REDEEMING YOUR TIME
Opening Prayer - Father, we know the days are “evil” and fleeting. Give us the fortitude and wisdom to steward our time well so that we can best serve your Kingdom. Constantly renew our minds with the promise that we have peace first as your child, and everything we do after that is in response to your love.
Ephesians 5:15–16 (KJV) says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The phrase redeeming the time is also found in Colossians 4:5: “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (KJV). In both passages, redeeming the time is related to wisdom in how we “walk,” that is, in how we live. To redeem something means to buy it back, to regain possession of it. Time is a gift from God, and none of us know how much of it we are allotted. Only God knows how much time each of us has on this earth to make decisions that will impact eternity (Psalm 139:16). When God says we should be “redeeming the time,” He wants us to live in constant awareness of that ticking clock and make the most of the time we have. In fact, the NIV’s translation of Ephesians 5:16 uses the phrase making the most of every opportunity instead of redeeming the time. Rather than waste our days on frivolous pursuits that leave no lasting imprint, Scripture instructs us to be diligent about doing good… The context of the command to redeem the time helps us understand what redeeming the time looks like and why it’s important. Redeeming the time means that we are careful in how we live. We seek out and employ wisdom (Proverbs 2:6 - For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.). We seize every opportunity and use it for God’s glory. We think through our plans and make sure they align with God’s will. And we avoid empty, harmful activities such as getting drunk on the lust of this world.
Why are we to live this way? “Because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21). Jesus taught His disciples the necessity of redeeming the time: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Jesus was diligent about keeping to His mission. Distractions were as prevalent then as they are now, but He let none of them deter Him from preaching and teaching God’s Word. That was why He had come (see Luke 4:43). Though He spent only 33 years on this earth, Jesus changed the world forever because He redeemed the time. We can learn to redeem the time by becoming conscious of the fact that we may not have another day. The song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw is about redeeming the time. While its focus is on pursuing earthly passions in the time we have left, the lyrics make an important point. They conclude with this thought: “Someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.” As Christians, we should live like we were dying and pursue all God has given us to do while we have time. Everything done for Christ on earth earns eternal rewards. That which was done for selfish, carnal reasons will burn up and blow away. Another way we can learn to redeem the time is by asking God to help us. We should start every morning by committing our day to the Lord and asking Him to help us do something that day that has eternal significance.
By beginning our day with eternity in mind, we become more aware of spiritual nudges in our hearts… We look for ways we can honor the Lord… help someone else… or utilize our time in productive ways…
Sitting at a red light, we can pray for our neighbor. Mopping the floor, we can worship in song. At a restaurant, we can leave an extra big tip along with a gospel tract or a card inviting the waiter to church. We can evaluate our gifts and interests and find ways to invest them for God’s kingdom. Volunteering, serving at church, leading a ministry, and studying to show ourselves “approved unto God” are all ways we can redeem the time… 2 Timothy 2:15 records - Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.. James 4:14 reminds us that our earthly lives are no more than a fog that appears and then quickly evaporates. Upon our death, our money and possessions will be given to someone else. Our jobs will be filled by others. Our families may remember us with fondness but will move on with lives that don’t include us. All that remains of our lives on earth is that which was invested in eternity. In the end, all that matters is what we did or did not do to redeem the time...
So now that we have established that our place in God’s family is secure, we still want to be better stewards of our time, Right? So, what does scripture have to say about time and our role in it?
Today, we’re going to touch on four (4) answers to that question.
Truth #1: Our longing for timelessness is good and God-given (REPEAT)
We don’t just long to live forever, we also long to be productive forever. Now, we don’t feel like this every day. Sin has made work and our efforts to be productive difficult…
But something in our souls (and God’s word) shows us that work was meant to be very good. You can see this in Genesis 2:15: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
The Hebrew word for “work” here is the word avodah which is also translated to mean “worship” in our Bibles. Work (worship) existed pre-sin. Work (worship) was good. Work (worship) was more than good. Work was worship…
I know some Christians believe that this longing for timelessness is rooted in pride. But the more I study scripture, the more I’m convinced that this desire to live and be productive forever was designed by God himself. Ecclesiastes 3:11 makes this crystal clear saying that God has “set eternity in the human heart.”
Something in our God-designed DNA tells us we were made for something more. To be human is to work with time that our minds tell us is finite, but that our souls assure us shouldn’t be finite. So, why is time finite? This leads me to the next truth:
Truth #2: Sin has ensured we will all die with unfinished symphonies
What do we mean when we talk about unfinished symphonies of life? Everyone is on a quest for meaning or peace in the course of living his or her lives. People define peace in different ways depending on who they are. A person with a harmonious symphony of life, meaning those that are relatively adjusted and stable, peace may come easier than those that are not.
When sin entered the world, death was ushered in alongside it. We see this in Genesis 3:17-19: To Adam, he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
We also see this in 1 Corinthians 15:21: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.”
Human beings, who were created to be immortal, became mortal. Work, which was created to be good, became difficult. Time, which was created to be infinite, became finite. In short, sin has ensured that nobody will ever finish the work they envision completing in their lifetime.
It has been said: “In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we learn that ultimately in this world there is no finished symphony.”
Whew, that’s depressing. But it’s true, isn’t it? We will all die with unfinished symphonies. Our to-do lists will never be completed. There will always be a gap between what we can imagine accomplishing in this life and what we can actually get done.
Thank goodness sin didn’t get the final say. Moving on to Truth #3:
Truth #3: God will finish the work we leave unfinished
OK, let’s recap: God created us to live forever, but sin has broken creation and made us mortal, time-bound, and finite…
So, where’s the hope? Our hope is found in Jesus Christ. He walked out of the tomb that first Resurrection morning with a redeemed body that could not be destroyed again. The resurrection was Jesus’s way of declaring that our longing for immortality has been right all along and that through him, we too can experience eternal life…
But that resurrection morning wasn’t just the beginning of eternal life. It marked the inauguration of God’s eternal kingdom…
So, how does this tie into time management and “redeeming our time”?
To simplify the Christian story: God created us to live and work with him in a perfect garden. Sin messed everything up, but God promised to send a King to set everything right. With his defeat of death on that resurrection morning, Jesus proved emphatically that He is that promised King. And everything from that moment to the end of Revelation is about the building of God’s kingdom until Jesus returns to finish what he inaugurated at the resurrection and make “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
What does this mean for us in the present time? We can look to 1 Corinthians for some clues from Paul:
“For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Did you catch that? We are God’s co-workers. In Genesis, God created a lot in six days, but what’s equally remarkable is what He did not create. The first few days of creation was God setting up a canvas displaying the beauty of it all. The sixth day is when He passed the baton of creation to us—His image-bearers—and called us to fill that canvas (literally, to “fill the earth”) with things that point to his glory…
The same thing happened on the resurrection morning. Jesus inaugurated His kingdom with His resurrection, but He left the work of building for the kingdom to us until He returns to finish the work once and for all. As New Testament scholar N.T. Wright says, “God always wanted to work in His world through loyal human beings.”
But because God alone will finish that work and ultimately bring heaven to earth, we can embrace this freeing truth today: God doesn’t need you or me to finish our to-do lists. If the things on our to-do lists are on God’s to-do list, he will complete them with or without us…
Ultimately, there’s no such thing as an unfinished symphony if God desires for that symphony to be a part of his eternal world. Whatever work God wants finished, He will finish, which leads to another liberating and hopeful truth: You and I have all the time we need. This is why Truth #4 is so powerful:
Truth #4: The gospel is our source of rest and ambition
As we’ve seen, God doesn’t need us to be productive; but if we’re honest, we often need ourselves to be productive, in order to feel a sense of self-worth.
Because we did nothing to earn God’s grace, there are some who believe there is nothing we can do to lose it. No matter how unproductive or what kind of life you are living now, your status as an adopted child of God will never ever change. In other words, once in grace, always in grace.
Ironically, if that is true that leads us to be wildly productive or unproductive. Why? Because working to earn someone’s favor is exhausting. But working in response to unconditional favor is intoxicating…
So, what is God’s agenda? How can we “work for his Kingdom” and “redeem our time”?
Let’s look again at Scripture…
Ephesians 2:10 says “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”.
In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
The phrase “good works” has often been misinterpreted. We can think it only refers to charity or ministry work. But when we look at the Greek word used, ergon, we see it is translated to mean “work, task, [and] employment.”
Remember, work was a part of God’s perfect world prior to the Fall, and Jesus reaffirmed the goodness of what many would deem “secular work” by spending roughly eighty percent of His adult life working as a carpenter. As long as your work is not contrary to God’s Word, it can be considered “good work!”
So, as we go about our lives and work advancing God’s kingdom, where can we look for practical wisdom as to how to redeem our time? That question leads us to Truth #5:
Truth #5: We can know how God would manage his time
When the author of time “became flesh” (John 1:14), He became fully human, meaning that He experienced the same day-to-day challenges other mortals faced. He had a job, as a carpenter, a mother and father to care for, hunger to manage, and the need for sleep. Oh yeah, and He faced the same twenty-four-hour time constraint as every other human being. As a human being, Jesus was challenged to steward his limited time on earth much like we are today…
We see this illustrated throughout the gospels:
John 9:4 – “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”
John 17:4 – “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”
But how could 1st century Jerusalem compare to what we deal with today? Jesus didn’t have email or a smartphone. He didn’t have the distractions that we have now. Surely it was easier to manage his time, Right? Or was it?
We see it time and time again in scripture where Jesus was constantly interrupted. He was constantly having to make choices about his priorities and say no to people.
Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.” In the person of Jesus, the word became flesh, ensuring he could empathize with all of our weaknesses, including our efforts to redeem our time.
Throughout the rest of this series of lessons, we are going to walk through seven principles the gospels show us for how Jesus redeemed his time. Today, I’ll leave you with the first principle and, I believe, most imperative step to redeeming our time - Start with the Word. To redeem our time in the model of our Redeemer, we must first know the author of time, His purposes for the world, and what He has called us to do with the time He has given us…
Jesus frequently broke away from the crowds and His disciples to spend time alone with His Father.
For us, we can set aside time for:
● Reading scripture daily
● Meditating on what you read
● Praying throughout your day
It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to take 3 hours. Just carve out time in your day, dig into scripture, and see what God has to say about our time and how we should spend it. Don’t take my word for it. Hear it from the source…