By Danielle Jones
2 Peter 3:8
“But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.”
This week we are entering into week three of our connected series- living a life that is whole. In these sermons we have been exploring the exhortation by Christ to love God and love others and we have been looking at the things in our lives that keep us from doing that.
By way of reminder- week one, Jeff talked about how at times our weariness can drive us away from God but that in Matthew 11:28 Jesus invites us to partner with him that he might lighten our load by walking alongside us and that we might share his yoke and allow him to lead the way in our lives.
Last week we talked about what it means to guard our hearts. The heart is mentioned more than 950 times in scripture and we are exhorted to remember that our hearts are not simply made up of our feelings but they hold our feelings, will, and intellect. Proverbs exhorts us to guard our heart because from it the wellspring of life flows. We guard our hearts by becoming aware of sin in our lives and also by inputing the things of Christ into our hearts and minds.
As we continue to seek ways to live lives that are connected to God and whole- this morning we are going to talk about time. We are a people who are obsessed with time. Topics like what time we have to be somewhere, how much time we have left, and never having enough time, rule our days. In our culture, time is viewed as a commodity.
Often we hear folks say, “Just give me one more minute (I think I say that to our daughter Campbell- who is four and who, like most four year olds, seems to view everything as urgent) about a dozen times a day. Or we’ll say, “I just wasted an hour”. Others will mention investing time in important projects and relationships.
Other statements that often make their way into daily life include:
First come, first served,
strike while the iron is hot,
the early bird catches the worm,
there is no time like the present
or even “time is money”.
When we view time as a commodity, time quickly becomes an enemy. We find ourselves fighting time, trying to save it, and racing against it, but, we never win the battle or the race- because- no matter what we do- time marches on.
The way that we view time is a part of what makes us feel disconnected from God and one another. When time is viewed as a commodity we have too little time to ponder the things of God. Too little time to be with the people we love most, and too little time to live the lives we hope to live as we busy ourselves more and more.
It seems that no matter how we prioritize our time- it eludes us when we want more of it and it seems to creep along and almost totally stand still- when we are waiting for something big to happen in our lives.
I remember gaining a whole new perspective on time when I was waiting for Campbell, our first daughter to be born. She was due July 26th, 2008. As all first time parents do we planned and prepared for that day from the moment we knew she was coming. We went to Drs appointments, took birthing classes, painted and prepped her room, and even purchased clothes and bottles so that we had everything ready when she was set to arrive.
And sure enough July 26th arrived- but the baby did not. And so it went- for four, torturously long days. Every morning I would wake up and think I am ready to have this baby- today is the day- let’s get things going. And then by about 8pm each evening- I would think- I don’t want to have this baby. I just want one more good night of sleep.
In the morning I would wish for time to speed up and by the evening I was begging time to slow down.
But we all know we can’t control time. No matter how much we try to save it- it eventually slips away yet we are called to do the best we can with the time we have so how do we do that.
Did you know there is a center for the study of how Americans use their time and how that changes- over time?
The United States Department of Labor has a Bureau of Labor Statistics that keeps track of, on average, how Americans spend their time over the course of a year.
I found this to be surprising- on average Americans spend 9.24 hours a day sleeping and performing personal care activities. Just over an hour a day is spent eating, an hour and a half of every day is spent doing household activities. 45 minutes a day is spent purchasing goods and services- and get this- on average Americans spend 4.49 hours a day working and 4.73 hours performing sports and leisure activities. That is right folks- on average- we spend more of our time in leisure than we do working. Yet- we STILL never feel that we have enough time.
The question we are looking at today- is how does God view time and how can that inform how we should view time as followers of God. 2 Peter 3:8 reads, “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.”
I and 2 Peter were written to encourage the people of God who were both suffering for their faith and who were disappointed that Christ had not returned as he had promised. Their suffering and lack of patience was causing them to question their faith and to wonder if following Christ was worth the pain and the impatience that they were feeling.
2 Peter 3:8 is actually thought by many to be a rework of Psalm 90:4 which reads, “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.”
This verse is set within a Psalm that describes the eternity of God and the frailty of humanity. Throughout Psalm 90, God is described as the dwelling place for humans, the one who calls forth the mountains, and the one who formed the earth. God is also described as the one who turns us back to dust- and the one who seems to have no regard for time- or at least a completely different perspective on time than the humans he created. And in this Psalm- as it goes on, we see the Psalmist is mad- that God has not acted on his behalf and in his timing.
You do not have to live too much life as a Christian before you rub up against the hope that God would act on your behalf- and quick. We especially rub up against these feelings in times of trial. When we are in pain or someone we love is in pain we plead with God to intervene- and fast. When a storm is brewing or a tragedy strikes we beg God to be present and either turn back time, speed time up or slow time down.
In Psalm 90 the psalmist is contrasting the insignificance of time and the brevity of human life with the eternity of God. It seems in these passages like time is not a concern to God at least not in the way it is a concern to us.
2 Peter, uses these Old testament words to highlight the impatience of human expectations, compared with the infinite and purposeful patience of God. What 2 Peter was addressing was the impatience of those who were frustrated that Christ had promised to return but had not yet returned. Wanting to hurry time to reduce suffering these believers were falling away because they thought that God was not keeping his promises.
After all- if God has the power to control all things- then why does he delay? Why does he allow suffering to happen? Why does tragedy strike? Why do people die, get hurt, and why are relationships broken- when we know God could end all this with the return of his son. Sometimes it simply seems like God is wasting our time.
When we view time as wasted in our daily lives we become easily frustrated- but when it seems to be God who is wasting time- we become utterly exasperated. So what could God possibly be thinking when he says a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day?
The answer lies in 2 Peter 3:9 which reads, “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness. The truth is- we humans are “know it alls”- or at least we think we are. We believe we know what God should do and how he should do it and of course, when he should do it. But the truth is- these verses show that when it comes to time management God only cares about one thing- that we have enough time to come into relationship with him.
God does not act slowly because he is trying to punish us, or torture us, or teach us some sort of cosmic lesson- God acts slowly because- He loves us and God is concerned with is allowing as much time as is needed for all to come to him. God’s slow action in time is because of his patience with us and his mercy upon us.
When we view time as money- we view God as one who is wasting our time- but the truth is that God does not view time as money. At all. And that should be good news- because if he did- he would have given up on us a long time ago. If God was all about efficiency and doing as much as possible in the shortest amount of time- we would not have time to learn how to hear his voice. We would run out of time to experience his love- and we would not have the time to love God and to love others.
So how does the way God views time inform how we are to view time. If what matters most to God is being in a relationship with him- and coming to know him- than what should matter most when we are looking at our own schedules?
The best way to discern how you should be spending your time is to ask one simple question- when I do this activity, action, meeting, or appointment- will it help me love God and love others? I don’t think God’s dream for us is to see us fill every day with endless activities.
God’s dream for us is that we would love him and love one another.
Last spring- several people came up to me and said “Have you read the book One thousand gifts? You have to read it. I have learned over the years that when three or four people come up to me in a short period of time telling me to read a certain book- that it is a message from God. So, in late spring I picked up the book. One thousand gifts is written by Ann Voskamp- a wife and mother in Canada who with her husband, runs a farm and home schools their six kids.
Voskamp begins the book by sharing that her name Ann- three short letters that mean “full of grace”. And she says that she spent the first several decades of her life not living up to her name. She grew up on a farm and one afternoon her younger sister- just two at the time- wandered out onto their gravel driveway to chase a cat and she was hit by a delivery truck and killed- in their driveway with her family watching. There was nothing anyone could do. As you can imagine, that event marked her family. She writes that in the death of her sister- without even realizing it she snapped shut to grace. And she began to mistrust God- his plans, his ways, and his timing.
Years later she watched as her nephew- just a few months old died from a genetic disease that caused his lungs to collapse. There was nothing the doctors could do. And then eighteen months later- it happened- again. Another nephew- in the same family, with the same disease, died at five months old.
These tragedies closed her off to God’s grace and she found that she was going through the motions of life but finding no joy, and no hope, and frankly, wanting to die.
One morning she wakes up having had a dream that she truly was going to die. It was one of those dreams that feels so real you are sure when you wake up that it is- until you realize it was a dream. And for Voskamp- it was the first time in a long time that she realized she wanted to live.
And so she set out to stop going through the motions of life and time- and to start learning how to live. And her book chronicles that the process of really living begins for her with thanksgiving. In an effort to slow time down and enjoy each day- Voskamp sets out to make a list of one thousand things she is thankful for.
Everything from sunshine streaming through soap bubbles in the kitchen sink, to a sunflower in a vase on a window sill, to dirty floors that remind her that life is happening in their home, to meals cooked and shared together. She does this while reading stories of Christ being thankful at the last supper in spite of knowing he is about to be put to death. And Jesus in the book of Matthew, denouncing the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! So disappointed that these people did not turn to God. And then- in the face of what felt like utter failure Jesus, at precisely that time, gave thanks to God.
Voskamp begins to see that thanksgiving preceeds the miracles in scripture. That in the face of successes and in the face of failure- Jesus was thankful.
I have to say- I read this book and I have started to do this and I am finding it is changing me. Instead of rushing through my days trying to get as much done as I can so I can hurry on to the next very important thing I have to do- writing down what I am thankful for is causing me to pause, to soak up the moment and to wait to see what God has for me in each and every situation- instead of looking toward the moments to come.
And do you know what- the more I am practicing thanksgiving the more i am surprised by what I am thankful for. I am thankful for Charlotte who loves to swing so much that she cries when we take her out of the swing. I am thankful for the perfect smore around a bonfire earlier this summer, I am thankful for fresh paint in our bedroom, and thankful for a friendship that is broken but has taught me so much.
Being thankful for a crying baby at a park who wants to keep swinging instead of being annoyed and wishing she would just get in the stroller so we could go home- is changing time for me. Instead of moving to the next six activities in my day in my head- I am working to learn to savor what each moment has to offer. And as a result time seems to slow down- in a good way- and my heart is beginning to soften- in a good way. Time slows down because I am not missing what is happening in the moment and in fact, I am taking time to see God in those moments.
Because that is where God lives. In the ordinary, daily tasks. Sure there are those mountain top moments that we get once in a blue moon to remind us of God’s presence- but God’s presence is more often in the every day, in the mundane, in the ordinary. When we pause to give thanks, when we reorder our schedules to give us time with God- we are connected. Our lives become more meaningful because we have opened our eyes to what God is doing around us and we are able to live out the ultimate call that God has on our lives- to love him and to love others.
And so, in our pursuit to live lives that are connected and whole, may we be a people who begins to reorder our time and our schedules around being thankful. Knowing that when we do, time begins take on a new form- and what comes to the surface is that we don’t need to be over packed and over programed but we need to savor the moment and ask the questions- where is God in this and how am I drawing into a deeper relationship with him.
Let us pray…
We find ourselves overly busy and overly stressed when what we want is to live a life that is whole and connected to you. We are reminded this morning- that when it comes to time there is only one thing that matters- and that is our relationship with you. Help us O God to reorder our time. Help us to use the filter of loving you and loving others to discern how we spend our time. And may we live lives that are connected to you and one another as a result- and lives that overflow with Thanksgiving.
In Christ’s name we pray.