Time, by definition, is precise. There are 12 months in a year, each month (with the exception of February) comprising 30 or 31 days, each day comprising 24 hours and each hour 60 minutes, and so on. Yet our individual perception of time may vary. During difficult periods, time seems to pass ever so slowly. On occasions when we are happy and having fun, time seems to fly. Our age influences our perception of time as well. Ask a child and he will tell you how time seems to drag, especially when he is waiting for something exciting to take place. But ask a person in his forties, and he will lament over lost time, on how it seemed like only yesterday that he was in his twenties. As a new year approaches, it is appropriate to review our past actions, and make our resolutions for the future.
Make up for Wasted Time
If in the past year we have wasted the time that God entrusted to us, we should now learn to cherish the time ahead. Typically, the young, believing that they have the whole future in front of them, will recklessly spend their days until they reach a certain age. Only then, when they realize that time is in fact their life and that it is finite, will they start to cherish it. We should not wait till we reach a certain point in our lives before that realization strikes. We ought to understand the significance of time now. The psalmist stresses the importance of reaching this realization by comparing our days to only a few handbreadths, to a mere breath (Ps 39:5).
As Christians, we are not afraid to die, nor do we wish to die, but we have to understand death. This is because we can only live life on earth once; we cannot turn the clock back. Moreover, we do not know how many days we have ahead of us. James remarked on a foolish man who boasted of many plans, not knowing that death could call on him the very next day (Jas 4:13-l5). This is why we have to realize the purpose of our life on earth. Why are we here? What are we waiting for? What are we striving towards? As Christians, are we running towards the crown of righteousness that awaits us, or are we still wasting our time?
Many of us struggle and toil in this life, busy with many things and tied down by many commitments. But are our toil and labor really that necessary? Look at the buzzing bees that collect nectar from flower to flower to make combs of honey, only to have these combs taken by men. Consider too the forward-thinking squirrels that diligently collect fruits in the summer to prepare for the cold winter, not realizing that these fruits may rot, or that they may just succumb to the deadly cold. We claim we are the most superior of God's creatures, yet are we not leading lives just like these bees and squirrels? We labor to prepare for our future, never content with what we have. When we possess a dollar, we wish for a few more, "just to be on the safe side." With this mindset, even when we have accumulated thousands, we will still be striving for more, "just in case"! We are caught up in this vicious cycle, endlessly pursuing more, until the day we die and leave this world empty-handed. Material wealth may promote physical comfort, but it cannot secure an endless life. This is why Jesus reminds us not to be anxious about our food and drink; after all, man does not live by bread alone.
So what should be the purpose of our life? Paul tells us it is "to gain Christ." With this goal in mind, he was able to forget what lay behind and strive forward to what was ahead (Phil 3:8,13). We are Christians, just like Paul, but are we able to claim boldly that we are living a life that seeks to gain Christ? Also, the psalmist says that "his hope is in God." Today, where have we placed our hope? In our stocks and shares, our unit trusts and other secular investments? Or in Christ? Let us search our hearts and find our answers. Let us resolve to cherish the time we have and use it to strive towards the kingdom of God.
Repent of Our Past Misdeeds
If in the past year we have submitted to our indulgences and failed to live up to the standards expected of God's children, now is the time for repentance. Elder Peter warns us that we ought not live a life of evil desires. Rather, we have to be clear-minded, self-controlled and prayerful. The end of all things is near, and on that day, we will be judged according to our deeds on earth.
In other words, God gives us the freedom to do whatever we want, but this also means that we are accountable for our actions. We have to overcome our evil desires, exercise self-control and resolve not to repeat the mistake. We note Jesus' comment when He forgave the adulterous woman, "go and sin no more" (Jn 8:11).
But the above is often easier said than done. To ensure that we will not sin again, we need to be equipped with spiritual qualities. As humans, we have lusts which can be aroused. When this happens, we have to subdue them immediately, before we are enticed, and tempted to commit sin (Jas 1:14-15). To do this, we require spiritual discipline to control our thoughts and overcome temptations.
The Lord instructed the house of Israel, "Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Therefore turn [i.e. repent] and live" (Eze 18:31-32). We who are of the spiritual house of Israel, let us take heed of this message too and resolve to let our past transgressions remain in the past. In the new year, let us repent, change for the better and start anew.
We may have done much in our life. But there are still many things we have failed to do.
If we are students, we may not have been diligent in our studies. In this past year, perhaps we have played truant and have not been attentive in class. Consequently our grades suffered. We fail to realize that the lack of proper academic qualifications will not get us very far in life. By the time we realize it, it will be too late. Thus in the new year, we ought to study diligently.
If we are in our twenties, finding a life partner may be uppermost in our minds. To this end, we set high standards, and have many "selection criteria." We would like the person to be educated, good-looking, with good career prospects, etc. Unfortunately, we fail to realize that the main criteria should be to marry within the Lord so that our spouse can be our companion in our journey of faith and a helper in our service to the Lord. We must have the correct attitude and understand the biblical concepts of marriage. In the new year, let us examine our hearts.
As for honoring our parents, where do we stand? In this hectic 21st century, neglecting parents is common. We are always so busy, we lament. How can we be expected to spend time with our parents? Besides, they can be so absent-minded at times, asking us the same things over and over again. And our mothers nag and still treat us like children. We have already given them ample cash to live comfortablyâ€”surely they cannot expect more! These are often heard comments. Perhaps we too have uttered such words. But the irony is that when we realize we ought to show our parents more care and respect, our parents may no longer be around. As a minister, I have had to conduct many funerals and wakes. The most common words uttered by many bereaved children are words of regretâ€”for not having spent more time with their parents, for failing to respect and to love them when they were still around. Let us not wait till we stand at our parent's funeral before we realize the importance of filial piety.
The greatest regret in life is the failure to fear God and live a life worthy of His calling. The rich fool ate and drank throughout his life. He may have worshipped God, but he failed to glorify Him in his daily living. Hence, he had to spend his eternity in torment (Lk 16:19-31). We ought to resolve not to lead a life like his. In the new year, we must learn to fear God, to offer our time for Him. Quiet our hearts and ask ourselves why we always claim to be so very busy. Are we pursuing the elusive rainbow of material well-being and enjoyment? Or are we busy in the Lord's work? This evaluation is vital if we desire to be in that category of saints referred to in Rev 14:13, who "rest from their labors, for their works follow them." We know that we will die one day, and after death, comes the Lord's judgment when we will meet the Lord. But will we meet Him empty handed? In this new year, let us resolve to live a life of service to God and man.