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A NEW YEAR'S ADMONITION
My dear friends, the word which I desire to base my remarks upon you will find in Ecc. ix. 10. ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.’
In a former chapter of this book you may read these words, ‘Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions’ (Ecc. vii. 29).
Our young people live in a day of many inventions, which are extremely interesting. They see things which our grandfathers never dreamed of. How wonderful are those mighty machines that scale the skies as they do at such a speed; what remarkable ships travel the sea. Yes, on land, on the sea, and in the air, they have sought out many inventions. Many of these have found their way into our homes, to make things more easy, and to accomplish our tasks more speedily. Others have their place in the commercial world, all with the same purpose, that is, I suppose, to save time. That is the underlying principle in all these inventions, first of all, for men judge that these things will save that precious thing which we call Time. Many different reasons move men to do this, some reasons are very good, and many of them are bad, very bad. For instance, most people want to save time in order to procure more business, because the love of money is in their heart; that reason may be extremely bad. On the other hand, some men seek to save time, and therefore money, that they may use it for works of charity, to care for the needy, and those that are ill; that is all to the good.
But again, in many cases people use inventions to save time in order to use it in the enjoyment of sinful pleasures, and that is a very evil use indeed. But whatever the motive, one lesson appears, namely, that Time is a very precious thing. We often say so — but have you ever thought out the reason why time is precious? The answer really is, that time is precious because it is so limited. Our time here on the earth does not go on for ever. What is time? For us, it just means the duration of our life here, bounded by our beginning and our end; thus our time is limited, and our days, as the Bible says, are numbered. If we were to live here forever, then time would not be so precious, for what is not done today might be done tomorrow, next week, or next year; there would be no need for so much speed, and all things could proceed quite leisurely. But it is not so, and time therefore becomes precious as we feel it is so limited. There was one man in the
Bible, whose name you should know, that lived longer than any other man did; his name was Methuselah, and he lived for 969 years — what a long time, but even his time was precious, for it was not forever, and we read of him in Gen. v. 27, ‘And he died.’
We often say, how quickly the time has gone, another year has passed, it does not seem possible. Have you ever thought why it seems to go so fast? Although Methuselah lived so long, I should not be surprised if he had said the time had gone swiftly. The reason for our oft-repeated remarks is this; we have not seen all that we wanted to see, or to hear, we have not done all that we ought to do, or hoped to do in the time allotted to us. It is so in the work of a day, we plan to do this or that, but darkness comes on, and we have not accomplished it, we say the time has gone fast! So it is in regard to the end of life, it seems to come so quickly because many things are interrupted, and cannot be finished. Thus the end of life breaks in upon the business or pleasure of all men, whether they have finished all that they hoped, whether they are ready to leave it or not. How solemn it is, how frequently we are reminded of the brevity of this life. Some, of course, reach a great age, but many more do not travel so far, and reach the end of the journey earlier, and are called away. These thoughts may explain why we feel that time appears to go so very fast. How short then, is our little piece of time, which we call life, when compared with vast eternity, that measureless ocean extending beyond this present state.
Now I want to say something about that portion of time which we call our present life. When we come to analyse it, what a very little time really, we have, in which to do our work. Just think, what a great portion of it is spent in sleep! You know, of course, how babies all have to sleep so much. But even grown up people still have to sleep. This is a great gift from our Creator, and should be highly prized, for it is so good to refresh our minds and bodies. It has been said, I think, that we spend something like a third of our time in sleep. However that may be, one thing we must admit, namely, that we cannot do any work while we are sleeping. Therefore our working
time is confined to our waking hours; but even these, as you well know, are considerably restricted. For most people, there comes the time of affliction, when they are laid aside, and cannot work, perhaps for long periods. With these thoughts in mind, we have to say, how short, how brief, really, is the time available for work. Now seeing that the working time is on the whole so very short, we can better understand the emphasis that the wise man has put upon the words before us: ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.’ And the reason — that our time here is not endless. It may seem rather sad and solemn for young people to consider this particular matter, but we cannot go round it, nor leave it. The fact is forcibly brought before us, there is an end, there is a close coming to all our activities, therefore it becomes us to look well to the work to be done. ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might’ because there is no work, wisdom or knowledge in the grace, whither thou goest.
We are told by the Apostle Paul in one place to redeem the time because the days are evil (Eph. v. 16). It is to be prized, and used wisely; there are two particular things to be done, before we leave this world. The first is this: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness’ (Matt. vi. 33). When we say ‘first’ it does not mean in order of time, because as most know, we usually live some length of time, before we begin to seek the kingdom of God. The second thing or branch of our work here is, our lawful calling. Both these things are to be done by all who are made truly wise.
Let us take a view of the first, that supremely important thing, to seek first the kingdom of God. What a tremendous matter it is. The scriptures describe this under various aspects. We are exhorted in one place to seek the Lord while there is yet time (Isa. lv. 6). And in another, ‘Ye must be born again’ (John iii. 7). We must be made new creatures. ‘Jesus said, Repent ye, and believe the gospel’ (Mark i. 15). And again, ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish’ (Luke xiii. 3). O what an important work that is to be done in us and for us.
Yet further, there is that work of faith spoken of so much in the scripture; it is called ‘the work of faith with power’ (II Thess. i. 11). The work of faith is to believe on Jesus Christ, to the saving of the soul; to believe on Him so as to bring forth fruit in our day and generation. This faith is said to ‘work by love’ (Gal. v. 6). Here is another thing we must know, even the love of Christ which passeth knowledge (Eph. iii. 19). It is a love that we feel when sins are forgiven, and is part of that preparation of the heart. God's people are called a prepared people. John the Baptist, we read, was sent to ‘make ready a people prepared for the Lord’ (Luke i. 17). What a great and solemn work this is to be done, both in us, and by us, for we must each repent, and each believe, for ourselves, no one else among the creatures can do it for us. We are bidden in the Word to give the more earnest heed to these things, and not neglect so great a salvation (Heb. ii. 3). We are very apt to neglect this vital matter, but the Lord Jesus said, ‘For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Matt. xvi. 26).
This ‘work’ we have before us is spoken of by Paul in this way: ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’ And how this is to be done follows in the next verse, ‘For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Phil. ii. 12, 13).
These great matters are spoken of from the pulpit, frequently and rightly, because it is a thing that must be done before we leave the present world, if we are to be blessed for ever. Yes, it must be wrought in us here, for there is no such work possible beyond the grave whither we go, no wisdom, no knowledge, no preparation possible there. For this reason there are so many precepts and commandments scattered throughout the Word of God, to the effect that we should seek the Lord early in life, in the morning of our days, and particularly, we read at the end of this Book of Ecclesiastes, ‘Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth’ (Ecc. xii. 1). The Holy Scriptures declare in many places how truly blessed it is for the young to seek and find the Lord, whom to know is life eternal.
In addition to that great and first thing that we have just spoken of, there is another important work to be done, that is, we are to be fitted for some business in life, in order to earn our living. For this reason we attend school, learn to read, write and calculate; we are trained to use our memories, and to work with our hands. It is God's will that we should take up a calling whereby we may become useful in our day and generation. This is so important, because there is so much said nowadays about idle people, who waste their master's time. The Bible commands us to be diligent in business (Rom. xii. 11). Young people should therefore seek earnestly to be proficient, that is, skillful and useful according to their ability. In this particular case the words before us are especially applicable: ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.’ And that means we should highly value that precious thing called Time. Not to do so is to waste it, and to throw it away. O how many do this! Some lose much time by vain talking, others in empty pleasures. There is one common fault spoken of by the wise man in the Book of Proverbs: ‘How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard, when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.’
Thus it is with some people — the time passes quickly, and nothing is done. All people, especially the young, have need to remember these things, that time is precious, we cannot recover it, the minutes are ticking away, we are not to live here for ever. This wasting of time applies to both parts of our subject — seeking first the kingdom of God, and then, in its place, obtaining a living by honest, diligent work. How much valuable time is lost that might be given to searching the Word of God; how frequently neglected, and the good seed falls on stony ground; the message of the gospel falls on deaf ears, and thorny ground.
Likewise concerning our worldly occupation we are to watch vigilantly against this loss of time. There are many who love sheer idleness, just to be doing nothing. O beware of this. You may see plenty of people engaged in this at the street corners, doing nothing that is profitable, and much that is positively evil. It is bad enough to waste our own time, it is even worse to employ it to defile and to corrupt others. This is sadly common in our days, with,the result that many at length find themselves in prison, which alas, does not necessarily cure their evil ways, for when released, these people so quickly return to the same sinful practices.
O how vital it is then, to seek first the salvation of the soul, and to choose that better part, as Jesus said of Mary, ‘But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her’ (Luke x. 42). This is the greatest thing we are to be concerned with, and closely related to it is our diligence in some lawful occupation, as God shall lead us. ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might’ that is, in a right and proper manner, for the preparation of mind and body necessary for the particular business we may be engaged in. May you seek to do it thus, with a right sense of responsibility, and realizing that time is not for evermore. It is running out like sand from a glass. And you will find that all the great and noble men of the past have been people who understood the value of time, and have used it well. How many complaints we hear in these days of precious time that is lost to employers through discontent of various kinds; O how many minutes, hours, and days have to be accounted for.
Before closing I want to remind you of certain persons mentioned in the Bible who did use their time in a wonderful manner. The first, is that perfect example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Quite early in the gospel we hear Him saying, as a child of twelve years, ‘How is it, that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?’ And if you follow out that incomparable life, you will see One who most wisely and blessedly use His time here below, and so in another place it is written of Him, ‘I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is yet day: the night cometh, when no man can work’ (John ix. 4). And even the common people had to confess this: ‘He hath done all things well’ (Mark vii. 37).
What a proof; what a testimony! He never wasted a minute of time; it was always laid out to profit, fully devoted to His Father and to the people. Throughout the sacred records we trace the dear Son of God ever proceeding upon some part of His great work, rising early in the morning, toiling through the day, in the spirit of those words, ‘I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following’ (Luke xiii. 33). And often He was praying all night to His Father. How willingly, and lovingly did He devote Himself to that work until at last, upon the cruel cross, He cried with a loud voice, ‘It is finished’. Yes, finished indeed, and a perfect example of the diligence required by the words we have been pondering, ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.’
Then again, you could trace out from the Scriptures the lives of godly men and women who were led to walk in the same steps. And lest we should think this diligence too much to be expected of us, or that it is not possible to seek the kingdom of God, and serve our earthly master well at the same time, we might consider the example of Joseph, or Daniel, and others, who were enabled by the grace of God to obey this very word, even to serve the Lord first, and then, to rightly fulfil their particular calling in this world.
May the Lord bless this portion, ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.’ None ever sought the Lord too early in life, none ever served Him too well.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 1 januari 1966
The Banner of Truth | 22 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 1 januari 1966
The Banner of Truth | 22 Pagina's