ALTHOUGH time is an abstract thing, we feel its passing and measure its duration. It is not a substantial entity, yet we are very conscious of it. Time belongs to this present world. Before the world existed there was no time. “The world began with time, and time began with it,” said Thomas Adams the Puritan. And when the world shall come to an end there shall be time no longer. Man, in the world, is a creature of time. Time began for us when we were created. Time shall cease with our last breath and shall give way to timeless, endless duration, either in a state of untold blessedness or in a state of indescribable woe.
God is not a Being of time. There is no past, present or future in His existence, for He is I AM THAT I AM. He is the ever-existent God who was, and is, and ever shall be; the eternally present God who is without beginning or ending of days. Although Scripture speaks of God’s “years” (Psalm 102:24, 27), this is just a manner of speaking to help us understand something of the profound mystery of His eternal existence.
God, as Creator, has given time to man. To each of us He has given a specific amount of time which shall run its course until the appointed moment of our exit from this scene of time. With the Psalmist we must say to God, “My times are in thy hands,” and acknowledge that as He has set the bounds of our habitation, so He has fixed the limits of our time.
Because time is a talent which God has given to us, we shall have to give an account to Him of how we have traded with it. When someone says, as so many do, “My time is my own. I can do with it what I like,” he flies in the face of the truth that we are indebted to God for every second we have. To refuse to use time for the purposes for which God has given it is to incur His holy displeasure.
Time is most precious not only because it is a talent from God but also because it is the opportunity to prepare for eternity by seeking and finding the pearl of great price, the precious Redeemer. If we use time aright we shall obtain, says Thomas Goodwin, “those far surpassing riches of glory reserved for hereafter. All things receive their worth and valuation from what they tend to. A man’s bond or will, which in itself, as it is a piece of parchment, is not worth one shilling; yet an estate of many thousands may depend upon it. And so time is not simply precious in itself, but also in regard to its opportunity.” The person who truly values time will not be trying to “kill time”; he will be redeeming time.
How small, at the longest, is our allotted span of time. “Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee,” said the Psalmist, in addressing God. As nothing! How then can finite, feeble, fallen man fathom what infinity is? How can he measure finite time against the infinity of eternity. The contrast is beyond our comprehension. How unimaginably insignificant is even the whole duration of the world when put beside eternity. And less significant still is one’s entire life, even if one were to live far beyond three score and ten years. One drop of water weighed against the ocean, or one grain of sand weighed against the sands of the Sahara, would utterly fail to convey the contrast between time and eternity. Yet, how exceedingly precious is our speck of time when our eternal state hinges on how we use it.
As surely as our time in the world is but a blink in duration, so it is swift in passing. The speedy disappearance of one year and the quick arrival of another says so yet again. More loudly still does Scripture speak. Listen to it as it testifies that our days “are as a shadow that passeth away”, and our life like a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Job, being very conscious of this solemn fact, cried, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle.” Must we not echo the words of the Psalmist, “How short my time is”? And need we wonder then that we are called to redeem the time?
Scripture exhorts us to be “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16, Col. 4:5). We redeem the time when we trade with this precious talent, put it to the best use, and make the most of the opportunities to fulfil the purpose for which God created us. The person who redeems the time will heed the call, “It is time to seek the Lord,” and he will prayerfully strive to profit from the means of grace. Redeeming the time is being “diligent in business, serving the Lord”, and will include doing good to others, and helping to further the cause of Christ. “As we therefore have opportunity [or “time”], let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
On the other hand, to waste opportunities, squander time, and despise the Christian Sabbath (that special time for obtaining spiritual gain), will mean most awful loss. If we have been brought to repent of despising this precious talent we will not only value it but also will see grave danger in using time in the service of sin. Augustine, after he had been converted, said that he would not be a wicked man for even one half hour for all the world, because he might die in that half hour, and then he would be undone for ever.
Let us be redeeming the time, because the days are evil.