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The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 19, 2012
The Epistle: Ephesians 5:15-20
Sermon: "Good Timing"
The Reverend Dr. Richard (Rick) Miles
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What question gets asked more often in a day than any other? More than likely that question is about time. How long do I have to wait for this red light? How long do I have to finish this task? What time are you coming home? What time does the plane leave? If I would ask you if you have a time keeping device on your person today, most of you would probably say yes. Note that I didn’t ask if you all have watches. Many of you rely on your cell phones. There’s something of a generational divide there. One of my daughter’s friends noted my wrist watch and commented, “How retro!”
Regardless of what your time device is, you probably consult it several times a day. It’s not surprising since we’re all sensitive to time, and perhaps even feel ruled by it at times. It reminds me of the story of Gulliver while he traveled among the tiny Lilliputian people: whenever he went to do something he would consult his watch. The Lilliputians came to believe that Gulliver’s watch was his God. When you think about it, that belief may be closer to the truth than you or I are comfortable with. We are, after all, governed by time, and we’re always trying to figure out how to get out from under its pressure by saving it.
Now, as a result, we have even more time involved devices to consult. We have fax machines so we can get things fast. We have email so that we can get things even faster. We have Facebook so that we can connect socially now. We have instant messenger so that we can connect right now. Then there’s live blogging and twitter so that now is stream-of-consciousness now. So we live in a “now” time because we’re always trying to keep time under our control. There’s a real irony to all this time saving we’re doing, though. How many of you have more time now than you’ve ever had? That’s what I thought!
Well, this all just underscores something that we already know; time is a very valuable commodity, and what we do with it is very important. God, in fact, has a lot to say about time. This is because time is the stuff of which lives are made. In our Epistle lesson from the fifth chapter of Ephesians this morning, we hear the Apostle Paul telling us that. He says, “Therefore, be careful how you live, not as unwise people, but as wise. Making the most of your time…do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Now, this is not going to be a sermon on time management. There are plenty of good books with sound theories on that subject already out there. You don’t need to come here to church to hear yet another one. No, what this passage and this message are about is time investment. God’s chief concern here is how you and I invest the time we’re given in life. So, this morning, I have just two things to say, and both are prefaced by a question.
The First question is this: why is God so interested in our time? God is interested in how we use our time, because God gave it to us in the first place. Your life-span and mine are in the hand of God. In our span of time we will spend, use or invest our life. Time is actually meant to be a gift from God; a precious commodity to be used. God created us as creatures of time, in time, for a time, and like all the gifts that he gives us, he is concerned with how we use those gifts in this lifetime. And because he loves us, he doesn’t want us to just move through and suddenly wake up one day asking “What happened?” Not just what happened to yesterday, or last week, or last year, but “What happened to my life?” While God is the creator of time and in control of it, he has given to you and me the privilege of filling it out. That’s why he’s so interested, and that’s why he’s so willing to give guidance and direction through Scripture and prayer, and, hopefully, the occasional well-aimed sermon, so that we can invest our time well, and rejoice with him that our life has made a real and positive difference in this world. That’s why God is so interested in our time.
The other question is this: Where, then, does our best investment of time lie? When you think about it, there are a lot of folks who aren’t really investing in anything. A lot of people are just drifting along in life, doing whatever comes next. They don’t know what they’re living for. If you ask them what they’re living for they’re completely flummoxed in coming up with anything besides just surviving and maybe feeling good sometimes. They haven’t chosen to live their lives. They’re just existing; just moving through. It is a choice! They have chosen to allow circumstances and other people to govern the use of their time. But God gave your time to you, not someone else.
Remember that all of us have been given natural talents, and spiritual gifts. Our spiritual gifts, our talents, our abilities are all an act of the grace of God. He gave them to us because he loves us, and he has a purpose for us in using them. These things are to be put to work in such a fashion that they are helpful to other people; that they make a positive difference in this world. We serve God by helping and serving others. We are to invest our time in such a fashion that our life counts. It is a choice, and time given in service to God is the first best investment we can make with our time.
Here’s the other best investment for our time. Now I realize that we’re not supposed to have two bests of anything. My English-teacher-flawless-grammarian-mother taught me that. But stay with me here, because this other best is equal to service, though actually it really comes first if our service is to be effective. It’s prayer! Now we can feel that prayer is just another one of the things making a demand on our time; something we should do more of, but just can’t fit in with everything else. But look, there are occurrences in our lives, situations and circumstances in which we waste time because we don’t ask God about them. All of us do it if we’re not careful. If we’re not focused, we lose time. The best way to get focused in life is prayer; asking God to guide, to show us the next step. And here is another good reason for investing in prayer: the joy it gives to God. Have you ever thought about it that way? One of God’s joys is the time that you and I spend with him in prayer and meditation; quiet time just absorbing his presence and love. God created us to spend time with him, so that we could live together in a deeply passionate and joyously alive adventure; so that he could pour his love into us, and we could freely pour that love into each other.
All the other things in life are an outflow of that. God wants time alone with us. He doesn’t need us. He wants us. We need him, but he wants us. Time spent with God will focus and energize everything else in our lives. That’s where to invest your life. Service and Prayer are the two best places, so as to make your life count, to have it make a real difference in this world.
God has given us our life’s time for a purpose. Invest your time with God and in God’s service. So will your life make a difference. May God grant us the wisdom to make our time count.