Calvary Road Baptist Church

“STEWARDSHIP OF TIME”

Daniel 2.8, Ephesians 5.16 & Colossians 4.5

 

Coming to the final week of our stewardship month, I want to address the issue of your stewardship of time. It is fitting that I have just returned from Hawaii, where the Polynesian concept of time so pervades those who live there that Mr. Dunn commented over and over again that it takes a long time to do anything in Hawaii.

As we drove by a construction site, he would mention the years taken to remodel a single building. As we drove by a road-resurfacing project, he would point out that the men would work two hours and then quit for the day. As well, my daughter pointed out a temporary sign on a freeway that had been left in place for four or five years after it should have been taken down. Such things are all related to the stewardship of time, making effective use of time.

If you travel to different parts of the world, you will find that many of the cultures only recently touched by the gospel continue to refer to their own lackadaisical approach to time. As I was growing up, the lateness of American Indians to appointments and meetings, to classes and events, was always explained by saying something like, “I operate on Indian time.”

In Mexico, and among Latinos here in the United States, the use of the word mañana, and the attitude toward time that is reflected by the word, is a source of great exasperation to those whose cultures are east Asian or western European. As well, one pastor observed in my hearing that a number of his fine church members were simply incapable of arriving at church on time.

In case you should ever think that such an approach to time has anything to do with the absence of technology, or how deeply imbedded in the third world a person’s birth culture happens to be, today’s message reaches back to the pre-technological past to reveal the importance of time.

Though we do not have the time to go far a field to explore applications today, you might give thought to the notion that a person’s use of time is less related to his exposure to technology and modern culture than it is to his exposure to and the effect on his life of the One Who created time in the first place, Almighty God.

Turn in your Bible to Genesis 1.1, and stand for the reading of God’s Word: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” You may not immediately see the concept of time in this verse, so I will read the footnote to this verse from the late Henry Morris’s The Defender’s Study Bible:

 

No other cosmogony, whether in ancient paganism or modern naturalism, even mentions the absolute origin of the universe. All begin with the space/time/matter universe, already existing in a primeval state of chaos, then attempt to speculate how it might have “evolved” into its present form. Modern evolutionism begins with elementary particles of matter evolving out of nothing in a “big bang” and then developing through natural forces into complex systems. Pagan pantheism also begins with elementary matter in various forms evolving into complex systems by the forces of nature personified as different gods and goddesses. However, very significantly, the concept of the special creation of the universe of space and time itself is found nowhere in all religion or philosophy, ancient or modern, except here in Genesis 1:1.

Appropriately, therefore, this verse records the creation of space (“the heaven”), of time (“in the beginning”) and of matter (“the earth”), the tri-universe, the space/time/matter continuum which constitutes our physical cosmos. The Creator of this tri-universe is the triune God, Elohim, the uni-plural Old Testament name for the divine “Godhead,” a name that is plural in form (with its Hebrew “im” ending) but commonly singular in meaning.[1]

 

If, from this, you would expect the people of the Bible to have a dramatically different conception of time than those who are not people of the Bible, you would be absolutely correct, both in ancient times and in these modern times.

Now turn in your Bible to Daniel chapter two. As you are finding chapter 2, allow me to summarize the entire chapter for you:

a.   The subject of our chapter is a dream which Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon who had recently conquered Jerusalem and taken Judah captive, had dreamed a dream, but had forgotten. He called his magicians and astrologers together to tell him what he had dreamed, and the interpretation of it, threatening to execute them if they failed and promised to reward them if they succeeded, Daniel 2.1-6.

b.   When his magicians panicked and began to stall for time, the king became so enraged that he ordered their immediate destruction, causing the magicians to turn in desperation to a young Jewish captive named Daniel, Daniel 2.7-13.

c.   Confronting the king’s executioner, Daniel succeeded in delaying the king’s order long enough to enlist the prayer support of his three companions who were also Jewish captives of the Babylonians, Daniel 2.14-18.

d.   When the king’s dream and its interpretation were revealed to Daniel in a dream he gave thanks to God, told the king what God had revealed to him, whereupon the king highly honored and promoted him, Daniel 2.19-49.

 

Let me now read Daniel 2.8: “The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me.” Of particular concern to us this morning is the phrase “gain the time,” which is how Nebuchadnezzar characterized the attempt by the magicians to stall for time when the king first told them to recount to him his dream and its interpretation.

Though the magicians the Babylonians had thrown Daniel and his three friends in with were clever deceivers who were trying to buy time to gain advantage over the king, keep in mind that the idea of making the best use of the limited time you have available to you is not in and of itself improper.

The next place we see explicit reference to this concept is in Ephesians 5.16. Please turn to that verse at this time. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Writing from Roman imprisonment to one of the most strategically placed and influential congregations in existence, this verse is set in a portion of Paul’s letter dealing with the differences that ought to distinguish Christians from those still alienated from God. Notice what Paul writes leading up to Ephesians 5.16, beginning with verse 3:

 

3      But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

4      Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

5      For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

6      Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

7      Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

8      For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

9      (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

10     Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

11     And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

12     For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

13     But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

14     Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

15     See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise

 

Both the obvious and the more subtle contrasts in this passage show conclusively that Paul is urging the Christians at Ephesus to live their lives in a markedly different fashion than the lost live their lives. By means of the context, then, it is obvious that when Paul speaks of redeeming the time what he does not refer to is the manic lifestyle that characterized those whose every waking moment is shackled to a schedule. There were plenty of that kind in Rome, so do not think Paul is advocating that approach to living.

Finally, turn to Colossians 4.5, where Paul writes to a congregation situated in a city Paul had never visited, comprised of people who, with the likely exception of the pastor, Paul had never met. In a context that is similar in many ways to the context in Ephesians leading up to Ephesians 5.16, the emphasis here is somewhat more with a view toward those outside the congregation. Paul writes, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.”

Therefore, you see, beginning with Genesis 1.1, highlighting the efforts of the Babylonian magicians to save their own skins in Daniel 2.8, and then concluding with two letters written from Roman imprisonment, the consistent message of the Bible is that time is created, time is passing, time is important, and time is valuable. This message is not found in other philosophies or religions, except as an add-on resulting from exposure to gospel influences.

What is the basis of my assertion? All religions and philosophies other than Christianity are pantheistic in nature, believing that our present existence is timeless and cyclical, never linear and therefore ending. Only the Bible shows that this universe was brought into existence by God, and after the passage of time existence of this kind will end. In short, what you do matters and the amount of time you have to do it in is running out.

You can lose your health and regain it. You can lose your wealth and regain it. You can lose an opportunity and perhaps have another. Time, however, once lost, is lost forever. You cannot regain time, therefore you must redeem it, treasure it so as to make the best possible use of it, and spend it carefully as being more valuable to you than diamonds and rubies.

Keeping in mind that your soul can only be saved through faith in Jesus Christ in this span of time you presently exist in (and never in the next life), and that a Christian’s life of service for Christ is limited to this span of life you presently exist in, there are three considerations related to time that should be born in mind, no matter what country you come from, no matter what cultural background you are comfortable with, no matter what exposure to technology you have had, and no matter how timely you are to appointments and start times:

 

First, CONSIDER THE CONCEPT OF REDEEMING THE TIME

 

It was in Daniel 2.8 that the Word of God first focused the reader’s attention on redeeming the time, which is to say making the best use of the time available to you to your most profitable end. Never mind that the men who were redeeming the time were Babylonian magicians, astrologers for the most part, who were attempting to manipulate their king for more time to trick him into thinking they really could discern dreams and interpretations of dreams.

Notice that it was only when their backs were against the wall, when they realized that they were out of time to cunningly save their own skins, that the magicians finally turned to the young Jewish captive named Daniel, who had already gained a reputation for wisdom and integrity for adhering to his personal convictions, in Daniel chapter one.

What do you do when you have no time? That was the predicament Daniel found himself in. If you are wise, like Daniel, you turn to the God who created time and plead with Him for a solution to your problem. That is exactly what Daniel did by urging his three friends to pray for him as time was running out.

Let me read just the beginning of Daniel’s testimony of praise and adoration for God when God answered their prayers in a night vision. I read Daniel 2.19-21a:

 

19     Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

20     Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:

21     And he changeth the times and the seasons . . . .

 

That last phrase I read is significant, don’t you think? Is it not a great privilege that we can resort to God, Who changes the times and seasons? The Babylonian magicians did not know how to redeem the time, but Daniel did because Daniel knew the God Who created and Who sustains time.

Redeeming the time, then, is doing what you can do to make best use of the time allotted to you, or that is available to you. This can never be properly done apart from prayer to God, Who changes the times and seasons.

 

Next, CONSIDER THE CONTEXT OF REDEEMING THE TIME

 

The context of redeeming the time is shown to us in Ephesians 5.16, where Paul wrote, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The late F. F. Bruce writes, in connection with this verse, “The statement that ‘the days are evil’ may imply that, whatever difficulties lie in the way of Christian witness now, they will increase as time goes on. It must be borne in mind not only that the present time remains an ‘evil age’ (Gal 1:4) even if it has been invaded by the powers of the age to come but also that, as the Corinthians were warned, ‘the appointed time has grown very short’ (1 Cor. 7:29), so that opportunities must be exploited while they last.”[2]

Thus, we see that Paul is urging his readers to action. Opportunities to serve God are slipping away. Time, our only commodity, the only thing over which we exercise control, is evaporating. However, that is not all. Paul is also declaring that the remaining time we have left is less favorable than the time we have recently lost.

When understood in this light, redeeming the time means you do not procrastinate. It means that you do not put off until tomorrow what you could have done today. It means that the entire cultural notion of mañana reflects an approach to the value and importance of time that is not scriptural, does not honor God as the Creator of time, and does not reflect the truth that once time has passed it is not recoverable.

 

Finally, CONSIDER THE CONTRAST OF REDEEMING THE TIME

 

“Pastor, I don’t like what you said about mañana. It seems to me that your understanding of Christianity is at odds with my culture.” You are absolutely correct. My understanding of Christianity is at odds with not only the mañana approach to time, but it is also at odds with what we might consider the contemporary high tech approach to time.

Turn to Colossians 4.5. Paul writes, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” There are three obvious truths that are found in this verse: First, there is the directive to walk in wisdom toward those that are without. This suggests what other portions of God’s Word clearly substantiate, that Christians are expected to exercise a kind of wisdom in living their lives that the unsaved are incapable of. Next, there is the identification of “them that are without,” referring to those who are not joined to the congregation. Finally, there is the directive to redeem the time.

There were those who, in Paul’s experience, both among the Romans and among the Jews, who were manic about their schedules. Though they had no personal organizers in those days, their approach to life was the opposite of mañana. These men were driven. However, do not think that because they were extremely busy, making maximum use of every hour of daylight to get ahead, that they were necessarily redeeming the time.

My friends, to redeem the time is not the same as making the most financially profitable use of time. Neither does it suggest that we should necessarily be on the constant move throughout the day in a frenzy of motion. To redeem the time means that we should make the best spiritual use of our time, the best eternal use of our time, and the best evangelistic use of our time.

Thus, you see that our approach to time should be radically different than those without, whether they have a mañana approach to life that lets huge quantities of time slip away without any attempt to make use of it, or they have an approach to time that substitutes quantity of actions and activities to achieve carnal ends for quality life that seeks to achieve spiritual ends.

Therefore, you see that my understanding of the proper use of time from God’s Word is opposed to not only the mañana approach, but it is also opposed to the aggressive businessman’s approach, the prototypical decisionist pastor’s approach (claiming to be so busy serving God they have no time for real people), and any approach that is more geared to stuff than people, or to self than God.

 

From Daniel 2.8, we see that people typically think about redeeming the time only when they realize their backs are up against the wall, when they know time is running out, and they know they are in a jam. The great tragedy, however, is that every lost person’s back is up against the wall, they are running out of time, however they seem to have no awareness of their predicament. Most will die and go to Hell in ignorant bliss.

To the Ephesians, Paul warned that we are to redeem the time, to buy it up and make best use of it, not for ourselves as though our own backs are against the wall, but because we are rapidly losing valuable opportunities to serve God and bring the lost to Christ. As time passes, it will only become more difficult to bring the lost to Christ.

Finally, to the Colossians, Paul warned that we are to exercise wisdom toward those who are not apart of our congregation, those who are without, by redeeming the time. However, who are those without? Notice, Paul here assumes Christians in a church will have dealings with those who are without, both during worship and also during the course of daily living.

A fellow is without if he falls into one or more of the following categories: First, he is unconcerned about his own soul. Second, he is unconverted. Third, he is unbaptized. Fourth, he is untrained. This would be all lost people, and all professing Christians who are not a part of a good Baptist church, where they are being discipled.

If a man redeems the time, he will come to Christ as soon as possible, he will eagerly submit to baptism as soon as possible, he will submit to pastoral training as soon as possible, and he will make use of his time in a manner that is most profitable for the cause of Christ in the time he has remaining here on earth.

However, how long do you have left here on earth? What amount of time remains for you? Are you more astute than Isaac was, who said in Genesis 27.2, “I know not the day of my death”? James 4.14 declares, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

Working on Sunday instead of worshiping God on Sunday is not an example of redeeming the time you have left. Staying home instead of evangelism is not an example of redeeming the time you have left. Watching television instead of cultivating your devotional life is not an example of redeeming the time you have left. Sleeping in instead of praying is not an example of redeeming the time you have left.

In other ways, redeeming the time is other than your present use of time. Not necessarily that you should be busier. Perhaps you are already too busy and you need to slow down. If you are too busy to read your Bible and pray, you are too busy. If you are not busy enough to get all your work done in time to have time left to serve God then you need to get busier.

Remember that tomorrow’s opportunity to serve God will not be as good an opportunity as today’s. Also, keep in mind that the reason you must walk in wisdom toward them that are without is because they are always watching. This includes your family members who are without, as well as friends and colleagues. If time to serve God and reach the lost is unimportant to you, they will conclude that it is also unimportant to them.

You are redeeming the time when you pray appropriately, when you witness appropriately, when you read your Bible appropriately, when you worship appropriately, when you work appropriately, when you minister grace to others by speaking appropriately, when you give tithes and offerings appropriately, when you rest appropriately, when you eat appropriately, when you exercise appropriately, when you evangelize appropriately, when you meditate on God’s Word appropriately, when you use the time God gives you as a precious commodity to affect eternity in some way. That is how you redeem the time available to you.

Keep in mind, however, that a man knows not the day of his death. Just a few days ago a friend of Ron and Kevin, a man they have known since 6th grade, fell dead without advance warning, while just down the street a 60 year old man was gunned down as he was about to walk through his front door. Did those poor souls redeem the time given to them? Apparently not. Will you?



[1] See footnote for Genesis 1.1 from Henry Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: World Publishing, Inc., 1995), page 3.

[2] F. F. Bruce, The Epistle To the Colossians, To Philemon, And To The Ephesians, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), page 379.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org