One of our fine young pastors experienced what nearly all pastors experience from one time to another — they go longer than people think they should. The time factor becomes significant. And comments and sometimes criticism is expressed by folks: “We need to get out on time.” All of us are time conscious, but oftentimes we pack too many things into the generally accepted hour of worship. When the announcements go long and the emergency announcements are interjected and you pack in too many solos and choir numbers and children’s performances and baby dedications and Lord’s Suppers and missions emphases and deacon elections and a growing prayer list and a few other things that must be done on that Sunday, time gets away from you. The sermon you spent hours preparing that looked like it was going to be 25-30 minutes long is whittled and slashed and reduced, but you’ve still got to get out when people think you need to get out.
This young pastor had experienced some of the folks’ thoughts and less than complimentary remarks to the point he thought the answer would be get a countdown clock. You may have seen a countdown clock where a person gets up and they are supposed to have 10 minutes. The clock starts and right there in front of him or her is the clock counting down the seconds that he or she is allowed. As he began to express his desire to get a countdown clock so that he wouldn’t go over time, he discovered that those kind of clocks are not easy to come by and rather expensive.
He was encouraged to just get a grip on the time and that they could live without a countdown clock and so they did. Some time later when he went to another church he expressed the same concern to some of the staff and to the business administrator at the church. He was told those kind of clocks are pretty expensive and they had not had one and didn’t really have the funds to get one right then. And so the young preacher pressed on trying to figure a way to keep time in check. After a while, the business administrator told them that they had found a clock, gotten one for a good price, and that they would get it set up for the preacher to use. The young pastor was excited. This is a great day, he thought, and no longer will we come to the end of the service with him having gone too long and people leaving less than joyful.
The first Sunday came that he was going to use his countdown clock. They set it for the amount of time. When he got up, it began to count. As it moved toward the last minute, he was aware that he was in a rush to get to the end. He pressed on toward the end of the service, but what neither he nor the man who purchased the clock knew was that he had actually bought a countdown clock for a basketball game. At the end of the countdown, guess what? The buzzer went off!
You got it. That’ll get you out of church in a hurry. The buzzer went off. Game over. Sermon ended. Time to go. In retrospect, both the pastor and the church family treated the incident with as gentle humor as they could and moved on to try to figure out a better way to do time management.
The reason I mention the clock and the buzzer is because the countdown of 2019 is upon us. The seconds are passing quickly. The hours are dwindling. The days are few. It would be a good time to take time to think about time and the time that remains in this year and what we will do with it. Let me just give you three thoughts about time as we all will soon be hearing the buzzer at the end of 2019.
One thought is about the limitations of time. We all live in a time capsule. Honestly, we don’t know how big the capsule is but time does run out on every one of us. Whether it’s the three score and ten that we live or maybe as more and more people are celebrating, they reach the 100-year mark, we all have limitations of time. We’re not here forever, and while we’re here we need to live with an awareness of time but not dominated by time. How long have you lived? How long do you have? It’s hard to determine. The Bible says, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). You and I could, at the snap of your fingers in just a moment of time, have everything changed and be staring at the finish mark of life. Our lives are limited. Our days grow shorter, but while time is limited and we live in that capsule with certain uncertainties, take a moment to think about the examination of time.
In the examination of time we begin to understand that there’s a purpose for life — a meaningful, positive, God-honoring purpose for us being here. If you stop and examine your life, the real goal in life is not to fill life with years, whether 70 or 80 or 110, but the goal is to fill the years with life. That, my friends, is a totally different thing. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Life that fills and overflows you. Life that is purposeful. Life that does make a difference. Life that is focused on accomplishments for the Lord, and life that is circled by joy and peace.
When you examine your life, what are you putting into the years that you have? Maybe looking back over 2019 and coupling it with the hopes and dreams and possibilities of 2020, you see that life maybe can be given over to things that are more productive, more beneficial, more lasting than what you have done in the past. Probably right here in the midst of the last days toward Christmas and with all the activities and parties and purchasing and wrapping and on and on that we have during the holidays, you wonder what is the meaning of all this. You may even wonder because it seems like a few minutes ago you were doing it for last year. You may even wonder what you’re going to do next year.
Life gets to be so filled and overflowing with busyness that we miss out on its joys. James, in his little book in the Bible, asks, “What is life?” It’s like a vapor. It’s here – phew— it’s gone, so what do you do with it? Take a close look at it and make sure that your life, your plans, your purposes line up with God things, godly things, good things, things that you might find Jesus doing. Caring for others, living outside yourself and in their interest. Adapting your life to things that would leave others better off than you are at the close of the day. Examine your hours, your days, your productivity, and maybe take one step further.
That one step further is the third thing I want to consider: the celebration of life. God gives us life and because it is a gift from him, it is a precious commodity. Your age is not as important as the importance of what you are going to do with this day. There may be things that you have left undone. Your procrastination has pushed some vital things aside and you have not gotten around to those things that will make a world of difference in your own heart as well as in your relationships.
Celebrate life by taking care of those things. Celebrate life by extending your life. I’m not talking about staying on your medications, eating well and resting and exercises and all those things that might give you more days of life, but extending your life to touch people even after you are gone because you will not be here forever and ever. We are in a position to put things in place that will bless people to come. A gift to a meaningful, lasting organization, or charity. An end of the year gift to your church that will bless missions around the world through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, or take care of some special need in people’s lives and you get to participate. A gift to a school or The Baptist Children’s Village or even an anonymous, thoughtful gift shared with someone you know who is in need.
Celebrate life and what God has provided for you today and what He wants to do with you to make a difference tomorrow. At the end of the year, just before the buzzer is going to go off, go ahead and write that letter. You’ve thought about it, but you haven’t done it. Encourage somebody you think the world of but you haven’t expressed that. Go ahead and write a note to someone you don’t know, but you know needs an encouraging word of prayer, a lift from someone. Just go ahead and do it. You don’t have to write 10 letters a day. One a week would probably bring back more blessings than you could even count. Before the buzzer goes off signaling the close of this article, at the close of a service on Sunday, go ahead. Celebrate life and do what God has placed on your heart.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral