Redeeming the Time Pt. One
Passage: Ephesians 5:15–5:17
Redeeming the Time
Charles Spurgeon seemed to have been blessed with more hours in his day than the average human being. He would read 6 books a week and could remember what was in each of them and where. He read Pilgrims Progress over 100 times in his lifetime. His sermons fill sixty three volumes and stand as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity. He pastored a church that grew by over 14k members in the time he was there, and Spurgeon conducted most of the membership interviews himself. In his spare time Spurgeon founded a pastor's college and an orphanage, edited a magazine, produced more than 140 books, responded to 500 letters a week and often preached 10x a week in various churches.
And he accomplished all of this, believe it or not, using the same 24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86,400 seconds a day that everyone of us are all given each day. Time has been called the great leveler. It is given to each of us equally, though how we use our time is not equal, as Mr. Spurgeon demonstrates.
Personally it's hard to relate to Mr. Spurgeon's productive use of time - it's far easier to relate with John Newton when he writes to a friend, night comes before I am ready for noon, and the week closes when, according to the state of my business, it should not be more than Tuesday.
There are so many weeks when I can't believe the week is ending and I wish there were more days in a week. Or the day is ending and I can't believe how little I feel I have accomplished! Maybe you can relate to that experience too.
Newton goes on to write:
O precious irrecoverable time! Oh that I had more wisdom in redeeming and improving thee!
I think Newton had the passage we are looking at this morning in his mind as he wrote this. That phrase "make the best use of ..." comes from a Greek word that literally means to "redeem" or buy. We are to redeem the time God has given us. Improve our use of it. As Newton says, once gone it is irrecoverable. Our fruitfulness, our testimony, our joy is irrevocably wrapped up in our faithful and wise use of the gift of time. This is an area I want to - and need to - grow in. And probably you do too.
As I was preparing for message, I realized that this would take more than one week, and was worthy of more than one week. The message today is titled, Redeeming the Time Pt. One. Let's pray.
I. Redeeming the time is essential to living wisely (vv. 15-16)
The Bible makes a direct connection between living wisely and having a biblical perspective of time. Verse 15 calls us to walk wisely, verse 16 calls us to redeem the time, and if we look at these two verses we see that they're not two separate thoughts, but making the best use of the time allotted to us is an expression of living wisely.
In the Hebrew the word wisdom carries the idea of skill - sometimes it's used to describe the skill a craftsman has with his tools. Like a master craftsman chiseling, shaping, crafting a good life - wisdom.
So we can see the connection: if wisdom is how we build our lives, time is the currency of our lives - how we spend our lives. If we spend wisely, there will be dividends of blessing, joy and fulfillment. If spend time foolishly and wastefully, there will be dividends of regret and sorrow.
Wisdom motivates us to spend our time more wisely by giving us a biblical view of time. Foolishness tells us to, "live for the moment", and in one sense it sounds wise. I remember a Schlitz beer commercial years ago that said, You only go around once in life, so you have to grab for all the gusto you can get.
If this life is all there is, then it makes sense that we should grab for all we can get out of it. The tragic miscalculation of this view is that it doesn't take God or eternity into view. That is the core definition of foolishness: the fool has said in his heart, there is no God. Paul says in verse 17 don't be foolish (don't live as if there were no God) but rather consider God. Seek to discern and understand His will. It's similar to Psalm 90, a psalm that contrasts the eternalness of God with frailty and brevity of man, leading Moses to pray:
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (ESV)
Make us aware of the brevity of our lives - that our days are numbered - in the shadow of eternity and the everlasting kingdom of God.
In that sense, both foolishness and wisdom have the brevity of life in view. Lady Folly says grab the moment and squeeze it for all the pleasure you can get - cause you only get one chance at it. Lady Wisdom also calls us to seize the moment and make it count for the glory of God! That's what Paul means when he says we should redeem the time.
But let's admit it: that is easier said than done. The field of time and how we choose to spend our time is the battlefield where so many of the most important battles of our lives are fought. We want to seize the moment - we want to live for the glory of God and want our lives to count for eternity.
But daily life comes at us so fast and furious that we often are just trying to keep our heads (and our calendars) above water. More than that, our sinful flesh wants to live for the moment, to grab all the gusto we can. And so while in theory we want to make the most of every opportunity, far too often we find that we have wasted so many opportunities. And so much time. Already we have regrets. I have a sinking feeling there are more to come.
A gospel reminder
I believe there is hope for us to grow in this area. And I doubt anyone has made more false starts and ineffective attempts in this area then I have. I have a lot of wasted time in my past. Far too often my heart is not living in a keen awareness of eternity - far too often I am very concerned about the pressing moment before me. I think that is true for many of you as well. But at this point it is vital we are reminded of the gospel - we don't fight alone. We have hope to win the battle of redeeming the time for eternity because Jesus left eternity to enter time to redeem us. We are beloved children of God - and just as a wise parent lovingly and patiently teaches their child, encouraging the growth, not giving up in the failures, so God treats us! I believe God has helped me grow and He has helped you grow - and will help us grow as we depend on His Spirit for power and grace to apply His Word and grow in wisdom.
And we need to be rooted and grounded in Christ. He is the Vine and we are the branches.
Three aspects necessary for redeeming the time: prioritizing, planning, and dealing with procrastination.
II. Redeeming the time requires prioritizing our time
Prioritizing is simply identifying what things are most important to us. We all prioritize to some degree, even if it's unconsciously, but if we don't regularly think through our priorities and honestly evaluate our lives, including our lifestyle and our values, we might find to our regret that our functional values look very different from our professed values.
Jesus taught us that our lives can only come into order when our priorities are in order when he said; seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
What are all these things he is saying will be added to us? Less important things like eating and drinking and having shelter and clothing. What is remarkable is these things are essential for living. Jesus admitted as much when he said, your heavenly Father knows that you have need of them. They are essential for living but cannot make a life. Jesus isn't drawing some kind of line between the kingdom of God and everything else in our lives but rather he is saying that the kingdom of God - the rule of God - should be first in our lives and permeate everything else in our lives.
Similar to Paul saying (vs. 17) that we should understand what the will of the Lord is. Christians are to live for the will of God - submitted to the rule of the King. Redeeming the time doesn't necessarily mean we'll get everything we want to get done - at least not in the time we think we'll get it done. Not just about getting through a "to do" list, because we might find that our "to do" list is out of order in light of God's priorities and purposes. First step in redeeming the time is putting the most important things first.
A man named Ivy Lee understood the importance of doing the important things first. He once interviewed with Charles Schwab when Schwab was the president of Bethlehem Steel and told him he had advice for him that if followed, would improve the companies operations and increase their profits.
Schwab responded, "If you can show us a way to get more things done, I'll be glad to listen; and if it works, I'll pay you whatever you ask within reason."
Lee handed Schwab a blank piece of paper and said, "Write down the most important things you have to do tomorrow." Mr. Schwab did so. "Now," Lee continued, "Number them in order of importance." Schwab did so. "Tomorrow morning start on number one, and stay with it until you have completed it. Then go on to number two and number three and number four...Don't worry if you haven't completed everything by the end of the day. At least you will have completed the most important projects. Do this every day. After you have been convinced of the value of this system, have your men try it. Try it as long as you like, and then send me your check for whatever you think the advice is worth."
A few weeks later Charles Schwab sent Ivy Lee a check for $25,000-a huge amount in those days! He said it was the most profitable lesson he had learned in his long business career.
To redeem the time we need to prioritize what is most important and make sure that is what gets the best of our time. Put it first on the list - and work hard that it doesn't get displaced. For the Christian, number one is already filled in: the kingdom of God. And that means that our pursuit of the kingdom permeates all the rest of our lives.
Seeking the kingdom first in every area of our lives (4 big rocks - all having to do with people)
- We need to make our own personal relationship with God of the highest priority. We can't give what we don't have, we can't nourish others spiritually if we're not growing spiritually ourselves.
If ever flown, you know the spiel that the stewardess' give about if the oxygen level in the compartment should drop little oxygen masks will drop down. Parents are told to strap theirs on before strapping their child's mask on. Not because airline cares more about the parents but because know if parent goes unconscious they will not be able to help child.
In the same way, if we're not nourishing our own relationship with God, we won't be able to help others grow in theirs.
- Our families - spending quality time, making memories, instilling values, building the gospel into our family. Looking at wonderful context of the family for gospel building in coming verses as Paul directs our attention to marriage, parenting and children.
- Our involvement in the local church - not just our attendance, but using our spiritual gifts and our time and resources to serve and strengthen our church family. I have put this third because natural outward flow, but I want to caution against an artificially strict order that says, "God, family, church..." While some have sacrificed their families on altar of busy church-work, probably more today in our culture run the risk of being family-centered to exclusion of meaningful involvement in the local church. One of the most important and lasting ways we can love our families is by building them beyond the nuclear (natural) family into the broader family of God expressed in the local church.
- Our witness to the unsaved - as Paul writes to the Colossians, conducting ourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the use of the time (Col. 4:5)
And on the list goes. Our community, neighborhood, our workplace...
But when we understand our priorities, our lives come into clarity. We won't suffer from that vague fogginess that we should be doing something that we're not doing. We won't have that low grade guilt at the end of the week because we allowed important things to be pushed to the back of the line because of urgent phone calls, urgent meetings, urgent demands. Because they were urgent, but not important.
As we close, let's re-examine our priorities in the light of eternity. Is Christ and His kingdom first? Especially believe the Lord wants to speak to those who are older in the faith - we might be tempted to think we know all of this and we're good. But I know I need to reevaluate often.
Fathers. Are we leading our families spiritually? Are we providing an example of devotion to the Lord that will stir our family's love for the Lord? Are there empty priorities hindering us from doing that? That we need to address?
Only one life, will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.