Today’s Time in Light of Tomorrow’s Eternity
“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work.” — John 9:4
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” — Ps. 139:16b
Steven Cole, a retired pastor in Arizona, has many good sermons. I often consult him on the passage on which I preach. For today, enjoy some summaries of his comments on the passage for this coming Sunday. Maybe you could read John 11:1-23 in preparation for this Lord’s Day.
The main point is that God gives each person a fixed extent of time, which should be compared to the stretch of eternity. Back in Jesus’ day, clocks didn’t exist, and each day was customarily divided into 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. But each day had a limited amount of light that would define productive work. Pastor Cole then draws several lessons from that, which I commend to you.
A. From God’s perspective, we cannot live longer or shorter than the time that he has ordained for us. We are not able to lengthen or shorten our time here on earth. The past 30 days, for example, are over and cannot be replayed. This agrees with what David wrote in Ps. 139:16 about all our days being written before the first one came to be. Do you realize that you will live the exact number of days that God has foreordained? If so, how well are you using those limited days?
B. From our perspective, we need to be prudent and sensible. Here, Pastor Cole gives a colorful illustration from radio preacher, J. Vernon McGee, who once had a discussion with a person who had been studying the biblical doctrine of predestination. The student reached the conclusion that he shared with Dr. McGee as follows: “You know, sir, I’m so convinced that God is keeping me no matter what I do that I think I could step out right into the midst of the busiest traffic and if my time had not come, I would be perfectly safe.” In his folksy manner, Dr. McGee replied, “Brother, if you step out into the midst of busy traffic, your time has come!”
All our days are written for us, but that should not lead us to be presumptuous or reckless. Both Jesus and his apostles at times risked their lives for the Gospel. There were also times to escape from angry mobs. We need a godly balance.
C. The time that God gives us is sufficient to accomplish what he wants us to do for him. Cole comments: “Although Jesus was sometimes so busy that he didn’t have time to eat (Mark 3:20), he never seemed rushed or stressed out. Sometimes he left the needy crowds to get alone for prayer (Mark 1:35-37), but he always had time to do the Father’s work. . .. it’s remarkable that at the end of three short years Jesus could pray (John 17:4), “I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work which you have given me to do.” When life gets hectic it’s helpful to remember that God never gives us more to do than the time that we have to do it.”
D. To accomplish God’s will, we must use our time wisely in light of eternity. In John 9:4, Jesus indicated that there are limits to our time, and a balance is needed to use our time in view of eternity. Are you consumed with the short-term needs, while minimizing eternity? How is your balance between using today’s time in light of eternity?
Pastor Cole cites a sad example of a famous missionary who worked diligently and ignored the needs of his ill wife: “When he received word that she had suffered further heart complications, he refused to return home. He worked 18-hour days, took no time off, had no time for diversions, and expected all his fellow workers to do the same! I think he was way out of balance.” Cole concludes: “On the other hand, some Christians live with no thought of making their lives count for eternity. Except for going to church on Sundays, they live just as the world lives: to accumulate enough money to retire and then to live their final years for personal enjoyment. They don’t give any thought to how God may want to use them in His purpose. They don’t commit to serve him because they don’t want to be tied down. They aren’t living wisely in light of eternity.”
As we begin some new chapters in the weeks ahead, will you join me—and re-order your priorities as needed—to use today’s time for eternity? Tomorrow’s also.