11th Sunday After Pentecost August 12, 2012
358, 433, 417(1-5), 417(6-7)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I don’t know about you, but I found myself wondering the other day where this summer had gone. I am sure there must have been fewer hours in every day this year because I can’t think of any other reason that the time could have passed so quickly! It seemed like every time I turned around another week had gone by on the calendar. Watching the passage of time like this can be frustrating because we can feel like we are being constantly “swallowed up” by it’s continual marching onward. We have so many things we want to accomplish, but the time gets away from us. Watching the passage of time like this can also remind us that our days here on earth are limited. Time is a precious commodity that runs out.
Therefore, the way we use our time is important. We have all been told by parents, teachers, or bosses to “use our time wisely,” and here the Apostle Paul writes the same thing to the Christians at the city of Ephesus. He says “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” [v.15-16 NIV] “Making the most of every opportunity” is the phrase that means “use your time wisely.” It goes back to the days of the merchant traders who would have to buy and sell their goods at the proper time. If they did not conduct their business before the season was over, they would lose out. God urges us to use our time wisely—to conduct our business while we have opportunity before the day is spent.
How does a Christian use His time wisely? If you were to draw up a schedule for your entire life, what would it look like? The portion of Scripture before us today gives us some general principles to keep in mind as we seek to use our time to God’s glory. USE YOUR TIME WISELY! I. With an understanding of God’s will, II. With Spirit-filled words and music, and III. With a thankful heart
In reading the fifth chapter of the letter to the Ephesians, a person gets a pretty good idea what is not a wise use of our time. The apostle talks about the fruitless deeds of darkness (v.11) like sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking. When we participate in activities that satisfy the lusts of the flesh—the desires of our sinful natures—that is not a good use of our time. When we are tempted to evil and fall into that temptation, that is not a good use of our time. When we watch movies or read books or stare at computer screens that stir up sinful thoughts in our minds, that is not using our time wisely. When we become involved in fights and quarrels, when we speak foolish things or joke about things we should not joke about, then tick-tock goes the clock, and time is wasted.
We do not make the most of our opportunities as children of God when we get side-tracked and walk in the ways of darkness. If we are walking in the darkness when we could be walking in the light, then the Devil is stealing time from us that could be used for the strengthening of our faith, for the building up of others, for the witnessing of His saving Gospel to the heathen, and for better preparing us for the life to come.
“Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” [v.17] Guard yourself against sinful time-wasters by knowing what Lord expects of you. Then when temptation comes knocking you can say, “My Savior-God says that’s a waste of my time!”
To come to an understanding of the Lord’s will, we have a reliable guide, the Holy Scriptures. His Word reveals to us the activities that He does not consider a waste of time. Things like loving one another, helping one another, speaking well of your neighbor, remaining faithful to your marriage vows, cultivating good friendships with each other, forgiving one another. Beyond just His will for your daily living, He wants you to know His eternal will for you. He desires your very salvation. He wants you to trust Jesus and in His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins so you can join Him in the mansions of Heaven. Understanding the Lord’s will means knowing the Law and the Gospel—which is able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. When we know and trust God’s love for us in Christ then we can walk in that love.
So we use our time wisely when we spend it in developing a deeper understanding of His will through His Word. Our time spent in church, in Bible Class, in Sunday School, in personal devotion—this is all time spent wisely. We use our time wisely when we put His will into action in our lives, caring for one another, spreading the good news of salvation, and anything else that gives glory to God.. Ask yourself, “What can I do today to glorify my Savior Jesus Christ?” Make the most of every opportunity!
In order to understand the Lord’s will and use our time wisely in carrying out that will, we must have a clear head at all times—able to think and reason and evaluate what we see and hear. This leads Paul to point out a common trouble among the citizens of ancient Greece as well as the citizens of our time. He reminds them “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.” [v.18 NIV]
Many treat drunkenness today with an almost careless attitude—as if it is just part of “celebrating.” Some think that a party is not a party unless you can get drunk. I remember being at a restaurant one time and overhearing the loud conversation at a nearby table. It was a group of college students who, for the better part of an hour, apparently could not come up with anything else to talk about than reciting every instance of their drunkenness over the course of the last year. “Are you sad? Let’s go get drunk. Are you happy? Let’s go get drunk.” Such is the world’s attitude. “Just get a designated driver,” they say. That’s all well and good, but you shouldn’t need one in the first place.
Can the person in a state of drunkenness use his time wisely as God desires? What do you think? If he is not sober is he in any condition to “make the most of every opportunity”? On the contrary, he is far more likely to wind up indulging in sexual immorality, foolish talk, and the like, to say nothing of his inability in such a state to witness Christ, to set a godly example, to show love to his neighbor, or to pay attention when the Word of the Lord is placed before him. The drunk in his unclear mind is not able to use his time in a way pleasing to the Lord.
Instead of filling your body with drink, fill your soul with the spiritual water of life. Be filled with the Spirit and “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” [v.19]
Here is a wise way to use our time—our faith in Christ overflowing for the benefit of others. The Bible speaks here of an outpouring of music from the Christian heart in praise of our God. Psalms which formed the centerpiece of the Old Testament Scriptures, hymns in public worship which in spiritual words convey divine truths, spiritual songs that we share at the bedsides of our children—it is all music that comes from the heart. These come from the heart that believes it is forgiven of all guilt through the Savior’s work on the cross. This spiritual music can flow from the mouths of sober Christians, and with words like these we can strengthen one another in the faith until the day of our Lord’s appearing.
We can tell, easily enough, by only a brief examination of ourselves that we have not taken full advantage of our time on this earth. We have not lived every moment to the glory of God, and in light of this, we recognize more and more that we need our Savior Jesus Christ.
He used His time wisely, didn’t He? When He was only twelve years old He was in the temple at Jerusalem asking questions of the teachers, growing in knowledge and understanding. When He began His ministry at the age of 30, He spent three years busily preaching and teaching. But He is not just an example for us, Jesus was using His time to redeem us. Jesus used His time to prepare Himself and those around Him for Good Friday when He would offer His own life to the Father in Heaven as a sacrifice for the failures of the world. Christ spent His time doing His Father’s business—taking Himself toward Jerusalem where He was ridiculed and put to death, crucified in our place upon the altar of God’s justice. He used His time wisely when He was tempted, turning to the Scriptures for strength, knowing that it was God’s will that He should lead a perfect life in our place. He used His time wisely for us when He kept a clear head in every situation, always sober, always able to answer and to witness to those around Him, never taking His eye off the goal that He had been sent to reach. His wisdom means your freedom, your forgiveness.
O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good! Our God is wisdom itself. Our God who used His time to send His only Son to be our Savior—that we might live “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [v.20] This is giving thanks in times of sorrow and in times of joy, giving thanks for blessings both small and great. That too is a wise use of our time—to praise our God—to thank Him and tell of the great things He has done for us, to tell of how He spent His time to rescue us from eternal death.
But Thou hast raised me up
To joy and exultation
And clearly shown the way
That leads me to salvation.
My sins are washed away,
For this I thank Thee, Lord;
And with my heart and soul
All dead works are abhorred. [TLH 417:4]
Our time is used wisely whenever it is used in His service—whether we are at work, at rest, on vacation, at home, or away. We use our time wisely whether it is in leading another soul to Christ or in showing simple loving-kindness to others. Lead us, O Lord, to make the most of every opportunity for you. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.