Summary: The main ingredient for redeeming the time (or as Paul said, being wise, not fools) is wisdom. This sermon is a challenge and encouragment to receive wisdom from God.


sermon ministry of


Thomasville, NC

January 4, 2004

September 10th, 1945 finds a strapping (but tender) five and a half month old Wyandotte rooster pecking through the dust of Fruita, Colorado. The unsuspecting bird had never looked so delicious as he did that, now famous, day. Clara Olsen was planning on featuring the plump chicken in the evening meal. Husband Lloyd Olsen was sent out, on a very routine mission, to prepare the designated fryer for the pan.

Nothing about this task turned out to be routine. Lloyd knew his Mother-in-Law would be dining with them and would savor the neck. He positioned his ax precisely, estimating just the right tolerances, to leave a generous neck bone. "It was as important to Suck-Up to your Mother in Law in the 40’s as it is today." A skillful blow was executed and the chicken staggered around like most freshly terminated poultry.

When Olsen found Mike the next morning, sleeping with his "head" under his wing, he decided that if Mike had that much will to live, he would figure out a way to feed and water him. With an eyedropper Mike was given grain and water. It was becoming obvious that Mike was special. A week into Mike’s new life Olsen packed him up and took him 250 miles to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The skeptical scientists were eager to answer all the questions regarding Mike’s amazing ability to survive with no head. It was determined that ax blade had missed the jugular vein and a clot had prevented Mike from bleeding to death.

Although most of his head was in a jar, most of his brain stem and one ear was [sic] left on

his body. Since most of a chicken’s reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem Mike was able to remain quite healthy.

In the 18 MONTHS that Mike lived as "The Headless Wonder Chicken" he grew from a mere 2 1/2 lbs. to nearly 8 lbs. In a Gayle Meyer interview Olsen said Mike was a "robust chicken - a fine specimen of a chicken except for not having a head." Some longtime Fruita residents, gathered at the Monument Cafe for coffee, also remember Mike - "he was a big fat chicken who didn’t know he didn’t have a head" - "he seemed as happy as any other chicken."

Mike’s excellent state of health made it difficult for animal-rights activists to garner much of a following. Even now the town of Fruita celebrates Mike’s impressive will to live, not the nature of his handicap. Miracle Mike took on a manager, and with the Olsens in tow, set out on a national tour. Curious sideshow patrons in New York, Atlantic City, Los Angeles, and San Diego lined up to pay 25 cents to see Mike.

The "Wonder Chicken" was valued at $10,000.00 and insured for the same. His fame and fortune would earn him recognition in Life and Time Magazines. It goes without saying there was a Guinness World Record in all this.

While returning from one of these road trips the Olsens stopped at a motel in the Arizona desert. In the middle of the night Mike began to choke. Unable to find the eyedropper used to clear Mike’s open esophagus Miracle Mike passed on. Now Mike’s spirit is celebrated the third weekend in May (May 14th & 15th 2004) in Fruita, Colorado. Don’t miss it! [1]

The story of Mike the Headless Chicken is humorous; it is also an annoying reminder that many of us go through life like Mike. There is a bit of a brain stem allowing us to function and run "to and fro" but there is little purpose, little direction from the true head of our lives.

Our text this morning tells us to live carefully, or wisely. This requires redeeming the time, or making the most of opportunities; something which a chicken without a head cannot accomplish! Mike made the most of his situation in just surviving; however that does not describe the life in Christ.

Have you ever heard the old folk saying, "Don’t try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig?" [2] The chief ingredient in redeeming the time is not something related to a good work ethic, although that is not bad. The main requirement for making the best use of our opportunities is wisdom.

Consider the Difference Between Foolishness and Wisdom

No one likes to be called a "fool". However, anything less than wisdom is foolishness. In Ephesians it is "unwise", asophos in Greek, "a" as in opposition, and "sophos," the word for wisdom. Fools are against wisdom. Wisdom is not intellect. Intellect can accumulate knowledge like a computer. Wisdom doesn’t come from knowledge. Wisdom has its basis in a lot higher source:

10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,

and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

Foolishness brings regret in at least three ways:

A. Foolishness brings wasted opportunities because of over-commitment.

Today people assume that because there are three minutes unoccupied on their Day-Timer page that it is O.K. to write-in another commitment. It isn’t!

B. Foolishness brings failed opportunities because of under-preparedness.

I made a resolution in front of you all last week to share Jesus with people every time I have any kind of opportunity in front of me. I want you to know that I was unprepared and blew the resolution that very afternoon. Some lady phoned our house and asked if Loretta was there. Well, I don’t know any Loretta, so I simply muttered, "You must have the wrong number." As I hung the phone on its cradle I immediately regretted my words. I was not prepared and failed in an opportunity.

C. Foolishness brings missed opportunities because of distraction.

We are distracted with all sorts of things that get in the way of redeeming the time wisely. Sometimes it is everyday stuff like preoccupation with our job or hobbies.

Sometimes it is really big stuff like pornography or illegal activities. Often it is simply a lack of commitment to living wisely. The first time I ever went fishing, Dad, my brother Thom and our cousin Rick all piled in my uncle Marlen’s boat. When we got to deep water the hooks hit the water. Uncle Marlen had to bait my hook (even at 10 I hated handling bait!). While he baited the hook he explained what to do when the fish took the bait. When that monster took the bait I wasn’t ready; I listened like most 10 year-olds. I was distracted with how deep the water was, and how fast that boat would sink if I knocked the side panel out with my foot. When the opportunity struck my line, all I could do is yell for Uncle Marlen…I got one…what do I do?

Sometimes the stuff of our life clouds our ability to act with wisdom to redeem the time. Materialism steals rather than blesses.

Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote:

This I do, being mad;

Gather baubles about me,

Sit in a circle of toys, and all the time

Death beating the door in.

Doesn’t that describe us well? We play idly with our toys, oblivious to the passing of time, ignoring the fact that death is beating in the door! [3]

Foolishness brings regret, wisdom brings reward.

Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.

Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Proverbs 4:7 (NIV)

This is how our text urges us to live, wise people. From what avenue does wisdom come?

A. Wisdom is developed by experience. These are the opportunities that come through the years:

I thought, ’Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ Job 32:7 (NIV)

Do you remember the game show, "Twenty-one" and the scandal that followed? "Twenty-One" was a television quiz show, in which last week’s winner was invited back to be challenged by a new contestant, and stayed week after week until he or she lost. The questions were supposedly locked in a Manhattan bank vault, so no one could cheat and get the questions.

Unfortunately, it was learned that the game was fixed, week after week. The producers of the show provided the answers to contestants they wanted to win, and in at least one instance, directed the current week’s champion to purposely answer wrongly, so a new champion could start. At the center of the scandal was a man named Charles Van Doren, an instructor at prestigious Columbia University. He went on to win over $100,000 on the show before he exited.

After the scandal broke, Mr. Van Doren at first denied his involvement, and then finally told the truth to a congressional sub-committee. Mr. Van Doren was extremely smart, but was not wise in this instance. [4]

Experience can be a tough teacher if we blindly plow our way through without applying wisdom. There was a novice sailor who signed on up north, to be part of a tugboat crew in Chesapeake Bay. That bay has lots of shoals and sandbars that can ground a ship or a canoe. The novice asked the veteran skipper how he learned how to avoid all the danger spots in the bay. The skipper said, "That’s easy, I’ve hit ’em all."[5]

We can be like that, simply getting our wisdom from experiences, knocking our heads against the wall until some sense finally gets through. Some of that is unavoidable in life. However there is a better way. Wisdom can be developed by experience, but:

B. Wisdom is deepened by relationship.

Note again:

10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,

and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

I know a lot of people who are smart by experience. They have learned to operate a business, bake a pie or fix a car; they made a lot of mistakes to earn that knowledge. But true wisdom for life comes when you commitment your life to the Lord.

Some make the mistake of thinking you can gain the insight you need from:

" Studying the Bible and just putting its principles into action.

" Some imagine you can depend on others to spoon-feed wisdom by going to church, listening to mountains of sermons and Bible Studies.

" There are folks who travel all over the place to hear this preacher or that one.

Friends, if you hang around the church or the revival circuit, or get your name on this TV preacher’s mailing list or that university’s diploma, you will have what you sought, but it won’t be wisdom. The beginning of wisdom is found only in commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. From there it is deepened by relationship with Him. In short, a daily, intense personal relationship with Jesus Christ is how you can become a wise person, redeeming the time.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can "incorporate" Jesus into your life as that "religious" part of you that goes to church a few times a week. Beloved, that’s religion, and that kind of commitment (or lack of commitment) will get you on six committees and the choir; it will get you sleepless nights of guilt and wondering how you can get out of the twenty things you promised to do this year - but it won’t get you an ounce of genuine wisdom, or peace…only a genuine, consistent, daily friendship with Jesus Christ will make you truly wise and bring peace into your life.

If you want to be wise, so you can redeem the time, there is absolutely no substitute for spending time with God. Billy Graham is a very wise man. He reads a chapter of Proverbs every day (among other passages). If you want to be wise, there is no substitute for committing your life to the will of God.

In our Ephesians text, understand His will means the same as bend your will to His will; bind your will to His will! C.S. Lewis once wrote: "The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important."[6] If you want to find your real life, give your life away to Him today!

Now, that is the beginning of wisdom…a commitment of reverence to the will of God for your life. All the rest of life is a matter of course correction, seeing where we have lost our wisdom, or strayed off the wise course and then getting back on the right track.

A Few Starting Points for Seeking to Redeem the Time

A. Prioritize Time

Overcoming the tendency to waste our opportunities is a matter of concentrating on the important stuff, and leaving the other for Providence. An old saying I treasure is, don’t let the good become the enemy of the best. Many of us waste opportunities to be wise and redeem the time because we treat everything as if it were important, especially that which makes the most noise. We do good things, but fail to do the best.

One preacher said has developed a way to get some help with prioritizing his time. He said, "I have asked three close friends to monitor me and tell me when I am allowing busyness to crowd out fellowship with God."[7] The starting point is to put the eternal things on the top of your priority list:

" Worship

" Time in the Word

" Prayer

" Sharing our faith

" Time for family and friendships

" Limits for work

B. Embrace Opportunities

I cannot list for you all the opportunities that may come your way under the heading of "accept" or "decline". To embrace an opportunity means that you see everything that comes your way from God’s perspective. One of the reasons you must spend time with God in prayer, Bible study and service is so that you will begin to think like He does. I can tell you what Elizabeth thinks about a lot of stuff because we are best friends. Over the years I’ve come to know her favorite this or that, or how she thinks about this or that.

Opportunities are just that - momentary tests as to how you will use your resources, time and energy. Embracing the opportunity means seeing it from God’s perspective and acting accordingly.

C. Be Content with God’s Calling to All Your Opportunities

In some way you are where you are today by God’s design. There have been times when you have walked astray and frustrated God’s perfect will; there have been times when you were cooperative and obedient. Whichever side of the scale on which you find yourself concerning your discipleship and service, choose now to be content with knowing God is working all things together for good.

Paul said he had learned to be content in all things (Php 4:11). It means Paul had learned to prioritize the passing from the eternal, and he had learned to embrace each new moment’s opportunities as gifts from God to be worked-through and made to serve the kingdom, and in all of it he was content to serve His Lord. That is a wise man who redeems the time!

A legend on an old sundial reads:

Look on the day-star moving

Life and time are worth improving;

Seize the moments while they stray,

Seize and use them

Lest ye lose them

And lament the wasted day.

Be wise this year, redeem the time!





[2] Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Brian La Croix, Making the Most of Every Opportunity,

[5] Brian Moon, One Life to Live,

[6] C. John "Jack" Miller, Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 4.

[7] Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).