This is part five of a six-part conversation about how God gives us enough time to finish our lives well, but just enough time. If you’d like to begin at the beginning… or if youwould rather, you can see the entire essay at barneywiget.com.]
“As long as it’s day we must work the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work… You are going to have the light just a little while longer.”
You have time, but not a bottomless quantity of it. You have at your disposal “just a little while,” otherwise quantified as long as a day lasts. We don’t know when, but the due date for our work here on his planet is sooner than later.
The sun won’t stay up forever; it’s just not what it does. So while you can still see where you’re stepping – a sure sign it hasn’t gone down yet – get out of your Lazyboy and get to work. If you don’t want to be bumping around down a treacherous trail after dusk, you’d better get a move on.
“Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here.” Romans 13:11-12 (NLT)
Not only is our time limited; it’s running out, and right now it’s later than it’s ever been! Paul used the same metaphor that Jesus did, but in reverse. Instead of the day being nearly over, it’s the night that’s almost spent. His point was the same though – don’t be lazy and don’t procrastinate. You only have so much time to find and finish your work to make God’s earth a better place.
Though unaware that his life would last only twenty-nine years, missionary David Brainerd wrote in his journal, “Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey!”If you’re familiar with the story of this godly man, you know that he wasn’t one to “loiter.” He gave everything he had all the time for his entire life, as brief as it was.
If anyone was aware that his time here was limited it was Jesus. He knew what was coming and had a mounting awareness that “his hour” would arrive sooner than later. In hopes of preparing his disciples for its imminent inevitability, he spoke of his death frequently in terms of his “hour” or his “time.”
Cancer reminds me that I may well have less time than I used to think I had. In reality, we’re all terminal; our “hour” is unknown to us, and so we’re advised to take full advantage whatever daylight we have left and manage it the wisest way. The membrane between this world and the next is so thin it’s almost translucent, therefore, before it tears, we should follow the Lord of both worlds as closely as we possibly can. On the other side, time doesn’t seem to be an issue, but here the clocks tick every second and calendar pages turn over every month.
“Be careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17
As the Maker’s offspring, even our minutes matter. We must be resolute about maximizing our moments for his pleasure and leaving this a better place than we found it.
Nevertheless, contrary to some sermons I’ve heard (and might’ve given the impression in a few of my own), his goal isn’t to make us busy. Have you seen the bumper sticker, “Jesus is coming soon. Look busy!”? As a constant reminder, a friend of mine displays on his desk a plaque that says, “Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.” It’s faithfulness God’s looking for, not busyness.
Passion with patience …
Many successful marathoners work with a pacesetter, which keeps them from running too fast too early, and too slow for too long. If they burst off the starting line in a dead sprint they won’t have the gas to finish well twenty-six miles later. Alternately, if they save too much for the end, they might not have the time to catch up with the frontrunners down the stretch. Life in Jesus is not a sprint, but neither is it a stroll! If we want to run well and finish well we need a balanced recipe of passion and patience.
Some of us, adrenalized as though on a sugar-high (that we often mistake for pure spiritual impetus), expend too much nervous energy running in circles, trying to manufacture the kingdom rather than letting it come at God’s sovereign pace. Others of us conserve too much energy for way too long. What are we conserving it for? The finish line is in sight. If we want to break the tape, rather than trip over the winners’ podium after the medals have long since been awarded and the national anthems already sung, we’d better make a run for it!
Among us are both nervous overachievers and careless underachievers. We have to find that pace in between – where we know when to slow it down and where to speed it up, a medium between the two (a non-mediocre medium) – a pace equally full of passion as well as of patience.
Here’s an edited piece of my journal from July 2009
Lord, help me to use all of my daylight for finding and fulfilling the purpose for which I still have breath in my aging lungs. While the sun’s still up, remind me not to languish in the light, sunbathing. At the same time, help me avoid being tense – leaving you behind and making me unpleasant to the very people I hope to influence toward you.
I can’t tell what leg of the race I’m currently in; I only want to go as fast or as slowly as you’d have me go, running next to you – my Pacesetter. Mercifully enable me to do what I’m supposed to do when I’m supposed to do it. Give me passion to run like the wind and patience when your wind is a gentle breeze.