Redeeming the Time ...

Suddenly, we Americans, in an unprecedented fashion, have been given an unexpected treasure that we have often complained we rarely have enough of—free time.


How often have we complained that we simply don’t have enough time? 


How often do we excuse ourselves from things we would otherwise like to do because of a lack of time?


Yes, due to the Covid-19’s crisis, most of us now have an unexpected, but very valuable gift—free time!


And not only that!  For those of us whose jobs have been suspended, or even completely ended, it now looks like the government is going to pay for it! 


Wow, what a deal!


But the greatest gift may be that rare commodity of free time.


And for us believers, the greatest test may be what we choose to do with it.


Last week I called an old fishing buddy in the Midwest. 


He’s single, a huge sports fan, and has gone to the same mainline church for literally all of his 70+ years.  I’ve known him now for 50 years, prayed for him off and on and have especially prayed that something lacking in his spiritual life would become central.  What’s been lacking in all of his 70-year commitment to his local church has been a personal involvement with God’s Word!


Eventually our conversation moved to his comment that he hardly knew what ESPN or he himself was  going to do now that the event that defined his favorite time of the year—March Madness (the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament)—had been cancelled. 


Suddenly, it dawned on me, that my moment of opportunity had come.  “Dave,” for once in his life, would have no sports to watch on TV, and, if he followed the federal guidelines, would still be largely confined to his home.


So I seized the moment! 


“Dave, have you ever read the Bible all the way through?”  I confess I was a bit disappointed when he answered that he had.  But I was not about to be deterred.  “Why don’t you begin seriously reading the Bible?”


I was pleasantly surprised when he actually warmed to the idea!  He himself began to muse over his family’s history—how even though his father and mother had been devoted to church, they, as a family, and he, as an individual, had never spent time studying or reading the Bible.  This really was strange.  Here, the Bible had been the very foundation of their faith.  It also had been especially the inspiration for their church.  As Lutherans, their founder, Martin Luther, had broken with Catholicism because of his understanding of the Bible’s teachings.


Nevertheless, and very sadly, somehow the Bible itself had never been central to any of their lives.


I don’t know what Dave’s going to do with my suggestion, other than give it some thought.  I certainly have given it some prayer, on his behalf, and thought—also on my behalf.


Then I heard the next day another surprising statistic:  only 5% of Christians have ever read the Bible all the way through!


For every one of us the Bible is the very basis of our spiritual lives—the very reason we are confident of eternal life.  It’s how we know God, it’s how we know how to please God, it’s how we know how to be blessed by God.  Our distance from the Bible is often coincides with our distance from God.  And yet, like Dave, we are somehow unaware of how we often hold it at arm’s length. 


How do we become so distanced from God and His  Word? 


How many of us, when we can find nothing better to do, will simply turn on the TV for hours on end—for another large dose of the world’s wisdom rather than God’s? 


How many of us will be devoted to a newspaper, or a magazine—even a Christian one—in place of God’s Word?


How many of us spend no time in God’s Word and excuse ourselves because of the lack of what we suddenly now have—time!


My pointed exhortation to Dave actually hit an unintended target—me!!!


Yes, I’m a pastor.   It’s my job to be in the Word of God, and to teach it.  And yes, I am in it, but lately my devotional times have been, due to a shortage of that great resource called time— shorter than ever. 


So, I’ve decided that during this forced convalescence that it’s high time that even I begin redeeming the time.  That is, I’ve decided to make it a goal during these troubled times to make the most of my free time this month by reading through as much of the New Testament as I can—at least five chapters a day.


And guess what, I am learning some things.  I am seeing things I have never seen before. 


How about you?  What are you going to be doing with all this free time?  Will it be wasted on TV, more Covid-19 reports than you can possibly digest, March Madness reruns or just simply entertaining yourself into oblivion during this unusual pause in your life.   


Don’t you owe it to yourself, if not God, to read the Bible through for yourself at least once in your life?


It’s at this point that I’m reminded of the words of two wise men whose lives counted for eternity like few have in human history.


The first is Moses.  As he reviewed a prolonged lifetime of experiencing the living God, he prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).


Have you prayed that prayer for yourself? 


Then there’s the Apostle Paul, who wrote:  “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-17).