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James Merritt - The Time is Now

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    James Merritt - The Time is Now
TOPICS: Ephessians Bible Study, Time

I wish you had more time. The older you get the more you'll find yourself saying that. I wish I had more time. I find myself saying that so often. At the turn of the 20th century, there was a poem that was written by a man named Henry Twells. It was entitled "Time's Paces". It's a very short point about time, but the message is timeless. Here's what he wrote. "When as a child, I laughed and wept, time crept. When as a youth, I waxed more bold, time strolled. When I became a full grown man, time ran. When older still I daily grew, time flew. Soon I shall find in passing on, time gone". It's true. Time matters. It matters to me that you're doing what you're doing right now, because you're giving me the most valuable part of you. You're giving me your time. You could have been anywhere you wanted to be today. You could have seen anything else you wanted to see today. You could have listened to anything else you wanted to listen, but you chose today to give me some of your time. I don't take that for granted.

As a matter of fact, time today matters more than it ever has, but you know what's interesting? It hasn't always been that way. Believe it or not, there was a time in the United States of America when time didn't matter to anybody. Before the invention of the locomotive and the railroad, people didn't care about time. But when the railroad was built, guess what? All of a sudden, trains had to run on time. And all of a sudden, time got important. All of a sudden, time got moved up to the top of everyone's priority list, and phrases began to be used that people had never heard before like time's running, time's about out, time is wasting, time's up, the train's leaving the station, heard all over the country. As a matter of fact, we now have standard time because of the railroads, because before the railroads, everybody set their own time, if you can believe this.

If you go back in our country 200 years ago in Duluth, people would say it was 4:30, Swanee could say at the same time, "no it's 4:00," Grayson could have said "no, it's 4:15". Nobody had any set time. You just kind of made it up as you went along. It really didn't matter. But then the railroads came along and they began to publish schedules. And for the first time in 1883, our country was divided into four time zones. And all of a sudden an entire nation was awakened to the fact, hey wait a minute, time's a big deal, time is important, we better pay attention to time. And the importance of time has increased exponentially ever since then. Think about this. In 1790, this blew my mind, in 1790, less than 10% of Americans had a clock of any kind in their home, any kind.

And listen to this. If you had a clock in your home, most likely it didn't even have a second hand, so you just knew what hour it was, but you didn't know what hour, you didn't know what minute, you didn't know what second. Until the end of the 19th century, nobody had an alarm clock. They didn't know what it was. Nobody wore a wristwatch. They hadn't been invented. Now you fast forward to the 21st century, computers, satellites, global positioning systems, receivers, telephone switching systems. They all depend on a precise, down to the very second measure of time just to operate. Everybody knows today, time is a big deal.

If you're a guest of ours today, we've been in a series in Ephesians we've been calling "Unbelievable" because the Book of Ephesians's been telling us we serve an unbelievable God who's done unbelievable things for us, called us, created us, wants to convert us, wants to complete us, now He wants to do incredible things in us. And this is where time comes in, because there's only two dimensions where God can work in you and through you, only two: time and space. So in other words, if God's gonna do something for you and you're gonna do something for God, and you're gonna live for God, you gotta live for God here, you gotta live for God now, because when we die, we're going to go to a place, the Bible says, where there is no time and there is no space. That's why in our life, the time is always now.

We say, "Time is money". Well, time's more than money. Time is life. That's what life really is. Time is life, life is time. You say, "No, time's not life," sure it is, listen. When your time is up, your life is over. So time is life. That's what time is all about. That's why the most important use of your time is spending your time on what's most important. The most important use of your time is spending your time on what is most important. Now here's the good news. We're gonna find out this morning God's not left us on our own to kind of sort out how should I spend my time? I mean, we've got all kinds of options today, when we walk out of this building, how are we gonna spend our time? Well, we don't have to wonder what is the best way to do that? God loves us so much He says, "You know what? I'm gonna give you specific advice on the best way to use every day. I'm gonna tell you specifically how to get the best out of every moment".

If you own a copy of God's Word, we're in the Book of Ephesians chapter five. If you got one of our discipleship booklets, we're on page 34, and you'll see the passage of Scripture there. If not, don't worry, we're gonna put it up on the screen. But I wanna share with you a couple of things that a man by the name of Paul said that I think's the greatest advice on how to manage your time you'll ever read anywhere in your life. Here's what he wrote. "Be very careful how you live not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is".

There was a lady named Anna Nalick, she said this: "Life is like an hourglass glued to the table. Life is like an hourglass glued to the table". Or as the great philosopher Kenny Chesney put it, "When your hourglass runs out of sand, you can't turn it over and start again". So I want you to look at this hourglass. I'm gonna turn this hourglass over, and it's a true hourglass. And as you look at this hourglass, let me tell you what you're looking at. You're looking right now at your life, whether you're young, whether you're old, when you're middle-aged, this is your life right now. Some of us have less sand to go than others. Some of us have more sand to go than others. There are some of you here, you don't have as much sand left as you think you do. And there's probably someone here today, you won't need an hourglass next year because your time will be up and your life will be over.

So, as I share with you some things this morning, just keep thinking about this hourglass and understand this is my life. I've only got a certain amount of sand in my hourglass, and when the sand is gone, then the time is up and my life will be over. So, since the time is now, Paul says, advice number one, "Be careful in how you see time". "Be careful in how you see time". Now remember, time is life, life is time. No matter what circumstance you're living in right now, you're living the time of your life. It is right now. So Paul gives this great advice. He says, "Be very careful, then, how you live, not as wise," oh, "not as unwise, but as wise". So Paul says, "Let's just make this real easy to understand. There are only two ways you're gonna spend your time, wisely or unwisely. There's only two ways you're gonna live your life, carefully or foolishly".

So the question is how do you see time? When you think about time, what do you think about? All over the world, on every continent, somewhere, sometime today, somebody's gonna ask somebody this question: What time is it? What time is it? Well, this will be a good conversational starter. The next time somebody asks you the question, "What time is it"? Here's how you answer them: it's now. 'Cause that's true, the time is now. And if you're careful in how you see time, you'll understand the time is always now. See, this is what I love about time. God doesn't play favorites. God gives the same type of day to everybody. Every day has 24 hours. Rich people don't get 25, poor people don't get 23, everybody gets the same number of hours. We all get the same amount of time.

There's a buddy of mine, as a matter of fact I called him this morning, I said, "You need to watch the program today because I'm gonna be talking about you," I'm not gonna call his name, I'll use a fake name, but there's a buddy of mine, he's a very, very successful businessman. Very, very, very successful. A few years ago, we were out having lunch and he had on this watch, big watch, one of the most unusual watches I've ever seen. I'll call him John. You know who he is. I'll just call him John. So I said, "Hey John". I said, "Man, that's a very unusual watch, very unique". He said, "Yeah". And I said, "Well, how much did that watch cost"? I'm not blowing smoke when I tell you six figures his watch cost, six figures. Then he said, "You know, there're only 12 of those made every year, and I bought one of them the other day". I thought he's trying to be impressive.

And then about a month later, I'm up in North Carolina and I'm in Dr. Billy Graham's home to visit Dr. Graham. Some of you have heard of Dr. Graham, world famous evangelist, right? So I'm up in his cabin up in Montreat, Teresa's with me with my son, and we're up there visiting. So I'm sitting there and he just had lunch and I'm waiting on him to come into the living room. He comes in, he sits down right next to me, and I couldn't help but notice he was wearing a Timex watch that I bet didn't cost 10 bucks. I got to thinking about my buddy got that $150,000 watch, here he's got a $10 watch, and I thought, "Dude, you don't have any more time than he's got". Got the same amount of time. Have you ever said this to somebody that's retired? "I wish I had as much time as you do".

I got news for you: if you did, you wouldn't have more time than you got right now. We all have the same amount of time. We all get 24 hours every single day. Therefore, we all need to be very careful in how we see time. Now, I'm gonna ask you to do something that normally when you do it, it really irritates me, but I want you to do it. Look at your watch. Go ahead, it's not gonna bother me right now, okay? Look at your watch. Now, I want you to think about something as you look at your watch. That watch ought to remind you of what a precious gift time is every single day, because every day is a gift wrapped up in the platinum of God's love. Every second is a diamond. Every minute is an Emerald. Every hour is a Ruby. Let me tell you how valuable time is. Time can't be stopped.

In a football game, you can call time out. In life, you can't call time out. They say time is money. Time's not money. You can save money. You can't save time. You can put money in the bank. You can't put time in a bank. Time can't be stretched. You can stretch a rubber band. You can stretch time. The only thing you can do with time is spend it. That's all you can do. You have to spend it. And just as a wise person handles their money wisely, Paul says you better handle your time wisely. Moses, the first great Jewish leader, wrote one of the Psalms in the Old Testament. He wrote these words. He said, "Lord, teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom". Here's what Moses said. "If you're wise, you will number your days".

And the reason why you'll number your days is because you'll always remember your days are numbered. We've all got a certain number. And when our number is up, our name is out. We don't know when that last day is, but our days are numbered, and therefore we better make sure that we live every day doing that which is most important. If the time is now, Paul said, "Be careful how you see time". Then he said, "Be mindful of how you seize time. Be mindful of how you seize time". Now he goes on to say this, "Making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil". That's how you seize time. We have a Latin phrase is called carpe diem. You know what that means? It means seize the day. That's exactly what Paul said. Every day, you've gotta seize every single day. Why? Because the time that you have today can only be used today.

People talk about saving time, you can't save time, borrowing time, you can't borrow time, making the most of time, you can't the most of time. You can't make time. You can't do it, you can't. Listen, you can't do any of those things with time. It's impossible. And when it comes to time, you cannot borrow from Peter to pay Paul. Whatever time you don't use today is gone forever. You don't carry yesterday's lost time over until tomorrow. That's why I want you to focus on what Paul said we ought to do every day of our life. He said, "Here's what you ought to do. Make the most of every opportunity. Make the most of every opportunity". Now, that really gets to the heart of what Paul is saying, but a more literal and better translation says it this way, "Making the best use of the time".

Now I put those two translations together, and I just wanna show you in a simple sentence the best way to make every day the best day that you can. Here it is: you make the best use of time by making the most of every opportunity. Now, if I were to say to you, "Whatever life you have lived, don't you wanna make the most of it"? I think most people were, "Sure I do, I mean, absolutely. I really wanna do that," but most of us don't do it. We don't make the most of every opportunity. We don't make the most or the best use of our time. By the way, this is something I like, 'cause I was an accounting major, that phrase, "to make the best use of your time," that's actually an accounting term. And what Paul was saying was God values your time, which is really His time, so much He wants you to get the full value out of your time. He wants you to get the biggest bang out of the buck of every minute that you live.

And in order to do that, there are two words you gotta understand. One is opportunity, and one is time. One is opportunity, one is time. I love to go to Greece. It was one of my favorite places. I love to go to Athens. We go there every other year, just love going there. Back in the day, 3000 years ago, if you'd gone to Athens, you would've seen statues everywhere. As a matter of fact, historians said there were more statues there, there were more statues than people. I mean they loved statutes. Well, there was one statue that stood right in the middle of Athens, and it was called Opportunity, and it was a statue of a person who had long flowing hair in the front of his face, but the back of his face, the back of his head, was completely bald, and it was called Opportunity. And here was the message of that statue: when opportunity's coming towards you, you can grab it, but if you let it pass you, you can never grab it again.

I want you to hear me, listen. You know what today is for all of us in this room? It's a series of opportunities, that's what it is. Every one of us in this room, we'll have opportunities to say, for example, you're gonna walk out of here in just a few minutes and you got all kinds of opportunities of how you're gonna spend the rest of your day, all kinds. You've got all kinds, all kinds of opportunities. Matter of fact, that's what time is, is it's the ability to say, "You know what? I've got all these opportunities, but this is my best opportunity". I was reading the other day, I didn't know that the original meaning of that word, opportunity, comes from from two Latin words, ob portus, and I thought this was really interesting. Back in the days before modern harbors, ships would have to wait until the flood tide came in so they could make it into a port, otherwise they'd run the ship aground.

So it was the captain's job to time when he would go into that harbor, making sure it was full tide so that the boat could come in and the boat would not hit the ground. In other words, there was this ob portus, there was this window of opportunity. And the captain knew, "If I don't make that window, I've gotta sit out here until another tide comes in so that I can dock my ship". That's the word that Paul uses there. When you make the most of every opportunity, you're making the most of time, you're seizing the day. But even the word for time is interesting. In English, we have one word for time: time. That's our word. Greek has two words. One word is chronos. We get the word chronology from that. And what that refers to, it refers to clock time or calendar time, right? That refers to the time that's on your watch right now.

So you've got past, you've got present, you've got future. Chronos time is always moving in one direction, always from past to present and future. That's the kind of time we invented as human beings. That's the kind of time we came up with when they began the railroads, it's how we measure time. That's not how God measures time because God doesn't measure time. God doesn't keep time because God's outside of time. I read this morning in my quiet time, 1000 days with the Lord is just like... 1000 years with the Lord is just like a day. See I'm on the clock right now, right? I mean, I can't preach 10 hours. You gotta get out of here, I gotta get outta here. I'm on the clock. You can't put God on the clock. God doesn't even own a clock. You can't put God on the clock. And that's not the word that Paul uses here. He uses a much more powerful word. He uses the word kairos. Chronos counts minutes, kairos captures moments. What kairos means is, is that critical moment in time when you've got a chance to seize the opportunity and you got to decide, do I take advantage of it or not?

And see, God wants you to understand no matter what time you may think it is right now, the time is always now. The time is now to say the right word. The time is now to do the right thing. The time is now to live the right way. That's why wasting time is wasting life, because time is what life is made of. I hear about people talk about, "Hey, what are you doing"? "I'm just killing time". You don't kill time, time kills you. You don't kill time, time is killing you. And when you're killing time, you're just killing yourself. You're just committing suicide by the minute. That's why I wanna say it again, it is important that you spend your time on what is most important. Now, I don't know specifically what that is for you on a daily basis. You don't know what that is for me on a daily basis. However, I'm saving the best for last, because I do know generally what that is for all of us. I do know that, because Paul's not going to tell us something that we must do, and we will do, if you were to do one thing, and I wanna do this.

I want you to imagine you've come to the end of your life. Let's just imagine today is your last day, and you could play the tape back. Here's my question. When you come to the end of your life, would you wanna look at your life and have a minimum of regrets? Would you wanna look at your life and say, "You know, I didn't live a perfect life, and yeah, there are some things I didn't do I should have done, there's some things I did I shouldn't have done, but, overall, I think I really had a life well lived. I think it was time well spent". Now, if you'd say "Absolutely, that's what I want," then Paul says, "Okay, here's the secret. Be purposeful in how you spend time. Be purposeful in how you spend time". So the ball's in your court, simple question, whatever life you have left to live, you're a young person, you got 50 years ahead of you, 60 years ahead of you, you're middle-aged, you got 25 or 30, you're a much older person, maybe you got 10 years, whatever life you have left ahead of you, simple question.

How are you gonna live your life? Wisely or foolishly? How are you gonna spend your time? Carefully or carelessly? You say, "Well, pastor, what's the difference? And how do you know the difference"? Well, Paul says, "Let me tell you," thank God he did this, 'cause the next word he uses in this passage is the word "therefore". It's good, 'cause what Paul's going to tell us is this: if you see time the way you ought to see time, and if you seize time the way you ought to seize time, he says, "Then this is what you'll do. Therefore do not be foolish". Don't be foolish in the way you live, don't be stupid in how you spend your time, but understand what the Lord's will is.

Now watch this, this is rich stuff right here. In three words, three words, Paul says, "I can tell every one of you what you need to be doing every single day of your life. If you wanna make the most of it every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year, you must do the Lord's will. That's the way you spend your time". In other words, the wise way to live life is inside the will of God, the foolish way is to live outside the will of God. Now this is not a command, I mean a request, it is a command. God says, "I want you to understand what my will is". Well, that's good news because Lord, if you want me to understand your will, and you want me to do your will, then here's what I also know. You must want me to know your will. You evidently want to reveal your will to me.

See, some people make this God's will thing a big mystery and they make it so hard. And we kinda act like God plays hide and seek. We kinda act like God says, "Marco," we're supposed to go, "Polo," as if, okay, I just don't know. I don't know how to find God's will. Well, I'm gonna tell some of you why you can't, because here's the hard but good news. Most of the will of God for your life, He's already told you what it is, He's already revealed it right here. He's already told us what His will is. For example, every command in the Bible that applies to my life, I know it's God's will for me to obey that command. Every promise in the Bible that I know is applying to my life, God's will for me is to believe that promise. So, I'm just gonna barely scratch the surface. You say, "Hey, can you kinda tell me what God's will is for me"? No, I'm going to do better than that. I'm going to tell you what God's will is for everybody, everybody, every single person on this planet, this is God's will 'cause He says so.

For example, it is God's will that we live pure. It is God's will that we stand pure. Don't take my word for it. It is God's will that you should be sanctified, that you should avoid sexual immorality. So I know, okay, that means adultery is outside the will of God. That means living with someone you're not married to is outside the will of God. That means homosexuality is outside the will of God. That means any sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is outside the will of God. Now, if you don't like that, take it up with Him. I'm just a messenger boy, that's what He said. This is God's will for your life. I'll tell you something else. It is God's will that we share Jesus. So how do you know that? Well, God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. That is the will of God. He wants everybody to come to know His Son.

Well, how are people going to know His Son? They gotta hear about His Son. How're they gonna hear about His Son? We gotta tell them about His Son. So I know it's God's will for you and for me to share Jesus. Now here's one. I needed this one yesterday so bad. It is God's will that we stay thankful. God, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. I'm not making this up. I was saying that over and over walking out of that football stadium yesterday, 'cause I was thinking some bad stuff, but seriously it is God's will that we be thankful. Now I've just scratched the surface. We could go on and on and on. It is God's will that we support His work financially. It is God's will that we share the Gospel, that we make known the Gospel. And let me give you an example of how you gotta see this whole deal.

When we pass these baskets, do you know what those baskets are? They're opportunities. They're opportunities for you and me to invest in God's work, and you'd better seize the opportunity, 'cause I've told you this before. If you don't like offering baskets, you may enjoy heaven 'cause there's no offering baskets in heaven. So if you say, "You know what, I just wish the church wouldn't ever ask me for any money," when you get to heaven, if you get to heaven, when you get to heaven, don't worry. Nobody's gonna ask you to give any more money to God's work. Now let me just be real blunt. If that makes you happy, you better check your heart 'cause I'll be honest with you. I'll be sad when the day comes that I know I will never be able to give to God's work again. Nobody'll ever talked to you again about having your one.

Some of you I know are sick of it. Every Sunday the pastor asks, "Who's your one? Who's that one person you're trying to bring to Christ"? Hey, you won't be asked that question in heaven. You never have to share the Gospel again when you get to heaven. If that makes you happy, you better check your heart. Yes, we better make the most of every opportunity to invest in God's work. We better make the most of every opportunity we can to share the Gospel. Now, I know what some of you are saying. You say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, time out got a question. What about those areas of my life that I'm struggling with that's not specifically mentioned in the Bible? I mean, how about those difficult decisions I gotta make day to day, and there's nothing in the Bible that says do this or do that"? Okay, well, two questions are always involved in finding God's will. I get that that all the time. "How do you know God's will for your life"? Probably one of the top 10 questions I've been asked as a pastor.

Well, you think about it, there's always two questions involved in that question. One is our question, one is God's question, okay? Our question is, "God, what do you want me to do"? That's our question. Now, let me ask you a question. How many of you in the last six months have prayed that prayer at least one time? Okay. I have. So God, what do you want me to do? That's our question. But see, God's got a question. Here's God's question. "Will you do what I want you to do"? "God, what do you want me to do"? "Well, will you do what I want you to do"? Now, this is what many of us love to do. We like to play a game with God. And here's what we say to God: "You go first. I tell you what. You tell me what you want me to do, and then I'll decide if I want to do it". There's only one problem. God doesn't go first. God's light stays red till your light turns green. So every morning when you get up, there's a blank page waiting on your end table, your bedside table, there's a blank page.

God says, "Just sign at the bottom today, please. I'll fill in the blanks, you just sign the bottom. It's a blank contract, you just sign the bottom". Because that may mean moving out with that boyfriend or that girlfriend that you're not married to. It gets real quiet when I talk to like this, that's okay. It may mean hanging in that marriage instead of bailing out and doing the hard thing. Yeah, it may mean changing your financial priorities, getting your financial priorities in order, and start putting God first instead of yourself. It may mean refusing to take the other job or leaving the job that you're in. But the point is, you've gotta commit beforehand you're going to do what God wants you to do before God will tell you to do it. Do you know why this is so important? It is only when you're doing what you know you ought to be doing today that you can know God's will for you tomorrow.

Now you think about this. So you go to God and you say, "God, I've got this big decision. Do I go there and not go there? Do I take that job, not take that job? Do I marry that person, not marry that person? Do I do this, do I not do that"? And God says, "Well, before we deal with that, there's this area of your life that you're just absolutely, absolutely, just basically giving me the finger". I know that's crude, but I want you to hear that 'cause that's what we do. "I don't care what your Word says, I'm not gonna do that. I don't care what your Word says, I'm gonna do this". "Okay, so let me get this straight. You're already not doing today what you know I want you to do, but you wanna go ahead and tell you what I'd like you to do tomorrow? No, I got a better idea. You get this area of your life straightened out today, then I'll let you know what I want you to do tomorrow". And the reason why some of us in this room can't find the will of God tomorrow, we're not even doing God's will today.

So God, would you give me that new job? Lord, if I get this job, I'll make so much more money, I'll have such a bigger raise, and God says, "Yeah, just so you can rob me of more money? I don't think so. So how about you doing what I want you to do today, and then I'll tell you what I want you to do tomorrow". So let's just get real practical. Look at your financial life, your marital life, your social life, your sexual life, your moral life, your ethical life. If there's any of those areas where you know right now, "I am not following God's will in that area," why should He tell you what to do later? It's an insult. So let me tell you what I know about your time and your life, okay? I know this about mine. God will give you all the time He wants you to have to live the life He wants you to live. God gave you all the time that you need to have to live the life that He wants you to live. There's enough time in every day to do everything God wants you to do and do it well.

Now listen, let me just help you out. If you're like me and you get frustrated almost on a daily basis, 'cause you got this big to-do list and you can't get everything done, it is very rare that I get my entire to-do list done on any given day. It's not because I'm lazy. I get interruptions, I get phone calls, gotta answer this email, hey, I got this crisis, I got this problem, whatever it may be. And I finally have had to learn there is not enough time. Listen, let me help some of you out who stress yourself out unnecessarily, there will never be enough time in your day to do what you want to do, but there will always be enough time every day to do what God wants you to do, always, 'cause God's in control of time.

So let me just wrap this up. Some of you remember "The Partridge Family". You're old enough to remember teenage heartthrob David Cassidy. He died a couple of years ago. I read this in USA Today, and it broke my heart. Here's a guy that's a top popular singer, teenage heartthrob, made tons of money, worldwide famous. He's laying on his death bed and his daughter's next to him. You know what his last words were before he drew his last breath, David Cassidy? Here's his last words, broke my heart. "So much wasted time".

How would you like to come to the end of your life, 30 years, 40 years, 50 years, 60 years, whatever, how would you like to come to the end of your life and look at the hourglass and go, "So much wasted time"? It doesn't have to be that way. So I want you to remember this and we're finished. Time, very, very short. Eternity, very, very long. And what you do with your time in this life will determine the eternity you spend in the next one. So as you leave today, today, the time is now. You got all of these opportunities, do this, do this, don't do this, go here, don't go there, all these opportunities every moment of your day. You have only one life, it will soon be passed, and only what's done for Christ will last.
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