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”
- 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
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
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.
pray and ask God to help us, in making the best use of the time that we have