The Young Man and His Time
Mr. Donald K. Steele of Peterborough, Ont., is an elder at Edmison Hts. Bible Chapel and president of Kawartha Lakes Bible School. He is employed as an audio-visual coordinator by the Peterborough County Board of Education.
This is our brother’s second study in his series on “The Young Man.”
Time is a curious commodity. We all get exactly the same amount of it, day in and day out, yet it seems that some have too much and others have too little. While time never varies in its speed of flow, it seems to do so. Someone has pointed out that two weeks on vacation is not the same as two weeks on a diet. Time is almost indefinable, yet as the moving finger of time traces its course across the dial of our lives, we see the future becoming the past, minute by minute, and year by year.
Getting a Handle on Time
While we may spend a good deal of time recalling .the past, or anticipating the future, we can actually do nothing in either; the past is gone, and the future may never be. The only morsel of time at our disposal is the ever-moving present. How many men and women have wasted enormous portions of their lives by living in the past or future, dwelling on their memories or fantasies? The Christian man who realizes that he has only the present in which to work has made a discovery which will enable him to accomplish more than most will do.
God knows a great deal about time, for He created it. Time is God’s interlude between eternity past and eternity future. It is not an endless skein as many scientists would have us believe, stretching for billions of years into the past and future. God created time, as He created the universe, and He has the destiny of the universe and the end of time carefully planned.
We do well to remember that while we operate always within the confines of time and space, God is not similarly limited. He is infinite, which means, at least in part, that He transcends both time and space. Because God has such power over time, the psalmist could truthfully say, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psa. 90:4). The span of human existence is a very little time with God, as was again perceived by the psalmist in 39:5: “Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” The Apostle Peter, similarly recognizing that God could stretch time out or compress it at will, put it this way: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). Thus we know that God created time, manages time, uses time, and gives each of us our own allotment of time, to be managed and used for his glory.
There is so very much that could be said about the effect of time on our lives, which is beyond the scope of this article. We are born, so we have a beginning in time. When we are born again, we have a second beginning, the beginning of spiritual life, also in time. After we have this second beginning, it is vitally important how we manage our time as we develop from babes into disciples, from new believers into the mature saints that the Word of God consistently encourages us to become. We cannot, therefore, as believers, deal with time management without becoming involved in the imperative of spiritual growth. A Christian life without spiritual growth is a wasted life, in most respects, yet not uncommon in the world today.
The secular world today is obsessed with time management. Seminars on this subject are convened daily in many parts of the land. In 1979 in New Orleans, I enjoyed a delightful presentation on the topic, presented by a young man from Wisconsin. For the Christian young man, time management is more than just getting the maximum work done in a day and getting the most important jobs finished first. While the secular presentation may warn us about the dangers of permitting the urgent to sidetrack us from the important, we need, as believers, to have a different set of priorities altogether. Yet we will only be able, Christians or non-Christians, to work in the present, to serve God in the present, and that point must be reiterated. Jean Jacques Rousseau put it this way: “The moment passed is no longer; the future may never be; the present is all of which man is the master.” Time management begins with the realization that putting things off until later is a marvellous way to achieve little, and postpone every worthwhile endeavour.
Spiritual growth must be a top priority with the young believer. Unless you recognize that God has commanded us to grow, you may think that your time is your own and you can waste as much of it as you please. But Peter reminds us to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:8), and that sounds remarkably like a command from the Lord. God wants us to grow. He gives us His Word to feed upon, and He gives us the medium of time in which to achieve that growth. How much time have you devoted in the past week to those activities and exercises which would promote spiritual growth? Has reading God’s word and meditating on it been a daily priority? If we do not feed our souls and minds on the Word, we shall not experience the vital spiritual growth which is God’s greatest desire for us.
In Ephesians 3:19 we read Paul’s expectation “that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” Such an expectation indicates that God does not want us to be all our lives spiritual infants, able only to digest the milk, but that we might grow up into Christ, able to understand those more difficult passages, and be equipped for the spiritual warfare that is all about us. Paul makes a much fuller reference to this topic in Colossians 2:6-10 to which you should pay close attention. Clearly our relationship with Christ, our Saviour and Lord, is not a static relationship, but one that has the potential to develop as we move forward through life, until we appreciate in some greater way than at present “all the fullness of the Godhead” which He personifies in Himself (Col. 2:9).
Today there are some who seek shortcuts to spirituality. They seem to think that God will pour out upon them some magical potion which will render them as mature believers in an instant, without study, without mediation, without prayer and without effort. I find no such concept in my Bible. Paul spent three years in the desert of Arabia before he began his public ministry. Peter and John and others spent three years with Christ before they were used to win multitudes to Christ. The examples and the teaching of Scripture would indicate that there is no shortcut to spirituality. If God is working from and for eternity, He will not hurry the development of our lives. If we are doing our part, working faithfully and consistently in the study of the Word of God, and in such service as He brings to our hand, we can be assured that our development and growth will be consistent with his plan for our lives.
One Final Point
There is one final point which must be made concerning new converts. How many of you have noticed that some of them, perhaps even yourself, tend to start off very rapidly and grow rapidly, reading and praying, and getting a wonderful blessing from the Lord? Some begin this way and continue at a very fast rate for a while. It is vitally important to understand that this cannot continue, and God does not allow it to continue at this rate, because healthy growth and ultimately maturity cannot be achieved in this way. God himself will modify the pace. Unless we understand this, we may see some young Christian begin to slow down, and may even think that he is backsliding, when what is happening is a natural and common experience with God. John N. Darby said it this way:
“It is God’s way to set people aside after their first start, so that self-confidence may lie down. Thus Moses was forty years in the wilderness. On his first start, in the will of the flesh, he had to run away. Paul was three years in isolation also after his first testimony. Not that God did not approve of his first testimony, but we must get to know ourselves and that we have no strength … and then, leaning on the Lord, we can with more maturity and more experientially, deal with souls.”
Young brother, are you growing? Are you using the time that God gives to you as wisely as you should? Remember that even for the believer, it is appointed unto man to die… and after that — what? Our opportunities for service and for growth here on earth are certainly finished. That is a sobering thought.