The gift of time

Some unexpected things happened to me at the close of 2010.  To begin with, I found myself on Christmas Day embattled with a rather aggressive stomach virus which for two days prevented me from keeping down foods or liquids of any kind.  Soon after, I learned of the untimely death of friend.  I then received the News that one of my high school teachers had finally lost his bout with cancer, leaving behind a wife and two daughters.  While my stomach flu was nothing more than a mere inconvenience, the loss of those I knew affected me deeply.

Time, it seems, is that most priceless of commodities that costs nothing.  Both the rich and poor, and the young and old, have it.  But the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that our time on Earth is limited and can vanish in the blink of an eye (see 12:13-14).  Brought face-to-face with the fragile nature of time, many questions are still fresh in my mind.  For example, how do I use my free time?  Do I truly submit to God’s day-to-day leading or do I insist on having my own way?  How much time do I spend in prayer?  And, while I’m in prayer, do I focus more on getting my own desires granted or do I focus on getting God’s kingdom built?  How is my personal Bible study time?  Does it yield the fruit of a deeper understanding of God’s nature and character, or do I lightly pass over principles taught within the pages of Scripture?  Do I treat my friends, family, and co-workers with love or with self-serving motives?

The Bible warns us to not boast about the time we have and to not assume that it is ours to do with as we please apart from God’s will.  James 4:14 says that our life is like a “mist” or vapor that can be here one minute and gone the next.  As a child, I used to think I had all the time in the world; I don’t think that way any more.

But while our time should be used wisely, we need not despair or grow morbid about how our lives may or may not turn out.  On the contrary, the Bible encourages us to be thankful for the time and blessings we do have, and to use them for God’s glory.  With this in mind, there are a number of areas in which we can take personal inventory so as to make the best use of our time according to God’s will.

First, how do you regard your relationships?  In the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul wrote of two ladies who had let a personal difference grow to the point of causing a break in fellowship.  Paul urged them to be reconciled to each other rather than continue in a pointless emotional stalemate (see Phil. 4:2-3).  

Our relationships are governed (and limited!) by the time we have.  How do we invest in those relationships?  Do we let petty differences become magnified to the point causing division?  Or do we seek to be reconciled to others every chance we get?

Second, how important is prayer to you?  Another aspect of our lives that is governed by time is our prayer life.  Most of us, including me, work in secular fields which occupy many waking hours of our week.  When we add in other daily necessities such as eating, sleeping, cleaning, and shopping, the time we have in which we can focus exclusively in prayer seems to diminish.

Third, how seriously do you take the Bible?  I once heard someone point out that a tattered and worn out Bible is usually owned by a person who isn’t.  My senior pastor echoed this thought recently when he asked what our lives would look like if we really took the Bible seriously.  His question, I think, is pertinent.  The amount of time we spend studying and applying God’s written word is, in my estimation, a benchmark of how we value our time.

The value of God’s word has been driven home to me in recent years more so than at any other time in my life.  With all the activities I can find myself preoccupied with, reading my Bible seems to take first place more so than ever.  Why?  Because the Bible is God’s word to us.  It is filled with principles which, if we would but follow them, would position us in such a place as to enjoy God’s peace and blessing.

Finally, are you completely submitted to God?  On the eve of His last day on Earth, Jesus taught His disciples the importance of staying relationally and spiritually connected to Him.  In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” (NIV).  If we are to make an impact in this world for Christ, we must stay connected to Him.

In conclusion, our lives can be full of joy and things to be thankful for.  However, it is good to be reminded that our time is limited.  What we do with the time we have will pass into eternity.  Take stock of how you use your time and seek to discover how you might better use your time for the Lord.

Allen can be reached at [email protected].

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