In Arby’s one day, I came across a Henry David Thoreau quote: “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” I don’t know what direction Thoreau took with his idea, but I find these words haunting,
Because for me, his saying is true.
Our time on this earth is a divine gift. It can either to be badly wasted or transformed into something of eternal value. One of my favorite Christian teachers, Andy Stanley, said very simply when you’re out of time, you’re out of life. Obvious, isn’t it? Our time on this earth is precious and finite, but we treat it as endless.
Jesus’ first thirty years weren’t wasted. He went to Hebrew school. Laughed and played with his friends. Ate meals with his family. Learned wood-working skills from his dad. Worked as a carpenter. For thirty years, Jesus healed no lepers, preached no “kingdom of God” sermons and flipped over no tables in the temple.
Then Jesus ministered publicly for three years–and transformed eternity forever.
Now understand, I’m not a driven person. In fact, I’m a pretty good time-waster. If there are type A personalities in this world, I am more like a type B, C or D. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the inner knowledge that what I do with my time matters.
Devotional writing is a very strange profession; you wrestle with words to express a truth God has placed on your heart–and sometimes your devotion gets published. But afterwards, there’s only silence. You seldom know what the Lord does through all your obedience and hard work.
Yet my writing can have an eternal impact, because the Holy Spirit uses our littlest efforts in huge, unforeseen ways. When the little boy offered his lunch to Jesus, he probably half-expected the Teacher to just eat it. Certainly that young Hebrew lad never imagined Jesus would use his small, freely-given offering to do some miraculously fun lunchtime catering.
I totally believe we need to rest and recharge, spend time with our families and just enjoy ourselves. Jesus made people a priority in his life and I will too. But do I need to spend hours on the computer reading inane, worthless celebrity fluff articles? Or sit with eyes glued to the TV set night after night? Often I’ve grumbled to myself, “I’m bored–and there’s nothing on TV” as if God’s whole purpose for my existence on this earth was to keep me continuously entertained.
In less than a week, one of my all-time favorite TV shows, “MythBusters” will be running a 10-day, 24 hour marathon of all their episodes. My younger self wouldn’t have felt direct sunlight for days. The older, wiser me will be in a wrestling match with herself–trying to carve out chunks of time to do other worthwhile things.
It’s easier to watch an amazing mountain-climbing adventure like “Everest” instead of putting in the hard work and training to climb a mountain yourself. Constant entertainment feels like it’s giving us an enriched, exciting life. Actually it’s an impoverished one.
My challenge today isn’t to climb Mount Everest. It’s for us to experience our “life’s time” on this earth. I know when I am wasting time–and so do you. The Holy Spirit can help each of us balance our lives and discover our purpose. Interestingly, God’s task for us today might seem small, inconsequential and unimportant–but in God’s hands our simplest acts of service could be used in huge ways, just like the little boy’s lunch.
When I lived in Michigan, the frigid winters made me very glad for indoor heating. In my church every Sunday morning, a retired man would go in an hour or so early and turn the heat up. Did Jim’s small weekly act of faithfulness have eternal consequences? Perhaps–shivering with cold can be distracting. Maybe in that warm environment, we absorbed some spiritual truths we might otherwise have missed.
The two Morguefile.com images are the television set in the wall and the woodworker’s hands. All other images come from Pixabay.com.
If anyone knows which Thoreau essay contains this quote, I would be interested in reading it.
Andy Stanley’s teaching podcasts are found on his Your Move website. The podcasts “Guardrails” and “Breathing Room” are two of my favorites.