August 18 & 19, 2018 – Pentecost 13
Ephesians 5: 15-17
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
I ran across this listing that said: In a lifetime the average American will spend six months sitting at stoplights, eight months opening junk mail, one year looking for misplaced objects, 2 years unsuccessfully returning phone calls, 5 years waiting in line, 6 years eating, 21 years watching television. An article was once published entitled, “If You Are 35, You Have 500 Days to Live.” The article went on to contend that when you subtract the time you spend sleeping, working, tending to personal matters, eating, traveling, doing chores, in the next 36 years you will have only 500 days to spend as you wish. Think about how you spend your time. When all of the necessary things are done, how much time is left? Today in our text Paul touches on how we use our time. He, in essence, tells us to Make the Most of Every Opportunity.
God did not give all of us the same amount of talent, nor the same amount of wealth, but he has given each of us the same amount of time each day. Imagine that a bank credits your account each morning with $86,400. No balance is carried over from day to day. Any money that remains is deleted each evening. We have such a bank. The name of our bank is TIME. Every day we are credited with 86,400 seconds. Every night, time winds down for the day. TIME bank allows no overdraft, there is no going back for a second chance. TIME bank does not allow borrowing from tomorrow. The clock ticks away, never waiting for anyone to catch up.
The Apostle Paul tells us in our text: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” He talks about making the most of every opportunity. A more literal translation of the Greek tells us to “redeem the time”, that is to buy it up in the best way. The word “time” is not the Greek word “chronos” which means clock time (that is measured in hours, minutes and seconds), but it is the Greek word “kairos” which is better translated, “opportunity”. In other words, rather than being called to be good time managers, we are called to be good opportunity managers. It is not just the time, but also the timing. It is not just counting the minutes, hours, days, months and years, but making the minutes, hours, day, months and years count. Tomorrow we will be given more hours, but we may never have the same opportunities again.
What are the opportunities that the Lord wants us to be ready for—to make the most of—to redeem or purchase in the best way? Again Paul tells us: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” He tells us to live as the wise. In 1 Corinthians Paul tells us that Christ crucified is the wisdom of God. To live in a wise manner is to live with the Lord in mind, to look at everything under the shadow of the cross. When we look at everything under the shadow of the cross, we have to conscientiously decide whether the paths we are taking will lead us closer to Christ or farther from him. We dare not make our decisions in life solely on how much money we will make or what will make us happy. The decisions need to be made with the Lord in mind.
Paul says further in our text: “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Literally Paul tells us here to not be senseless, but bring together in our minds what the will of the Lord is. What is God’s will? Paul tells Timothy that God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. God always has our salvation in mind. He wants people to believe in Jesus and be saved. Thus Paul here is saying, “Don’t let the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations be just a concept in your mind, make it your game plan for life.” Figure out in your mind how you are going to keep Christ in your life and bring him to the people in your life. Plan your budget, time and life not around what kind of house or car you can buy, how much money you can make, but how you can keep the Lord in your life and fulfill the will of the Lord in your life.
Paul gives us the reason why it’s so necessary to keep our focus on Christ. He tells us it’s necessary because, “the days are evil.” The specific evils that Paul mentioned earlier in chapter five, which were prevalent in his day, were sexual immorality, greed, obscenity, foolish talk and coarse joking. These were what the people of Paul’s day were revolving their lives around. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The word for evil in the Greek is “ponerai”, which has in lexicons the initial meaning of “full of labors, annoyances, and hardships”. To me this seems to be describing things that we feel we have to do, but we don’t really want to. Doesn’t that really describe our world to a “T”? We live in a “busy” world. We find ourselves in situations at work or at home that we don’t really want, but nonetheless we have to face. It might be overtime or stressful situations at work. It might be homework from school. It might be bad health. These are not things that you enjoy, but because of sin in the world they are there. So from sun up to sun down, we find ourselves tirelessly running around at work, at home, at sporting events, at the doctors and specialists, until the point of exhaustion. Before we know it, we have no focus in life. We’re just running everywhere at once. With these many “responsibilities” it’s easy to forget about our overall purpose in life which is to look at everything under the shadow of the cross—to be wise in God’s eyes, to do the Lord’s will and work.
Thank God that Jesus looked at everything under the shadow of the cross. After he was baptized Jesus spent countless hours preaching to people, healing, and proclaiming the kingdom of God. He also spent many hours in prayer to his Father as well. Even when he sat down to eat with people, he was always teaching, never wasting one moment. He was so exhausted that he was even able to sleep through a raging storm in which the disciples were sure they would drown. When the devil tempted him to skip the cross and go straight to the glory, he stuck to the plan. When Peter told him he should never go to the cross, Jesus told him “Get behind me, Satan!” He would not stop preaching, would not stop teaching, would not stop walking until he reached the cross and died for the sins of the world. That was what he was chosen for. That’s what he was born for. That’s what he lived for—to die. The most important point for us in this is that Jesus was fulfilling the Father’s will in this. He was saving the world. Now God promises us that the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin, including how so often we haven’t made the most of every opportunity, of how so often our focus has been on ourselves and not the cross of Jesus. Those sins of ours demand God’s punishment—but he punished his own Son instead of us. By his death on the cross, Jesus took our sins away. Whether you’re completely or slightly focused on the cross, you still have salvation because it’s by grace.
In light of this gracious gift, Paul tells us to make the most of every opportunity. One of the Easter stories that I have always appreciated is the story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. As the two disciples trudged along in their sadness and in their confusion, they met Jesus who disguised himself as a stranger. When they told him the story of Jesus’ death, the stranger started to show them from the Holy Scriptures how all this had to happen, and how Jesus had to rise from the grave. They became so excited! They had thought after Jesus’ death that all Jesus had said was for nothing. Suddenly their faith was restored. They invited the stranger to eat with them and spend the night. At the meal, when he broke bread, they saw it was Jesus. But it was the Word of God that first opened their eyes. It was the Word of God which made them wise, which put them back to living under the shadow of the cross, to making the most of every opportunity.
And through that Word God keeps us wise for salvation. We never short-change ourselves when we gather to hear God’s Word. We never short-change ourselves when we come together to study God’s Word in Bible Class. And we never short-change ourselves when we read God’s Word on our own. Never is our time spent with God’s Word and worship a waste of time because through that Word God works to keep us in the saving faith, to keep us focused on the cross and to keep us prepared for heaven.
One day, our time on earth will come to an end and we will be asked to give an account of how we invested the gift of time that was given to us. We will not be asked how well we did in saving time. We will be asked how well we did in redeeming time, in making the most of the opportunities that God sent our way. The apostle Paul said: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” With the Lord’s forgiveness and by staying in Word and worship we can say the same. Amen.