What is your most precious resource?
Is it money? Property? Bitcoin? Perhaps. But I suspect that in a world of increasing busyness, when the lines between work and rest are blurred by technology—when there is always another email, another podcast, another post, another opportunity—that the one resource you wish you had more of is time.
But you don’t. And I don’t. Furthermore, we can’t. We can’t gain more than what God has allotted to us in our lives; we can’t make the sun slow down; we can’t stop the calendar pages from flipping. Time is marching on, and every single second we have less of it in our lives than we did the second before. The best we can do is make the most of what we have.
But for Christians, doing this means having a unique perspective on time, one informed by God’s Word. The Christian should, then, view time through the lens of Scripture and have that perspective shaped by a few key truths:
1. Time is futile.
The clock is ticking on both a macro and micro level. Time is ticking through the day and, on a broader scale, through our lives. Every moment that goes by is a moment that we’ll never have back. It’s this issue of time that the Teacher in Ecclesiastes address in Ecclesiastes 3. In that chapter, he acknowledges that there is a season for everything under the sun. And if we rephrased Ecclesiastes 3 into our modern culture, we might find something like this:
There is a season, turn, turn, turn, for everything, turn, turn, turn…There is a time for the healthy pregnancy and a time for the miscarriage. There is a time for the good days of fun with kids and a time for when they are too cool to hang out with you anymore. There is a time for the diapers and a time when you wonder how you can afford the groceries for the teenager. There is a time to earn a good living and a time to wonder if you’ve saved enough for retirement. There is a time for chemotherapy and a time for remission. There is a time for diplomacy in the tenuous regions across the world and a time for bombs to be dropped. Turn, turn, turn…
When you put it like that, it’s not so easygoing. It does, however, expose at least part of the reason why the Teacher looks at time and—along with so many other things—cries, “Vanity!”
The Christian perspective on time is formed by the reality of the seasons. Coming and going. We don’t need to struggle to hold onto the past, nor do we need to be in a hurry to get into the future. We don’t need to be the people who constantly seek plastic surgery to keep our youth, nor do we need to be the people who are always looking to some future opportunity or financial state. There is a season for all things in God’s sovereign design.
2. For such a time as this…
In Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo once remarked to Gandalf, “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” as he lamented the fact that he had lived to see the evil advancing from Mordor. Gandalf responded, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
We live in the days in which God decided we should live, just as Esther and Mordecai did. Esther, who had been given a position of power and stature in a royal kingdom that was a threat to the very survival of the Jewish people, was not put in that position at that time by accident. This is what Mordecai tells her in Esther 4:14:
“If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s family will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”
The Christian perspective on time is built on the knowledge that when we are, and where we are, is not by accident. God has planned good works for us to walk in. He has placed us in specific places, times, communities, and positions in order to make the most of them. We must not be the people who are constantly wishing for another time, or another place, or another position, but recognize by faith that this is when and where God has placed us.
3. The present is framed by eternity.
Our knowledge of eternity defines our perspective on the present—not the other way around.
As believers in Jesus, we are the people who know the future. We are those who have a sure and certain hope. We are the ones who have had all the guesswork removed for eternity. Because we are, we should live now in light of what will certainly be true tomorrow:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable,undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).
This knowledge of eternity changes the way we see time. In some ways, it makes us more urgent with the time we have. It makes us share the gospel freely because we know that every human will spend eternity either in heaven or hell. It makes us want to invest everything we have in the Kingdom because of the future dividends it will pay.
But a knowledge of eternity also helps us not just make the most of the present, but endure in the present. We can endure suffering because of what we know is waiting for us in eternity. We are free from the need to seek revenge because we know that God will bring justice in His own time and in His own way.
Because of eternity, we know that today won’t last forever. So the Christian can live, in a way, outside of the bondage of time because we know that we will be with Jesus forever. We don’t panic, but we don’t live lazily. We don’t worry about tomorrow, but we also invest in the future. The Christian lives with a sense of balance because of our knowledge of eternity.
Time is indeed a precious resource, maybe the most precious one we have. But this resource, like all the others, must be framed in light of what we know to be true from God’s Word. Our perspective must be irrevocably altered because of our faith.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua (10), Andi (7), and Christian (5). He serves as Director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. Find him on Twitter:@_MichaelKelley. Check out his latest book, Growing Down: Unlearning the Patterns of Adulthood that Keep Us from Jesus here.