Luke 9:25, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost”
I. What is Time?
The story has been told of a high school teacher in Los Angeles who had a unique way of stimulating her students to think. From time to time, she would write brief messages on the chalkboard that was unrelated to their current studies. One morning, the students found the number 25,550 written on the board. One pupil finally raised his hand and asked the teacher why that particular number was there. She explained that 25,550 represented the number of days in the life of a person who lives to be 70. The teacher was trying to emphasize life’s brevity and the value of each day.
When I was young and looked ahead, time seemed to move so slowly. It was hard to imagine what older folks often said—that time passed so quickly they wondered where it had gone. However, as I grew older, the years seemed short and fleeting, especially when compared with eternity. We are so familiar with the concept of time that we seldom give much thought to what time really is. Dictionaries seem to struggle with this task, giving lengthy descriptions, then conclude that time is a measured duration. For instance, Webster defines time as many things, such as:
(1) The point or period when something occurs;
(2) An historical period;
(3) The grouping of the beats of music;
(4) A moment, hour, day, or year as indicated by a clock or calendar;
(5) The measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues; and,
(6) An appointed, fixed, or customary moment or hour for something to happen, begin, or end.
We all seem to lack time to do things. How often have you heard yourself, or someone else says, “if only I had the time or there’s never enough time” or “I don’t know where the time goes?” There are many other phrases like these and a lot of metaphors or descriptions we use in literature in describing time, some of which are:
(1) It is a dream;
(2) A swift runner;
(3) A mist;
(4) A puff of smoke;
(4) A sentence written in the sand; and,
(5) A gesture in the air.
Another symbolic description of the brief span of one’s life has been described as the short dash between the date of birth and death on a tombstone. It is always a little startling to be confronted with the speed at which our years fly away. Centuries ago, the psalmist David sought God’s help as he grappled with the shortness of life. He wrote, “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, you have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before you; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor” (Psalm 39:4-5).
II. Concepts of Time
The above illustrations underscore what James said about life, “It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Therefore, it is important that we make the most of our opportunities to honor God, serve others, and proclaim Jesus Christ, to a lost and dying world. Let’s ask God to “teach us to number our days” so that we will spend them wisely! Do not just spend time but invest it. One of the most frustrating problems in life is the stress of time. It seems like there is never enough time to do what needs to be done. We must work and perhaps commute, care for the family, service the car, clean the house, give some time to eating and sleeping.
We should both relax and exercise for good physical health. And what about time for socializing and to fellowship with others? Even families living together spend only a handful of minutes each day communicating with one another, often because everyone in the family is just too busy. The believer in Christ adds to these regular demands such as time needed to read God’s Word, time for prayer, time to prepare for and carry out ministries, time to attend services and time to fellowship with other believers. Marvin Mayers has summarized the differences of outlook between those he terms future-oriented people and event-oriented people.
(1) The future-oriented (western temperament) person: set time periods for accomplishing tasks; plans the time period carefully, in order to accomplish the most possible in the time allotted; is alert to punctuality; sets goals, plans ahead; assigns a time/dollar or a time spent/production equivalence; will remember and try to reinforce times and dates.
(2) However, the event-oriented person isn’t too concerned with time periods; will bring people together without planning a detailed schedule and see what develops; will work over a problem or idea until resolved or exhausted, regardless of time; lives in the here and now and does not plan a detailed schedule for the future.
There are two represented concepts of time found in the New Testament that we should consider in our study, such as:
(1) There is time as measured segments (length), like hours, minutes, and seconds. This is the time it takes to fly from New York to Los Angeles, to soft-boil an egg or to run one hundred yards. In this view, time is like a line divided into tiny sections. Time is a limited and decreasing resource, a commodity to be used. Time equals money, and the efficient use of time is a highly prized skill! A time-oriented culture will tend toward exactness, punctuality, efficiency, accomplishment, careful management, or strict administration of time. When time is viewed as measured segments, the length of it is most important. However, there is another concept of time, of which, we should be aware.
(2) Time can also be significant events (content), like seasons, epics, and eras. These vary in length, but time can be viewed as the duration of significant events. In this view, time is more like a cycle or sequence of meaningful happenings. The farmer may measure time by plowing, planting, and harvesting; for the family the year may consist of birthdays and anniversaries. An event is often something to be shared or invested in with others. An event-oriented culture will tend toward interaction, involvement with others, lengthy discussion, and a sense of community and agreement. When time is viewed as significant events, the content of it is most important. You might say it is the difference between the driver who honks his horn a split second after the light turns green and the workmen whose motto is “We can do it tomorrow.”
III. Defining Time Biblically
Both views of time can be seen in Scripture. Two different words are translated “time” in the New Testament. The first word (chronos) focuses more on the measured segments of time, while the second word (kairos) focuses more on the character or opportunity of the season. Chronos marks quantity, while kairos focuses on quality. Matthew 2:7, (chronos) – quantity; Luke 20:9, Then began he to speak to the people this parable; a certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time” (chronos); Matthew 21:34, 41, (kairos – harvest) quality; 2 Corinthians 6:2, (kairos – time of salvation); 2 Timothy 3:1, (kairos – perilous).
There are two passages that use these two words in the same verse. When the disciples asked Jesus if He was about to restore the kingdom to Israel, He replied in Acts 1:7 that it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power”. Additionally, the apostle Paul told the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:1, that he did not need to write them about the times or seasons, for he had personally spoken to them about such matters. Since both concepts of time can be found in the New Testament, a balance of the two will make a believer both efficient in his use of time and appreciative of the events that make up his time.
IV. What Time Is It
Romans 13:11, “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed”
There are many ways of keeping time. Let’s look at three of them. The first is called “world time.” For many years, this was how the world set its clocks. World time was determined by the relationship of the earth to the sun, and it enabled man to measure time by the movements of the heavens. A second way of keeping time was adopted in 1972 when the switch was made to “atomic time.” This method measures hours, minutes, and seconds not merely by the big picture of the heavens but by the highly accurate vibrations of the atom. Then there is the third method, which is based on our relationship to God, and His timing or time keeping is always perfect for everything in our life. He answers our prayers, sometimes quickly and other times He waits until He knows we are ready to use His gifts wisely. The wait is not always easy. Impatience, frustration, and disappointment can build because we are waiting for things to happen now. It is only when we learn to value, understand and, most importantly trust the times of waiting, so that we can grasp what God is doing in our world and in our individual lives.
God’s Timing is Everything – Esther was the beautiful Jewish girl chosen by King Xerxes of Persia to be his queen. She enjoyed immeasurable wealth and privilege as queen, but because she was Jewish she still faced death at the hand of Haman, a powerful, evil man who had an intense hatred for the Jews. Esther faced an unthinkable dilemma. Should she hide her background and save herself, or tell Xerxes she was Jewish in an attempt to save her people from the extermination that had been orchestrated by Haman, the king’s second-in-command. What a critical decision this young woman faced! But her cousin Mordecai, who had raised her, helped her. His advice came down to a question of timing. God would surely save His people, but perhaps He would use Esther as queen to save them. That clinched it for Esther. Through God’s leading, she devised a plan, and she saved herself and her people from death. The hand of God and His timing is evident throughout the book of Esther, throughout history, including the time in which we now live, and even in your life today. God puts us where He wants us to be, just as He did Esther, and He will use us, just as He did Esther, if we allow Him.
A. It is the last time
Because of our relationship to the Lord, we should heed the warning that time is running out for this world. John wrote, “Little children, it is the last time (hour): and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time (hour) – 1 John 2:18). John declared and demonstrated that the last time had begun early in the present dispensation. Hebrews 1:1 and 2, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds) These verses place the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ in the Last days.
We are living in the last time and much closer to its end than when Jesus lived, walked and spoke upon earth. We, being in this place (Angelica, New York) on the timeline of human history should give us a sense of urgency and a sense of hope. Mockers in the world today claim that world history has unfolded in the past without God’s intervention and that the same will be true in the future. However, God’s Word warns that judgment will certainly arrive, being “delayed” only by God’s longsuffering and desire that all come to repentance 2 Peter 3:3-14. The passage in 2 Peter also imparts hope to believers: hope of Christ’s coming, hope of God dealing with rebellion and hope of new heavens and new earth covered with righteousness. Peter concludes with an exhortation, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”
B. It is time for Holiness
Physical weariness settles upon us when we have been awake for a long time. Likewise, spiritual weariness seems to overcome many when they have been Christians for a while. So Paul calls believers to awake out of sleep because we know the time of season that the realization of our full salvation with Christ in Heaven is nearer than when we believed (Romans 13:11-14). We must immediately cast off the works of darkness and put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Leviticus 11:44, “I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy”; 1 Peter 1:16, “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy”
Be holy, for I am holy. Is there any command more difficult to obey? Probably not, yet there it is in God’s Word. But how can we be as holy as God? After all, the reason we must trust Jesus as Savior in the first place is because we are not holy. All have sinned, Romans 3:23 tells us, and even after we put our faith in Christ for salvation, how can we think about being as holy as God is? The challenge of trying to match God in the holiness category can seem far too complicated to attempt. But if we yield to the Holy Spirit who lives in us and convicts us, we will grow.
Taking one step at a time should help. For instance, what is one thing you do or say or think that does not reflect God’s holiness? Maybe you treat others harshly. Or you have a secret sin. Tackle that area today. Talk to God about it. Ask His forgiveness, then, by His power, seek to overcome it. Or think of this – what one thing can you do to enhance your relationship with God? The more time you spend with Him, the more you will become like Him. Little by little, step by step, work to rid your life of unholy behavior. And strive each day to grow closer to God. As a believer in Jesus Christ, there is no greater challenge.
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children and help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Peter also urges believers to respect God and to be holy in all areas of life as obedient children. Such is the proper way to spend the time (duration) of our sojourning here on earth 1 Peter 1:13-17. Later in the same epistle, Peter returns to the subject of our lifetime (duration). He recalls the way we used time before coming to Christ – doing things unbelievers typically want to do, like overeating, overdrinking, rowdiness and immorality. In total contrast, we should now live the rest of our time doing the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-6).
C. It is time for Opportunity
Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5 both instruct us to redeem the time. We may tend to see God as saying, be more efficient; work more quickly; be better organized; do more faster. However, the word time in these two verses is kairos, so the meaning is that we are to redeem the seasons or buy up the opportunities that the Lord gives us. Here we aren’t told to squeeze more activity into less duration but to seize opportunities for witness and for holy living. If we are to be holy, making the most of every opportunity to serve Christ in these last days, we must evaluate our use of time.
Romans 10:14 states, “How shall they hear without a preacher”. What if you were in the midst of a disaster, would you think to witness to people around you? John Harper did. Harper was a Scottish minister who was traveling by ship to preach for 3 months at Moody Church in Chicago. As the ship crossed the Atlantic, it struck an iceberg and began to sink. Some passengers were able to reach lifeboats, but many, Harper included, were flung into the cold Atlantic. As the people frantically tried to stay afloat, Harper swam around asking individuals if they knew Jesus.
At one point, Harper approached a passenger floating on a piece of debris and pleaded with him to trust Christ. Just before Harper slipped under the icy waters for the last time, he said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Four years later, at a meeting of survivors of that ship, the Titanic, the man testified that he had been saved twice that night. First, he had trusted Christ because of Harper’s witness, and second, he had been plucked from the frigid sea. Harper’s dying wish was that he could bring hope to hopeless people. Is that our living wish? In crisis or at ease, do we let people know about the One who can save for eternity? Harper’s final witness reminds us to tell the good news to people who are drowning in their sin. We need to tell everyone about Jesus Christ who is the only person who can save them.
John 10:41 states, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true”. John the Baptist had been dead for at least 2 years and the memory of his ministry had begun to fade. That’s the way it is when a public figure leaves the scene and is eclipsed by a more illustrious successor. As the crowds gathered around Jesus near the spot where John had taught, they remembered the baptizer’s life and words, and they remarked, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.”
Like John, we don’t need to perform miracles to tell people about Jesus. We can tell what we have learned about Him from the Bible, what He has done to change our hearts and lives, and what He has done for others. If we faithfully pass on the good news about Jesus, we will have served our life’s purpose well. Even long after we’re dead and gone, our words may come to the minds of those to whom we’ve witnessed and may be the means of bringing them to faith in the Lord Jesus. Like seed buried in the ground, God’s Word that we’ve sown can lie dormant for many years and then spring up to eternal life. Thus, it’s a great epitaph to leave for one’s life: “He did no miracles, but everything he said about Jesus was true.”
V. Making the Most of Our Time
Ephesians 5:16 states, “… redeeming the time, because the days are evil”. We tend to read Ephesians 5:16 as if Paul is calling believers to action because the days are short, but that isn’t what he meant. He said we are to make the most of time “because the days are evil.” Evil days are days of opportunity. The more evil our culture becomes, the more opportunities there will be to show and share out faith. My friend, our God controls human history … permitting the rise of nations, determining their geographical boundaries, and orchestrating their fall … so that men and women will “seek the Lord.” History is “His story” of providing salvation for a lost world and pointing people to the Lord.
Even the forces of evil are used in such a way that “all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD, You alone” (Isaiah 37:20). God may hold back His judgment for a time, allowing evil oppressors to have their way, upsetting people’s well-ordered lives, presenting them with dilemmas beyond their understanding. Evil brings pain, but it is the genius of God who brings good out of evil (Romans 8:28). Evil times, therefore, are not to be feared. They are times of unparalleled opportunity. That is why we must make the most of the time our LORD has given to us.
Everyone who knew James agreed he had made his mark in his field and was known in the community for his impressive gifts. He accomplished so much because of time management. He had his priorities: “God, family, and business” … not necessarily in that order, but they all had their place. His family recognized his schedule and without protest fit into it. He had time for God also. Once a day he read a brief devotional — he called “God’s 60 seconds”.
On Sunday, God got a whole hour from him. A secretary protected his time, and no one saw him without an appointment. No one that is, until . . . “I’m sorry his secretary said, he can’t be disturbed because he is in conference.” Although she did not know it, she was right. He was in conference. God did not have an appointment, but He had crashed in anyway. What’s more, He had set the agenda for the meeting. “Loving husband . . . good provider . . . Christian benefactor” were some of the phrases spoken at the funeral. But God said, “Fool!”
My friend, we can make the most of our time and yet ignore eternity. We can let the passing dominate the permanent, and we can do it all on a very tight schedule. Without a right view of eternity, we cannot know the real value of time. Our adversary (Satan) attacks our time. He desires that we use it for the wrong things or waste it rather than to do good things. We need to give God control of our time as well as all the other areas of our lives. An important perspective is to see time as a gift from God. He gives us a length of time to live, and He controls the seasons of our lives. We are not our own, our bodies are not our own, and our time is not really our own.
If we view our time as a gift from God, then we will respect the wishes of its Giver. The sovereign God has tasks for us to accomplish, and He has allotted us a certain amount of time. Since He is all wise, we can be assured He has not given us more to do than the time in which to do it. The challenge is to discern what God wants done and do it at His pace. The psalmist stated that the typical lifespan is seventy years, and then he asked God to teach us to number our days Psalm 90:10, 12.
Of course, not everyone lives to be exactly seventy years old, but using that figure as a base and considering our weight and health, the life span of our nearest relatives who were most like us and life insurance actuarial tables, we can roughly calculate our life expectancy. Subtract our present age and the result is how much time we can reasonably expect to have left. We need to apply our hearts unto wisdom to manage that time well.
At the age of 64, British novelist, William Somerset Maugham decided that he had better write his autobiography, even though his health was still good. He did so and titled it “The Summing Up.” But why sum up your life at age 64? An occasional glance at the obituary columns, he explained, suggests that the sixties can be very unhealthy. That may be true, but Maugham survived another 27 years and died at the age of 91. No matter how young or old we are, it is good occasionally to review our lives. Where have we been on our earthly journey? Have we been achieving our goals? Are we developing into a kind of people we aspire to be? However, far more important than that is the question of whether:
(1) We are becoming the men and women God wants us to be.
(2) Are we making the most of the opportunities before us?
(3) Opportunities to live holy lives, serving others, and glorify God in both word and deed?
Why you may ask? Well because life is as fleeting as vapor (Psalm 39:5), and we would be wise to make the most of our limited days on earth in service for the Master. We cannot change the way we have spent our time in the past. However, from this moment on, we can prayerfully with determination lay hold of God’s grace, and fulfill His will for our lives. Do you long to serve the Lord, to use your gifts in a way that will minister to others? Do you have a vision for something you can do for Him that will win others to Him and build them in the faith? Are you finding yourself blocked, though, by lack of opportunity, dwindling finances, and a desperate need for some affirmation from the Lord? Like a tomato that ripens on the vine, our goals will taste sweeter and the fruit of our labor will be juicier if we wait on God’s timing.
If we rush the process, we run the risk of not receiving God’s best. Our goals may be accomplished eventually, but with a much higher cost and greater struggle than if we waited for the Lord. We need to listen for God’s voice and wait for His direction. If we feel peace in our heart after we take a step, then we know that it is the right step. If not, we need to wait for further guidance. Step by step, we can move with peace as we walk on our intended path, waiting for His timing. He may not lead as quickly as we wish, but His timing is always right. My friend we have the present moment, so let us make the most of it! How much time? We are never sure, but at least we have today to seek to do His will, in all that we do and say.
Redeem the time! God only knows
How soon our little life may close,
With all its pleasures and its woes,
Redeem the time!
Wasting the gift of time insults the Giver of time.