Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Time is a tool to be used. Tragically, time is only sacred to us when it slips away.
Every moment, every choice and every event plants something within us, be it good or evil. Thoreau said, “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink of it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.
A ticking clock is the beating pulse of eternity. It is the reminder that death is coming, and in fact, every second we are one step closer to eternity than the second before. Someone said that the pendulum on a clock swings back and forth saying, “Now or never! Now or never! Now or never!”
There is no such thing as time standing still. Time is racing by. If you are 35 years of age and have another 35 years to live, your life is half over. Or to put it in an even more sobering perspective—if you subtract time spent sleeping, eating and working, you have less than 500 days left to do whatever it is you want to do with your life.
We know in our hearts we are finite and mortal souls. Yet, we act as if we are immortal and infinite. It seems like only yesterday we were in high school, getting our driver’s license or going off to college. If, in reality, time flies, then we are responsible to be the navigator and guide.
As I examine my own, the dividing line between success or failure (whether it be life, parenting or a career) can be expressed in the words, “I didn’t have time.” One day we will all realize that we must master our minutes or become slaves to them.
A philosophical person would say, “Time is relative.” Two weeks on vacation is never the same as two weeks on a crash diet. An hour long worship service is always longer than any film, whether it’s a blockbuster or a bomb. A minute is never so long as when someone asks you if you could spare one.
Scripture says we are to redeem the time. As I look around our congregation, I see many young couples and families failing to heed that admonition. I see parents and kids wasting their lives in the pursuit of the temporary, trivial and trite.
For instance, we will rush our kids around to t-ball, basketball, soccer, ballet, tap, tennis, clubs, theater, the mall and a legion of other “good things.” After all, these things “contribute to the development of our kids.” I’ll buy that.
But if the church asks for even a few hours a week, some of the very same parents will scream we are interfering with quality time with their kids! Since when did learning the things of God become anything less than quality time? Why is it we prioritize our lives around athletics and acrobatics? What will last? What is eternal? Our kids may reach the point where they can’t compete. They must never reach the point where the things of God become optional.
We plan events on our church calendar to appeal to the saved and attract the lost. I can’t think of one event that wasn’t worth my time. Some events we would categorize as OPPORTUNITIES for you and your family. Most, however, are OBLIGATIONS.
Forget all the nonsense for a minute and let’s talk turkey. When you and I forsake the “basics” of church life, we are sending a signal to our children that will haunt us in years to come. Our actions and choices say TV, sports and countless other events are more important than learning the things of God. Whether we are talking about a Sunday night, or a Wednesday night, the lesson is the same. The church, the preacher and the staff members fell this is important, but I don’t.
When the church plans an event on an “off night” such as Friday, those events are opportunities you can take advantage of if you like. But when events fall on Sunday or Wednesday (or even a Revival or Bible Conference), those should never be construed as optional! When folks stay at home on Sunday evening or leave after eating on Wednesday night, they send a subtle but significant signal to their kids and to their lost neighbors.
You know me well enough to know I detest legalism, but legalism and commitment are poles apart. It’s time some of us, in our pursuit of freedom in the faith, reset priorities around things eternal. If you don’t, don’t be surprised if your kids take your “freedom” to the next level and drop out of church altogether. When they do, don’t blame us. We tried to help!
“An old Southern gentleman said, ‘I used to come over to your town quite often in the old days. It was a day’s round trip by horse and buggy. I can do it now in an hour, but I don’t have time!’ That just about sums up the tempo and the tragedy of these hurried times.” –Vance Havner
© Michael Catt, 2006.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.