SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 3 January 2020
Sermon Text: Psalm 39:1-13
I. What is time?
II. God’s treasure entrusted to man
Conclusion: We should use this treasure wisely
A day like today is the best day to read a psalm like this. Also Ps. 90 or Eph. 5:8-21 will be a good choice. That is because we face a new and fresh year to walk with the Lord. Bible sections like these lead us to take heed of God’s voice and consider God’s will for us especially with ‘time’ He’s granted us.
Introducing Ps. 39 in a few words, it’s an awe-inspiring song of a believer who has understood the value of God’s treasure entrusted to him, and this treasure is ‘time.’ Hear what the psalmist says in v. 4, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days.” This is not a sigh of a man caused by his uncertain future; rather, it is a way of speech to emphasise a point he wants to make, that is, his joy of knowing the end and the measure of his days. So he says in v. 4, “let me know how fleeting I am!” and in vs. 7, 11 and 12, continues, “My hope is in You. … surely all mankind is a mere breath! … [yet] I am a sojourner with You.” He knows the measure of his days and, more importantly, he knows that his time is firmly and surely tied to God’s eternity. He rejoices in his God and delights with his ‘time,’ knowing that the time he has is a priceless treasure from God. Only concern of his heart is his fleshly desire that dilutes his joy with God’s treasure. So, he prays to God in v. 8, “Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool!” and so on. Ps. 39 is a song of a child of God who has grasped the value of time and knows that time is God’s treasure entrusted to him for his good.
By the way, this morning, I’m not going to expound every word of this psalm, but lead you to consider the point the psalmist raises in this song, that is, the true essence or nature of ‘time’ and its value as well as Christian’s joy of knowing how valuable time is. I want you to follow the psalmist as well as the Apostle Paul who says in Eph. 5, our first Bible reading for today, like for example in v. 16, “make the best use of the time.” Or the wise man of Ecclesiastes who says in 3:17, “I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.”
On a day like today – the first Lord’s Day of a new and fresh year, it’ll be a blessing of God if we grasp the essence of ‘time’ and understand its value.
I. WHAT IS TIME?
So, let’s begin with this question – ‘What is time?’ Some truths we know of ‘time’ are that it flows constantly and we’re living in it. In fact, the whole universe exists in ‘time’ and nothing is outside of this mysterious thing called ‘time.’ Only God who created it is exceptional; He is beyond and above time. No human being or created thing can alter or affect the way time flows; none can reject or disagree with it either. It’s a universal factor that constantly influences all things in an equal way. It is like a big invisible clock is set over the universe. Its objectivity never changes, despite time could be occasionally felt subjective, depending on individual’s situation and event.
So, I wonder – as many people of the world do – why we are inescapably subjected to this mysterious ‘time’ and flow along with it; why a year passes and a new one comes, and people can neither refuse its routine nor skip one moment in favour of another.
Meanwhile, this strange, invisible time is interwoven with everything that exists. This is what Rene Descartes, 17th century Christian philosopher, meant when he described time as God’s sustenance of material. He means that time is a way God sustains all things He created, including human beings. So, each creature begins its existence at a certain moment and continues to exist until the moment of the end of its existence. God sustains everything in His creation with time that flows.
Then, this flow of time, its constant forward pace brings and causes a change to all beings and things that exist. Aristotle, 4th century Greek philosopher, noticed it and described time as ‘the measure of change.’ Yes, time always changes; it never staggers at a moment but continues its forward pace.
This change is observable as God displays time through many things in His creation. For example, the sun, the moon and stars exhibit the invisible clock God set over the universe. Each of them turns and changes, then, comes back to the beginning of each one’s unique cycle. Through this change that is observable, man can measure time. In addition to the celestial beings, seasons and plants also manifest time. Some animals show various signs of time God set in their gene and instinct. Man observes all of these and has developed devices through which time could be measured and counted. We call the time-measuring device ‘clock’ and the time-counting system ‘date’ or ‘dating system’ – that is, a system of chronological dating with units like day, month and year.
Generally speaking, when we say ‘time,’ we usually mean a ‘measured moment’ in the flow of time. And we recognise ‘time’ in relation to events and happenings. For example, the 25th day of the 12th month is Christmas and the first day of a year is the New Year’s Day; or 12 pm or noon is the middle of a day, and so on. When ‘time’ is disassociated with an event or happening, we hardly comprehend the concept of ‘time.’ This is what Immanuel Kant means when he defined time in relation to our human experience, saying, ‘we have no direct perception of time but only have the ability to experience individual things and events in time.’ The point is that we tend to picture ‘time’ as, for example, the year just passed or another year that has just begun. We understand ‘time’ as a 24-hour day or 30-day month, and so on. Separating ‘time’ from events and happenings, it’s quite hard for us to understand what time really is.
In a word, ‘time’ is a mystery of God. It flows constantly and man can measure it and count it, but still its constant forward pace is a mystery to us; it is interwoven with everything in God’s creation and that’s a great mystery to our eyes.
II. GOD’S TREASURE ENTRUSTED TO MAN
But, not all of the essence of ‘time’ is hidden to our human mind. Its value is knowable. Talking about its value, there are two kinds of values – one is generally noticeable value and the other is the value specially revealed to a mind that knows God through faith in Jesus. Let me point out to you a couple of values of time anyone can see through a careful observation.
Firstly, time is precious because it’s short and irrecoverable. Once time passes, there’s no way of recovering it. Benjamin Franklin, non-Christian, secular statesman, noticed it and warned, saying, that ‘time is a scarce resource, and if it’s wasted, it cannot be recovered later.’ But Franklin was just one of numerous people who took note of this general value of time, and their general consensus could be summed up in this old English proverb, ‘Time waits for no one.’ Time is precious because it’s short and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
Secondly, time is priceless because we’re uncertain of its continuance. In other words, no one knows when time would stop flowing for him/her and he’d face the end of his existence. See how James Dean, deceased famous actor, grasped this value of time and said: ‘Dream as if you’ll live forever; live as if you’ll die today.’ Imagine the price of time for a person who hears from his oncologist that the time left for him is only a month. He’d begin counting every second from that moment and every second would be doubly and triply valuable than the one just passed.
But it’s the same for all who have no idea of the time left for them. As a fellow preacher of Jesus’ gospel pointed out in his sermon, for the Olympic swimmer who missed qualifying by six-tenths, a millisecond has an incomprehensible value. To the person who barely missed a head on collision with an oncoming car, a second was worth the whole universe. To the man who had the heart attack in a public place and an emergency medical technician happened to be sitting at the next table and CPR saved his life, he wouldn’t exchange that one minute with anything of the world.
Despite these generally noticeable values tell us important truth about time, the most important and vital truth about its value is this that time is precious because eternity depends on it. I mean, time that constantly flows takes each one to eternity. Like a river takes all things with it to the ocean, time carries all human beings to eternity. But the eternity each one enters is not the same kind. Some will enter eternity rejoicing greatly, while others enter eternity with weeping and gnashing of teeth. There’s no alternate; there’s no third option; eternity in happiness or eternity in woes. This is the true value, specially revealed value of time.
Heb. 3:15 is clear about this truth of the value of time, that is, ‘eternity depends on time.’ This verse (Heb. 3:15) says, “TODAY, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Vs. 12 and 13 of the same chapter give us the same message in these words: “Take care … exhort one another EVERY DAY, as long as it is called ‘TODAY,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The invitation of these verses is to ‘come to Jesus’ who gives His rest! Here, Jesus’ ‘rest’ is the happy eternity. Time is inseparably interwoven with eternity as these verses emphasise repeatedly, saying, ‘today’ and ‘every day’ and ‘as long as it is called today.’ As long as time carries you with it, you’re to come to Jesus and believe in Him and worship Him and walk with Him. Otherwise, the eternity of woes – that is, hell in another word – will be the destiny, and in that destiny, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. So, time is extremely precious because eternity depends on it!
Let me share with you one last value of time that is specially revealed to the eyes of God’s elect. Time is precious because the days we live in are evil, as Eph. 5:16 tells us. This means that the time we live in is the last days and Jesus’ return is imminent. It’s an urgent situation for us Christians because there are so many souls to hear Jesus’ gospel of free grace, believe in Him and be saved. We’re called by God to shine the light of the Lord Jesus to everyone around us, like ‘a city on a hill cannot be hidden.’ Hear what Jesus our Saviour and Lord said as recorded in Mt. 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” What about the so-called ‘Great Commission’ of Mt. 28? Jesus’ command for us all is to “go … and make disciples of all nations.” Time is precious because we’re living in the last days and, before we see the Lord returning in glory to us, you and I have a mission to accomplish and the time given to us is rather limited!
In short, time is precious; it is God’s treasure entrusted to us Christians!
CONCLUSION: WE SHOULD USE THIS TREASURE WISELY
The conclusion for us, therefore, is simple – we should use this treasure wisely. Using this treasure wisely is not a difficult or complicate task. It’s rather a simple matter, and knowing its true value is it. If you know the true value of time, you would never mistreat it or squander it. It’s that simple. And the Spirit of God will lead you to use this treasure wisely.
I pray that the Lord may always refresh our understanding of time and its value, so that we may enjoy this treasure as we use it to the glory of the Lord Jesus! ***