I recently read a story that was printed in the New York Times of a Swiss man who was celebrating his eightieth birthday. He had kept a detailed diary of notes of his life, and he observed this special occasion in a most unusual manner. He took stock of his life by looking at himself statistically with the aid of his diary. He figured that he had spent 26 years, 312 days, and 18 hours sleeping; 21 years, 85 days working; 5 years, 346 days being angry; 302 days waiting for people with whom he had appointments; 5 years, 346 days eating; 228 days shaving; 26 days scolding his children; 12 days, 16 hours lighting cigars; but he only had laughed 1 day, 22 hours. Once his tabulation was complete, the omissions told as much about his life as the inclusions. There was nothing noted about worship, reading, meditation, or serving. As he sat totaling the sum of his life accomplishments, he was prompted to ask, “Eighty years on earth for what?”
While reading today through the Scriptural scene of the Last Supper in John 13, Jesus spoke a simple sentence to Judas that has arrested my attention. As the spiritual tension in the room reached a climax, Jesus turned to Judas and said, “What thou doest, do quickly.” Jesus was well aware that His life was lived on a divine timetable. There were times He had to say, “Mine hour is not yet come.” But, He kept balanced and focused on the fact, “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day, the night cometh, when no man can work.” The longer I live, the more convinced I am that life is truly short.
However, what seems to make life pass by even faster and more frustrating is never understanding why we are here, where we are going, and what we are to do. Danish thinker Soren Kierkegaard once said that true success in life was “…to see what God really wants me to do…to find the idea for which I can live and die.” Everyone holds a dream of something he is “going to do”, but it is a minority that will ever see it into reality. Why is that the case? We are either running in life quickly or life is quickly running out of us! Vance Havner put it this way, “The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.” Jesus says to you and me, “What thou doest, do quickly.”
His words speak of an understood route. In Ephesians 5:16, Paul writes that we are to be “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” This phrase is more literally translated, “buying up the opportunity.” The English word “opportunity” comes from a Latin word meaning “toward the port.” It suggests a ship taking advantage of the wind and tide to arrive safely at its appointed destination. Sadly, there are too many lives aimlessly floating along in the sea of life without rudder, anchor, or sail. To a sailor who does not know where he is going, no wind is the right wind!
Jonah wanted to sail his own course of direction and met a twisting hurricane. In Mark 6, the disciples thought they were rowing toward a kingdom throne when they met contrary winds. Without confident, confirmed direction in life, our existence is reduced to a mere pinball that determines its direction by the resistance it meets in the path. The key to finding and fulfilling spiritual purpose in life is to be going in the right direction with your sails raised to catch the wind of God when it blows.
His words speak of an urgent responsibility. In Psalm 89:47, the psalmist writes, “Remember how short my time is…” One chapter later in verse 12, it is recorded, “So teach us to number our days…” Of all of the Lord’s gifts to our life, time is the one thing He gives in a limited quantity. As Queen Elizabeth lay dying, she cried out, “All my possessions, for a moment of time!” Because life confronts us with an appointed duration, we must never lose a sense of urgency in our tasks. Esther quickly discovered she was not elevated to the throne for personal gain, but “…for such a time as this.” John the Baptist came from the wilderness preaching with reckless abandon because he only had about a year to “prepare ye the way” of the Lord. Jesus Himself knew He “…must be about my Father’s business” because His task would be over in only three and a half years. You have heard it said, “I’m just killing time.” When we live life without a conscious sense of urgency, it is not time you are killing, but rather the potential of your life!
His words speak of an unpermitted regret. In II Timothy 4:6-7, Paul said, “…my departure is at hand…I have finished my course…” He was acknowledging there was nothing left undone and no regrets in life or ministry. From time to time you hear someone say, “He has more time than I do to accomplish what he does.” The truth is, we all have the same amount of time each day, but we each use our time differently. The difference is the choice of our priorities. Paul lived his life recognizing, “…the time is short…” David lived conscious of the fact, “…there is but a step between me and death.” Job was awakened to the reality that there is “…an appointed time to man upon earth…” After a hard-fought athletic event, it has often been said of the competitors, “they left it all on the playing field today.” Only those who give their all will be remembered for their all!
There are days when we think the Lord is working very slowly in our lives, but He truly moves rather quickly. A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance once said, “God is preparing His heroes, and when the opportunity comes, He can fit them into their places in a moment, and the world will wonder where they came from.” The Lord seems to measure the furthest those lives prepared to move the quickest. That is the distinguishable difference between a visionary and a mere dreamer. If you are not prepared to move quickly then you will always wonder what might have been while just counting days and growing old.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2008 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.