Make Your Time Count!

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Various Scriptures

INTRODUCTION: Today is the last day in our message series on “Lord, Make My Life Count!” We have looked at a variety of topics over the last six weeks including: Make Your Work Count, Make Your Rest Count, Make Your Faith Count, Make Your Prayers Count, and Make Your Money Count. And today we come to Make Your Time Count. So work, rest, faith, prayers, money and time. Follow the Biblical principles we have looked at in each of these areas, and you will indeed make your life count for now and for eternity. If you missed any Sundays, you can listen to previous messages on the church website. You can also find the full text manuscripts to all the messages on my personal website. I have included the link to the whole series at the bottom of your sermon outline. But right now, let us look at making your time count. (Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11)

Time is an interesting concept. Before God created the heavens and the earth there was no time. God is eternal, and therefore he is outside of time. And yet God entered time when Jesus Christ took on human flesh and was born into our world as a baby.

We like to think that we are masters of time. We even have atomic clocks these days to measure time out precisely to the nano-second. But we don’t really understand time. There are times when time seems to go rushing by, and other times when the clock seems to stand still. There are times when we are very much aware of time, such as when we are working on a project with a deadline, racing the clock, fighting against time. And then there are those wonderful times when we let go of our watches and clocks and enjoy a day of leisure and rest and hardly notice the time passing at all.

Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for time is the stuff life is made of.” And so today I want us to look at three Biblical principles that will help you with this thing called time, and help you to make your time count. When you make your time count, you make your life count, because time is the stuff life is made of.

I. Your days are numbered, so number your days (Psalm 90:12)

Our first principle this morning is this: Your days are numbered, so number your days. Psalm 90:12 says: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) Your days are numbered, so number your days. And what we mean by this principle is that time is limited. There are only so many hours in the day, and there are only so many days in your life. Time is a limited resource, and so as with all limited resources, you need to treat it with care if you are going to make your time count.

   A. There only so many hours in the day (Genesis 1:5)

First of all there are only so many hours in the day. Last time I checked there were twenty-four. That is by God’s design. When God created the world, he created the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars. He created the earth to spin as it revolves around the sun, and very early on we learned to trace the movements of the sun across the sky to measure time throughout the day. And so we have twenty-four hours each day to work, sleep, rest, and play, to worship and pray, to take care of business, to enjoy family and friends, and to pursue our personal projects.

What is fascinating to consider is that each of us gets the same amount of time each day. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are. It doesn’t matter what continent you live on or whether you live in the city or the country. Each person on planet earth gets the exact same amount of time each day. It’s what we do with our time that differs. And isn’t it amazing that two different people can make such different use of the same amount of time.

Ben Franklin said, “Lost time is never found again.” And it’s true. The earth spins round, and when the day is done, the day is gone. You never get it back. There are only so many hours in the day.

   B. There are only so many days in your life (Psalm 39:4, 139:16)

There are only so many hours in the day, and there are only so many days in your life. Psalm 139:16 says: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) Each of us only gets a certain amount of time on this earth, and that time is ordained by God. Some people live long, healthy lives, while others’ lives are cut short. If God gives you 70 years, that is about 26,000 days. That may seem like a lot, but compared to eternity it is but a breath.

And so the Bible teaches you to view your life as brief and quickly passing. Your days are numbered, so number your days. David writes in Psalm 39:4: “Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.” (Psalm 39:4) Or as we read earlier in Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

I read recently about a new device scientists are working on called the “death test” watch. It is a watch-like contraption you wear on your wrist that measures the vitality of the cells inside your capillaries and basically tells you how much longer you have to live. Now they’re really going to have to work on their marketing for this. “What do you want for Christmas? Hey, I’d like a death-test watch!” Here’s the closing line from the article: “The hope is that people would use the watch to better their health and improve their lives, but there’s also concern that the device may lead to depression. Yeah, no kidding! .” (http://foxnewsinsider.com/2013/08/15/scientists-invent-%E2%80%98death-test%E2%80%99-device-tells-you-when-you%E2%80%99ll-die)

I don’t think God wants you to be morbidly walking around with a death-test watch on your wrist. God gets the final say on how long you live anyways. But he does want you to number your days aright, that you may gain a heart of wisdom. Knowing that your time on earth is limited will help you to make wise decisions concerning the time you have left. As coach Vince Lombardi once said, “I never lost a game; I just ran out of time.”

And so the first step in making your time count, ironically enough, is counting your time. Your days are numbered. So number your days. Number your days aright, that you may gain a heart of wisdom.

II. There is a time for everything, so manage your time well (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Matthew 6:33)

The second principle I want us to look at this morning is this: There is a time for everything, so manage your time well. We read from Ecclesiastes 3 earlier which says: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4) And so on. It is beautiful poetry, and a beautiful reminder that there is a right time and a right season for everything. We just need the wisdom to match the right activities with the right times.

   A. Seek God’s kingdom first (Matthew 6:33)

There is a time for everything, and so you need to manage your time well. This begins with prayer and the word of God, and making sure your priorities line up with God’s priorities. Some people spend their whole life climbing the ladder and then they get to the top only to discover it was leaning against the wrong wall. You need to make God’s priorities your priorities. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

You need to make sure the tasks on your calendar line up with God’s overall purpose for your life. Are you loving God and serving others? Are you working hard to provide for your family? Are you getting adequate rest and exercise? Do you make personal time each day for the word of God and prayer? Do you worship regularly with your church family on a weekly basis?

   B. Find God’s balance in your time (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

We also need to be careful that we do not import our cultural values of time onto this whole idea of managing our time. Here in the United States we tend to view time management mainly in terms of productivity. How can I squeeze the most out of each hour? And there are times when productivity is the right goal for the task before us. But other cultures remind us that there are other values attached to time. For many cultures the most important value of time is relational – time spent with other people. This changes the way they look at time.

I remember back in seminary I was given the assignment to visit a number of city churches of various ethnic backgrounds. So Rosi and I went to visit a church in Boston that came from an island background. The sign said the service started at 10:00 a.m., so like good Westerners we arrived a few minutes early and got our seats. The only problem is we were the only ones there! There was no one else around. So we sat there for about twenty minutes or so, and people were slowly gathering, talking with each other. Finally around 10:30 or so, I got up to ask someone what time the service began. Their answer was a classic: “Why, when the people get here of course!” Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Why would you start the service before the people got there? Sort of, like we do?

The point is this. Managing your time well is not just about productivity. It’s about balance. There is a time to work hard, and there is a time to rest; there is a time to focus on projects, and there is a time to focus on people. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Time is a gift from God. And God has given you sufficient time to accomplish everything he has called you to do in your life. That’s our second principle this morning: There is a time for everything, so manage your time well.

III. The days are evil, so be careful how you live (Ephesians 5:15-17)

And then our third biblical principle is this: The days are evil, so be careful how you live. Look at Ephesians 5:15-17 with me: “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

The days are evil. That simply means that we live in a sinful world where sinful choices are made each day, and each of those choices defile God’s good gift of time. And because the days are evil, God urges you to be careful how you live. There are three things I want us to see from these verses in Ephesians.

   A. Live as wise, not as unwise (Romans 13:11-14)

First of all, live as wise, not as unwise. That includes numbering your days aright and managing your time well. But it also means avoiding sinful and harmful decisions. It is one thing to misuse the time God has given you. It is another thing to abuse God’s gift of time. These are evil days, and temptations abound. The enemy comes to steal and to kill and to destroy, and you need to watch out. You need to be careful.

That is why Paul writes in Romans 13: “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:11-14)

These commands for right living are all given within the context of the time God has given us, and the time we have remaining. The days are evil, so be careful how you live. Live as wise, not as unwise.

   B. Make the most of every opportunity (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Secondly, make the most of every opportunity. Ephesians 5:16 says: “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) Once again, if time is a limited resource, then you want to make the most of every moment. The word translated “make the most of” here is an economical term which means “to purchase or redeem.” That’s why some Bible versions translate this verse “redeem the time.” Carl Sandburg said, “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” So how do you redeem the time? How do you make sure you are spending the coin of your life wisely?

First of all, be sure to spend time with family and friends. Parents, spend time with your children. You always hear people say those years go by so fast. There’s a reason why they say that. It’s because it’s true! And your children need you in their lives. Dr. Anthony Witham said “children spell love…T-I-M-E.” There is no better way to communicate your love to your child than to spend time with him or her.

Secondly, learn to live in the present. Don’t waste time worrying about the future or regretting the past. You only have each moment as it comes, so make the most of each one. When you worry about the future or regret the past, you are wasting the present. There’s an old Family Circle comic strip which says: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” (Bil Keane, Family Circle, 8/31/1994) Receive every moment, every minute as a gift from God, and you will learn to live in the present.

Thirdly, enjoy the good things God has given you on this planet while you can. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

There’s an old obscure song I like called “Go Ask the Dead Man.” Let me share some of the lyrics with you:

What’s the worth of one warm smile?
Go and ask the dead man
How bright the light in loved ones’ eyes?
Go ask the dead man
Where’s the charm in cloudy skies?
Go and ask the dead man
Oh — go ask the dead man

Who has eyes for an evening sun?
Go and ask the dead man
The smell of earth, the sound of storms?
Go ask the dead man
How intense is the lightest touch?
Go and ask the dead man
Oh — go ask the dead man (Mark Heard; 1987)

Now for the Christian there is life beyond the grave, but the point here is your time on earth is limited. You only have so much time for the things God has called you to do here. So make the most of every opportunity.

   C. Understand the Lord’s will (Proverbs 16:9; James 4:13-15)

How do you live carefully in these evil times? Live as wise, not as unwise. Make the most of every opportunity. And finally, understand the Lord’s will. Ephesians 5:17 says: “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:17)

If you really want to make your time count, then seek God’s will on a daily basis. Most of God’s will is clearly laid out for you in the Scriptures. God will never lead you to do anything that is contrary to his revealed will in the Word. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

James 4 talks about the person who says: “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” And then James responds, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15) Living carefully in evil times means you yield every action, every decision to the Lord’s will.

And always leave room for God to change your plans. Proverbs 16:9 says: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) God can overrule at any time, so let him. He knows better than you how best to apportion your time. Don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

CONCLUSION: Our time for this message and series is coming to an end, so how do you make your time count? Follow these three biblical principles.

Principle #1: Your days are numbered, so number your days.
Principle #2: There is a time for everything, so manage your time well.
Principle #3: The days are evil, so be careful how you live.

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Time is a precious gift from God. Don’t waste the time you’ve been given. Make your time count, both for now and eternity.

© Ray Fowler

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Click here for more messages from the Lord, Make My Life Count! series.
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