Summary: Time is a precious gift from God and God invites us to use this gift wisely and with thanksgiving
Ephesians 5:15-20 “The Gift of Time”
Somehow in modern, American society time has become our enemy. We fear its end and complain about its scarcity. Millions, perhaps billions, of dollars are spent on day planners, software, smart phones and time saving devices with the vain hope that time might be harnessed, controlled, and conquered. The results of our efforts have been that we have become enslaved to time. Our shackles are revealed in our hectic, stressed days and our chronic exhaustion. We are so used to our imprisonment to time that whenever we break free and have a few spare moments we feel guilty, wonder what we have forgotten, and hurry back to our prison of crowded calendars.
It is not surprising that the apostle Paul has a different perspective on time. Paul views time not as an enemy, but rather as a gift. Like everything else that we have in our lives, time is one of God’s good gifts to us. It is a gift that we can use or misuse. Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians, and those of use who read his letter later, to use our time wisely. He follows his exhortation with specific ways that Christians can live their lives using time wisely.
CENTERED IN GOD’S WILL
In verse 17 Paul writes, “So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” I think that Paul is telling his readers that the wise use of time involves living in the center of God’s will. The first step in discovering God’s will for us is to ask the question, “Lord, what would you have me to do?”
I have heard stories of Christians who take this idea to the extreme and ask God what color shirt they should wear for the day and if they should wear boat shoes or flip flops. This is perhaps one step better than those Christians who expect God to drop everything and provide them with the closest parking space to the Wal-Mart entrance. Paul does not seem to push such extremes. He does, however, want his readers to know that their purpose in life, now, is to do God’s will. Because of this, it is important to discern God’s will in the significant decisions of our lives.
There is a certain comfort and excitement in sensing that we are in God’s will. With a secure job and commitments that persuade us not to move, we live with the assurance that God has placed us in the time and place where God wants us. Job loss and/or economic downturns may be opportunities for God to guide us into in to new areas of service that are beyond our imagination. Either way, we are comforted that God’s hand is upon us. Excitement is a part of our lives because everyday holds the promise of serving God and the hope that he will move through us in significant ways.
Living wisely and handling time as a gift rather than an enemy in the center of God’s will, our days can be filled with opportunities rather than distractions. We have the opportunity to shine brightly as witnesses to God’s love and grace. On the evening new recently, I heard of a McDonald’s employee who goal is to treat each customer as a special person, smile at them and try to get them to smile. People go out of their way to drive to that McDonalds and see her smile. Another story involves a young man with a mild case of Down’s syndrome. He works at a supermarket. Taking to heart a pep talk he heard to make every one feel special, he began to greet his customers and smile at them as he bagged their groceries. He’d also slip in to one of their grocery bags a piece of paper with a positive thought for the day. Eventually people would stand in line at the checkout where he was located in order to be greeted by him and to receive his thought for the day.
When we celebrate the gift of time, even the drudgery of work can be an opportunity to shine for Jesus.
FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
Next Paul encourages his readers “Not to get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.” Most of us would agree that getting drunk is not the best use of our time. Few of us, though, would ever compare a religious/spiritual experience with drunkenness.
Being full of the Spirit suggests that the Holy Spirit fills up every inch of our being and controls us. In Spanish and also Norwegian, one way to say that a person is drunk is to say that he or she is “full.” The person has filled up on alcohol and the alcohol has taken control of him or her. In Old Testament Times, when the Holy Spirit would come upon the prophets they would appear to be out of control. Peter assured the people to whom he was preaching on the day of Pentecost that the disciples were not drunk because it was only 9:00 in the morning. Perhaps today we would say that a person was “high on Jesus.” Though we might be uncomfortable with the comparison, the fact that Christians can be overwhelmed by the love, power and presence of God in their lives is true. It is not something to be sought, but another gift to be received if offered.