Monday, January 2, 2012

Time Is a Gift To Be Used Wisely

15Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16making the most of the time, because the days are evil.  17So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  Ephesians 5:15 - 17 (NRSV)
Our text this morning tells us to live carefully, or wisely, redeeming the time, or making the most of opportunities.  The chief ingredient in redeeming the time is not something related to a good work ethic, although that is not bad.  The main requirement for making the best use of our opportunities is wisdom.

The Difference between Foolishness and Wisdom

No one likes to be called a “fool”, but anything less than wisdom is foolishness.  I’m sure most of us have seen the shows on television that feature people doing the dumbest things imaginable.  Sometimes you wonder if they had their so-called “wisdom teeth” pulled before they were born.
In our Ephesians text the word is “unwise” (asophos in Greek meaning “against wisdom”).  Fools are against, or contrary to wisdom.  Wisdom is not intellect.  Intellect can accumulate knowledge like a computer, but it doesn’t come from knowledge.  Wisdom has its basis in a lot higher source:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.   Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)
Foolishness wastes opportunities God gives in at least three ways:


Today people assume that because there are three minutes unoccupied on their Day-Timer page that it is O.K. to write-in another commitment.  It isn’t!


I once made a New Years resolution to share Jesus with people every time I have any kind of opportunity in front of me.  I was unprepared and blew the resolution that very afternoon.  Some lady phoned our house and asked if Loretta was there.  Well, I don’t know any Loretta, so I simply muttered, “You must have the wrong number.”  As I hung the phone on its cradle I immediately regretted my words.  I was not prepared and failed in an opportunity. 


We are distracted with all sorts of things that get in the way of redeeming the time wisely.  Sometimes it is everyday stuff like preoccupation with our job or hobbies. 
Sometimes it is really big stuff like pornography or illegal activities.  Often it is simply a lack of commitment to living wisely.  The first time I ever went fishing all the “men” in my family piled into my uncle Marlen’s boat.  When we hit the deep water we dropped our lines.  Uncle Marlen had to bait my hook (even at 10 I hated handling bait!).  While he baited the hook he explained what to do when the fish took the bait. 
When that monster took the bait I wasn’t ready; I had listened like most 10 year-olds.  I was distracted with how deep the water was, and how fast that boat would sink if I knocked the side panel out with my foot.  When the opportunity struck my line, all I could do is yell for Uncle Marlen…I got one…what do I do?  I simply wasn’t ready for the opportunity. 
Sometimes the stuff of our life clouds our ability to act with wisdom to redeem the time.  We get distracted by all the material stuff (new toys, vacations, places to go)…we want it all!  Materialism steals rather than blesses.  Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote:  This I do, being mad; gather baubles about me, sit in a circle of toys, and all the time death beating the door in. [1]   Doesn't that describe us well? We play idly with our toys, oblivious to the passing of time, ignoring the fact that death is beating in the door!

Foolishness brings regret,                                    wisdom brings reward

Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.   Proverbs 4:7 (NIV)
This is how our text urges us to live, as wise people.  From what avenue does wisdom come?

Wisdom is developed by experience. 

‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’  Job 32:7 (NIV)
Experience can be a tough teacher if we blindly plow our way through life without applying wisdom.  There was a novice sailor who signed on up north, to be part of a tugboat crew in Chesapeake Bay.  That bay has lots of shoals and sandbars that can ground a ship or a canoe.  The novice asked the veteran skipper how he learned how to avoid all the danger spots in the bay.  The skipper said, "That's easy, I've hit 'em all."
We can be like that, simply getting our wisdom from experiences, knocking our heads against the wall until some sense finally gets through.  Some of that is unavoidable in life.  However there is a better way.  Wisdom can be developed by experience, but: 

Wisdom is deepened by relationship. 

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)
I know a lot of people who are smart by experience.  They have learned to operate a business, bake a pie or fix a car; they made a lot of mistakes to earn that knowledge.  But true wisdom for life comes when you commitment your life to the Lord.
Some make the mistake of thinking you can gain the insight you need from:
·           Studying the Bible and just putting its principles into action. 
·           Some imagine you can depend on others to spoon-feed wisdom by going to church, listening to mountains of sermons and Bible Studies. 
·           There are folks who travel all over the place to hear this preacher or that one. 
Friends, if you hang around the church or the revival circuit, or get your name on this TV preacher’s mailing list or that university’s diploma, you will have what you sought, but it won’t be wisdom.  The beginning of wisdom is found only in commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.  From there it is deepened by relationship with Him.  In short, a daily, intense personal relationship with Jesus Christ is how you can become a wise person, redeeming the time.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can “incorporate” Jesus into your life as that “religious” part of you that goes to church a few times a week.  Beloved, that’s religion, and that kind of commitment (or lack of commitment) will get you on six committees and the choir; it will get you sleepless nights of guilt and wondering how you can get out of the twenty things you promised to do this year – but it won’t get you an ounce of genuine wisdom, or peace…only a genuine, consistent, daily friendship with Jesus Christ will make you truly wise and bring peace into your life.
If you want to be wise, so you can redeem the time, there is absolutely no substitute for spending time with God.  If you want to be wise, there is no substitute for committing your life to the will of God. 
In our Ephesians text, understand His will means the same as bend your will to His will; bind your will to His will!  C.S. Lewis once wrote: “The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important.”[2]  If you want to find your real life, give your life away to Him today!
Now, that is the beginning of wisdom…a commitment of reverence to the will of God for your life.  All the rest of life is a matter of course correction, seeing where we have lost our wisdom, or strayed off the wise course and then getting back on the right track.

How Can I Start Redeeming the Time

Prioritize Time

Overcoming the tendency to waste our opportunities is a matter of concentrating on the important stuff, and leaving the other for Providence.  An old saying I treasure is, don’t let the good become the enemy of the best.  Many of us waste opportunities to be wise and redeem the time because we treat everything as if it were important, especially that which makes the most noise.  We do good things, but fail to do the best.
One preacher said has developed a way to get some help with prioritizing his time.  He said, “I have asked three close friends to monitor me and tell me when I am allowing busyness to crowd out fellowship with God.”[3]  The starting point is to put the eternal things on the top of your priority list:
·     Worship
·     Time in the Word
·     Prayer
·     Sharing our faith
·     Time for family and friendships
·     Limits for work

Embrace Opportunities

I cannot list for you all the opportunities that may come your way under the heading of “accept” or “decline”.  To embrace an opportunity means that you see everything that comes your way from God’s perspective.  One of the reasons you must spend time with God in prayer, Bible study and service is so that you will begin to think like He does.  I can tell you what Elizabeth thinks about a lot of stuff because we are best friends.  Over the years I’ve come to know her favorite this or that, or how she thinks about this or that. 
Opportunities are just that – momentary tests as to how you will use your resources, time and energy.  Embracing the opportunity means seeing it from God’s perspective and acting accordingly.
If you want to redeem the time as God’s child, first prioritize your time as God’s time; then embrace opportunities to serve as God sends them your way.  Then,

Be Content with God’s Calling to Opportunities

In some way you are where you are today by God’s design.  There have been times when you have walked astray and frustrated God’s perfect will; there have been times when you were cooperative and obedient.  Whichever side of the scale on which you find yourself concerning your discipleship and service, choose now to be content with knowing God is working all things together for good.
Paul said he had learned to be content in all things[4].  It means Paul had learned to prioritize the passing from the eternal, and he had learned to embrace each new moment’s opportunities as gifts from God to be worked-through and made to serve the kingdom, and in all of it he was content to serve His Lord.  That is a wise man who redeems the time!
A legend on an old sundial takes a lesson from one of the other texts for New Years Sunday; it reads:
Look on the day-star moving    
Life and time are worth improving; 
Seize the moments while they stray, 
Seize and use them, lest ye lose them 
   And lament the wasted day.[5]
Be wise, redeem the time!  Isaiah said[6] if you do seize the moments in order to serve and worship Him, you will have a new name that the LORD himself will give you.  You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 
For a follower of Jesus Christ, what could be better?

[1] Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
[2] Brian Moon, One Life to Live,
[3] C. John "Jack" Miller, Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 4.
[4] Philippians 4:11
[5] Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
[6] Isaiah 62:2,3

No comments:

Post a Comment