The value of time

              What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:14)

The illimitable, silent, never-resting thing called time, rolling, rushing on, swift, silent, like an all-embracing ocean-tide, on which we and all the Universe swim like exhalations, like apparitions which are, and then are not.  (Thomas Carlyle.)

He who loses gold or silver can find more to replace it, but he who loses time cannot find more. (Egyptian proverb.)

The thought provoking words of Jenny Brereton quoted in the prologue (which were dedicated to her mother) convey to us so effectively the value of time or to use her own words 'precious time.' It is precious because as we read above, such things as like gold and silver can always be replaced but the most precious thing of all "time" can never be so. Though Jenny's life was tragically cut short at a young age, yet she had a perception of the value of time which sadly many of us realise when it is too late, and our life has slipped us by and we have little to show for our life's achievements. When D L Moody lost a grandchild who was very dear to him he said of her that she accomplished more in her short life than many in their three score years and ten. I think that the same could be said of Jenny Brereton who displayed a wisdom well beyond her years in what she wrote.

As Jenny puts it so well, each morning we are credited with 86,400 seconds for us to use, as we will. Every night it is written off and it carries over no balance. It is lost forever and can never be reclaimed. So many people go through their life without realising the value of time and waste so much of their life on unprofitable pursuits and have a perception in their thinking that they have got many years of their life left yet and that there is plenty of time left in which to reflect on things of eternal value. But the more we put these things off the less likely it will be that they will ever become a serious issue in our life. I remember my mother saying to me one day when she was in her eighties "I don't know what has happened to my life - where has it gone? How many times also do we hear people make such comments as, "where has the time gone?" or "where has the year gone?" The problem is not that time has gone any quicker, but rather, I suspect, that we have not been careful and disciplined in the use of it (see chapter 3). This is the great danger for all of us if we don't give more thoughtful consideration to the preciousness of time that has been given to us. When I look at the lives of some people I never cease to be amazed at how much they have accomplished in their lives. William Carey, the missionary, was one such person, who only started life as a cobbler, yet when you read of his life accomplishments you wonder how he could have done such an incredible amount of things in his life. Such people, though, knew the value of time, and maximised the use of it at every moment. When, for example, he lost many years work in a devastating fire whilst in India he reflected on it for a short while and then in effect said, "right, we need to move on!" Many of us would have spent months or even years brooding over such an event and perhaps have gone into a deep depression over it. But not so with William Carey, he just didnít allow himself to go that way. Somebody I used to know, Horace Butler, was also a great achiever in his life. I remember his wife Elsie saying to me one day that Horace never sat down to relax, but was always of the move, and never idle. Such people, I believe, know how to maximise the use of time in their lives. It was said of Franz Schubert, for example, that he achieved more in his short life (31 years of age) than almost any other master. What a wealth of superb music that man has bestowed on mankind, in such a short lifetime! One thing is for sure, he certainly didn't achieve that by sitting around all day! Someone may argue that it is not so much our achievements that really matter in this life, but rather what we are as a person, or the quality of our life. Whilst it is true that we donít want to be doing things just for the sake of it (see chapter 4) we do need to be careful that we donít use this argument as an excuse for inactivity in our life. God has given us all certain abilities and talents and we need to ensure that we use these for His service and not let them lie dormant. In Romans 15:17 Paul says "In Christ Jesus then I have reason to be proud of my work for God." In the parable of the talents it was the steward who did not do anything with the talent given to him who was reprimanded by his master (Mathew 25:14). Also in 2 Corinthians 5:10 we are told that we shall ultimately be judged by what we have done in the body, not so much by our good character, or our good intentions. Let us also consider what Paul says in Romans 2:6 that God "will render to every man according to his works!"

One of Satan's greatest deceptions is to make us think that we have got plenty of time in our lives. We don't really want to commit ourselves too fully to God's will for our life because we have a number of things that we want to "get out of the way." We want to get our "GCSE's" or our "A levels" or our degree out of the way first, and then we will concentrate on giving ourselves to what God wants for our life. Once when I was in my twenties I went on an evangelistic outreach and one night I was paired with a very bright young man who had just received his "A level" results. He had obtained a full set of "A" grades with a place at Cambridge secured and obviously a very promising career ahead of him. However during the day he had been challenged by the message he had heard by the crusade leader and he said to me that he was going to seek the Lord to ascertain if he should be going to Bible College instead. I was very impressed with that young man, his openness to the Lord and his willingness to be called into God's service, even though he had such a promising career ahead of him. One of the difficulties in focusing our hearts on the things that we want to "get out of the way" is that it may not necessarily be God's will for us to go down the route that we have mapped out for ourselves and we should always seek to be open to hear His voice and make time to listen to Him at every stage of our life. In Hosea 10: 12 the prophet says "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of steadfast love: break up the fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord that He may come and rain salvation upon us."

One of the traps that many of us fall into is thinking that the time is not just yet to seek the Lord, but at some future date when we are less pressurised, when we have got our studying out of the way, or we have got our wedding out the way, or we have got our house renovated or decorated, or some special project which is taking so much of our time. A young couple we used to know who were attending our church suddenly stopped coming. When we went to see them we found out that they had been very busy renovating their house, and that was taking all their time up. I'm sure that they fully intended coming back to us after all this, but needless to say we didn't see them again. Undoubtedly something else would have come up after that, perhaps a baby, or job promotion or some other diversions that one after another kept them from giving their time to the Lord. On a church notice board that I used to pass on my way to work were written the words "he who is too busy for God, is busier than God intended." Could this be said of us I wonder? Where do our priorities lie? Is God always first in our life or have we sidelined Him into second or even third place? A popular saying that I have heard over the years is that "if He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all!"

The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2 "now is the acceptable timeÖnow is the day of salvation." When Paul says "now" he means "today" not "tomorrow," because as we shall see later, we may not have a tomorrow. "Today is a gift," quotes Jenny Brereton. Somebody once related the following incident, which happened after a gospel meeting. At the back of the hall was a young man who wasn't a Christian and who had not responded to the gospel appeal during the service. When the minister spoke to the young man after the service the Holy Spirit impressed upon him the urgency of him giving his life to the Lord that night. He said to him "young man, tonight is the night when you need to receive the Lord into your life." He responded by saying something to the effect that he would give some serious thought to it but not that night because there was a party that he wanted to go to and that it wasn't really a good time to make such a decision. He again impressed upon him that it was important for him to commit his life to the Lord that night, but he declined. As the young man rode away from the church on his motorcycle he was killed in an accident. The above scripture was certainly relevant for that young man that night. We certainly do need to take heed to such warnings and not think that we can trifle with God over such serious issues in our lives.