As we begin a New Year, we are reminded of things like New Year’s resolutions and second chances. We always have a second chance in Christ to redeem the life New Life He has given us. As we live daily in His grace, we are stewards of the time and abilities He has given us, and we are then able to look at the time He has given us here on earth and to redeem it for His use as well.
During my days in Sierra Leone, West Africa as a Bible Translation Missionary I often found myself rushing around trying to get things done. First, I had to find a house up-country. Next, I had to upgrade, repair and maintain that house. Every three months I had to come down to Freetown to re-supply. I had to buy three months of food, medicines, building supplies, bags of rice for my workers, etc. Often, I’d have to go scrounging for diesel fuel on the private market when it dried up at the pumps for over a month. Each day I spent an hour hauling water in my land cruiser for our family.
Then there was the work; I had to crank out a six-month language survey, learn the language, and translate and evaluate the first fifteen verses of the Gospel John to determine if the existing translation needed to be revised. A good day of work for me often meant 4-6 hours in the office and the rest of the time spent on basic survival. Somedays it seemed that my time was wasted on everything but the mission.
The national people had a whole different perspective than I did on time. When they worked, during the planting and harvest times, they worked hard. But they knew how to rest also. If I asked one of them to meet me at noon, that meant I could expect them to arrive at anywhere from 1100 to 1400. That would frustrate me to no end. We called this “West African International Time” or “WAIT.”
One day I stopped in to visit a national Wesleyan Minister and arrange for him to find someone to help me at a future date. Instead of doing that, He dropped everything and helped me himself that very day. When we were done, I dropped him off, thanked him, and commented on how amazed I was that he had dropped all of his plans for that day to help me at a moment notice. His response to me was profound and convicting. “Sometimes” he said, “we use our time for others.” Those words reflected an entirely different world view on time and one that I believe is probably closer to the Biblical understanding of time stewardship.
Do we use our time for others besides ourselves, besides our families, besides our or loved ones? Where are the church, charity work and the community at on our list?
The military reinforces and breeds the very perspective on time that I struggled with in Africa. We had one-day planners, then palm pilots, and of course computer reminders that popped up to remind us of engagements. We talked about being intentional, which is often just a buzz word for seeing how much we could cram into every spare moment. We were encouraged to do more with less. We admired those high speed, low drag, fast burners, who could seemingly juggle a million tasks and do them all equally well. To be sure, personally, I get frustrated if I can’t scratch a number of items off my list each day. But have you ever wondered if Jesus would own a smart phone with an electronic calendar? Have you ever wondered if he’d be impressed with our obsession with time management? We read in the Bible:
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Ephesians 5:15-20 (KJV)
Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Col 4:5-6 (NKJ)
If I understand these texts correctly, God is not so much concerned with how much we cram into the time we have as He is with the way we live and act in the time we do have. Do we live it to glorify Him, do His work, and help others? How do we live and act in the time God has given us?
Do we live in the future, in the past, or for the moment? I believe God wants us to live in the moment. I believe He wants us to live every moment as a testimony to others of His grace and love. I believe that he wants us to live every moment as an act of thankfulness to Him, for the gift of His Son. This Jesus was sent into time to take on human flesh, to live and die for our sins, to redeem us, so that we might have the opportunity to, in turn, redeem the gift of time God has given us.
I was watching the classic movie, “Out of Africa” a while back. It stars Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. In the movie Redford portrays the character called Dennis. He has a Masai warrior who works for him. He says of the Massai that, if they are put in prison, they die because they live so totally in the moment and can’t understand that they’ll be let free someday. They don’t understand tomorrow or believe that it will come. My prayer is that God would engender more of that same spirit in us, which focuses on His present calling in our lives at the moment. My prayer is that I might better use my time for God, for the Gospel proclamation, for His church, and for others; and have an attitude of graciousness as I live in each moment and live it for God. How about you?
Pastor Mark Moss