On New Year's eve we are mesmerised to watch and listen to the countdown for the dropping of the glistening, symbolic time-ball dropping slowly to the ground in Times Square to mark the beginning of a new year—and in a few days the start of another decade. I gaze into the mirror at my own reflection and the indelible marks of time recorded there.
Time concerns me, especially in the final summit season of my life. I'm conscious of my mortality, of the end of earth-time itself and of my earth-time in particular.
Man differs from animals in that God created him with an awareness of the passing of time and the limitation of the human life span. Realizing its brevity, I question, How shall I invest my life to make the best use of the time that remains?
This thought sent me on a search to ask, “What is time?” Time is said to be a dimension and measure in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future; also the measure of sequence, duration of events, and the intervals between them. Someone has whimsically observed, "Time is what keeps everything from happening at once."
With our finite minds we don't really understand what time is nor do we know what time it is according to God's sovereign time schedule. We can't even use our five senses or apply the scientific method to experience time, yet we are subject to it. Time is invisible and illusive like the wind. We can only see the consequences of time in our face reflected in the mirror or in the faces of our family and friends and in changes in the material world around us.
Although we can't accurately define time, apparently we can waste time, invest time, pass the time away, kill time, find time, be on time, lose time, save time, and measure time. I can be short of time and out of time; there can be a convenient time, an appointed time, an acceptable time, and leisure time. People do time in prison. Some of us are in prime time. There is a departure time for planes, trains—and people. There is a last time and a time of judgment. Isn't it incredible that God who is outside of time acts in the fullness of time? And that He expects us to redeem the time?
According to the Genesis record, our eternal no-time God established time at the creation of Planet Earth to measure the days. “Evening and morning were the first day....” Since that time, we who live on on this whirling ball are subject to space and time. Sometimes we get impatient and think God is too slow to answer our prayers. With King David in the Psalms we cry, “It is time for Thee, O Lord, to work...” At times we would like to accelerate time, at other times to slow it down.
God deals with us in our time frame in an orderly way. The Scriptures declare, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every purpose under heaven. There is a time to give birth, a time to die, to plant, to uproot, kill, heal....” Twenty-eight time-events are listed in the book of Ecclesiastes that encompass most of life.
In His incarnate human body, although Jesus was the eternal Son of God, He was aware at certain times that His “time had not yet fully come,” and later that “My time is at hand.” The devil was apparently able to accelerate time during his temptation of Jesus by showing him “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.”
Since time began, temporal measurements have occupied scientists and philosophers, those who study astronomy, and those who navigate. In an effort to understand time, man observed the movement of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the movement of the stars, the swing of a pendulum, and the beat of a heart.
From prehistoric times, man has tried to divide the day in many ways: by using oil lamps, marked candles, sun dials, water clocks, sand hour glasses, and eventually ingenious astronomical clocks. It's hard to believe that mechanical clocks were not invented until as recently as 1275. On my visits to my heritage homeland in the Czech Republic, it was an awesome experience to see the famous Astronomical Clock in the city square in Prague (pictured here)
Not until 1884 was an agreement reached on global time measurement and Greenwich Mean Time adopted as the international standard. Today we rely on atomic clocks for our most accurate measurements of time. Few of us know that the international unit of time, the second, is defined in terms of radiation emitted by caesium atoms.
In the not too distant past, one had to go to the public square to find out what time it was! Eventually, when clocks were designed smaller, they came into domestic use, then personal use as pocket watches, then wrist watches—now we tell time on our cell phones! Who knows what time-measurement devices lie in the near future?
Now that we are able to measure time accurately, what have we achieved? We can't control time. We are at its mercy—we can't stop the clock, slow it, or reverse it. It took time for us to be formed in our mother's womb, we were born in due time, and we age in time. Although we live in time right now, eternity without time is in our future. There must have been a “non-time,” a time before it was, and the Scriptures tell us that there will be a time when time shall be no more.
My mortal body is subject to the corruption of earth time. My soul (spirit) is not subject to time; it is eternal. My ordained length of time on earth is given me by God to cultivate for eternity. God holds me accountable for the earth-time with which He generously trusted me.
God gave me a measure
of time for my treasure,
a slight but generous slice
from an endless eternity.
If I embrace time selfishly
I lose it eventually.
If I surrender it entirely
to The Great Timekeeper
I find time for all
that in His perfect will
God planned for me.
My times, O Lord,
are in Your hands.
Each breath I take,
each beat of my heart
like the tick of a clock
is a portion of eternity
minutes loaned by God to me
that I might redeem the time.
God has chosen me
for this moment in history,
actually destined me
to leave a mark for Him
upon some hearts on this earth
as I pass through this span of time
that is called my generation!
“As for me, I trust in Thee, O Lord,
I say, 'Thou art my God.
My times are in Thy hand.'"
Psalm 31:14, 15a
“For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it;
but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”
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