For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's About Time

Time is the subject of so many little proverbs, sayings and catch phrases:
A stitch in time saves nine.
Once upon a time.
It's only a matter of time.
Time waits for no man.
I don't have the time.
Time heals all wounds.
Time marches on.
Time flies.
Time's up.
For the one generation, It's Howdy Doody Time.
Or for another generation, the old Steve Miller Band song, "Time keeps on tickin', tickin', tickin', into the future."

Our daughter even made an interesting observation about time a few years back. We were talking about the schedule of the church we served at the time, and she asked, "Why do we have an early service and a late service, but we don't have a service that starts right on time?" Never thought of it that way before.

Just a couple of weeks ago I did a bit of reflecting on the issue of time. But as we draw near to the end of another year, the issue just won’t get out of my mind. Even though in reality Friday night will pass into the next tomorrow in the very same way that hundreds of other days have passed into a hundred tomorrows, we tend to think of this day as different. It's about time. Time truly does march on. Time really does fly. It marks the passing of one year into the next. It causes us to consider the last 365 days and do a little evaluating.

And for each of us this realization can bring on different reactions. Our evaluation of the time we spent this year may bring us to different conclusions. But no matter what kind of year we had, there is at least one thing all of us have in common: As I said in that last time reflection, we all had the same amount of time in the last year.

We each have 365 days with 24 hours each. Each hour has 60 minutes. Each minute has 60 seconds. Have you ever stopped to figure that out? That means that in the last year we each had 8,760 hours; 525,000 minutes; 31,536,000 seconds in which to live and serve God. The question is how have we made use of those opportunities? One of the hardest things we need to do each day is to use God's gift of time wisely. Here are three simple suggestions.

I. RECOGNIZE THE TIME. Scripture tells us in Psalm 90 that the average life span is 70 - 80 years. I'm not trying to scare those of you in your 60s or 70s and tell you that you have less than 10 years to live. That's not the point. The point Moses is making in that Psalm is that no matter how long we live it is not long at all, and our time will be up. We were not designed primarily for this world, we were designed for eternity, and we need to view this life in light of that fact.

I think is this age of modern science and medicine we spend so much time trying to cheat death that we fail to recognize the time. We don't want to admit that our life in this world is extremely limited in its length. We don't like to think about it, we don't like to talk about it, we don't like to have anyone else talk about it. It hasn't always been like that though. I think past generations were more aware of life's brevity in this world.

Some of the old hymn books in my collection have lines like: "Time once gone is gone forever, Fast the minutes hasten by." (From Hymns for Sunday Schools, 1857, #249) Another says, "Time is winging us away to our eternal home; Life is but a winter's day, a journey to the tomb; Youth and vigor soon will flee, blooming beauty lose it's charms; All that's mortal soon shall be enclosed in death's cold arms." (Time is Winging Away by John Burton. From Songs of Praise, Baptist Edition, 1890)

Some might think that sounds morbid, especially for a church hymn. But I don't think it's morbid; it's just honest. It recognizes the time. Scripture says there is appointed a time for each of us to leave this world; our days are numbered, so to speak. We need to recognize that. And realizing that leads us to the second suggestion.

II. We need to REDEEM THE TIME. Again, I mentioned this before, but the idea is that once we recognize the brevity of time we'll understand the need to use that time wisely. Recognizing how short life is, we need to be sure that we are making the most of every opportunity God blesses us with to please Him. The single most important thing we can do with our time, bar none, is please God. How have we done this year? How much time have we wasted?

Someone once sat down and added up all the minutes and hours the average person does average things over the course of a lifetime. The study revealed that an average seventy year old man has spent the equivalent of 24 years sleeping, 14 years working, 8 years in amusements, 6 years at the diner table, 5 years in transportation, 4 years in conversation, 3 years in education, and 2 years in studying and reading.

His other four years were spent on miscellaneous things such as Six months siting at stoplights, Eight months opening junk mail, and One year looking for misplaced objects. Of those four years, he spent 45 minutes in church on Sundays, and five minutes were devoted to prayer each day. That adds up to a not very impressive total of five months that he gave to God over the seventy years of his life.

Even if this man had been a faithful churchgoer who attended Sunday school and three one-hour services per week, he would have spent only one year and nine months in church. If you question the arithmetic, sit down and figure out how you have been using your time. How large a portion of it is for the things related to God?

70 years may be too much to try and figure out, so start small. How many of the just over 10,000 minutes God gave you this week did you spend pleasing Him versus how many you spent pleasing yourself? Even smaller, on any given day, how many of the 1,400 minutes you had were spent in God honoring ways?

It doesn't matter who you are, what kind of job you have, whatever; we each have the same number of minutes and hours every day to work with. And it's up to us to choose whether we will redeem that time and gain a heart of wisdom, or whether we will waste those opportunities forever.

III. Suggestion three is simply that we REJOICE THROUGH TIME. Scripture tells us to sing for joy all our days. Stop for a second and consider God's unfailing love. Think of the words of Romans chapter 8 where Paul says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Satisfy yourself with that thought every morning, and I can guarantee you'll end up singing for joy all your days. The point being that regardless of the days we have, regardless of the time we spend in this world, the more we satisfy ourselves with the mercy of God in Christ, the happier we will be.

This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. That's the attitude we should great each day with. Whether we're at home, at work, at school, wherever, our desire should be to live in such a way that pleases God and allows us to rejoice in Him. Every moment of every day. We don't have to be at church to praise God. We don't have to be in a particular building to serve Him. We should recognize the time we have, redeem it in a way pleasing to God, and rejoice in Him all the while.

Given that measuring stick, how was the year 2010? How much of your time was spent serving God and praising Him. The year is gone. The days will never be reclaimed. Were they put to good use, or were they wasted. I invite you today to commit to making 2011 even better. Understand now that the coming year will be gone before you know it as well. Commit with me today to make the most of every opportunity in the coming year. Let's decide today to commit this year more fully to the Lord and to His will, and to rejoicing in Him.

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