If you live in the Dallas area you may know that a two-word message has gone forth from our church out into the city for decades. Two words: “Night Cometh”. It is not unintentional that these words are found on the steeple clock that rises high above the hustle and bustle of NW highway. Though foreboding and ominous, this message expresses an urgency and unavoidable reality: our lives are finite and limited. Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him who sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:4-5
Life is a stewardship, it’s temporary, and you’re accountable. A steward is a manager, someone who has been given a trust, a responsibility to manage or supervise someone else’s property or belongings. We are stewards of the precious gift of this one & only life, given to us by God. Paul said it like this: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 Stewarding this gift means that we recognize that we are under new management- there’s now a complete shift in mindset, attention, and focus. We now set our “minds on things above” (Col. 3:2). We have a completely new trajectory, a deed transfer (from the domain of darkness into His glorious light)- everything we do is now to be done for His glory- as a response, an act of worship- for all He has done for us! As Christ followers we have a choice to make. Jesus said we now have choice. But we cannot serve two masters. No can serve both God and “Mammon” – the pursuit of wealth and financial acumen. He followed that challenge with this: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25 Every time Jesus talks about time He talks about anxiety. Consider the connection of time and anxiety. We become anxious over those things we cannot control. You cannot control time. You can’t stop it and you’re running out of it.
You may not know that the watch you have on your wrist and the clocks you have in your home were in large part the invention of Benedictine monks- a group of ascetic, monastics committed to a life of prayer and solitude. The clock was invented to keep them on regular patterns of prayer- waking them up in the middle of the night & in the mornings to pray. Interestingly, the clock (and subsequent alarm clock that woke you up today) was invented to steward our lives toward worship- and to do so in community- corporately, not individually. With their invention of the mechanical clock, the Benedictines became the first humans to devise a system of telling time not directly related to the cycle of nature. The relationship between time-keeping and celestial motion- or the change of seasons- quickly became too abstract to be noticed anymore. Subtly clock time came to have an existence of its own. And the clock moved from a tool to a task-master.
“We have become tools of our tools.” Henry David Thoreau
Many of us here today are mastered by our possessions. If you don’t think so just look at a family w/ middle school & high school students- if someone doesn’t demand that we put our phones away we may not even look at each other. (What if we were as obsessed w/ our Bible as we are w/ our cell phones). The clock was designed to be our tool but it has become our master. To live in a way not mastered by the clock is to live a life that is counter-cultural.
Luke 10:38-42 In this passage we see the progression, the steps that lead to a misdirected life. The stewardship of time demands a Christ-centered identity, Spirit-directed priorities, Spirit-led activities, resulting in a God-honoring life. The same thing that happened to Martha can happen to us.
The Stewardship of Time
1. Mistaken identity Martha believed that her identity was found in her activities and her ability to accomplish things. Understandably, all the ladies in the house respond with “Someone has to work!” But Jesus said that Mary chose “the better thing (the one thing, the best thing) that will not be taken away”. Instead our identity is found in Christ and what He has done for us. In His performance for us not our performance. In His approval of us not our ability to gain the approval of others. In Christ we fully forgiven, totally loved, and completely accepted by Him. A mistaken identity leads to…
2. Misplaced priorities For those of us who are busy with many competing time demands- family, work, exercise, solitude, service, etc.- we seek to “balance our time”. I’ve come to realize that the concept of “balance” is a myth. Jesus didn’t talk about balance. He talked an all-out pursuit of one thing. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 Then He follows in vs. 34 with, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Jesus talked about a singular focus and pursuit: the “kingdom of God”. What is “the kingdom of God”? This is critical to understand because it’s the ONE thing Jesus said we should seek first. The kingdom of God is the reign, and subsequent renewal of God in all things, starting with me. It is His reign and rule in all things.
3. Misguided activities Your priorities will guide your activities. We all want to be productive. We have sense of wanting to use our time wisely or maximize our time. Here’s the problem: “productivity” is defined as “a quantifiable amount of work achieved in a specifiable amount of time”. Many of us seek to define ourselves by our activities and the more we accomplish the more we feel good about ourselves. But because time can’t increase, the more activities we add to our lives, the more out of control we become. This is why Karl Jung said, “Busy-ness is not from the devil. Busy-ness is the devil”. Counter to popular opinion, busyness is not the sign of a significant life. Busyness is the sign of a misguided life. What do you need to stop doing?
4. Misdirected life Every minute we make decisions that reflect our priorities, directing our activities. Days become weeks, weeks become months, then years- and years become lifetimes- either squandered or lived to the glory of God.
“Time is not to be understood as a scarce commodity, the shortage of which hangs over our heads like a cloud and threatens our feverish attempts to make something of ourselves and our lives. Instead, by the grace of God and with a view to what God has done in the past and desires to do in the future, Christians are freed to view time as a gift and to dwell graciously in the present, knowing that God has liberated us from the necessity of justifying ourselves. God has created a “timeful” people whose existence offers the world a foretaste of the kingdom. These people have been freed from the tyranny of believing that their ultimate destiny or joy is tied to how they “spend” their time. This freedom makes possible the appearance of a “new” time: a time for caring for those – like the elderly, children and the mentally handicapped – whose productivity is suspect; a time for being with those – like the poor, the downtrodden and the discouraged – who do not promise to contribute to our status or to guarantee that we will leave feeling upbeat; and a time for entering into the gratuitous and joyful worship of a God who promises not that things will always work out the way we believe they should, but of a God who promises NEVER to leave us or forsake us.” Phil Kenneson, Life on the Vine
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:21 God, His glory, His kingdom lasts from generation to generation, and forever. Our time is running out. “Night is coming” when no one will be able to do anymore work. But as we steward this one and only life we’ve been given, all to the praise of His glorious grace, He will help us redeem the time and maximize the days we have remaining. Don’t waste your life. Live for Christ while it is still called today. There’s a marked “contrast between Martha as she tells Jesus what He must say and Mary who listens to what Jesus desires to say to her.”
A mistaken identity leads to misplaced priorities that lead to misguided activities that result in a misdirected life.