This is the final post in a series exploring the mystery of time, based on a chapter in Ken Boa’s first book, God, I Don’t Understand.
The most important application of this study of time is our need to develop an eternal perspective.We must begin to look at our lives as God sees them, and consider the implications our small allotments of time have for eternity.
Most people foolishly act as though they will never die. Moses knew better. During the 38 years the children of Israel wandered aimlessly in the wilderness, an average of almost 90 people died per day. This led Moses to contrast the shortness of man’s life with God’s eternality; God is everlasting, but man is like the grass that sprouts, then fades away.
A Prayer of Moses
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered. (Psalm 90:1–6)
Because most people don’t have an eternal perspective, their values are reversed. Refusing to face questions about eternity, they’re hurrying as quickly as they can to oblivion, stopping on their way to build monuments that crumble and are soon forgotten. People are preoccupied with the false god of “success” because they haven’t learned the wisdom of laying up for themselves “treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). They don’t realize there’s much more to time than the mere chronological time we now experience.
For more thoughts on how God wants us to spend our time on earth, check out this article on “Viewing Time God’s Way.”
Chronos vs. Kairos
The Greek word chronos refers to chronological time—the ordinary kind of time that can be measured by clocks and other chronometers. However, there’s another Greek word for time that is used in the Bible. That word is kairos, and it relates to opportunity. Paul uses this term in his letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians:
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time [kairon], because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16)
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity [kairon]. (Colossians 4:5)
Two Kinds of Time in the Bible
Chronos = chronological (ordinary) time
Kairos = opportunity time (a decisive moment that calls for action)
We plan for chronos in our calendars, but we can’t plan for kairos—opportunity time—since we never know when it will come. God orchestrates special opportunities in our lives, and we can easily overlook them by misconstruing them as interruptions. The most significant thing we do today probably won’t be in our planner; instead, it will be our response to a divinely appointed opportunity or “kairos moment” (such as a chance encounter, a strong impression to call or pray for someone, or an unforeseen act of service).
God orchestrates special opportunities in our lives, and we can easily overlook them by misconstruing them as interruptions. The most significant thing we do today probably won’t be in our planner.
Instead of managing our time tightly to accomplish objectives, we would do well to manage our time loosely enough to enhance relationships. Jesus’ life was full of these moments.
Ultimate meaning can only come from seeing all things from God’s perspective. There should be a sense of seriousness and responsibility in light of life’s eternal consequences.
An eternal perspective is also of great value when suffering:
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18; see also Romans 8:18)
6 Tips for Developing an Eternal Perspective on Time
Christians need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit in the realm of time. The Scriptures clearly relate the proper use of time to wisdom (see Ephesians 5:15–17). Following are some wise steps to take to make the best use of your time, from an eternal perspective.
- Don’t put off obedience. Obey the Lord at once!
- Avoid preoccupation with the future (or past). Focus your attention on the present, living daily for God and not worrying about the future (Matthew 6:34; see also 2 Corinthians 6:2).
- Cultivate gratitude. Seek to appreciate and enjoy the process of things. We tend to focus too much on product and not enough on process. Even heaven is a process, not a product. It is a higher process filled with perpetual activity without frustration and with complete fulfillment. Plans and goals can be overemphasized, forcing people to lose appreciation for the present that we’re always in. Besides, no one can be sure that (1) he will live long enough to reach his goal, and (2) he will know how to enjoy it if he does attain it.
- Don’t presume upon tomorrow. James recognized the danger of placing plans before daily obedience to God’s will: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (4:13–15; see also James 1:10–11). There is no question that plans and goals are needed. In fact, one reason the average person doesn’t accomplish very much is that he or she doesn’t plan to. But plans and goals must be placed in the right perspective in submission to God’s will.
- View time as a resource to be stewarded. Time is so valuable that it must be invested well, not wasted (Proverbs 20:13; Ephesians 5:15–17). It must be purchased and appropriated, but it can’t be hoarded. When it’s lost, it’s irretrievable. Thus, we need to structure time to use it best. This calls for personal discipline. A good, flexible, tailor-made schedule can lead to a strategic use of time.
- Be ready and alert! Although we should not be anxious about time, we do need to develop a sense of urgency, because “the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8; see also Romans 13:11–12; 1 Peter 4:7). Jesus was never too late or too early in doing the will of His Father. He didn’t hurry, but He didn’t delay when it was time to act. Similarly, God has given each of us enough time on this earth to carry out His will for our lives. At the end of His ministry, Christ was able to say, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4; see also 2 Timothy 4:7). There’s no need for a Christian to feel hemmed in by time’s limitations.
Jesus was never too late or too early in doing the will of His Father. He didn’t hurry.
10,000 Years & Beyond
Consider these words of A.W. Tozer:
The days of the years of our lives are few, and swifter than a weaver’s shuttle. Life is a short and fevered rehearsal for a concert we cannot stay to give. Just when we appear to have attained some proficiency we are forced to lay our instruments down. There is simply not time enough to think, to become, to perform what the constitution of our natures indicates we are capable of. How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none. Eternal years lie in his heart. For him time doesn’t pass, it remains; and those who are in Christ share with him all the riches of limitless time and endless years. God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which he must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.1
One day, we’ll be able to abide with the everlasting God forever in a new quality of existence that knows no frustration or boredom. Imagine the things you could accomplish with 10,000 years in a resurrected body that doesn’t fatigue and requires no food or sleep!
One day, we’ll abide with the everlasting God forever in a new quality of existence that knows no frustration or boredom.
But as the familiar last stanza of “Amazing Grace” says, 10,000 years is no time at all compared to eternity:
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.2
Verses for Meditation
Show me, O Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Additional verses to ponder:
Put these concepts into practice with Ken’s Guide to Practicing God’s Presence (available as a print book and as a mobile/web app). Consider starting off with one of the following exercises: “Chronos vs. Kairos,” “Important vs. Urgent,” “Memento Mori,” or “Four Last Things.”