Time, Its Value

TIME IS A VALUABLE gift from God. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 suggests that in the divine economy mankind is given time for everything, or as the wise man states it, “a time to every purpose under the heaven.” This does not mean that every human being can indulge in all the human interests to which his heart inclines. As a rule, a selection has to be made, and this selection can be roughly divided into the duties of life and the pleasures of life. If these are used moderately and wisely, a considerable measure of happiness can result.

Alas, because of the reign of sin and death, mankind generally fails to use earthly blessings wisely and moderately! Consequently the activities of life often become a “travail,” described in Ecclesiastes 3:10 as the travail “which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.” The Word of God shows that these experiences eventually will be overruled for good, when the divine plan for mankind has been fully accomplished.

Seeing that time is one of man’s most valuable possessions, how much more true this is in the case of the child of God. Before the setting up of the kingdom for the blessing of all mankind, through the preaching of the Gospel in all the world for a witness, God’s principal work has been to find one here and one there who realizes that, as a result of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, all that they possess including their time properly belongs to the Lord.

As the message of salvation is presented to them and they are urged to look into it, many may say, “I have no time for Bible study. My family, my business, my attendance at a place of public worship, and a little necessary recreation, take all the time I have.” Then, perhaps, some facet of truth strikes a responsive chord in their heart, and they begin to find that they do have some time to study the Word of God! The only way a busy man can ‘find’ time is, of course, to take it away from some other activity in his already fully occupied life. And so those whom the Heavenly Father is drawing to Jesus, and then to consecration, sooner or later realize that they are not their own but have been bought with a price, and that their time and everything else they possess does indeed belong to the Lord.—I Cor. 6:20; 7:23

Those who perform their “reasonable service” by making a full surrender to the Lord presenting their bodies “a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1), desire henceforth that whatever time can be spared from earthly duties and obligations must now be used in spiritual directions. Their desire is to study to show themselves approved unto God, “rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (II Tim. 2:15) They also take advantage of the privilege of holding forth the Word of life for the benefit of others who may be inquiring—even hungering and thirsting after truth and righteousness.—Phil. 2:15,16

Do Not Delay

While it is true that at whatever time in life we seek to draw near to the Lord with a true heart, he will draw near unto us. Yet the early years of life are generally more favorable for turning to the Lord than the later ones. Habits of a lifetime soon become firmly established, and family and business responsibilities weigh heavily upon mind and body. Many have realized too late, the value of the advice given in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” Deadening earthward susceptibilities can dull the higher tendencies and yearnings as the years pass by.

Jesus, as a young man, and even as a child, was fully devoted to his Heavenly Father. It was as soon as he reached manhood’s estate—thirty years of age according to the Law—that he made a full consecration to God, the very reason for which he had come into the world. From Jordan onward Jesus was especially aware of the scripture: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to thy Word.” (Ps. 119:9) How very necessary it was for Jesus as he perfectly walked the narrow way of sacrifice to take heed to his Father’s holy Word of truth with its powerful sanctifying influence, in view of how completely he was surrounded by the imperfections and temptations of this present evil world.

That certain periods in life are more favorable for turning to the Lord than others is borne out by the prophet who wrote: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” (Isa. 55:6) The Scriptures intimate that God’s people will have a realization that all they possess belongs to the Heavenly Father, and that like their Master they have entered into a covenant of sacrifice to use all this to his glory and in harmony with his will. But they soon find that the world, the flesh, and the Devil are against such a course. Hence the apostle tells us, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” (Gal. 5:17) The things of the Spirit are contrary to the natural desires of our flesh; we must constantly “fight the good fight of faith.” However if we continue to faithfully subdue the flesh, we will indeed lay hold of the hope set before us in the Gospel.—I Tim. 6:12

The wily Adversary, however, seeks to fill our minds and take our time with things which are not spiritually edifying or profitable to us as Christians. How very important it is then for us to comply with the Apostle Paul’s exhortation: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:16) The sense of the Greek text here is: “Buying up for yourselves the opportunity”—not allowing our time to be used to the Adversary’s advantage or to spend our time and energies in affairs or use methods which he promotes. This is important to remember and to do, because the days in which we live are unfavorable to those who would walk in the Master’s footsteps.

The world will bid for our time, as well. Our friends, and worldly interests, will present their temptations. In this connection the apostle’s own noble course inspires us. His sentiments were: “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” (Phil. 3:7) After Paul’s conversion, he ‘bought up’ the opportunity of making great changes in the use of his time. Instead of using it to make a great name for himself among the Pharisees, he sacrificed his time and strength to travel from city to city establishing the new Christian churches.

Be Wise

“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” (Col. 4:5) Wisdom must be used when we strive to apportion our time, because some must be devoted to legitimate earthly interests such as husbands, wives, children, other family members, and friends. Such still have a right to a portion of our time, of course. But consecration to the Lord means that we do not have as much leisure as hitherto to spend on earthly interests. Wisdom, therefore, is needed to know how to act in carrying out our Christian duties, for there are wise and unwise ways of fulfilling them. And we must remember that in everything we do, we must exert our best efforts, as if we were doing these things as unto the Lord.

The Scriptures wisely instruct us: “As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rom. 12:18) We are to act in a way which will cause as little friction, trouble, or inconvenience to others as possible, “giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.” (II Cor. 6:3) And again the Apostle Paul said: “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without.”—Col. 4:5

We must always be exercised by the heavenly wisdom which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits.” (James 3:17) This is a wisdom so moderate and considerate as to appeal even to the world as just and reasonable.

Speaking in a general way, therefore, the earlier in life we can respond to our Father’s gracious drawing power, the better it will be for us spiritually. It will be easier for us to make a full surrender to him who has done so much for us. The earlier we make a start, the more years we will be able to devote to him and his service. But the temptation to delay in turning to the Lord, even until the opportunity has passed, will be the experience that will come to some. Indeed the Scriptures suggest that many will be in that most regrettable category. So, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many … will seek to enter in, and shall not be able, when once the Master of the house is risen up, and hath shut the door.” (Luke 13:24,25) As soon as we hear the Lord’s knock, we should be among those who will wisely open immediately.

“O that men were wise, that they would apply their hearts to understand the work and plan of the Lord! Then would the present kingdoms melt down gradually—reform would swiftly follow reform, and liberty follow liberty, justice and truth would prevail until righteousness would be established in the earth. But they will not do this, nor can they in their present fallen state; and so, armed with selfishness, each will strive for mastery, and the kingdoms of this world will pass away with a great time of trouble, such as was not since there was a nation.”—Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 1, page 271

Be Faithful

The words spoken by Jesus to fleshly Israel apply even more forcefully today, at the close of the Gospel Age. Luke 19:41,42 reads: “When he [Jesus] was come near, he beheld the city [Jerusalem], and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.”

The great city, Nineveh, that repented at the preaching of Jonah, and thus was spared its predicted overthrow, is another picture of what ‘might have been’ in Christendom’s case. But the nations have allowed their time of favor to pass, and, despite a worldwide witness concerning the Lord’s gracious purposes, they remain asleep to the things concerning their peace. The time has come when it is ‘too late!’ and the Lord’s ‘wrath’, expressed in the great time of trouble now upon the world, has become their portion.

As the Lord waited to be gracious in the case of Christendom as a whole, so is it the same in the individual experiences of those called to the heavenly calling. And the Master’s words in John 9:4 show this feature very clearly: “I must work the work of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” The short period of Jesus’ earthly ministry was the symbolic ‘day’ favorable for service; and none more than the Master, knew how soon that period would be over!

How vitally important it was, therefore, for Jesus to use this time faithfully! The oldest manuscripts show that instead of ‘I’, our Lord used the word ‘we’: “We must work the works of him that sent [us].” (See Wilson’s Diaglott and Revised Version.) For us, too, favorable opportunities for service can soon pass, and so the very most must be made of the share of these with which we have been blessed by the Lord.

Our Lord exhorts us, “Walk while ye have the light [and while the time is favorable for letting it shine], lest darkness come upon you. … While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.”—John 12:35,36

The Time Is Short

Seeing that the Apostle Paul could rightly say in his day, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand,” how much more is this true today ten centuries later! (Rom. 13:12) As Paul said: “Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation [the first resurrection] nearer than when we [first] believed.” (Rom. 13:11) Surely the nearer we come to this momentous experience, the more alive we should endeavor to be, and the more awake to our present privileges as the Lord’s servants, doing with our might whatever our hands find to do. His commendation at the end of our course depends upon what we do, or fail to do, in his service and in the work of our sanctification.

The Apostle Paul’s reminder to the brethren at Ephesus of the unwise and unprofitable ways they, in earlier days, spent their time is even more forceful and true if applied to the Lord’s people today. He says, in substance, “You were then dead in trespasses and sins, some willful, others committed in ignorance. You were also walking in the same course in which the whole world walked, a course of selfishness, striving to satisfy personal desires and ambitions.”—Eph 2:1-5

Then he reminds them—and us—of their—and our—call to higher ambitions and greater works, saying, “But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, … hath raised us up together … in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”—vs. 6

Here is where our time should be spent—in heavenly places!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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