Managing God's gift of Time

October 7, 2007 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan

Topic: Biblical Verse: Matthew 6:25–6:34

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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Stewardship Series - Part 1
Matthew 6:25-34

  "Managing God's Gift of Time"

As we begin a 3-part worship and preaching series on Christian stewardship today, our first focus is upon managing God's gift of time. I'd like to ask you to reflect for a few moments and ponder a few questions. So, sit back and take a deep breath as we begin:

How did you view time - its use and its passage - as a child?
How was time handled in your home as you were growing up?
When did time become a precious commodity for you?
Where in your life was time management a real problem?
How has your view of time and its use changed over the years?
We do view time differently at different stages in life - as a child, as an adolescent, as a young adult, during our working years, in retirement. "Time is money," many people say, and I think we'd have to agree that time is indeed a very precious commodity; perhaps more valuable than money. Today we consider time as a gift from God our Maker and Redeemer - the days and years of our life. How we use that time - how we manage God's gift of time - is a matter of stewardship. It becomes an offering of ourselves as we return to God what He has first given us. May the Lord's rich blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, for Jesus' sake.

The first lesson for today (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11) speaks about how there is a time and a season for every matter under heaven. Actually, the whole book of Ecclesiastes examines where true and lasting joy is to be found in life. Is it in work? Is it in pleasure? When all is said and done, the ways of God remain a mystery and our calling is to keep God's commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14), enjoying the gift of life from the Creator. Psalm 90, which we read responsively, speaks of how transitory and fleeting life is, and how timeless God is: "For a thousand ages in your sight are like yesterday when it is past and like a watch in the night... The span of our life is seventy years, perhaps in strength even eighty; yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow, for they pass away quickly and we are gone" (Psalm 90:4, 10). The prayer of the psalmist should be our own prayer as we seek to manage God's gift of time: "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). In the second lesson (2 Timothy 2:1-14), Paul the apostle contemplates the end of his earthly life as he writes to the young Pastor Timothy. Paul writes words of personal encouragement to Timothy, whom he regarded as his own son. Paul loved Timothy with all his heart as we read in today's lesson: "... I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy" (2 Timothy 1:4). In managing God's gift of time, as we reach the end of our own lives the importance of relationships - vertically with God and horizontally with one another - become so very important. No one on their deathbed wishes they spent more time at work! What people do regret is that they did not spend more time with the people they love - the people God has placed in their lives. There is a call here to manage God's gift of time in our relationships with others. And what is it that our loved ones really want from us except our time - to be fully present in the moment? There is no substitute for this.

The sad truth is that we often rob ourselves of present joy by regret and guilt over the past and what was, as well as anxiety and fear over the future and what will (or may) be. And so, we have nothing left to give for the present and what is. How many sleepless nights have we experienced because of this very thing? Jesus speaks to us about this in the Gospel lesson, calling us to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). When our mind is set on ourselves, our time, our agenda, our plans, our calendar, is there any room for the Lord? All of us lead lives that are entirely too busy. There is this frenetic running to and fro that characterizes contemporary life, and it is killing us. We feel squeezed in by so many demands upon our time that we have become human doings rather than human beings. Jesus tells us: "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34).

The One who is beyond time calls us to something different. In our hurrying and scurrying, we are called to "be still and know that the Lord is God" (Psalm 46:10). Can we do that? Can we be still, putting down our cell phones and laptops, Ipods and palm pilots, Blackberries and all the other so-called necessities of modern life so that God may speak to us? When it comes to managing God's gift of time, we are confronted with the truth of how God entered into our sphere of time to break the power of sin. Scripture tells us: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children" (Galatians 4:4-5). God sent his Son at the right time to redeem us and our use of time, no longer seeing the days and years of our life through our eyes, but through the eyes of him who suffered and died for us: Jesus, whose very name means "Savior." This good news of the Gospel transforms us from the inside-out - transforms our attitudes about the world, the decisions we make, and our use of time, opening us up to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

In the overly busy world that we live in, perhaps one of the most courageous things we can do is to say "no," and so begin to reclaim God's gift of time for our lives. May God help us all to manage well his gift of time, for Jesus' sake. Amen.