REDEEMING THE TIME
By Pastor Glenn Pease
At the end of a football season a reporter boarded the train carrying the Notre Dame team to the Southern Methodist game. He was looking for a story with a new slant on football. As he talked with the student manager he said, "I understand you carry a chaplain to pray for the team." "Yes, that's right," said the manager. The reporter thought this ought to provide him with a story, and so he asked if he could be introduced to the chaplain. The manager said, "Be glad to, which one do you want, the offensive or the defensive?"
The story illustrates a truth that we all know to be so. The day when a man can be well informed in all fields of knowledge is gone. None but the omniscient mind of God could keep up with the knowledge now available to man. The paradox is that the more man learns about reality the less of it he can really know. He has opened up so many roads to follow that he can't begin to travel all of them. And so he has to specialize, and remain ignorant of all the rest. If we know more today than ever before, it is also true that we are ignorant of more than ever before, for there are so many more things that can be known now that we do not know because of our limitations.
A genius in the Middle Ages could know almost all there was to be known, but a genius today knows he is definitely ignorant of the vast majority of knowledge. I have a friend who is a bio-chemist who works for the government in research. He spent over a year trying to isolate some unknown substance from the protein in an extract from the lima bean. You would think he would know all there is to be known about the lima bean, but not so. There are many others working on other projects with the lima bean. He had to specialize, for apparently there is too much to know and learn for any one man to do it all. This is just a an example of the truth that man cannot know everything about anything. Such is the marvel and complexity of God's handiwork.
This complexity has not just affected the field of science; it has affected the lives of all of us. Life has become complex for everyone, and there is more to do and learn and experience than we have time for. We are forced to specialize and be selective. When it comes to New Year's resolutions we have to be realistic and not bite off more than we can chew. You can make up a list of things to change if you wish, but in most cases the pressure of life will soon shatter your dreams, and in frustration you will throw out the list as a hopeless cause. This approach just doesn't work in our complex age. It is like a naive scientist setting out to investigate the universe in the coming year. And by Jan. 3 he realizes the year will be gone before he has a good start on the lima bean.
There is no choice. We have got to specialize. It is the only way to cope with the facts of life as they are. We have to narrow things down to where we can handle them. We cannot operate efficiently with a multitude of matters in our mind. We need a single, simple, sensible resolution on which to concentrate. If we could find one so simple that everyone could grasp it, and yet so profound and universally effective that it could meet the need of every person in every situation under every condition, would you not be willing to give it your specialized attention? If so, then you will have your chance, for the Scripture supplies us with just what we need for our complex age. Paul in his advice and challenge to the Ephesians opens up to all Christians a basis for a perfect New Year's resolution.
He tells them in verses 15-16 to walk wisely by redeeming the time. There it is; there is the greatest resolution we can make for any year-a resolution to redeem the time. It is simple, for there is only one thing we need to concentrate on, and that is time. It is profound, for to concentrate on using time wisely will affect every aspect of our lives, for there is nothing in life that is not affected by our use of time. Every conceivable resolution we could make can be fulfilled by concentrating on redeeming the time. This is so because of two truths we want to consider about time. The first is-
I. TIME WELL SPENT GIVES POWER.
Time is like a river flowing past the water wheel on an old mill. It is the source of power by which the wheel turns and fulfills its purpose for being. If the wheel is not blocked it can redeem that flow of water by turning it into energy that will produce a good that remains when the water is long gone. We are like the wheel, and time is like the water. If we are redeeming the time we are using it and transforming it into that which outlasts time. When you redeem stamps you turn them in for something more valuable than pieces of colored paper pasted in a book, and so it is when we redeem time.
This very hour becomes the source of great power in our lives if we will redeem it. If we use this time to dedicate our lives anew to Christ, and resolve in our hearts to use time more wisely this year, we can transform these minutes into a power and a source of energy that will direct us in a path that affects all of life and eternity. There is a amazing power in time redeemed. If the water wheel is blocked, however, and is not using the water that flows by, then there is no power. There is no power in time itself. It is only potential power which becomes actual when we spend it well in such things as prayer, acquiring knowledge, and acts of love.
Every hour that flows by unredeemed is gone forever. It is power lost to do something that now can never be done except by the power of another hour, but that hour cannot be redeemed. We do not need to believe that opportunity only knocks once to see that it is, nevertheless, folly to waste any opportunity. We can agree with the optimism of Walter Malone who wrote for opportunity-
They do me wrong who say I come no more,
When once I knock and fail to find you in;
For everyday I stand outside your door,
And bid you wake, and rise to fight and win.
Weep not for precious chances passed away!
Weep not for golden ages on the wane!
Each night I burn the records of the day;
At sunrise every soul is born again.
It is true that God's mercies are new every morning, and if we have wasted today we can still redeem tomorrow. But we must recognize that what we have lost can never be regained. If you redeem tomorrow, that is tomorrow redeemed, but you have still lost today forever. The wise will want to redeem them both. The water wheel can grind on the water flow of tomorrow, but the water that has gone by today is power lost forever. We must redeem today and this hour, for it alone is the only time we have for sure. The hope that we can redeem the time tomorrow ought never to be allowed to be an excuse for wasting the power of today.
Who is so foolish that they will set in the dark today because they know they can turn on the lights tomorrow? Who is so foolish as to walk to work today because they know they can drive tomorrow? Men do not act so unwisely. They redeem the power available to them today. They take advantage of it and buy up the opportunity it affords today. Paul in verse 15 says Christians are not to be fools and walk as those who are unwise, but rather to demonstrate their wisdom by redeeming the time, and buying up all the opportunities of turning time into power. The poet paints a verbal picture of this for our imagination.
Listen to the water mill, all the live long day;
How the creaking of the wheel wears the hours away.
Languidly the water glides, useless on and still;
Never coming back again to that water mill.
And the proverb haunts my mind, like a spell that's cast;
The mill will never grind with the water that has passed.
Take the lesson to yourselves, loving hearts and true;
Golden years are fleeting by, youth is fleeting too.
Try to make the most of life, lose no honest way;
Time will never bring again chances passed away.
Leave no tender word unsaid, love while life shall last.
The mill will never grind with the water that has passed.
Oh! The wasted hours of life that have drifted by-
Oh! The good we might have done, lost without a sigh,
Love that we might have saved with but a single word,
Thoughts conceived, but never penned, perishing unheard.
Take this lesson to your heart, take, oh! Hold it fast-
The mill will never grind with the water that has passed.
This is why a resolution to redeem the time is the best resolution you can make for any year, and for everyday of your life. Time well spent gives the power to do all that we need and ought to do. Waste time, and you lose power.
Redeem the time, and you can be strong in the Lord. The second truth is-
II. TIME WELL SPENT GIVES PURPOSE.
Nothing is so tragic is a life without purpose. Time to such a person is just a dull fact without meaning. Imagine beginning each day with the attitude once expressed by Edna St.Vincent Millay-"Life must go on. I forget just why." What if we could only greet the morning in the mood of A. E. Houseman?
Yonder see the morning blink;
The sun is up, and up must I,
To wash and dress and eat and drink,
And look at things, and talk and think,
And work, and God knows why.
Life is only a dull monotonous routine without purpose to him. Some become even more negative, and see time not as merely meaningless, but as an enemy. William Blont said, "I have long had a quarrel with time because he robbed me. Everyday of life was wrestled from me after bitter strife."
These attitudes toward time are contrary to Christian thinking. Many other religions are indifferent to time, and are even opposed to it, and look only for a timeless eternity, or an infinite nothingness. But for the Christian time is precious. It is not an enemy, but a friend that gives life meaning and purpose. Every hour is an opportunity we can use to live, or an hour we can waste in merely existing. God's eternal plan could only be fulfilled in time, and so in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son into the world.
Paul says redeem the time, or as many translate it, buy up the opportunity. "Grasp at each opportunity like merchants who eagerly buy up a scare commodity." Every person is born with the silver spoon of time in their mouth, and all are equally rich in the treasure of time, but only those who see its value buy it up, and become rich in the values that transcend time. Time is filled with meaning and purpose for those who have a goal in life. Every goal requires time to be reached, and this includes the highest goal of being like Christ. It takes time to become mature and faithful in the service of God. A wise use of time is the only means by which we can move toward that end. When we see this great purpose for which time can be used, it give every hour of life great value. Life become exciting and we can be enthusiastic about everyday, for it is an opportunity to draw nearer to our goal.
Time well spent is a treasure beyond compare. He who spends it for the glory of God becomes a millionaire.
Whene'er I am in God's employ,
I am a millionaire of joy.
Whene'er I lift my eyes above,
I am a millionaire of love.
Whene'er with love my feet are shod,
I am a millionaire of God.
Someone said, "They build to low who build beneath the stars." We need to make sure, however, that we do not fall into the trap of dreamy and impractical idealism. We need to make time count for now as well as eternity, and we need to broaden our vision of what is valuable. The days are evil said Paul, you cannot wait until opportunity presents itself. You must make your own opportunity. With all our limitations we can still make every hour a sweet smelling sacrifice unto God.
If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,400, that carried no balance from day to day, and allowed you to keep no cash in your account, and every evening canceled whatever part of the amount you had failed to use during the day, what would you do? You would draw out every cent, of course, and use it. That is the number of seconds that we all have each 24 hour period of our life. We often hear we must spend money to make money, and it is also true that we must spend time in order to save time. When you kill time, you must remember that it has no resurrection. The best way to kill time is to work it to death.
We must beware of the dangers expressed by Jeremy Bentham when he said, "Stretching his hand out to catch the stars, he forgets the flowers at his feet." We must recognize our limitations, and redeem the time according to the gifts God has given. Not all of us can redeem the time in the same way. The eye must use time to see, the ear to hear, the legs to move, the hands to serve, and so each part of the body must use time according to its ability. We compete only with ourselves, and it is folly to be proud if we are superior to others in certain gifts, for they are superior in others.
This is illustrated by the story of the boatmen ferrying a philosopher across the river. "Can you read?" asked the philosopher. "No sir," said the boatman. "Pity, you have lost a third of your life," said the scholar. "Can you write?" "No sir," was the reply. "Shame, then you have lost two thirds of your life." sighed the sage. The boatman was extremely aggravated by his pride, and he upset the boat. "Can you swim," he shouted to the struggling philosopher. "No!" cried the learned man. "Pity," said the boatman, "you've lost all your life." Philosophers are important, but so are boatmen, and so it every person who will redeem the time by developing his gifts for the glory of God and the good of man.
God gave us all different roles to play. Some are leaders and some are followers. Some are Marys and some are Marthas, but all can make the new year a better year by redeeming the time and filling their life with new power and purpose.
Up, up my soul, the long-spent time redeeming;
So thou the seeds of better deeds and thought;
Light other lamps while yet thy lamp is beaming-
The time is short.