Later than you think


by Michael E. Brooks

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. . . . While it is said, “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion (Hebrews 3:12-13, 15 NKJV).

There are many stories and jokes about broken clocks chiming many more times than were needed to tell the time. A similar incident really happened.

At Khulna Bible College in Bangladesh the night guard rings a bell for every hour of the night and one ring for each half-hour. One night Brenda and I were awake at midnight and heard 13 rings. We looked at one another and one of us said, “It is later than it has ever been.”

Though perhaps funny in its context (or at least it was to us), that is really not just a joke. It truly is later right now than ever before, and each moment advances time to another new record. All creation is getting older and closer to its end, including each one of us. Time is passing, swiftly, and whatever we might want to accomplish we need to recognize a sense of urgency. It is often quite literally, “now or never.”

The writer of Hebrews understood that urgency. Today is the time to renew faith and commitment to God. Today is the day to exhort one’s neighbor to faith and righteous living. We may never have another day. Our time is growing short.

James left a similar warning.

“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

Do not arrogantly plan for a future that God may not provide. Rather seek his will and live according to it.

Paul states the same principle in a positive way.

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

This is a strong admonition to use our time wisely, hoarding each moment as an irreplaceable treasure.

These three passages provide a valuable “To Do” list for each day of a Christian’s life.

  1. We should pray, as we consult God’s will and surrender our day to his service and glory.
  2. We should help our neighbors and fellow Christians, telling those outside of Jesus about his love, and encouraging the faithful to greater service.
  3. We should walk wisely, resisting temptation and the ways of the world.
  4. We should live with urgency, recognizing every day as God’s precious gift, taking advantage of every opportunity it provides.

Paul said in another place, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Not only is there urgency in life, there is also the need for enthusiasm. Too many go through the day begrudging every moment. They wake to a dread of what faces them, and go to bed that night regretting things done, or things failed of doing, during the day.

In Christ we can live with joy and purpose, approaching each task and each event heartily, knowing that it will present an opportunity to please our Lord. And at the end there is the promise of his coming in glory (Matthew 16:27) to take his followers to their inheritance (John 14:3).

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

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