“Redeeming the time because the days are evil.”
The apostle Paul lived a large part of his life under the constant threat of danger. He was a marked man for destruction by many groups. Zealous Jews thought Paul was a traitor to his heritage. He who once persecuted the Christians was found preaching Christ crucified and resurrected. Rome believed that Paul was an insurrectionist, because riots would often break out when the gospel was preached in a city. Paul was arrested by Roman officials and placed into a prison.
With the end of his life constantly before his eyes, Paul had a keen sense of the urgency of time. For this apostle, time was precious. It was more valuable than gold. There was so much to do, and so little time. On one level, most of us can identify with the struggle to find time.
There are so many opportunities in life that it is easy to become frustrated by not achieving all that we want to do, or feel we need to accomplish. There is even less time when we subtract that which is needed for sleep, eating, dressing, traveling and daily work.
All the modern conveyances have not freed up our time like it was once thought. Just a few years ago, in the 1950’s, it was predicted that people would be retiring at age 39. There would be only four-day work weeks, and people would be bored. The reality is that many people work 60-70 hours per week and some have two, or even three jobs. Every career woman has at least two jobs. There is her place of employment, and then there is still the housework that must be done. Those duties will not go away.
The realization comes, that, since time is so limited, we must learn to use it wisely. Part of using time wisely is to determine what is important, and what is not. Christians are under a holy injunction to redeem the time. We are not our own. We have been bought by the precious blood of Christ.
Therefore, we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God, and we are to live under the direction of God the Holy Spirit so that in all we say, and in all that we do we can redeem the time.
Because of the holy command that is given to the church, observe some practical ways that we as the people of God can redeem, or purchase time, so that at the end of life there will be no regrets.
First, redeem the time by being in the presence of God. A.W. Tozer reminds us that, “It is well that we accept the hard truth now: the man
who would know God must give time to Him. He must count no time wasted which is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance. He must give himself to meditation and prayer hours on end.” The Psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God.”
What is the problem with modern man? He is too busy. He runs here and he runs there. There is this breathless hurry. It is reflected in our relationships. We encounter someone, and immediately sense that we have interrupted the rush to something. So we dare not stop, and visit, even for a moment. There is no time. Someone has said, “Blessed are those who are so busy others do not know it.”
In the name of business, we are sometimes rude to each other, reflected in the call waiting. While visiting on the phone there is a beep saying that another call is coming in. We are asked to wait while the next call is checked to see if that call is more important than us. It is all very professional, and all very impersonal.
If we have very little time for each other, the evidence is now in that we have even less for God. He cannot get through to us. Other thoughts, other people, other projects have crowded Him out. Is it any wonder that from time to time God will slam a person down and say in effect, “Now, we will have some time together. Now we will talk. I have some things I want to say to you.”
The lack of time for God is not only rude, it causes a person to stop loving Him. The nature of love demands nourishment. The nature of love demands time together. Distance does not make the heart grow fonder if enough time passes. It makes the heart forget.
History records that the church of Ephesus did not take seriously enough the command of the apostle Paul. They did not redeem the time, and they stopped loving God. The sad truth is recorded in Revelation 2:4. The Lord said to the church of Ephesus, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”
The people of Ephesus set aside the sweetness of fellowshipping with the Lord. The passion of personal persuasion died down until only cold embers of a religious life were left. The longing to be with the Lord, and with His people was lost.
What happened to cause the love for God, and for the church, to slip away? The answer, in part, is that the church became involved with too many good works. “I know your works,” said the Lord, “and your labor. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against you. You have left your first love.”
The church people did not lose their first love, they left it.
Consciously, deliberately, the people left their first love. The life of every church is littered with the testimony of individuals who have left their first love. They have left the corporate place of prayer. That which was once desired, and longed for, is now sadly neglected. The obituary of Mrs. Prayer meeting says it well.
Mrs. Prayer Meeting died recently at the First Neglected Church, on Worldly Avenue. Born many years ago in the midst of great revivals, she was a strong, healthy child, fed largely on testimony and Bible study, soon growing into world wide prominence, and was one of the most influential members of the famous Church family.
“For the past several years Mrs. Prayer Meeting has been failing in health, gradually wasting away until rendered helpless by stiffness of knees, coldness of heart, inactivity and weakness of purpose, and will power. At the last she was but a shadow of her former happy self. Her last whispered words were inquiries concerning the strange absence of her loved one, now busy in the marts of trade, and places of worldly amusements.
Experts, including Dr. Works, Dr. Reform and Dr. Joiner, disagreed as to the cause of her fatal illness, administering large doses of organization, socials, contests, and movies, but to no avail. A post mortem showed that a deficiency of spiritual food, coupled with the lack of faith, heartfelt religion, and general support, were contributing causes. Only a few were present at her death, sobbing over memories of her past beauty and power.
In Honor of her going, the church doors will be closed on Wednesday nights, save the third Wednesday night of each month, with the Ladies Pink Lemonade Society which serves refreshments to the men’s handball team”.
This little satire has more truth than humor, for it is possible for people to simply leave their first love of seeking to commune with God. There are too many other works to perform. And these other works are not necessarily bad either. They just robe the heart of time with God.
Again, it is possible for people to make a conscious and deliberate decision to leave being in the company of the committed, to which God has called them to serve. The apostle John wrote.
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).
Love for the church is a characteristic of the normal Christian life. After conversion there is an initial desire to be in the company of the committed. David so loved the church of the Old Testament that he wrote,
“I was glad when they said unto me let US go into the house of the Lord.”
The prophet Malachi said,
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it” (Malachi 3:16).
However, it is possible to leave the sphere of fellowship to which the providence of God has directed. But it does not need to happen.
When the church meets, the saints can be glad when so many others also come to the house of the Lord. When the church meets, we can speak often one to another, because so many are present. The Lord looks and He sees His people together, and He is honored. The Lord listens and He hears the sound of the songs of Zion being sung. Where there should be praise, there are open lips. Where there should be holy tears, eyes are wet with weeping knowing that those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. Where there should be instruction in righteousness, there are open Bibles and tablets of flesh to write the Law upon. What has happened?
It is a simple truth that, when a group of people are committed to personal and family support of the worship services, a spiritual dynamic is created.
People sing better.
People give better.
People talk more.
The company of the committed has met.
There is excitement and joy in the company of the committed. But what causes such joy? Two factors.
First there must be that decision to be committed. The little chorus says,
“I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back. No turning back.
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
No turning back. No turning back.”
Someone has written, “When faithfulness to Christ is most difficult, it is the most necessary.”
Second, a consciousness of fellowshipping with Christ must be present for spiritual excitement and joy. The solemn delight which those early disciples knew sprang straight from the conviction that there was One in the midst of them. They knew that the Majesty in the heavens was confronting them on earth: they were in the very Presence of God. And the power of that conviction to arrest attention and hold it for a lifetime, to elevate, to transform, to fill with uncontrollable moral happiness, to send men singing to prison and to death, has been one of the wonders of history, and a marvel of the world. It was A. W. Tozer who noted,
“It is not easy to be in the company of the committed, but it is far better than leaving one’s first love.”
There is something to be said about participating in, and protecting the time the church has set apart for worship on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. There is something to be said about taking part in the special services. There is something to be said about being there for people who are hurting in order to minister to them.
“If you have a tender message,
Or a loving word to say,
Do not wait till you forget it,
But whisper it today.
The tender word unspoken,
The letter never sent,
The long-forgotten messages,
The wealth of love unspent.
For these some hearts are breaking,
For these some loved ones wait;
So, show them that you care for them
Before it is too late.”
Frank Herbert Sweet
There is something to be said about using the spiritual and natural gifts God has given to help the corporate body of the fellowship. A life given to seeking out God in the company of the committed will not go unrecognized by the Lord.
“For years each day at six AM
He went to church bowed his knee
And meekly prayed,
‘Dear God, it’s Jim.’
And when he’d leave, we all could see
The Presence came and walked with him.
As Jim grew old the chastening rod
Of years left him so ill and drawn
His path to church is now untrod;
But in his room each day at dawn
He hears a voice,
“’Dear Jim, it’s God.’”
There is no good argument that can be made for substituting entertainment for church time. There is no good rational for disassociating from the fellowship after being convinced that a particular church is where the Lord would have work and worship to take place.
But there are good arguments for service, and suffering, and sacrificing for the Saviour. Martin Luther said, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”
As we redeem the time by being in the presence of God, as we redeem the time by being part of the company of the committed, let us also redeem the time by finding ways to present the gospel. One very simple way is to distribute tracts. Simply take religious material and leave it somewhere, anywhere, everywhere. There are many tracks ready for distribution. They are yours for the asking, and yours for the taking. A pamphlet writing on Galatians fell into the hands of John Bunyan and led to his conversion to Christ.
A young Frenchman, wounded in battle, was in the hospital when a tract that lay on the cover of his bed, caught his eye. He read it and was converted. That was Admiral Coligny, one of the leaders of the Reformation in France.
George Muller was won to the Lord through a tract. It has been said that, “A drop of ink can make a million think.”
Psalms 126:6 says, “He that goeth forth, and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Redeem the time by being a gospel witness. The apostle Paul tells us why we are to redeem the time. “Because the days are evil.”
Satan is at work to disrupt and destroy God’s creation. The world is hard at work to undermine all that is decent and holy. The Christian community must work all the harder to rescue perishing souls, and to build the kingdom of God. But our labors must not be energized by the flesh.
“We must give up the idea that everything can be produced and organized. There are things that can only grow, and they take their God-destined time to grow, and God Himself to cause them to grow” (Charles Spurgeon).
What we must do is to give ourselves afresh to God. That is my plea.
We do not need arguments against coming together for Bible study and prayer.
We do not need arguments against being part of the company of those who are committed to this assembly.
We do need to redeem the time. We do need to see that the gifts that God have given us are to be used here first and foremost. Therefore, when we come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying (1 Cor. 14:26). Redeem the time. The days are evil.
Redeem the time by being in the presence of God.
Redeem the time by being part of the company of the committed of this fellowship to which God has called you to serve Him in and through. Seek opportunity to serve the Lord here, and be found faithful.
Redeem the time by spreading the gospel by life, by lip, by tract.
Redeem the time!