it is possible for a good man to be somehow caught in a hot gust of devilry and swept clean off his feet. But the thing that has impressed me as I have counted such names sadly on my fingers is that, without an exception, they were all in the forties, most of them in the early forties. Youth, of course, often sins, and sins grievously; but youth recovers itself, and frequently emerges chastened and ennobled by the bitter experience; but I can recall no instance of a man who fell in the forties and who ever really recovered himself. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. I remember that, some time ago, Sir W. Robertson Nicoll quoted a brilliant essayist as saying that 'the most dangerous years are the forties--the years when men begin to be rich, when they have opportunities of gratifying their passions, when they, perhaps, imagine that they have led a starved and meagre existence.' And so, as I let my mind play about these old and saddening memories, and as I reflect upon the essayist's corroboration of my own conclusion, I fancy I could utter, from the very heart of me, a particularly timely and particularly searching word to those who had just attained their fortieth birthdays. Or, if I felt that the occasion was too solemn for speech, I could at least lead them in prayer. And when I led them in prayer, it would certainly be Habakkuk's prayer: 'O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years; in the midst of the years make Thyself known!' It is a prayer for revival and for revelation.
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