Redeeming the time, by Pastor Carl H. Stevens.

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16,17).

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time (Colossians 4:5).
A statement that is so often heard by people is, "Time goes by so quickly!" Important events are viewed with great anticipation for months, and soon they become memories. Each moment is precious in that once it has passed, it can never be brought back again. Time is a gift from God. To the believer, it represents tremendous opportunities to further God's Kingdom. Not a moment should be wasted.

By studying the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:13-32, this booklet discusses God's estimation of time and the necessity of the believer to plan and take advantage of his every hour.

In Luke 15:13-32, there is found the parable of the prodigal son. The younger son took the substance of his inheritance and squandered it on wine, women and song. But the good times did not last. His lifestyle devoured his finances, and when a famine came upon the land, he "began to be in want" (hustereisthai - continually in poverty). Lonely, penniless and working as a swine feeder, this young man decided to return home.

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him (Luke 15:20).

The elated father then gave his penitent son a robe, a ring and shoes, and he had a banquet to celebrate the son's return. Most discussions of this text center on the forgiving response of the father, which typifies the consistent, compassionate love of God. Believers who fall into sin, but later repent and return to their heavenly Father, are accepted by Him in this manner and with similar joy. However, another important principle will be discussed. Verse 25 explains that the elder brother came in from the field and heard the commotion at the house.

And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come: and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he (the elder brother) was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him (Luke 15:26-28).

"Angry" is the important word in this passage. In the Greek, it is orgisthe. This word appears in the indicative mood and aorist tense. This particular mood signifies certain or absolute reality, while the aorist tense refers to undefined action. The elder brother was enraged, but this was not a new feeling at all.

The Greek grammatical structure used indicates that resentment and bitterness had long been in the elder brother's heart: the party for the prodigal simply exposed his hidden mental attitudes.

Understanding Time

Neither brother in this parable understood the principle of "redeeming the time" in Ephesians 5:16. The prodigal son wanted to do his own thing. He was young and ambitious. He wanted liberty from his father's management. Life on the farm was boring and frustrating to him. As soon as he was old enough, he demanded his share of the family inheritance.

And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living (Luke 15:12).

Christians sometimes allow themselves to be ensnared in a similar web of sin. They become preoccupied with their personal rights. This breeds what might be called "chain sinning." In other words, they "add sin to sin" as described in Isaiah 30:1b. They do not recognize the tremendous opportunity of obedience to the plan of God.

Now, the prodigal was a son. Nothing could change that. Likewise, every believer is a child of God and he can never be anything less than
that (Romans 8:16; Luke 20:36). In his father's eyes, the young son was precious, just as every believer is precious in God's sight (Isaiah 43:4). Yes, he did venture into "the far country," which typifies experiences of self-advantage and self-will apart from the Lord. He was free, but it was a false independence.

He had friends, but they were false friends - they were not around when his money ran out. But all the time he was gone, the father loved him. He probably looked out of his house each day hoping for a sight of his son.

One day the son realized that his life was becoming a waste, and he returned home. Some people will argue that the prodigal son never was penalized for his backsliding. Those with this attitude fail to understand the importance of redeeming the time. During his season of living in sin, this son forfeited opportunities to honor his father. Similarly, Christians who consistently sin suffer the loss of time, which could have been spent in the furthering of God's Kingdom and testimony. Following their repentance, they are received as if nothing happened. God has forgiven and blotted out their sins. However, the opportunities they missed to glorify the Lord are gone forever.

The Prodigal Heart

It is evident that the prodigal son, before he returned to his father, wasted much time on useless endeavors. What is often overlooked is that the elder brother lost many valuable opportunities as well. He stayed at his home, physically and geographically, but his heart was far removed from that of his father. Keep in mind the previous exegesis of Luke 15:28. The father possessed a heart of forgiveness, grace and mercy. Envy, frustration and dissatisfaction consumed the elder brother as is revealed in the following verses:

And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf (Luke 15:29, 30).

Outwardly, he appeared to be utilizing his time to honor the father. But, here it is evident, that his motive for staying at home was selfishness and pride. "Do I serve thee" in the above is translated from the Greek douleuo soi - literally, "I have slaved for you." Expositor A.T. Robertson said the elder son uses this verb to "picture his virtual slavery in staying at home and perhaps with longings to follow the younger son." Deuteronomy 10:12b is a commandment: "... Serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul. " This defines the elder brother's problem: he did not have a servant's heart. In Luke 15:2, it is noted that the Pharisees and scribes, who criticized Jesus for receiving sinners and eating with them, were listening to this story. The elder brother is representative of their heart attitudes. These men were always in the synagogue. Daily, they reviewed the scrolls and parchments containing the Word of God. Still, they did not know God's heart. They were not even close to it.

Thus, these moments can only be counted as waste. How can one read the Bible and not know the love of God? What a pity it must be to see that God hates sin, but not to realize His love for the sinner. The Pharisees did not know how to serve God or men.

Jeremiah 20:12 says that God sees "the reins (kilyah - the temper and disposition) and the heart. " For a long time, the elder son criticized his father in his mind. He considered his life to be drudgery. He thought his father was taking advantage of him. Finally, he could not take it anymore, and his true attitude was revealed. He
insulted his father, and accused and attacked his character. Like the elder son, there are Christians who serve God outwardly, but inwardly feel they are being victimized. They become critical and complain when difficulties arise in their lives. They feel like God owes them something, when the truth of the matter is that He paid completely a debt of sin He did not owe on the cross at Calvary. Christians, at times, misunderstand the truth that all things are of God. The Lord is very specific in the training of each of His servants.

Every moment is vital in the preparation of Jesus Christ. In Moses' case, God needed him to spend forty years tending sheep on the back-side of the desert before He could raise him up to lead the nation of Israel from its captivity in Egypt. Paul spent three years in Arabia before beginning his ministry (Galatians 1:17,18).


Utilizing Time

In Psalm 90:12, Moses prays, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Neither son in the parable in Luke 15 understood the principle of this verse. In the previous 11 verses, Moses lamented how Israel had wandered as a prodigal nation for years in the desert. At this point, many in Israel, including Moses, were nearing the end of their lives. Thus, he prayed that he would not waste the few years he had left. "Number" is manah in the Hebrew, which means "to allot, to ration out, to value."Bowis the word for "apply." It is defined to mean "to cause to come; to besiege." Those who value their time and count it precious are the ones who are wise. Every believer should ask himself this question, "What do I allot my time to?" The young son in Luke 15 allotted his time, as well as his money, to riotous living. The elder son's moments were spent dwelling on bitter and resentful thoughts. Likewise, many believers waste away sacred hours in sin - openly or mentally.

Christians must learn to plan their time and apply their hearts unto wisdom. A believer plans specific time for his business. He schedules time for rest and relaxation. But how many plan to pray? How many plan to study the Bible daily? Few would consider missing a meal or a night's sleep. Of course, everyone must organize his time, accomplish necessary tasks and be effective on the job. However, many neglect the study of God's Word and fellowship with Him in prayer. By doing so, they miss out on many blessings that God has for them during their time on the earth.

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away (James 4:13, 14).

James is referring to merchants of his day who moved their operations from city to city to "get gain." Some believers make decisions and plans around temporal, materialistic values, instead of seeking first His Kingdom and allowing all things to be added unto them. These people plan their time in reference to the world that they see. This passage declares the foolishness of investing in the things of this life at the expense of making eternal investments. In comparison to eternity, James writes that the earthly life is as a "vapour" (atmis - old Greek verb speaking of a mist that quickly appears and then vanishes away). I Corinthians 7:29 says that "time is short." Each moment represents another opportunity for the believer to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Having A Plan

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Every Christian needs to plan his time so that he can take full advantage of these opportunities. He should make definite plans to utilize his time to pray, to read God's Word and study, to win souls, etc. Dr. Jack Hails „Pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond (State Indiana), the man with a passion this see souls saved, said: "It you are to be a soul winner, you have to do it on purpose ... There never is a day when I want to go soul winning. We re all made of the same clay and have the same weakness. Soul winning is a spiritual matter and the flesh will fight against it."

Certainly, there will be times when one will fail to fulfill his plan. But at least he had a plan. There was a purpose in his heart. There is much
truth in the old proverb, "It is better to attempt something and fail, then to attempt nothing and succeed." Purpose to pray, purpose to study,
make plans to follow the will of God. Time is too short to waste. The opportunities are too precious to overlook.

As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more (Psalm 103:15, 16).

Each Christian needs to ask the Holy Spirit to impress him with the truth that time is short. It must be redeemed for God's purposes. There are plenty of things that could divert the believer's attention, but, as Matthew 6:22 says, he is to let his "eve be single" that he might be "full of light." Like each of the brothers in Luke 15, God has given each Christian a portion of time as Moses declared in Psalm 90:10: The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cutoff, and we flyaway.

No one knows when his appointment with death will come. The time of the Rapture of the Church is known exclusively by the Father. Therefore, it is imperative that believers value each moment as if it were their last. Redeeming the time is taking the time God has allotted in His sovereignty, and going forward in His objective plan and wisdom. Let each Christian purpose to make his every moment count for eternity. Like the grass, his days will be gone and few will even remember his life: "the place there of shall know it no more." In redeeming the time, he can make an impact that will be remembered in heaven and the ages to come.

This moment there are people on the mission field because they planned to be there. Others have purposed to have Bible school training. Others utilize their time for prayer and evangelism. According to the world's standards, life is passing by people who engage in these activities. However, these believers are making a difference, and one day all will recognize how wisely these Christians have redeemed their time.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the King James Version.

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