TIME is the lifeblood of humanity. It is given to all men equally. "But time and chance happeneth to them all" (Eccl. 9: 11). Job sensed the elusiveness of time when he declared, "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle" (Job 7:6). The man in the know knows there is no tomorrow! Today alone is ours. Somebody has said that time is God's partner to remind us constantly of our limitations the greatest of which is death!
They tell me that there is a famous time piece in the Strasbourg Cathedral. Among its many intricate devices is one which marks the eclipses. At the hour of noon statues of the twelve apostles emerge and pass in reverent procession before the figure of Christ, who lifts His hand to bless them while a cock flaps his wings and crows three times.
The most interesting demonstration of this mechanism takes place at the quarter hours. At the first quarter hour, glad child hood emerges and strikes the bell. Youth comes forth at the second quarter, and at the third quarter sober manhood sounds off. The fourth quarter finds feeble, decrepit old age lifting wearily his hammer to strike. When he is finished a figure of death lifts his arm and strikes the hour!
Everyone reading this article is standing at one of these quarters. Remember this, that no prayer, no entreaty, no skill of a physician, can hold time back. Science with all of its marvelous forward thrust into space cannot stop time.
Part with time as you would with gold. Ask anyone on his deathbed what time is worth. They claim Queen Elizabeth's last words were, "All my possessions for a moment of time."
Time is like a large farm which produces nothing without cultivation but will abundantly repay the labors of industry if no part is suffered to lie waste with negligence.
It didn't take me long to realize that a preacher faces a rather peculiar task of mastering his own time. Other professions and tasks have time clocks, office hours, patient appointment lists, daily goals to reach, et cetera. But the preacher is his own time clock. He can preciously conserve his time or squander it like a prodigal. For certain, every hour that is squandered is a chance of future misfortune. This independence of the preacher in controlling his own time is fraught with danger. A beggar is about the only fellow under less control.
Killing Time Injures Eternity
I don't know of anything in my ministerial experience that has caused me more internal struggle than using time properly and effectively. Soul winning and shepherding places a man with a conscience under a definite, lifelong inescapable pressure and burden. This is especially true of the pastor-evangelist. It is something like being a fireman, constantly living in the midst of burning buildings. Even when he takes well-deserved time off, the fires are still raging and the needs are just as great. The magnitude of the task, especially of man-made burdens and plans, sometimes causes such confusion in the mind that order and discipline disappear. Time is wasted in this process of confusion and bewilderment. It is at this point a man must take hold of himself, sit down and get organized, and put first things first. To properly plan our program and then execute that program is our first concern.
We are told in no uncertain terms that time is a talent and that "of no talent He has given will He require a more strict ac count than of our time" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 342). It is interesting to note that God shows us how valuable time really is by never giving us two moments or two seconds at the same time. He gives them to us moment by moment. Rich or poor, large or small, young or old, sick or well, we all have the same amount of time each day.
Every hour wasted is laid to our charge, for time is like life, once it is gone it cannot be recalled. Little wonder Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 8:5: "A wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment." Since time is a talent, "even if we do not lose our souls, we shall realize in eternity the result of our unused talents" (ibid., p. 363).
Precious Time Wasted
How do you value time? How many of us use all the little shreds and patches of time that every day produces? Most people throw these scraps away. But seconds make minutes, and minutes make hours, and hours make days, and days make years, and years make life! Little wonder Ellen White wrote in Gospel Workers, page 278:
"The bright morning hours are wasted by many in bed. These precious hours, once lost, are gone never to return; they are lost for time and for eternity. Only one hour lost each day, and what a waste of time in the course of a year! Let the slumberer think of this, and pause to consider how he will give an account to God for lost opportunities."
"Minutes are golden and should be improved to the very best account. Earthly relations and personal interests should ever be secondary. Never should the cause of God be left lo suffer, in a single particular, because of our earthly friends or dearest relatives." --Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 500.
Napoleon thought so much of his time that he said, "Ask me for anything but time!" God honors a man who covets his time when put to good use. How the world clamors for more time today, but sad to say, time is what most of us use in the worst way!
I will never forget the experience of hearing Elder J. S. Washburn speak at chapel during my college days. He told the story of his life during the first world war when he was appointed as a chaplain to our boys in the various war camps. He heard so much cursing and swearing that he decided to utilize his moments of traveling in memorizing the Scriptures. As he stood before us that day he amazed us all by repeating from memory text after text, many of them obscure passages from the Old Testament. If I remember correctly, he claimed to have memorized the entire New Testament and several books in the Old Testament.
The Man Who Started Sideburns
Ambrose Burnside was one of a family of nine children in an Indiana village. He learned the tailor's trade and worked in busy shops where there was little spare time. One day Congressman Caleb Smith came into the tailor shop and saw the boy busy at work with a book propped up against an iron. Shears held it open, and while he worked Burnside read.
This impressed the Congressman, who offered the young tailor an appointment as a cadet at West Point. Ambrose Burnside's ability to do two things at the same time carried him to the rank of Major General. He invented a new rifle, became treasurer of the Illinois Central Railroad, was three times governor of Rhode Island, and declined a fourth term.
He was so careful to conserve his time that he shaved only his chin, and as a result he started the style of whiskers known as sideburns, named after himself, Burnside! Today sideburns are becoming quite popular, in America especially. I wonder whether all those who wear them are conserving their time as Ambrose Burnside did?
What a glorious thought to think that time is like manna it is fresh daily. As ministers, there is not a single moment in our lives that we can afford to lose. Industry can restore lost wealth. Good hospital care may restore lost health. Even a forfeited reputation can be regained by penitence and virtue. But there is not one among us who can recall wasted days or years. There is not one among us who can erase from Heaven's record book the awful blot of squandered time!
Rise up, ministers of God. Plan your work and work your plan. Make every moment count for eternity. Be stingy with your time!