A Treasured Resource

We think of things as valuable based on certain qualities.  If something is rare, hard to find/acquire, or easy to lose, we generally deem it valuable, whereas if it is common, easy to find, and simple to keep, we think of it with less stock.  However, one of the most treasured resources we have is one that we so often deem common instead of valuable.  Earlier this week, my daughter and I were running errands, and through a series of events we could not have seen or prevented, it ended up being a waste of time.  It provided a teaching moment for me to explain to her that while we shouldn’t willfully waste time, it is part of life that time gets wasted.  Due to sin’s presence in this world, things just don’t operate optimally or ideally most of the time.  Paul encouraged the Ephesians in “redeeming the time” because “the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) This seems curious, because we think of “redeeming” as buying something back, whereas time cannot be bought back as when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Buy Up: Another definition for redeeming is to buy up instead of buy back.  This follows more in line with the thought of a ransom rather than purchasing something in hock.  So, now the question becomes, “How do we buy up time?”  The thought here revolves around what we are willing to do to keep the time we have. One of the 10 Commandments is to honour our father and mother.  There is a promise with that command that our days would be long on the earth. (Exodus 20:12) Later that command is clarified when the word long is used as prolonged. (Deuteronomy 5:16) By heeding wise and sage advice of our elders and those that are charged to look out and care for us, we can keep ourselves from either shortening our days or making misery of the days we have.  In this sense, we are holding the time we have fierce – like a ransom – as something dear unto us.  

Evil Days: One of the misnomers that the world promotes is that older periods of someone’s life are the “golden years.”  Solomon called them the “evil days.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) As we age, it’s not just that our bodies break down and things become more wearisome.  As we age, we start to see more, experience more, and learn from that experience some of the darker and more corrupt aspects of life.  It’s easy when looking at this “under the sun” as Solomon did to find any other conclusion than “vanity of vanity, all is vanity.” However, if we have treasured up our resource and spent it in good pursuits, we will meet the evil days in a better light and with better strength than we would have otherwise.  One of Satan’s biggest tools/weapons is discouragement.  When he can make us feel the waste of time and life, the days seem more and more evil.  However, if we pursue life with the vigor and spiritual vitality that we should, time becomes a treasure rather than a dread.

Quality: To experience time in the most optimal way, we must stay focused on the quality of it.  Most people’s dread of time is centered around quantity which we only have marginal control over.  As a wise old elder once said, “If you want to live a long life, pick you out some long-lived ancestors.”  The point is we have so little input on how much time we have, but we make many choices down through our travels that make a large difference on the quality of it.  The Lord warned against worrying about tomorrow because the days were evil.  So, how do we prevent that?  By seeking Him and His kingdom first, all the rest will have room and enjoy better quality. (Matthew 6:33-34) When I have visited people at the end of their life, I have encountered two main viewpoints: 1. Joy and 2. Regret and/or bitterness.  People who had put the time to use in serving the Lord and His people were joyful that they were about to go home.  People who had spent their days in pursuit of self and pleasures were either bitter about those things ending or regretful about not spending their time wisely.

Quantity: While we shouldn’t be focused on the quantity of life, the Lord generally blesses the time we have when faithful to Him to be full.  Hezekiah literally had more time added, but when serving the Lord, even if the years are short in number, they will feel prosperous and bountiful.  We don’t think of pulling yokes and burdens as easy or light, yet He promised us His is. (Matthew 11:28-29) This is a matter of perspective, and like the Lord, Paul expressed it with words like “light” and “weightier.” (II Corinthians 4:17-18) When our focus is on Him, the afflictions of the world are lighter in comparison, while the unseen things of glory are weightier and more powerful by comparison.  No doubt, God’s people have been cut down early in life, but even then, their experience was full.  Elder S.A. Paine died as a very young man, but he still had the grace to say at the end, “How sweet to die!”

Even with the best intentions and greatest strivings, we will waste time in this world.  As we experienced this week, it’s a reality that we live with.  However, this great resource that God has provided – while not limitless – is not necessarily tied to what has gone before.  Most of the events of today care little about the performance of yesterday, and our execution of tomorrow is not always tied to the here and the now.  While events, seasons, and periods do extend, most of our dwelling on the past or looking to the future is with our own mind, not with time itself.  When we ponder the past ill-advisedly, it can and does affect the now.  When we worry about the morrow, we will fail to utilize today as we should.  Friends, this resource is a treasure that helps sort things out, moves things along, and is something to be bought up rather than squandered.  May we redeem it honorably rather than let the evil of this world deprive us of the fulness and bounty that we could have.  I’ll close with a quote from John Wayne – it’s one of my favorites from him – that is actually inscribed on his tombstone.

Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.  Comes into us at midnight very clean.  It’s perfect when it arrives, and it puts itself in our hands.  It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.

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