In life there is nothing more consistent than the passing of time. We attempt to slow it down and even at times make it stand still, but it is undeterred, steadily marching onward. Benjamin Franklin said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.” Time is irretrievable. You cannot repeat it or relive it. In life, there is no such thing as instant replay. The minutes that travel with us each day have eternity wrapped up inside them. How are you using yours?
The metaphors God uses in the Bible to describe our lives are sobering. In James 4:14, He calls life a “vapour.” In 1 Chronicles 29:15, He describes it as a “shadow.” In Job 7:6—a “weaver’s shuttle.” In Job 9:25 He likens life to a hurrying messenger or “post.” In Isaiah 40:6–7, the prophet declares: “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.”
Unless the Lord returns first, each of us will one day find our way to a cemetery. At the head of the grave our family will place a headstone with our name, date of our birth, and date of our death. Between those two dates will be a tiny dash. It won’t take the engraver of the stone long to place that dash there, but it will represent our entire lives. Just as God said—our lives will be reduced to a simple dash.
What we do with that dash is completely up to us. The story is told of an old Norwegian who had kept very careful notes of his life in a series of notebooks he kept on the shelf of his business. On his eightieth birthday he went to the store and pulled the books from the shelf and began to compute his life. He was surprised to find that he had spent five of his eighty years waiting for people. He had spent six months tying neckties, three months scolding children, and eight days telling dogs to lie down and be quiet. When I read that rather humorous account, I wondered if he ever took a few minutes to listen to the Gospel and pray the sinner’s prayer. If he did, I wonder how much time he had spent in church, in prayer, reading his Bible, or telling others about Christ.
You may think that you have plenty of time to take care of spiritual matters. The Bible tells us of a man who had those very thoughts. “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:24–25). Scripture does not indicate that Felix ever found that convenient season!
That is why God’s message is always in the “present verb tense.” God never says “get saved soon, or get things right tomorrow.” Rather, God always says “today!” “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart” (Psalm 95:7–8). “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). God clearly warns us about putting eternal things off in Proverbs 27:1, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”
As we take down the old calendar and put up the one for 2010, it is a good idea to take inventory of our time. Did we redeem the time this past year? The philosopher, William James once said, “The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” Perhaps we have established some goals for the new year. Are they eternal goals? What on your “to do” list in the next twelve months will make it into eternity?
I have spent the last thirty-five years of my life in revival work. I doubt that I have another thirty-five! I would like to think that I could still preach in my nineties as some like Dr. Lee Roberson have done. But the odds of that being the case are pretty slim. I have read much about the First Great Awakening and have lectured often in my classes on that great revival. History points to three great preachers during that marvelous working of God upon this nation. Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758); George Whitefield (1714–1770); and Samuel Davies (1723–1761). By the way, did you notice how short their “dash” was? Just fifty-five years, fifty-six years, and thirty-eight years. How about the great Evangelist Sam Jones (1847–1906) or D.L. Moody (1837–1899)?
The great Baptist pastor of London, Charles H. Spurgeon said to his secretary one night before she left, “My work here is done.” He would never return to his study or pulpit. His dash lasted just fifty-seven years—1834–1892. In the service the Sunday night prior, he announced the closing hymn and its words could not have been more fitting:
The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of heaven breaks,
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair, sweet morn awakes.
There is a legend told describing Satan and a meeting that he had with his demons. Lucifer was looking for a way to keep people from trusting Christ as Saviour. One of his demons boasted, “When I get down there, I will tell everyone that there is no such place as Heaven!” The devil responded, “Ah, they will never believe that—the Bible is full of messages about how sins can be forgiven and one can spend eternity in Heaven.”
From the other side of the room, another imp chimed: “I have a plan! I will tell them there is no Hell!” “No good,” said Satan. “Jesus, while on earth spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven. They will never believe you.”
A clever demon from the back of the room stood up and said, “I know the answer. I’ll tell them that there is no hurry.”
The strategy of Satan is to convince us that we have plenty of time for eternal matters. But I need not remind you that he is a liar. As you take inventory of time, heed the words of God: “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:11–14). Let’s live 2009 for something that will outlast it!