Understand what the Lord’s will is in 2014
Pastor Bob Bushman
Text: Ephesians 5:15 17
Most of us seem to be very busy. We’re always in a hurry. We walk fast, talk fast, & eat fast. And after we eat, all too often, we stand up & say, "Excuse me, I’ve gotta run."
So here we are, at the first Sunday of 2014.
I wonder how we’ll do this year?
Will we be as busy?
Will we make any better use of our time?
When this year is over, will we be looking back with joy, or with regret?
Will we be looking at the future with anticipation, or with dread?
There is a passage of Scripture that I believe can be of help to us as we look forward to 2014.
In Ephesians 5:15-20 Paul writes, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.
Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.
And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I think that in this passage the Apostle Paul presents some important lessons that we need to consider.
I. OUR TIME ON THIS EARTH IS LIMITED
First of all, we must be very careful how we live because our time on this earth is limited.
The Psalmist wrote, "Show me, O Lord, my life’s end & the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life" (Psalm 39:4).
And again, "The length of our days is 70 years or 80, if we have the strength...they quickly pass, & we fly away" (Psalm 90:10).
Now, I realize that for some of you younger folk, 70 or 80 years sounds like a long, long time.
In fact, I can remember when I thought anyone over 40 was ancient.
The Psalmist also tells us to number our days so that we will develop a heart of wisdom.
Neither you nor I have a guarantee of even one day more to live.
In fact the Bible tells us not to count on tomorrow because tomorrow may not come for you or for me.
All we have is right now. So our time on this earth is valuable because it is very limited.
Secondly, Paul tells us that we must make "the most of every opportunity." And he gives a reason, "because the days are evil."
Jesus said that Satan is a robber & a thief, John 10:10 & one of the things he tries to rob from us is our time because time is a very precious possession.
Jesus went to the home of Mary & Martha & Lazarus. He sat down to teach, & Mary was sitting at His feet just soaking in every word. Meanwhile, Martha was out in the kitchen preparing dinner.
Now, you know the story. It is found in Luke 10. Martha gets upset because Mary is not in the kitchen, too.
So she complains to Jesus, "Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," Jesus answered, "You are worried & upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, & it will not be taken away from her" [Luke 10:40 42].
Now was Martha committing a sin by fixing a meal in the kitchen? No, of course not! But here’s the problem.
She was so preoccupied with what she was doing that she didn’t realize that God was in her living room.
That’s the same mistake you and I make almost every day.
We get so caught up in the here and now that we fail to deal with the eternal, the things that will last forever & ever.
Richard Swenson, a medical doctor, wrote a book in which he discusses one of the major maladies of our time anxiety and stress. He calls it "overload," and says that people are just plain overloaded.
1. We’re overloaded with commitments.
We’ve committed ourselves to go here & there, to take part in this activity & that social function.
As a result we soon begin meeting ourselves coming & going because we have overloaded ourselves in the area of commitments.
2. We’re also overloaded with possessions, he says. Our closets are full, and our garages are overflowing.
We’ve gone into debt to pay for all of these things that we "simply must have." And now we’re so afraid that someone will steal them. We are overloaded in the area of possessions.
3. Thirdly, we have an overload in the area of work.
We get up early, fight traffic, and experience intolerable working conditions because we have to if we’re going to pay for all those possessions that we’ve accumulated.
4. There is also an information overload.
He said that as a doctor he has to read 220 articles a month just to keep up with all the changes in his profession.
And now with the internet there’s an information super highway. But the problem is that we can’t possibly absorb it all. So we feel an overload in this area, too.
Well, I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
There are so many demands on our time, so many good things that need to be done.
But there are just 8,760 hours in this year. We do want to make the most of every opportunity, so what are we to do?
UNDERSTAND WHAT THE LORD’S WILL IS
Well, to answer that, Paul tells us, "...do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is."
Now, what do you think God’s will is for you in this new year?
Do you think He wants your mind so saturated with worries and anxieties that you can’t think spiritual thoughts?
Do you think He wants your calendar so crowded that you don’t have time for the important things?
What do you think God’s will is for you this year?
Let me make a couple of suggestions for you to consider as you face this new year.
First of all, I will establish my priorities.
I’m assuming that since you’re in church this morning that you believe God should be a part of your life.
But when you begin to establish priorities, you have to decide just where He stands in your life.
So ask yourself, "Who or what is most important in my life?"
And I’m hoping that your answer will be, "My relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, is most important to me.
“If so, then put that at the top of your list of priorities, & say, "This will affect my decisions, my scheduling, my relationship with others, & my whole outlook on life."
I’ll worship the Lord and nothing will interfere with that."
2 - I will develop margin in my life
Margin is "the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits." When we reach the limits of our resources and abilities, we are out of margin.
3 – I will need to schedule some definite time each day to pray & to read His Word.
Spending time with God each day will build your faith and strengthen your relationship with Him.
Pray for yourself & for your family & for people around you.
4. We must also spend time with your family.
Spend time with your family; no one ever says I wish I had spent more time at work on their death bed.
Make sure you are spending time with your family building strong family bond. This is so important in bringing up our children. They need to know that they are important enough to you that you make quality time for them.
5. Now most of us have to work.
And I think Christians ought to be good workers. When someone hires a Christian they ought to know they’re getting someone who will give them an honest day’s work.
Because we’re Christians we have a responsibility to the Lord to honor Him even in the marketplace.
So first of all, we need to establish our priorities and then, then we need to learn how to live for today.
The two greatest enemies of time are regrets for things we did in the past, and anxiety about what will happen to us in the future.
Many of us are living either in the past or in the future.
In fact, many of us are engaged in the little game of, "I wish it were." "I wish it were next week," or "I wish it were next month," or some such thing. Kids go to school & say, "Boy, I wish this day were over."
Gary Freeman tells about a girl who went to college and just hated it.
But she told herself, "If I can ever get out of college, get married & have children, I know I’ll finally be able to enjoy life."
So she stuck with it. She went to classes every day and finally graduated from college.
Then she got married, had children, and discovered that children are a lot of work.
So she told herself, "If I can just get these kids raised, then I’ll be able to relax and really enjoy life."
But about the time the kids were entering high school her husband said, "Guess what? We don’t have enough money to send our kids to college.
I guess you’ll have to get a job."
Well, she didn’t want to, but she knew he was right and they needed the money, so she went to work.
And she hated it. But she told herself, "If I can just get these kids out of college, get all of the bills paid, then I can quit work & really enjoy life."
Finally, the last child graduated from college, all the bills were paid. So she walked into her employer’s office & said, "I quit." He said, "Oh, you don’t want to quit now. If you stay with us just another 8 years you’ll have a pension for the rest of your life."
She thought, "Well, I don’t want to work another 8 years, but there’s all that money there, and I really can’t turn down the opportunity."
So she worked for another 8 years. Finally, she and her husband retired at the same time. They sold their home & bought a little retirement cottage.
Then they sat down on the swing on their front porch & looked at the family picture album and dreamed about the good old days.
Someone said, "Life is what happens to you while you’re making plans to do something else."
True, isn’t it? Another year has come and gone.
A new year stretches before us. Our prayer should be; “Help us Lord, to redeem the time.”
Dear Father help us to use our time wisely in the coming year realizing that time is a gift from you. Help us to set priorities that are pleasing to you, bless us with wisdom and grace to be good time managers in all our affairs, in Jesus name amen.
Commission and blessing
And during the New Year may you have:
enough happiness to keep you sweet - enough trials to keep you strong,
enough sorrow to keep you human - enough hope to keep you happy,
enough failure to keep you humble - enough success to keep you eager,
enough friends to give you comfort - enough wealth to meet your needs,
enough enthusiasm to make you look forward to tomorrow,
& enough determination to make each day better than the day before.
Lord, please help us to use the 8,760 hours of this year the wisest way we can for you, & for your glory.