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First Presbyterian Church, Nashville

Dr. Todd B. Jones

August 19, 2018

 Making the Most of Time

1 Kings 2:1-12, 3:3-14; Ephesians 5:15-20

            Last week at the 11 o’clock service, sitting on the pew with Connie in worship, were six of my closest friends from the church where I served in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  One of them was Kenny Frick.  Bill Akin is sitting all the way in the back today, and for years Kenny Frick and Bill Akin have been friends, because both of them are periodontists.  (You do not want to have to go to see them, but if you are having gum trouble, thank the Lord for what they do!)

            Two-and-a-half years before I left Spartanburg, Kenny Frick’s wife, Gay, was out in the yard working in the beds, and suddenly she was overcome with a feeling she had never had before, and passed out.  She ended up heading for tests, and soon the doctors in Spartanburg sent her to Emory University Medical Center, where they discovered that Gay had a tumor, on which they had to operate as soon as they possibly could.  Upon operating, the doctors closed Gay back up, and told Kenny and Gay that she had six months, at the outside, to live.  Six months for Gay Cecil Frick turned into two-and-a-half years. 

            Gay had always been a person who walked very closely with God.  But in the midst of this two-and-a-half year battle with cancer, that ultimately, physically, she lost, Gay somehow became more radiant than ever.  Her faith, which had always mattered to her, suddenly mattered to her supremely, and with three children and a husband she adored, Gay had a reason to live, and to live as long and as fully as she could.  Specifically, her oldest child, Jamie, was getting married, and I will always believe that Gay willed herself to be there for that day.  She filled those two-and-a-half years with life, and life abundant.  Just before the service that evening, I don’t know why, but I snuck up into the balcony, and I saw Gay sitting by herself, taking in the music, the flowers, everything that she had poured her heart into for her oldest child.  I sat down next to her, and she took my hand, she said to me, “I have never felt so alive, or so thankful in all my life, as I feel at this moment.”

            Last week, we looked at the fourth chapter of the book of Ephesians, where Paul says, “I, a prisoner of the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”  This week extends that plea by the author of Ephesians for us to live “as wise, and not as unwise” people.  Listen to how he puts it: “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people, but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”

            Wisdom is a gift, as our Old Testament passage, read by Ashleigh, reminds us. (Would you like it to be longer, Ashley, at the second service, by the way?)  Wisdom is a gift that God is eager to give to those who will seek it.  It pleased God that Solomon asked for an understanding heart.  Wisdom, as the Old Testament conceives of it, is really a gift that helps us to live life better, to live richer and fuller lives, because wisdom is not just a gift, but it is also an art which enables us to live the one life we are given more the way God intends for it to be lived.  And the key to wise living, according to Ephesians, is “making the most of the time.”

            There was a powerful Christian theologian in the 1960’s and 1970’s by the name of Sam Keen.  He said once, “Wisdom is knowing what time it is in your life.”  But that is the mystery, isn’t it, of time?  Time is given to us but once, and none of us know how much time we have been allotted. 

            I have been reading for fun this past week, Marty Appel’s incredible biography of Casey Stengel.  Casey Stengel is one of the biggest characters the game of baseball ever knew.  He managed the New York Yankees from 1949 to 1960, and in that time Casey Stengel won seven World Series.  When the Yankees lost the 1960 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates (Surely an act of God, if ever there was an act of God!), Casey Stengel was summarily fired by the Yankees.  He said at a press conference, “I’ll never make the mistake of being seventy years old again!”  Casey knew that only once in life do you get to be the age that you are.  Upon his tombstone in southern California, these words appear: “There comes a time in every man’s life, and I’ve had plenty of them.”  Stengel knew that life was about seizing time in the moment when it comes.

            Paul said, “Make the most of the time.”  The word he uses in the Greek is the word kairos.  It also is a word which can mean “opportunity.”  We have noted before, that the Bible uses two Greek words for time.  The first word is the word chronos.  We get the word chronology from it.  It is the time that is measured by clocks and calendars, digital time.  That kind of time passes relentlessly, ever and always, like the ticking of an old fashioned clock.

            The Greeks had not one, but two words for time, because I think they sensed that not all time was equal or the same.  You know this.  Some moments simply stand out as times that are way more telling than other time that simply passes.  They are times that are filled with memory and meaning.  I remember, like it was yesterday the days when my children were born into this world.  Those were miraculous, life-changing, life-altering moments.  I still remember like it was yesterday, because it almost was, when I fell head-over-heels in love with Connie King Harrison.  For the young, the first day of school is kairos time.  Do you remember what it felt like to head into school for the very first day?  You are nervous, you are excited, you are afraid, you are alert and alive, and you are wondering, “Will I find friends this year?  Will I like my teacher?”  (Looking back, I loved almost every teacher I ever had; I fell head-over-heels in love with them!)  “Will I be able to do well?”

            Paul puts it like this: “Be careful how you live, not as unwise people, but as wise, making the most of the time.”  Time is fleeting, which makes it all the more precious.  Paul knew that you could miss out on life, if all you are busy doing is marking time, or killing time, or serving time, or wasting time, or watching time fly.  Isn’t that an incredibly interesting expression we use, which suggests that we can lose the time somehow that we have been given? 

            Part of the real power of the New Testament is that all the writers shared the same conviction that time was not just precious, it was short.  They all were convinced that they were living in the end times, that the end of everything was at hand, that Christ would return imminently.  It gave to all of them a sense of urgency about time.  There is a theological word attached to this notion of time that every one of the New Testament writers shared.  They had an “apocalyptic” view of time.  It is a word which means “revelation.”  (The Revelation, the last book of the Bible, is also called The Apocalypse of John.)  For the early Church, they expected the return of Christ anytime, any moment, any day.  I have thought about this a lot through the years.  It is a good way to live, as if you do not have all the time in the world, as if in on any given day, that day could be the last day you are ever given, because it could be.

            Sam Keen says, “Wisdom is knowing what time it is in your life.”  But I am not sure that says it all.  Maybe even more, wisdom is knowing that you never really know for sure what time it is in your life.  For that reason wisdom is making the most of the time you are given.  I have been thinking about this is in realizing I have six months left to preach to you, who I love so dearly and deeply.  What is it that I want more than anything else to say?  Life is a gift, and time is utterly precious, even sacred.  So don’t squander it; make the most of the days that the Lord your God gives you.

            Bryant Kirkland was one of my heroes and mentors in life.  He was for twenty-seven years the pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.  I got to be friends with him as a young pastor when a group of about eight of us invited him to come meet with us for four days in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Those days were incredible!  I still remember Indian wrestling with Bryant Kirkland with our feet up in the air, the leg wrestling where you lock legs, and see who can turn over the other person.  The guy was seventy-six, and he said, “Do you want to Indian wrestle with me?”  I remember so much of what he said in those days, and one of the things he said was this: “Always be ready to redeem the time.  Never go anywhere without The Good Book, and a good book or journal in case your plane is cancelled, and you suddenly have time you hadn’t banked on, so you can redeem and make the most of the time.”  He was saying that time is precious, precisely because it is limited.

            Paul is talking about way more than the wisdom of time management skills when he is talking here, though.  He is talking about the difference between being wise and being a fool.  Fools live as if they have all the time in the world, and fools live for themselves, as if they are a world unto themselves, and there is no world beyond.  Bill Coffin said, “The smallest package in all the world, is a person all wrapped in themselves.”

            Paul says, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  What is the Lord’s will?  The Catechism asks the question: “What is our chief end?”  You know the answer!  “To glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Life is not about me and mine, life is about God.  John Calvin said, “The full sum of wisdom consists of two things, the knowledge of ourselves and the knowledge of God.”  You cannot know one without knowing the other.

            Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit, if you are wise, as you sing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.”  In a word, wisdom is worship.  Worshiping God is always wise, because it is so life-giving; it is giving to God what God wants most, which is your attention.  When you love somebody, you show it by paying attention to them carefully.  Husbands and wives, just to be reminded of this, or as they say now, “Just saying!”  If you really want to make the most of your time, make time for God.  Let me tell you, God is never going to intrude on you.  God is never going to force you to worship Him, or to pay attention to Him.  Know, though, that God is gladdened, God is delighted by your worship, by the love and adoration that you offer.

            When Paul is talking about living wisely and living worshipfully, you almost miss the line at the end that he offers, “Giving thanks always and for everything.”  All of us think, “Giving thanks for the blessings of life, I can count my blessings and name them one by one, all day long, and that is good and life-giving.”  But Paul is saying something even more here.  To live wisely, to make the most of the time, is to be radically grateful, “to give thanks to God always and for everything.”

            I have just spent a week with grandchildren.  (Speaking of kairos time, it is time that is precious and fleeting.)  My oldest grandchild loves contemporary Christian music.  I think that is kind of funny, because it is not my favorite genre of music.  Not there is anything wrong with this kind of music; it is just that there is other music to which I am more drawn.  One of the things Ben pointed out for me is that I know a very famous contemporary Christian musician, and I did not even know that that is what she had become.  Laura Story went to high school with my son Josh.  She was one year older than him, and she married her high school sweetheart, a boy who was in my son’s class in high school.  The two of them played baseball on the same team.  What I did not know was the two of them married, and Martin Elvington in 2006 was diagnosed with a life-threatening, life-changing brain tumor.  As Laura Story talks about that experience, she talks about how she had to change her notions of God and life in the wake of the reality, the new reality that their life together would be.  Out of that came an incredibly powerful song, Ben Jones’ favorite song in the world, called, Blessings, by Laura Story. 

We pray for blessings

We pray for peace

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep

We pray for healing, for prosperity

We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while, You hear each spoken need

Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things


’Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?

What if Your healing comes through tears?

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?


We pray for wisdom

Your voice to hear

We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near

We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love

As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

All the while, You hear each desperate plea

And long that we’d have faith to believe


When friends betray us

When darkness seems to win

We know that pain reminds this heart

That this is not our home


What if my greatest disappointments

Or the aching of this life

Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?

What if trials of this life

The rain, the storms, the hardest nights

Are Your mercies in disguise?

            Laura Story says, “Maybe more important than answers are the questions that God has caused me to ask.”

            “Make the most of the time,” dear friends, for time is precious!


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