The second hand of the clock in the study moves on steadily and inexorably, tick, tick, tick … as the seconds roll by in the wee hours ….
As non-spiritual thoughts crowd and cloud my mind, I make a feeble attempt to snap myself out of this reverie, trying to salvage what little time is left in the day. How did the time that I had so carefully set aside to do God’s things once again slip away? Suddenly, the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:1–15 flood my mind. This passage is particularly poignant for those of us who have to battle the crushing pressures of the hectic twenty-first century. Time is a precious commodity that seems to be very easily “eaten up,” especially the time we have set aside for productive and spiritual things.
Everything today seems to move at what Bill Gates called “the speed of thought.” So much has to be crammed into twenty-four hours—our careers, business development, social appointments, the children’s punishing schedules, and some “me” or down time. Technology has helped speed up some tasks for us, but it has also stirred our seemingly insatiable appetites for social networking and the corresponding tasks to be "updated" or to garner “likes,” as well as for mindless hours of Internet trawling. In the construct of our little worlds, ever increasing numbers of activities jostle for priority. Sadly, one constant always seems to lose out in the battle for our time—a time for God.
REGAIN THE SIMPLE FAITH LOST IN A COMPLEX WORLD
Have we ever wondered why, in our journey of faith today, we seem to lack the purpose and conviction of our forefathers? Or why we are so easily distracted from focusing on what is important for our spiritual life? Ironically, amidst the complexity of our daily secular routines, we have lost the simplicity of faith and implicit entrustment in God, essential to building up our spirituality.
For example, as our friends send their children for a myriad of enrichment classes, we worry that we would be depriving our children of a good future if we do not do the same. So Sabbath keeping, church camps or even Religious Education classes get lower priority than tuition, enrichment activities and piano/ballet/computer classes. How many of us have sacrificed and staked the importance of religious upbringing in place of some secular activity, which we justify will advance the paths of our children? Unknowingly, we have staked our children’s spiritual well-being and bartered away time that was to be set aside for God in a nonchalant fashion. Will the Lord indeed bless such endeavors?
Cunning old Satan jumps straight on to these insecurities of ours, causing us to feel that we have to plan and spend our time to achieve all those markers of success that our peers have. Even more ironically, we always charge our smartphones and tablets to keep them topped up and running, yet we cannot seem to find the equivalent time to recharge our spiritual life. We just comfort ourselves with the aphorism that “God helps those who help themselves.”
In fact, the presence of these so called “smart devices” is yet another diabolical plan to suck up and waste this precious commodity of God’s time for time-consuming activities such as social networking and Internet trawling. As we attend services, while using our Bible and hymn apps on our devices (convenience we say), have we “inadvertently” tapped on Facebook or WhatsApp? How many of us have “wandered” into the realm of cyberspace in the midst of observing one hour of service time?
TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON
But the Preacher, with a lifetime of experience and wisdom from God, firmly declares:
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, … a time to plant, … a time to break down, and a time to build up, … a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. (Eccl 3:1–3, 7)
A time for every purpose under heaven is a timely reminder that we must always find time for God; time to seek things everlasting, work on our spirituality, and mend the breaches in our wall of faith. Amidst the pressures of twenty-first century living, which often leave us floundering like a fish out of water, we need to regain and maintain the simple belief that we must seek first the kingdom of God. Jesus’ promise that “all these things will be added to you” will naturally follow. Remember that in His love, God gives us all the things we need, not all the things we want (cf. Rom 8:28; Jas 1:17).
While time is beyond the control of any man, the use of time isn’t. We have lengthened our bucket list of materialistic things to acquire and worldly dreams to fulfill for a better tomorrow, which is why we find our time for spiritual pursuit ever-shrinking. Often exhausted by this incessant secular marathon, we seek to recharge through even more time-wasting and spirit-draining worldly leisure.
At this point, we must reflect on
“What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?”
Endeavoring to be the masters of our own destiny, we strategize and toil. But what do we have to show for the expended time and effort? Even if we lived to a hundred, dying in the luxury of our palatial homes, with the best healthcare that money can buy and surrounded by a multitude of family, what can we make of our life on earth? Let us refer to the wise men from the Old Testament:
- Jacob, patriarch of Israel, who had spent much of his life scheming and strategizing, declared to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers” (Gen 47:9).
- Moses—ex-Prince of Egypt—confirms this, saying, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (Ps 90:10).
- Solomon—famed for wisdom and wealth—breaks the bad news: “No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them” (Eccl 1:11).
The time we have wasted cannot be regained. We can only move forward and resolve to number our days to gain a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:12). Start to live our life with eternity in mind, not just the things of the materialistic world. Rekindle our first love for Him by once again putting the Lord as a priority in our life, getting rid of the distractions and time-consuming activities that sap away our spiritual well-being.
For a start, put away our smart devices during service time; stop deceiving ourselves that these gadgets are but a tool to worship God. If anything, they put us on the path of temptation to draw us away from God. Stop giving ourselves excuses or making excuses for (or on behalf of) our children. Stand on the side of righteousness. What is wrong can never be made right by human design or justification.
To illustrate, no manner of “work requirements” for us or betterment classes for our children, taking away what little time we have left to worship God and from keeping the Holy Sabbath, will make things right in the eyes of our Lord. Choose God, and He will lead us the way. Walk in reverence and obedience in His pathway, and He will provide.
PRIORITIZE AND REDEEM TIME
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:15–16)
Apostle Paul reminds us to seize every opportunity to be wise stewards of time and keep a constant vigil on how we allocate our time. Make good use of opportune moments to advance our faith and spirituality. Look to Jesus as our role model for time management.
Most importantly, in the midst of a busy life, find time to seek God in quiet solitude, meditation, and prayer to recharge, as Jesus Christ did. Let the clock stand still, in our moments of seeking, reflection and prayer, as we gain the strength and the means to overcome this testy trial of time that has descended on us in this age.
Ecclesiastes 3:15b gives a solemn reminder that “God requires an account of what is past.” This is certainly a very sobering thought indeed. Do not think that we can escape accountability for our actions and deeds and that there is no need to answer or to pay for our past wrongdoings. Far from that, we will have to give account of ourselves and our actions.
Standing before the Lord God, will we be able to say to our master, “You gave me five talents [of time]. Here is a detailed account of what these talents have yielded for You, Lord.” Or perhaps we hang our heads in shame knowing how we have wasted our spirituality away.