A BETTER LIFE

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TEXT:                                       Ephesians 5:15-17

INTRODUCTION:

I’m sure you’ve noticed that each year almost all the major news magazines put out an issue with special pictorial sections recalling people & events that made news during the previous year.

Many magazines also include articles by experts predicting what they expect to see happening in the years ahead. Some even go so far as to make predictions covering 10, 20, or more years in the future. In the past, a few of these maybe had inaccurately happened, while others couldn’t have been more wrong.

Here we are, at the (last day of 2010) first Sunday of 2011. I wonder how we’ll do (next) this year? Will we be as busy? Will we make any better use of our time? In the next 356 days, when the year is over, will we be looking back with joy, or with regret? Will we be looking at the future with anticipation, or with dread?

There is a passage of Scripture that I believe can be of help to us as we look forward to the rest of 2011 if we’ll listen to it. The passage is Ephesians 5:15 17, & here is what it says, “Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

I think that in this passage the Apostle Paul presents some important lessons that we need to consider for us to have or live a better life:

1. REALIZE THAT LIFE IS SO SHORT

First of all, for us to live a better life, we must be very careful how we live because our time on this earth is short.

The Psalmist wrote, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end & the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life” (39:4). And again, “The length of our days is 70 years or 80, if we have the strength…they quickly pass, & we fly away” (90:10).

Now, I realize that for some of you younger folk, 70 or 80 years sounds like a long, long time. In fact, I can remember when I thought anyone over 40 was ancient. But no longer. It is all rather relative, isn’t it?  For example, for teenagers in love talking together in the car, an hour or two seems like a blink of an eye. But for mom & dad worrying about what’s going on out in that car, an hour or two seems like an eternity.

Illustration:

A few years ago People Magazine published an article entitled “Dead Ahead” telling about a new clock that keeps track of how much time you have left to live. It calculates an average life span of 75 years for men & 80 years for women. So you program your sex & age into the clock, & from then on it will tell you how much time you have left. It sold for $99.95.

It is an intriguing idea. Isn’t that what the Psalmist told us to do to number our days?

When I first heard about the clock I figured out that if I lived to be 75 years old that I had just about 16,020 days left to live. That’s all, just 16,020 days left to live. But wait a minute. Neither you nor I have a guarantee of even one day more to live.

In fact the Bible tells us not to count on tomorrow because tomorrow may not come for you or for me. ALL WE HAVE IS RIGHT NOW. So our time on this earth is valuable because it is very limited.

God is eternal; He created time and placed man into it. Giving us each 24 hours in each day. Each of us is given a possible 8,760 hours to live and to use in this coming year. How will you live?

The Lord tells us to be very careful – Be skillful, wise, on guard, looking very closely how you live. Examining your life carefully you will quickly see how fast time goes by. Our time is limited. Our life had a distinct beginning and a distinct physical ending – my time is limited. My time and what I do with it is the most valuable commodity I have.

Time marches on, it can never be slowed or stopped by you – it is out of your control. Who decides how you spend your time? YOU DO!

There are time robbers in the world! (computers, chit-chats, internets, etc.) But the #1 “Time Stealer” today is still TELEVISION. The average individual (especially Americans) watches 4 hours per day or 2 months non-stop viewing per year! Parents have meaningful conversation with their children 38 minutes per week while the average child watches 1,680 minutes of TV per week! (44 times more TV than conversation with parents).

Time is the most precious of possessions…No one can take it from you. You cannot steal time. No one receives either more or less than you receive. Moreover, you cannot draw on its future. It’s impossible to get into debt with time!  You cannot waste tomorrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you. You have to live on this twenty-four hours of daily time given to you by God. We shall never have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.  Because life is short, be very careful in your use of time.

2. DON’T SAVE TIME – REDEEM THE TIME

Think about how you spend your time. When all of the necessary things are done, how much time is left? A poet puts it this way:

Just a tiny little minute
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me. Can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,
I must suffer if I lose it,
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
But eternity is in it.

God did not give all of us the same amount of talent, nor the same amount of wealth, but He has given each of us the same amount of time.

Illustration:

Imagine that a bank credits your account each morning with P86,400. No balance is carried over from day to day. Any balance is deleted each evening. What would you do when you knew that you would not use all your daily balance? Why, withdraw every penny, of course!

You have such a bank and so have I. The name of our bank is TIME. Every day we are credited with 86,400 seconds. Every night, that which we have not used is debited from our account. TIME bank allows no overdraft, there is no going back for a second chance. TIME bank does not allow borrowing from tomorrow and of course, and there are no leftovers. The clock ticks away, never waiting for anyone to catch up.

Time is money we say, but in reality, time is not money. If you lose money, you can always make it some other way. Time is not a renewable resource. Whatever time we lost is gone forever, never to be returned to us again. Time is infinitely more valuable than money ever will be.

All of us must realize the value of time.

How do we value ONE YEAR? Ask a student who failed a grade.
What is the value of ONE MONTH? Ask a Mother whose baby arrived prematurely.
How much do we value ONE WEEK? For the sailors trapped in a submarine on the ocean floor it was the difference between life and death.
How much do we value ONE HOUR? Ask someone who missed a connecting flight because the first flight was delayed by an hour.
What is the value of HALF AN HOUR? Ask the parents of the flower girl and ring bearer who missed the wedding here yesterday because one of them thought the wedding was at 4:30, rather than 4 pm?
How much do we value ONE MINUTE? Ask someone who had a heart attack in a restaurant with a paramedic sitting at the next table.
How much do we value ONE SECOND? Ask an Olympic swimmer, who just missed qualifying by 3 one-thousandths of a second!

Because we value time so much, we usually try to SAVE it & MANAGE it.

Time Management is the buzzword of our generation, isn’t it? From Hasti-notes, Post-it’s, “to-do” lists and checklists to calendars, appointment books, electronic organizers and Palm Pilots to Daytimers and Planners that require you to assign priorities, clarify values, set goals and plan daily, from sending your employees to seminars and bringing in efficiency experts, Time Management is seen as the solution to help us handle time. However, as Stephen Covey puts it in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Time Management” is really a misnomer–the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.”

It is interesting that when we look at the Bible, we do not find a lot of emphasis on saving time or managing time. Yes, we are called to be good “stewards” of all that God has given us, and that includes time. But, more than that, in the words of the apostle Paul, in today’s reading from Ephesians 5 and again in Colossians 4:5, we are called to REDEEM the time.

What does it mean to redeem the time?

The word “redeeming” can be translated buying up or purchasing. The word “time” is not the Greek word “chronos” which means clock time that is measured in hours, minutes and seconds, but it is the Greek word “kairos” which is better translated. In other words, rather than being called to be good time managers, we are called to be good opportunity managers. It is not just counting the minutes, hours, days, months and years, but making the minutes, hours, day, months and years count. Tomorrow we will be given more hours, but we may never have the same opportunity again.

Illustration:

In the days before modern harbours, a ship had to wait for the flood tide before it could make it to port. The term for this situation in Latin was ob portu, that is, a ship standing over off a port, waiting for the moment when it could ride the turn of the tide to harbour. The English word opportunity is derived from this original meaning. The captain and the crew were ready and waiting for that one moment for they knew that if they missed it, they would have to wait for another tide to come in.

Everyone of us has had missed opportunities in our lives. There have been businesses we should have invested in, the job we should have taken, the pass we should have caught, the point we should have raised, the relationship we should have nurtured and the opportunities to share Christ that we passed up.

Illustration: (Optional) DRIVE-THROUGH FUNERAL VIEWING

Many years ago, a Regina businessman by the name of Gene Chuka offered my friend Greg’s Dad a chance to invest in something new at the time called Kentucky Fried Chicken. Bruce said: “Thanks, but no thanks, Gene” and invested in another restaurant called “Prairie U-Drive” instead. I’m sure you’ve all heard of it.

In the game of football, the best running backs are not those who know the plays well – all running backs know the game so well. All running backs also have strength and speed or they wouldn’t be chosen to be the one to run with the football. What makes a running back successful is the ability to keep his eyes open and find the open opportunities that come and to take advantage of them. A good running back is able to find the holes in the defense – which oftentimes requires him to abandon the plan that was made in the huddle. The plan is there, but he must run wisely and be ready for any opportunity.

Have you been REDEEMING THE TIME, taking advantage of every opportunity that God sends your way?a friend who wants to talk, the chance to lend a hand to someone in need, the privilege of influencing the life of a child by teaching church school, the precious moments we share with our children at home?

Illustration:

Author Terry Muck tells of a letter he received from a man who used to have absolutely no interest in spiritual things. He lived next door to a Christian, and they had a casual relation-ship like neighbours often do. Then the non-Christian’s wife was stricken with cancer, and died three months later. Here’s the letter:

“I was in total despair. I went through the funeral preparations and the service like I was in a trance. And after the service I went to the path along the river and walked all night. But I did not walk alone. My neighbour – afraid for me, I guess – stayed with me all night.

He did not speak; he did not even walk beside me. He just followed me. When the sun finally came up over the river he came over to me and said, “Let’s go get some breakfast.”

I go to church now. My neighbour’s church. A religion that can produce the kind of caring and love my neighbour showed me is something I want to find out more about. I want to be like that. I want to love and be loved like that for the rest of my life.”

What made the difference in this man’s life? It was that one Christian dared to make the most of the opportunity he had to reveal Christ to his friend. There were few words . . . but the message came through. He had learned how to REDEEM THE TIME.

How about you and me? How are we handling this precious gift of time that God has given us? Are we still hung up on saving and managing it? Or have we moved towards redeeming it?

Are you blinded by the problems you have with lack of time, or do you focus on the opportunities God is opening up before you every day?

Carl Sandburg writes: “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

Yes, time flies, but not on autopilot! You’re at the controls.

Jonathan Edwards said: “Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.”

One day, our time on earth will come to an end. And we will be asked to give an account of how we invested the gift of time that was given to us. We will not be asked how well we did in SAVING TIME. We will not be asked to prove how well we did in MANAGING TIME. We will be asked how well we did in REDEEMING THE TIME, in making the most of the opportunities that God sent our way. The apostle Paul said: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” What will you say?

3. DISCERN GOD’S WILL THEN DO IT.

The word translated “understand” in Ephesians 5:17 carries the idea of assembling facts into an organized whole–taking all the bits and pieces of information and making sense of it all. Can you and I look at the circumstances of our lives and see the hand of God at work? Can we see the big picture of God’s purposes and put our immediate circumstances in that context?

You’ve heard of the saying, “I can’t see the forest for the trees?” That’s the way some people live their lives. Every event is a stupid tree. It has no context, no point of reference. It is not associated with a bigger purpose. So, a difficulty arises. What do I see? I see trouble. I’m offended that it is there. I’m discouraged. No! Look beyond the stupid tree. See the forest. SEE THE BIG PICTURE. See God working all things together for my good—orchestrating events and circumstances to build my character and faith in Him. See God conforming me to the image of Christ—something of infinite eternal value.

“…understand what the Lord’s will is.” What is God’s will for my life?

  • Romans 8:29 “…to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.”
  • I Thes. 4:3 “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…”
  • I Thes. 5:18 “…give thanks in all things for this is God’s will for you…”

God’s will is primarily focused on the transformation He wants to do in us. Yes, He will answer our prayers, yes He will perform miraculous works in our lives, but His aim is for us to be conformed to His Son, to be like Jesus! Understand that and a lot of things begin to make sense. When we understand what God is ultimately seeking to accomplish the trials and difficulties of life are easier to deal with. (MAUNAWAAN NATIN NA ANG LAHAT NG MGA DUMADAAN SA BUHAY NATIN AY PARA SA LALO NATING IKATATATAG, IKALALAGO, IKALALAPIT SA ATING PANGINOON). When we understand the Lord’s will we can rest in His love and all sufficiency. KAPAG NAUNAWAAN NATIN ITO, LALO MONG NAGAGAWANG MAGTIWALA SA ATING PANGINOON, ANUMAN ANG DUMATING SA BUHAY MO.

The New Living Bible translates Ephesians 5:17 this way: “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what God wants you to do.” What do you think God wants you to do in 2011? Notice the focus in our text—not what I want to do but what He wants me to do. Those are two very different orientations to life. Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (NIV) Let your focus in 2011 be what the Lord wants.

How can we know what He wants?

  • Sometimes that understanding comes by simply knowing and embracing principles taught in the word of God.
  • Sometimes that understanding comes as we weigh events and circumstances knowing that our steps are ordered of the Lord (the providential element of God’s leading).
  • Sometimes we know God’s will because He tells us in a most personal way. That happened to Paul in Acts 27 in the middle of a hurricane. Dire circumstances but God comforted Paul and told him what to do every step of the way.

I want you to take this into your heart.  It’s so easy for us to know God’s will…as a matter of fact, it’s His will for us to know them…but the problem is not with knowing God’s will, but on obeying God’s will. A key to understanding the will of God is a commitment to do the will of God once we understand it. I want to go into 2011 with that commitment in my heart—a commitment to discern what God wants and then simply do it.

We’re talking about how to live our lives in 2011. Paul admonishes us to be very careful about how we live—don’t be casual, indifferent, sloppy. Be intentional about knowing God’s will and obeying it. A lot of times you heard from our Sr. Pastor, that God’s will will always bring you into victory…PERO ANO ANG MADALAS NATING GINAGAWA, WE DO OUR WAYS, OUR STRATEGIES, OUR OWN SELFISH SCHEMES IN LIFE. That’s why we’re seeing ourselves defeated, because we always think that God’s ways and wills are outdated, no longer applicable, irrelevant…That’s one of the biggest mistakes you’re making, why? Because you can read from His Word, and you can see in the lives of those people who followed His ways, that God’s will will always bring you to the path of righteousness, victory, blessings and mighty things in your lifeKAPATID KUNG SA TAONG ITO, MAS GINAWA MO ANG GUSTO MO KAYSA SA GUSTO NG PANGINOON, KUNG KAYA’T HINDI KA SATISFIED, SA TAONG DARATING, HAYAAN MO NAMANG SYA ANG MASUNODDAHIL WALANG KALOOBAN NG DIYOS ANG MAGLALAGAY SA IYO SA KAPAHAMAKAN…ANG LAHAT NG KANYANG KALOOBAN AY MAGDADALA SA IYO SA LANDAS NG BIYAYA SA IYONG BUHAY! MATUTO KA LAMANG SUMUNOD!!! HUWAG MONG KALIMUTAN YAN KAPATID!Understand what God’s will is—with the kind of understanding that produces a willingness to obey.

4. BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.

He contrasts that command with these words: “Do not get drunk on wine…” Why do people drink to get drunk?

  • They are not coping well with the realities of life.
  • They are perhaps soothing feelings of loneliness or rejection.
  • They may just want to feel an exhilaration.
  • They are using alcohol to bring stimulation from the outside into their lives.

The problem is artificial stimulants lead to addiction, excess, reckless living. They are ultimately destructive to the person whether the stimulant is alcohol or another drug or sexual promiscuity or gambling or something else like that. They bring temporary relief or temporary pleasure but in the end they damage rather than cure. Paul is saying, “Don’t stimulate your life with things like wine. There is a much better alternative. Be filled with the Spirit.”

Do you know why we are tempted toward these artificial stimulants? We are not filled with the Spirit. We are not getting our basic, internal needs met in our relationship with God—so we seek out other things to fill the need. We need to be filled with the Spirit. We need God. We need God to saturate our beings with His love, with His peace, with Himself. When that’s not happening there is a spiritual and emotional vacuum in us—and we are vulnerable to temptation. SA GABING ITO, MAGBALIK TANAW TAYO, SA TAONG 2010 BA NAPUSPOS BA AKO NG SANTO ESPIRITU? NAGAWA KO BANG PAGLABANAN ANG MGA TUKSO O AKO AY NAGPADAIG SA TUKSO DAHIL SA KAWALAN KO NG KAPUSPUSAN NG PRESENSYA NG DIYOS SA BUHAY KO?

In the first half of this chapter Paul has already warned us against behaviors that are destructive to our spiritual well being. But notice he does not just tell us what not to do. He tells us what we can and must do to be fully satisfied and fulfilled. “Be filled with the Spirit.” Without that happening our lives, we cannot be everything God wants us to be in 2011.

The word translated “be filled” is plaroo. It is in the present, passive, imperative form.

Let me share with you the practical significance of that.

  • 1st the imperative mode means it is A COMMAND.

God is not just making a suggestion here. He is commanding us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We must have this enablement to live lives honoring to God. It is the power of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit that distinguishes us as God’s people. The command is not “try harder.” Trying harder is no substitute for being filled with the Spirit. It is His influence working in us and through us that brings victory.

  • 2nd this verb is PLURAL.

Every believer is commanded to be filled with the Spirit. It is not just for an elite few. It is for each and every one of us. I can tell you on the authority of this scripture that God does not want you to leave this service today without being filled, empowered, refreshed in His Spirit.

  • 3rd the tense of this verb is PRESENT.

Its not a one-time thing and then you’re done. Too many of our Pentecostal believers think they’re Spirit filled because twelve years ago they prayed and spoke in tongues. Twelve years ago they were filled with the Spirit. But God’s question for every one of us is not have you been filled with the Spirit but are you full of the Spirit right now. In Acts 2 Peter was filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 4:31 he prayed and was filled again. Why, because yesterday’s experience is not adequate for today’s challenges. Peter needed a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit in his life for the challenges he was about to face. To make the most of the opportunity before him he needed to be filled with the Spirit. We are to stay filled! We are to be continually filled. (The Holy Spirit will reveal to you the things you and I must do, He will give you fresh ideas, directions and guidance in life…in your business, the Holy Spirit will give you the direction that you need to expand or to let your business grow…THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS THE POWER TO ENABLE YOU TO DO GREAT THINGS FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD!)That’s one reason we come together in a service like this on a regular basis. We should always come with the intention of being filled with the Spirit. That’s not something that just happens in the corporate worship setting. But that’s a great place for it to be happening in our lives. With this imperative we should never be content to leave church empty. Amen?

CONCLUSION:

You want to have a better life?  Let Jesus take the wheel of your life, apply these wonderful principles, and by the grace of God, with His guidance and strength, you and I can live a better life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgments for the insights and readings:

–       Richard Tow

–       Wycliff Bible Dictionary

–       UBS New Testament Handbook Series

–       Kenneth West

 

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