"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." So went one of the maxims in Poor Richard's Almanac, published by Benjamin Franklin. And a wise maxim it is! Do you realize how fragile and temporary this physical existence is? Do you really appreciate life? Are you fully using your time for accomplishment, or are you wasting the days, thinking life will go on forever? There's another old saying that "time waits for no man" — and how true it is! When someone is suddenly gone, we think more seriously about life and death. The death of a famous personality — Princess Grace of Monaco or Arthur Rubinstein, for example — or, especially, the loss of someone very close is a reminder that life is "a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (Jas. 4:14). But why should it always take a brush with tragedy to make us stop and think about life and how suddenly it can evaporate? King David's observation about his own life should help us realize what a fine line we walk in today's world. After Saul had made an attempt on his life, David was forced to go into hiding. While devising a strategy with his friend Jonathan, the young man who had fought lions and faced Goliath remarked, "As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death" (I Sam. 20:3). David well understood how brief life could be. But what's the point of all this for members and co-workers of God's Church? Just this: Life can quickly evaporate while we procrastinate about accomplishing the important matters of Christian living.
A unique opportunity
God's people are the most blessed group in today's world, because they know the purpose of human existence. The rest of the world, in its blinded state, does not know why life exists. Today, the real purpose of life is actually kept from the world and is revealed only to those called by God. Because of this knowledge, judgment is now on the house of God (I Pet. 4:17)! The knowledge of the true purpose of life includes much responsibility. In Luke 12, Christ warned about those who would waste time before His Second Coming. The parable of the stewards shows there would be some who would not faithfully use the knowledge of the truth and would therefore be cut off from God's Kingdom. In verse 48, Christ shows that "to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more." How are you using this time of judgment before the return of Christ? Are you using the gift of life to produce fruit toward God's Kingdom?
The talent everyone has
The time we have in this life is much like the talents that Christ spoke of in the parable in Matthew 25:14-30. In this parable, Christ is the man who is traveling into a far country. God's people are those who are given the goods, or talents, to keep in trust until Christ returns. "To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability" (verse 15). Those who had received the five and two talents doubled what they had by trading and hard effort. They wisely used their time and skills to grow in grace and knowledge. The individual who had received only one talent went and buried it in the ground and made no effort to produce more than he had been given. Upon his return (in other words, Christ at His Second Coming), the man called his stewards in for an accounting of what had been given them. Those who had been faithful were rewarded for their efforts. What is interesting is that the person who had been given the one talent, who did nothing, had his only talent removed and given to another (verses 28-29)! Perhaps you have felt that you have no talent and have wondered where you fit in this parable about Christian living. Has it ever occurred to you that the one talent we all have is our time? God has given us all the gift of life. Our time is our most valuable asset. Are you a good steward of the time God has given to you?
Redeem the time
In Ephesians 5:16 Paul admonishes us to be "redeeming the time, because the days are evil." This is a warning to wisely use our time to produce the fruits of God's Holy Spirit! Many are called into God's way with little or no material wealth. Skills and abilities vary among God's people worldwide. But the one talent we are equal in is time. And God is going to judge us all on how effectively we use our time in this physical life. What accomplishments have you put off in your life, thinking life would go on endlessly? Most of us put off until tomorrow decisions about our lives that require change or considerable thought. Necessary character changes are easy to put off when we carelessly assume our lives are progressing smoothly. And after all, we may reason, since some of our problems haven't caught up with us, then God must not be too upset with our conduct. Does Solomon's observance about human character apply to you? "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Eccl. 8:11).
What are you waiting for?
Many reading this magazine right now have discovered the meaning of life and their awesome future potential by reading this magazine and the other publications distributed by this Work of God. How about you? Perhaps you have known for years which day is the real Christian Sabbath, but circumstances and your reasonings have kept you from standing up and obeying God on this important test command. How much longer will you wait to act on the truth you know? How much more time in this "present evil world" (Gal. 1:4, Authorized Version) will you need before you turn your complete attention to the way of God? Will it take a brush with extreme suffering or even death to wake you up? Don't gamble that you might be as fortunate as King Hezekiah of Judah. II Kings 20:1-7 recounts Hezekiah's reaction to a sickness that would have ended his life. Evidently there were many things he wanted to do. Maybe he had put them off, thinking he would live much longer. But with death staring him in the face, he desperately appealed to God for more time. God granted Hezekiah's request and added 15 years to his life. How many years do you need to get your life in order? Will you continue to put off the day when you sit down and take stock of what you have done with your life? Richard Bolles in his job-hunting manual What Color is Your Parachute? offers a practical exercise to help people decide what they want to do with their lives. He suggests that a person write an article entitled "Before I Die, I Want To... " In this article a person writes down the things he would like to do before he dies. You might adapt this idea to pinpoint the spiritual goals in your life. Writing them down can be a first step toward achieving them. Take a hard look at your life. Don't let your time keep slipping away. It is your most valuable asset. Be a wise steward and begin now to achieve the truly important values of life.