Redeeming our Time
Redeeming our Time
Rev. Stuart Strachan Jr
Well we are in our second week of a series that’s entitled “Redeeming the Gifts”. This is a series about the gifts God has given us, namely, our Time, Talents, and our Treasure.
We all know what its like when God is not involved in those areas of our lives and so, the hope is, in this series that we might experience some new ways to be intentional about the gifts God has given us.
Last week if you recall we talked about the competition, that is, the competition for our hearts. The stuff that gets in the way of us really using our gifts for God’s glory.
And really at the heart of that competition are our idols. Idols, whether they are tangible in the sense of a golden calf, or metaphorical in the sense of money, power, security, comfort, they are all real nonetheless, and they can keep us from experiencing God’s redemption of our gifts.
Today, we are going to focus on the gift of time. Which is interesting because, while most of us feel like we do not have enough time, I know I’m guilty of wishing there was 30 hours in a day, time is a gift. God created the universe, and part of that creation was time itself.
And I think if we are honest with ourselves, we often think of time in terms of two things. There is restricted time-time, that is time dictated to us by our jobs, school, family commitments etc… and there is “free time.”
Free-time is an interesting term isn’t it? It assumes we are the ultimate deciders of what to do with that time…which is in fact true.
But Paul in our scripture passage this morning, begs to differ. In fact, because he sees time as a gift from God, he encourages us to think clearly about how we use the time we are given.
With that said, let’s turn to our sermon text in Ephesians 5 verses 15-17:
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Of the three gifts that we are given by God, time, talents, and treasure, time is the only one that we each receive the exact same amount. Each one of us is given 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and 52 weeks in a year. For the sake of argument I will admit that that in the end, some of us have less time on earth, but compared to most of human history, God gives us this gift, this gift of time, and our job is to steward that time wisely.
In our text, Paul encourages the Ephesians to make the most of their time, not to be unwise, but wise making the most of the opportunities that we are given. So how do we do that?
Well, I have three ways I believe God enables us to use our time wisely. The first is implicit in Paul’s advice: be intentional with your time. The second, wisdom means walking in Step with God’s will, and third, wisdom with our time means prioritizing relationships above other pursuits.
Wisdom means intentionality with our time
So what does it look like to be intentional with our time?
At a basic level, it means we don’t just let events happen to us, we intentionally steward our time in such a way as to live that is pleasing to God.
We ought to be seeking to be fully present when we are with others. This seems to have gotten exponentially more difficult as technology has advanced. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in restaurants and seen couples or even whole families stuck on their phones, not engaging, not interacting.
But even for those of us who aren’t into the smartphones and laptops and tablets, we aren’t immune to being only partially present.
We all know what it’s like to be talking to someone and realize quite suddenly that the other person isn’t really interested, or is so pre-occupied with something or someone else that you feel like “chopped liver”.
Or maybe you yourself are constantly going from one activity to the next and you are the one struggling to be fully present.
The truth is, this happens to all of us.
We all get busy, at times even overwhelmed, but if it is a habit, if it is a trend in our lives that we can’t seem to be present with people, than that is something we need to really assess and ask God what needs to change with the way we spend our time so that we don’t keep finding ourselves unable to connect meaningfully.
Perhaps one of the best ways to accomplish this is by increasing our margin in our lives. Most of us are aware of margin at the edge of papers we write, the edges of notebooks.
There is additional space in case you absolutely need it.
The problem is, for many of us, there is no margin left, and so when a crisis hits, or when a big projects arrives, we become overwhelmed, because there’s nothing more for us to give.
And usually, when that big crisis hits, when that big project is due, that’s when burnout happens, because we’re not prepared to handle it.
Being present in the present
This need to be present also connects to folks who find themselves living ehtier in the past (that is, constantly rehearsing regrets, or former glories) or living in the future…thinking that something that we believe will completely change our circumstances.
The truth is, if you are not content in the here and now, then you need to make a change so that you can be.
So for example, if we are living in future vacations or retirement or promotions or our next jobs or next schools, we will perpetuate that pattern over and over again and we will never ultimately find the contentedness we seek.
Ultimately, we need to be present in the present.
Being Intentionally Interruptible
The last way we need to be intentional with our time is in this: we need to manage our time, but wisdom also reminds us that we must be interruptible.
The Christian author Monte Unger once noted,
“It is a great principle of love that people don't interrupt, not really. Perhaps there shouldn't even be such a word as interrupt; for when people come into your existence, even for a brief time, that is a wonderful moment of experience for both of you. Relish it. Probe it. Invest some of the time you have tithed. We can't afford to indulge in the luxury of "being too busy and important" for another person.
We have time for such inanimate things as pieces of mail, vast sprawling shopping centers, the television program which starts at 7:30. But what about relationships with people? Isn't that a great deal of what life is all about--loving other people? Remember Jesus? How he raced about, hurrying from one city to another, collecting great crowds on the way to give them a few minutes of hurried heaven-data, then dashing on to the next place?
No, that is not the picture of Jesus the New Testament gives. He had time for people. In a crowd, a woman touched his robe. Lots of people were probably pushing against him, touching his robe, but he discerned the urgency in this particular touch.
He stopped, taking valuable time for this "interruption." His disciples were full of fire and computer-like- efficiency. They wanted to get on with the task of getting something done, even if they didn't always know what that "something" was.
Once a bunch of small, grimy-fingered kids came along and wanted to climb on the Master's lap. "Get those kids out of here," thought the goal-oriented disciples.
"No, let them stay. Let's enjoy them and let them enjoy us," thought the true-goal-oriented Man from heaven who knew and expressed the great worth of the individual.
The next time a person "interrupts" you, think not of your work and your deadlines; rather, think of that person's needs, of his or her covert compliment in desiring to spend a few moments with you.”
So those are at least a couple of ways to be intentional with our time. To be intentional is to be wise stewards of our time. The second principle of wise stewardship of time is this that we need to walk in step with God’s will when it comes to our time.
Wisdom with our time means walking in step with God’s will.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “everything has its time and the main thing is that we keep in step with God and do not keep pressing on a few steps ahead-nor keep dawdling a few steps behind”
That is to say, we need we need to be attentive to God’s voice, to hear where He is leading, and as Bonhoeffer notes, not go too far ahead, nor lag behind when it comes to walking in step with God.
But how do we do that? There’s certainly no easy answer to this question, but it certainly must mean time spent in prayer. We must make time to hear God’s voice to be able to discern just exactly where He wants us to be.
Here’s a practical suggestion that incorporates prayer into a discernment of how we spend our time:
Consider writing down a list of the major things that take up your day. You can take out the necessities, brushing your teeth, feeding your childen, though you may want to write some of those necessities down, such as work, because often the amount of hours we work is a matter of personal discretion.”
You may have to work 40-50 hours a week, but do you really need to work 50-60 hours?
So write everything else out, and then go item by item, and pray for God to give you direction on how you spend your time.
It may surprise you where God ultimately leads to ether cut or to add different activities into your life.
So what should we prioritize if we find ourselves with some more time?
Wisdom with our time ought to lead to prioritizing our relationships with God and with others.
I would suggest that relationships, both with God and with each other, are essential to a wisely stewarded life. And deep, healthy relationships are so rare these days, especially among the younger generations. We’d rather post and tag our friends sometimes than talk to them.
And yet, God has created us for relationships. Yes, he’s created us for work as well, but investing in healthy relationships is always a good investment. They may not increase your bank account, but they will increase your joy, which in my opinion, is worth more than silver or gold.
So as we close this morning, where might God be nudging you with your time? Where might He be calling you to change some of your habits? To prioritize faith, family, and friendships?
Let us pray.
Friends, this is the joyful feast of the people of God! They will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.
According to Luke, when our risen Lord was at table with his disciples, he took the bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
This is the Lord’s table. Our Savior invites those who trust him to share the feast which he has prepared.
Hear the words of the institution of the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ:
See 1 Cor. 11:23–26; Luke 22:19–20
/ Service for the Lord’s Day—Order with Texts
Yours, O Lord, are grandeur and power, majesty, splendor, and glory.
All in the heavens and on the earth is yours, and of your own we give you.
Blessed are you, God of all creation; through your goodness we have these gifts to share. Accept and use our offerings for your glory and for the service of your kingdom.
The Lord Jesus, on the night of his arrest, took bread, and after giving thanks to God, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take, eat. This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
In the same way he took the cup, saying: This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.
Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the saving death of the risen Lord, until he comes.
With thanksgiving, let us offer God our grateful praise.
It is truly right and our greatest joy to give you thanks and praise , O Lord our God, creator and ruler of the universe. In your wisdom, you made all things and sustain them by your power. You formed us in your image, setting us in this world to love and to serve you, and to live in peace with your whole creation. When we rebelled against you refusing to trust and obey you, you did not reject us, but still claimed us as your own. You sent prophets to call us back to your way.
Then in the fullness of time, out of your great love for the world, you sent your only Son to be one of us, to redeem us and heal our brokenness.
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with choirs of angels, with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all the faithful of every time and place, who forever sing to the glory of your name: