The Bible exhorts us to redeem the time because life is short (Ephesians 5:16), but the average person wastes vast amounts of time that could be spent profitably.
The book of Proverbs has many warnings about slothfulness. The sluggard “deals with a slack hand” (Prov. 10:4) and loves to laze around (Prov. 20:13; 26:14). He likes to “fold the hands” (Prov. 6:10; 24:33). This phrase could refer to conversing about things of no value, watching television, endlessly collecting pop CDs and MP3 files, playing video games, being consumed with professional sports, fishing, golfing, snowboarding, surfing the Internet, you name it. The sluggard is diligent toward folly but he is lazy toward wisdom. He wastes time and opportunities and doesn’t plan ahead and work hard to fulfill wise objectives (Prov. 6:6-8). He is not self-motivated and diligent in the important issues of life, but he must have someone ruling over him and telling him what to do. When out from under this authority and when left to himself he puts off and neglects the important things. The sluggard uses many excuses to get out of work (Prov. 20:4; 22:13). While the diligent man finds a way to work regardless of the circumstance, the sluggard is busier finding an excuse not to work than to find a way to accomplish the work. The sluggard thinks success is 99% genius and 1% sweat, whereas it is more like 1% genius and 99% sweat. Success makes it own way through diligence and persistence, but the sluggard would rather hope for a jackpot. The sluggard has many desires and plans and covets many things, but he will not work hard to attain these things and thus he is frustrated (Prov. 21:25-26). It’s not that the sluggard doesn’t have any ambition; he is going to do a lot of things whenever he finally gets around to it!
Before I was saved I had no great compulsion in life and as a result I was careless with time, but every since I have been saved I have had a great desire to redeem it. I wasted far many hours on vanity, and I don’t want to waste any more. Life is short and God has a perfect will that is to be pursued. We don’t know how long our lives might be. Jesus could come back today. I could die today. There is no promise of tomorrow, and when a day is gone, it is gone, and we can never revisit it and redeem it. The sluggard plans to do something tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes so he dreams his way through life.
Some people have made light of my diligence. When I was a student at Bible College I carried a large briefcase that contained a portable library, and every chance I had I would read, study, and memorize. During the first year I was working at a church about an hour’s drive from the city, and I would ride to the church with the pastor. His last class got out later than mine, so I would find his car and sit down nearby, open my massive briefcase, and get to work. Invariably he would find me deeply entranced in some project when he arrived, and he would chuckle and wonder why I didn’t “take a break sometimes.” By God’s grace, I ignored that type of thinking and continued to redeem the time. As a result I have had the privilege of publishing about 150 books, including a Bible Encyclopedia.
People that are diligent in the use of time challenge me, even if they are not saved.
There was a wealthy man in England who read a multi-volume history of England by using the 15 or so minutes at every meal while he waited on his servants to attend to him. He could have sat there daydreaming.
Minutes count. They add up. For example, in just one minute you can read the Great Commission chapter of Matthew 28, the Born Again chapter of John 3, the sermon on the Unknown God in Acts 17, or the great love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. So much can be accomplished for the Lord in a small amount of time.
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was a diligent student. He was a great hunter, and on his trips he would carry a portable library. The library that he took on his lengthy hunting trip to Africa was called the “pigskin library” because the books were bound in pigskin to protect them from the harsh conditions. “They were carried in a light aluminum and oil-cloth case, which, with its contents, weighed a little less than sixty pounds, making a load for one porter” (African Game Trails, p. 29). He says, “I almost always had some volume with me, either in my saddle pocket or in the cartridge-bag which one of my gun-bearers carried to hold odd and ends. Often my reading would be done while resting under a tree at noon, perhaps beside the carcass of a beast I had killed, or else while waiting for camp to be pitched” (p. 570). He devotes an entire appendix to a list of the books that he carried on such ventures, including the Bible, Shakespeare, Homer, Poe, Keats, Mark Twain, Macaulay, Bacon’s Essays, Milton’s Paradise Lost, poems by Browning, Longfellow, Emerson, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and various histories.
Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930) was one of the greatest biblical scholars of the church age. When he graduated from Princeton at age 20, he could read the New Testament in nine languages. Eventually he learned 45 languages. At age 25, Wilson decided to dedicate the rest of his life to investigate the historicity of the Bible to see if it could be defended against the onslaught of theological modernism. Based on the longevity of his ancestors, he assumed that he might have 45 more years to dedicate to his project. Dividing this into three periods, he devoted the first 15 years to mastering every language that had a bearing on the text of the Old Testament, the next 15 years to the study of the text of the Old Testament itself, looking at every one of its one and a quarter million letters, and the final 15 years to writing down the results of his research (“The Remarkable Robert Dick Wilson,” Christian Courier, April 24, 2000). Wilson concluded, “I have come to the conviction that no man knows enough to attack the veracity of the Old Testament. Every time when anyone has been able to get together enough documentary ‘proofs’ to undertake an investigation, the biblical facts in the original text have victoriously met the test” (R. Pache, The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture).
One reason why Wilson could accomplish so much in his life was his diligent use of time. He said, “Well, you see, I used my spare time. When I went out for a walk I would take a grammar with me, and when I sat down to rest, I would take out the book, study it a little, and learn what I could” (Robert Dick Wilson, Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly? foreword by Philip Howard, 1922).
Another lesson from Wilson is that to be diligent it is necessary to have clear goals in one’s life. The average person is careless about time because he has no clear and urgent objectives he is seeking to accomplish before the Lord.
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