Have you ever sat in an airport or a train station and watched the people moving through the building? Some walk slowly and casually. Others stride hurriedly and intently, perhaps sprinting or running. The difference in pace is often related to time. Some are early. Others are late. Each is there for a purpose, either future or imminent.
Time is an important part of our lives. It gives order to our days and allows us to set schedules. But schedules in and of themselves are worthless unless we have a purpose behind the schedule. It is useless to keep track of time if there is no end toward which we are moving.
A Time for Everything
The Book of Ecclesiastes presents an important perspective on time. I think it is helpful to read this Scripture in several translations:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (NKJV).
Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses (GN).
There is a right time for everything. And everything on earth will happen at the right time (ETRV).
This verse suggests that the time at which something happens is significant. What may be helpful and right at one time is wrong at another. The truth of this observation is evident throughout our lives.
Parents rejoice when a happily-married daughter announces that she is expecting her first child. The pregnancy is usually a happy period as the parents and the grandparents prepare to welcome the new child. When the mother-to-be is a sixteen-year-old girl, however, the coming birth is often viewed quite differently. The explanation for the difference lies in the matter of timing.
Or consider the contrast between the events surrounding the birth of a full-term baby and a premature child. The full-term child is usually given to the mother only minutes after birth, but a premature child is quickly whisked to the nursery and placed in an incubator. The first days of the fully-developed child are spent in the arms of his parents and in a bassinet beside the mother’s bed, while the child who is born early is confined to a neonatal nursery hooked to an IV, a respirator and a heart monitor. Again, the reason behind the differences are related to time.
Webster defines time as “the system of those sequential relations that any event has to any other, as past, present, or future” or “a system or method of measuring or reckoning the passage of time.” Thus, we establish the time of something in terms of previous and future events, and we measure the passage of time in terms of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years and centuries. Birth, growth, aging and death are also part of our vocabulary related to time.
Time is such an important part of our concept of life that many of our conversations center around it: How old are you? When did you move to this community? How long have you worked at this job? When were you married? How soon will you finish this assignment?
Such questions, however, are never God’s questions. He is not interested in how old you are. Neither is He concerned with how many years you have performed a particular job. In fact, He may be saddened by the time it has taken you to complete a particular task or learn a new truth.
An Eternal Perspective
Time can also be defined as the “duration regarded as belonging to the present life as distinct from the life to come or from eternity.” This is the perspective from which God operates because He is a God of purpose, and every purpose has a time. The minute something drops into the realm of this planet—into the physical, material world—it picks up time. When it leaves here, time is canceled. Eternity is duration without measure.
Or to say it another way, time is a temporary interruption in eternity. Eternity has neither a beginning nor an end, for it is outside time. Time, on the other hand, starts the minute we are born and ends when we die. It is but a brief part of our existence.
God, who is eternal, therefore exists outside time. He is not against time, for He is its Creator and He pronounced everything that He created to be very good (Genesis 1:31). God is simply outside time even though He works with people who are in time.
This difference often makes us think that God is very slow in responding to our needs. We think He is late in coming to our aid, which causes us to question whether God really cares about us. The prophet Isaiah speaks to the differences between our perspective on time and God’s:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. …My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:8-9,11).
This difference in perspective is related to purpose. God, who sees the end from the beginning, sets our course in accordance with His overall purpose, not our immediate needs. His timing is always better than ours because He sees our whole lives and how they fit into His entire purpose for ourselves and others. Could we but understand His purposes when we want something today or yesterday, He would say to us, “If I come now, it won’t be the best. I’m waiting to give you the best I have.” That doesn’t mean He is unconcerned for us. In reality, His concern keeps Him from giving us what we want. Many times God comes late and it is the right time.
The Purpose of Time
When God created us in time, He set a certain time for the height of our maturity. After that beauty declines, we are ready to move into eternity. This is possible because time is not our permanent home. God placed us within time but made us to be eternal beings:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
The word beauty has to do with maturation, fulfillment and perfection. In other words, God creates everything with a purpose and gives every purpose a time that allows it to progress to perfection. He makes everything beautiful in the time He gives it.
Consider, for a moment, a rose. In the spring before the rose bush blooms, it is ugly. Thorns cover the stems and tiny, hard green things stick out among the leaves. After a few weeks, these little green things slowly begin to open until you can see the color of the petals. Then the bud begins to open and the individual petals become visible. Still, the rose is not what it yet can be. It has not reached the height of its beauty. There comes a point when the fully opened rose reaches perfection. It can be no more beautiful. Its shape and color are in perfect harmony. After perfection is reached, death and decay set in. The flowers whither and brown until the petals fall from the bush. It fulfills its purpose and then naturally dies. Nothing should die until its purpose is fulfilled.
The Book of Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for every purpose under Heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1), thus time is always given for a purpose. It is never intended to be idle and empty. In the early spring as new shoots are coming up in the garden, the richness of harvest is but a dream or an expectation. Time must do its work. As the summer progresses, the plants grow and blossom. Fruit begins to cover the plants and the vines. By midsummer the harvest has begun. Peas, beans and tomatoes have been picked and enjoyed. But the time of harvest is not complete. Pumpkins and sweet potatoes have not yet matured. Cantaloupe and watermelon still cling to the vine. The completeness of the garden’s purpose has not yet been reached.
God always makes things come to maturity within His specified time. He has built into all creation the ability to find completeness, fulfillment, perfection and beauty before its time is past. This is as true for men and women as for any plant within the garden.
God created you for a specific purpose and gave you the exact amount of time required to fulfill your purpose. In essence, your length of physical life is determined by your purpose.
Time and Your Purpose
God’s creation of man reveals that He desired a time- conscious being with an eternity perspective. You were born and created for a purpose in God’s plan, and you were given a time to fulfill that purpose. According to the Scriptures, there is a time to every purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Because we live in time, we measure life in increments of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, etc. But how does God measure and judge the success of your life? To answer this we must consider that God never intended for us to die.
God’s original purpose and His future plans call for us to live forever. Therefore, length of years is not the measure of life for God. Your age does not impress Him. There are many who believe that old age is a sign of God’s favor and approval. If this is true, then how do you account for the millions of individuals in countries like Siberia, Prussia and Rumania, and perhaps even in your city, who live beyond one hundred years of age and have no commitment to God? Their life styles incorporate behaviors that are considered to be ungodly. It is evident that God measures the success, effectiveness and value of your life on earth in terms of purpose.
God’s question is never “How many years have you lived?” or “How old are you?” but rather “What have you done?” In essence, life is not measured by duration but by donation. From God’s perspective, “Well done” is more important than “Long lived.”
Jesus understood the important relationship between time and the completion of purpose. Again and again He instructed people not to move faster in their expectations of Him than God’s perfect timing allowed. This awareness of God’s purpose for His life as it related to His time on earth is particularly evident in John’s record of the wedding at Cana.
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.”
“Dear woman, why do you involve Me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come” (John 2:1-4).
Jesus also displayed this consciousness of time and purpose on many other occasions. In the twelth chapter of the Gospel of John He says,
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. …Now My heart is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name! (John 12:23,27)
He further expresses the relationship of time and timing to purpose in the seventh chapter of John:
Jesus’ brothers said to Him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that Your disciples may see the miracles You do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since You are doing these things, show Yourself to the world.” For even His own brothers did not believe in Him. Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for Me has not yet come; for you any time is right” (John 7:3-6).
Here Jesus’ disciples attempted to influence Him to go public and declare His power and position. But Jesus refused and stated that there was a right time for every purpose of God and a right timing for it to be released in its fullness. He further informed them that they had no awareness of the purpose and the proper use of time for their own lives.
Therefore, it is vital for you to capture and maximize the time of your life. To do this, you must discover your purpose for life and get busy with your assignment. Every day should be used to account for the fulfillment of God’s dream in your heart. What have you done with the last year, month or day that you’ve lived? What can you show to justify that time?
Time was given to you to fulfill your purpose in this life. Don’t be like Methuselah, of whom it is recorded that he lived 969 years and then died. That is all we know of his life. What a tragedy! I admonish you to find your purpose and give time meaning. As the apostle Paul exhorts: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV).
Throughout His ministry, glimpses of Jesus’ true nature and glory were visible. He healed the sick (John 4:43-53, among many), multiplied loaves of bread and fish to feed large crowds (John 6:1-15), walked on the Sea of Galilee (John 6:16-20), and brought sinful people to repentance (John 4:1-42).
As the time for His crucifixion drew near, Jesus acknowledged that His time had come:
Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began (John 17:1-5).
Time is always given for the completion of purpose. Whenever time is used for things that do not work toward the given purpose, it is wasted and the opportunity to reach perfection is delayed or lost.
Jesus came to reconnect us with our God-given purpose and the importance of using time to complete that purpose. His goal was not Calvary but the resurrection, so He could redirect our living from time to eternity.
God has given you an assignment that is so awesome it will take you this life and the life to come to complete it. He invites you to live by faith, moving with Him beyond the limitations of what you can see, hear and feel at any given moment, so your perspective can move from living for today alone to looking toward eternity.
There’s eternity in your heart because God placed it there. Knowing your purpose and the time associated with it will allow you to be effective and productive in your living, using the time He gives you for the purpose for which He gave it. The proper use of time is always dependent on the priority of purpose because time is an interruption in eternity that allows you to fulfill what you were sent here to do.
He who has time to burn will never give the world much light. Killing time is not murder, it’s suicide.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
1. Time starts when we are born and ends when we die.
2. Eternity has neither a beginning nor an end.
3. God, who is eternal, exists outside time.
4. God sees the end from the beginning and sets our course according to His overall purposes.
5. God gives every purpose a time that allows it to reach perfection.
6. Time is always given for a purpose.
7. Time that is not used for its intended purpose is wasted and lost.