As we step into 2024, we can truly say that time really does fly. Where have all the months and years gone? When it comes to family memories, how quickly our children (and grandchildren, or even great grandchildren) grow up. To ask again, where have all the years gone?
I often find myself asking this same question on a personal level as I look back at past journal entries. Here, in particular, it can feel like time flies — and I mean flies, swiftly and unrelentingly. The clock stops for no one.
All the more then, as we move from our teen years into our 20s, then 30s, then 40s, then 50s, then 60s, then 70s, then 80s, then 90s (or beyond), let us “redeem the time” (or, “make the most of every opportunity”; Ephesians 5:16), seeing how little time we have and how much we want to do for God and His work. And whatever we do, may we not waste this extraordinary, sacred gift that we have been granted, the gift of life.
To be sure, rest is also a gift from God, enshrined in the Sabbath in Israel’s calendar. And part of life is living — meaning, life is to be enjoyed with family and with friends (1 Timothy 6:17). Not every minute of every day must be devoted to fulfilling some important task.
Still, given the brevity of life, the greatness of the needs, the evil of the hour, and the vastness of eternity, we do well to make our lives count, to live lives worthy of the Lord, and to run our races while we have breath.
As Paul wrote at the end of his own life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7) — and notice that he did not say, “I have enjoyed the ride and had a blast.” For Paul, serving God and walking in obedience to Him in this world was a fight and a race, a walk of faith.
In my 1990 book How Saved Are We?, I reflected on the lives of some of those who went before us, including William Carey (1761-1834), who began his career as an uneducated shoemaker in England. He ended his life in India as the father of modern missions, serving also as Professor of Oriental Languages at Fort William College in Calcutta. And he was almost entirely self-taught!
Who would have ever dreamed of such a thing? To Carey it was no surprise. This was his motto for life: “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” Yes — “All things are possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23). It was Carey who also once said, “My business is to witness for Christ. I make shoes just to pay my expenses.”
I also reflected on the life of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), early America’s premier philosopher and theologian. As a young man, he made seventy resolutions by which he patterned his life. Here are just a few of them: “Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can. … Resolved, To live with all my might while I do live. … Resolved, Never to do anything which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.” It was Jonathan Edwards who prayed, “Lord, stamp eternity on my eyes.” He lived every day in view of forever.
I also considered the life of the Methodist pioneer John Wesley (1703-1791), who laid out this Rule of Conduct:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
In Wesley’s 53 years of ministry (he died at the age of 99) he raised up and organized a radical army of lay preachers, travelled about 5,000 miles a year by horseback or carriage, preached over 50 thousand sermons, wrote 233 books and pamphlets (ranging from biblical commentaries to medical treatises), as well as read and reviewed everything of interest that was published in Europe. He pushed his 5’ 4”, 120 pound frame to the limit, and stored up for himself an eternal treasure that will never fade or perish.
In 1771, John Fletcher described Wesley as flying “with unwearied diligence through the three kingdoms, calling sinners to repentance and to the healing fountain of Jesus’ blood. Though oppressed with the weight of near seventy years, and the cares of nearly 30,000 souls, he shames still, by his unabated zeal and immense labors, all the young ministers in England, perhaps in Christendom. He has generously blown the gospel trumpet, and rode twenty miles, before most of the professors who despise his labours, have left their downy pillows. As he begins the day, the week, the year, so he concludes them, still intent upon extensive services for the glory of the Redeemer and the good of souls.”
And how did Wesley manage to do so much? He explained in 1777, “You do not at all understand my manner of life. Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry; because I never undertake any more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit.”
May we, too, learn the balance of living with urgency while resting in the Lord, of running our race with perseverance while being renewed by God’s grace. And whatever we do, may we not waste this extraordinary, sacred gift that we have been granted, the gift of life. May we redeem the time!
Dr. Michael Brown (askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Why So Many Christians Have Left the Faith. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.