God gives each of us something I would characterize as “time opportunity.” It’s a window of time from the moment we are born until we die.
Time is one of the few things in life that cannot be restored or replenished. Once a minute passes by, it’s gone forever. We can never get it back. No amount of effort on our part can restore time that has been consumed.
In 1932, Robert H. Smith, penned the following poem entitled “Clock Of Life.” (1)
The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power.
To say just when the hands will stop;
At late, or early hour.
Now is the only time we own to do His precious will,
Do not wait until tomorrow;
For the clock may then be still.
The time set for each of us is known only by the Master Time Keeper. In all cases, God gives us a pre-ordained and finite gift of time; from conception until we pass from this life into eternity.
The Psalmist captured this concept beautifully when he wrote:
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16, NIV)
This much we also know; life is uncertain, and we don’t know at which hour we will breath our last.
“Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12, NIV)
As the author of Ecclesiastes observed, we experience death because of evil. And we know from the balance of the scriptures, that we experience evil because of humanity’s choice to have rejected God’s original plan for us.
It is the wise person who values and cherishes the time they have now. This same person understands that none of us can afford to waste our gift of time frivolously, rather they should invest their gift of time in the things of life that count.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12, NIV)
It’s important that we should take a moment now and again and assess how we are using our time. Are we using it wisely or foolishly? Are we using our God given gift of time in ways that please our Lord?
These are important questions. In the end, when our time has run out, each of us will be individually accountable for how we used the time opportunity God gave us.
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” (Revelation 20:12, NIV)
In life, how we use our limited and non-renewable time reflects our priorities. When we use our time in ways that bring honor to God, we store up treasures in Heaven. Our rewards and treasures that God will shower us with in Heaven will be waiting for us when our time comes.
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20, NIV)
“Herman Wouk, in his novel, “The Caine Mutiny”, (2) told about Willie Keigh, a character who was aboard a minesweeper in World War II, when he received word from his father that he had an incurable disease that would soon claim his life. In this letter, the father offered his son the following advice:
“There is nothing, nothing more precious than time.… Wasted hours destroy your life just as surely at the beginning as at the end.…”
When we’re young, we often foolishly think we have all the time in the world…but that’s pride speaking. In reality, we don’t know how much time God has gifted us in this life. I’m sure many of you reading this, have experienced the death of someone for which it seemed unfair, that their life was taken all too early. I suppose all of us are at risk in this regard, as we simply don’t know when our time will be.
I recently attended the memorial service of a friend that died seemingly too early. He was a soft-spoken man of few words, and yet he had a profound impact on the lives of many people. At his memorial service, the church that we were in was packed. The main floor and the balcony were full, and people were standing in the aisles to honor him.
Person after person shared how this man always made himself available to help others, he served in quiet ways, seemingly in the background. Young and old alike were served by him.
As my family and I left the memorial service that day, I thought about this person, I thought about how wisely he had used his time. I thought of the huge impact he had on so many lives. While his death was unexpected for us, it was not for God. Like most of us, my friend had plans for the years ahead, yet he lived in the moment, in the now, to honor the Lord he served and loved. God has no doubt richly rewarded him for the manner and in the priorities in which he chose to live out his life.
The apostle Paul shared insights on how we as God’s people should live out our lives. He spoke of a framework of virtues from which we might bring to life by our actions.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”(Colossians 3:12, NIV)
Notice that Paul tells us to “clothe” ourselves in the virtues that God cherishes. These virtues speak of an expectation of actions on our part. They are to become the very fabric of who we are as Christ followers. Think of some of the actions that might come about from these virtues that Paul shared:
Compassion: Seeing a need and taking time to perhaps fill that need, or perhaps to talk to a person that is struggling with the weight of something significant in their heart.
Kindness: Offering your time to provide a meal, do a chore, or help a person in some other way.
Humility: Lending an ear to listen and while not offering unsolicited advice.
Gentleness: Visiting someone in the hospital and praying for them.
Patience: Investing time in a young person or family member, mentoring them and understanding that life is challenging, and that we need to be patient as we help them to uncover God’s plan for their lives.
Before we engage in our day, we should take a moment at it’s start to pause and consider how we are planning on using the time God has given us. As you look ahead, what are the actions that you plan to put in place to connect to the virtues that Paul spoke of?
Will you use your gift of time to honor God; to improve yourself so that you may serve Him more wisely, or will you consume your time to primarily serve self and passion?
In His wisdom, God has given each of us the time opportunity needed to fulfill His purposes, however long or short it might be. In the end, the question is not; do I need more time? Rather, it’s how will I use the time opportunity I’ve already been given?
(1) Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 1481.
(2) G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1986), 350.