Time – Minister’s Letter June 22

Dear all at IPC,

What
can’t be bought,
can’t be swapped,
and when you’ve spent it, it’s gone?

The answer is… time.

Our life on earth is finite, there is a moment in time when we are born and there will be a point when we die. A certain number of seconds in every minute, hours in every day and weeks in a year. It doesn’t often feel like that. We certainly don’t live consciously with that truth. For the non Christian it is too terrifying, but for the Christian it is encouraging. “My times are in his hands” (Psalm 31:5).

When we are young time can often seem to drag on endlessly, and yet as we grow old years seem to fly by. People will often say it’s difficult to keep track of time.

It strikes me, that as Christians we need to be more aware of our finitude. I suspect more of us struggle with wasting time than we are willing to admit. The internet has it’s obvious problems with pornography and online gambling, but the way that it distracts us and robs us of time without our realising it.

I also think it is one area where we are ashamed to admit it. You see it in prayer requests. I can’t ever remember being asked to pray for someone who is aware that they are wasting time. There are lots of prayer requests about our busyness.

The answer to understanding and grappling with this issue is to pray with the Psalmist: “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). There is a recognition that we need the Lord’s help: sheer will power and self discipline will not be enough.

The time that we have is a gift from God’s good hand. In Ephesians 5 the Apostle Paul demands that we: “Make the best use of time because the days are evil” (Eph 5:16). The more familiar translation of that verse is that we are to redeem the time. To redeem something is to buy it back, to regain possession of it.

In Ephesians, Paul has expounded what it is to be “In Christ”, to have all the spiritual blessings that God can give is to be “In him”. He has chosen us before time (in eternity), he has made us who were dead, alive in Christ (2:1-11), brought us into his Church and made us one in Christ (2:12-24). We live out our lives as the body of Christ reflecting God’s wisdom which is the church.

In Chapter 5 Paul is instructing the church to be imitators of God, to live under his authority. To redeem the time will mean that we understand the days in which we are living. In the verse before, Paul has warned us not to be unwise, and in the verse after, he implores us not to be foolish. Peter tells us with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8). Our time on this earth is limited.

It is saying to us to recognise we are creatures not the Creator, we have limitations unlike God. We are finite and only he is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. That is wonderfully liberating, I don’t have be frenetic trying to accomplish jobs which I don’t have time for. I’m only human!

To recognise this and live wisely we will need the empowering of God’s Holy Spirit. We would be wise to remember we need Christ’s Church to keep reminding us who our God is and we are caught up in his eternal purposes. We need the encouragements and the warnings of his word – “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” (Proverbs 27:1)

CT Studd was an eccentric 19th/ early 20th Century Missionary, he is one of my heroes. I wouldn’t recommend you follow his pattern of living nor some of his theology, but he understood better than most that time is limited.

“Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way; Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat; Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears; Each with its days I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score; When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep; Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervour burn, And from the world now let me turn; Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne; Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say ’twas worth it all”; Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Live in the light of what God has done for you in Christ, is doing in his church and will do in history. Make the best use of time, live life wisely.

Your Minister and friend, Paul

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