“You are my God. My times are in your hands”
I suppose when one is galloping towards seventy eight, one tends to think a bit more about time than if one were twenty seven, thirty seven or even fifty seven! But perhaps, rather than looking wistfully backwards, it is spiritually healthier to affirm with the Psalmist: “I trust in you, Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God. My times are in your hands’” (Psalm 31:14-15).
I believe it is incumbent upon all of us as believers to grasp that Time, next to life itself, and perhaps the gift of grace and salvation, is the greatest thing we have and it presents us with divine opportunities round every corner to accomplish the purposes of our God in the world.
We often say, “I haven’t got time.” But what we really mean is that, “I haven’t got enough control of my life to fit in what I should do”, or else it means, “What you are asking me doesn’t fit my priorities at this moment.” In reality we all have the same amount of time. Each of us also has just Today and This Moment. And of course, This Moment could be our last.
For me one of the great challenges of life for many years has been to try and live it “Sub specie aeternitatis”, as the mediaevals used to put it. In other words, “under the aspect of eternity.” Søren Kierkegaard, the 19th century Danish theologian, once said: “The present moment is the Eternal Moment.” In other words Time in the present is impregnated with eternity and eternal possibilities.
I believe each of us needs to look at Time in this way. On the cover of my diary I have Martin Luther’s words, “I have two days in my diary: Today and That Day.” We have this present moment, but we are to live it in the light of That Final Day when all will be judged, evaluated, set in perspective, and either rewarded or rebuked. In fact, the apostle says that, “Each person’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done” (1 Corinthians 3:13). And That Day will reveal whether the foundation we have created for our lives is “gold, silver or precious stones”, or else on the other hand, “wood, hay or straw” (see 1 Corinthians 3:12).
So this is your moment and mine.
So how then do we handle this matter of time?
The Apostle Paul for his part simply exhorts: “Make the most of the time because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15). Here the apostle uses the Greek word kairos which speaks not of chronological time (Gk chronos) but of Time as divine opportunity. In Ephesians 5:15-20 Paul notes several things:
“Look carefully how you walk”
Firstly, he says: “Look carefully how you walk.” All of us are challenged to godly behaviour. If we are living in an ungodly way or away from the plans and purposes of the Lord, then we will certainly not use our time aright.
“Make the most of the time”
Then he brings his urging: “Make the most of the time” (v 16). He is saying here that it is crazy to waste, kill, fritter, or miss Divine Opportunities.
“Be wise, not unwise or foolish”
This is his next exhortation (v 15b). In other words, if we do not live and act wisely, but foolishly, then we will come unstuck at every level of our lives, not least in the wasting of the precious gift God has given us of Time and Opportunity. James 1:5 tells us: “If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God who gives to all freely, but let him ask in faith.” God will grant us His wisdom if we ask for it.
“Understand what the will of the Lord is”
Then Paul says we need to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (v 17b). One New Testament scholar once wrote: “The first thing that must take place within the Christian’s consciousness is to realise that God has a very definite plan and purpose for every redeemed life… It is as this precious truth becomes a reality to him, and only as it does, that any Christian will get down to the serious business of seeking ‘that perfect will of God.’”
And that plan and will of God for us will impact our character, our career, our choosing of the right life partner, and our contribution into the world at large. That’s why in the Lord’s Prayer we pray every day: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
“Be filled with the Spirit”
The next critical ingredient in the apostolic exhortation is to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:18). We dare not ever discount, minimise or trivialise the work of the Holy Spirit. It is He who has to control our lives at every level as we allow Him to occupy fully our minds, hearts and wills. Whatever else we are teaching and preaching, we must never be neglecting the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit and the challenge to every believer to be filled, and to keep on being filled, with the Spirit of God.
Beyond all this, each of us needs to be asking ourselves three questions: Firstly, what am I now doing that does not need to be done by me, or anyone else? This includes the process of elimination. Secondly, what am I now doing that should be done by someone else? This involves delegation. Thirdly, what am I doing now that wastes my time or other people’s time? This requires evaluation.
In a newspaper in the United States an anonymous writer sent in these wise words. I leave them with you today:
“Take time to work – it is the price of success.
Take time to think – it is the source of power.
Take time to play – it is the secret of perpetual youth.
Take time to read – it is the foundation of wisdom.
Take time to worship – it is the highway to reverence.
Take time to be friendly – it is the road to happiness.
Take time to dream – it is hitching one’s wagon to a star.
Take time to love and be loved – it is the privilege of the gods.
Take time to live – it is the source of happiness.
Take time to laugh – it helps lift life’s load.
Take time to pray – it helps to bring Christ near, and washes the dust of earth from our eyes.
Take time to be holy – for without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
Take time for God – it is life’s only lasting investment.”