What are we supposed to do with all the time we have on our hands now? Perhaps you don’t feel that tension during the day if your household is like ours and you’re trying to both work full-time and do school for your kids, but as the busyness of the day ends and the weekends arrive, it may make itself known. In a day when many people are wondering what we’re supposed to be doing, here are some answers to that tough question.
Reverend Jonathan Waits
Sermon: Redeeming Your Time (2 Peter 3:14-17)
Date: April 5, 2020
So, are you bored yet? As I occasionally scroll through my Facebook feed, I see post after post of people asking to be entertained. We are living in an interesting time. For a society that is as digitally fed as ours is, we are collectively learning that you can only stream so much content before you’ve had enough. The other day my boys watched a show in the morning, and then entirely of their own accord turned the TV off and went outside to play for pretty much the rest of the morning. All by themselves. I didn’t have to tell them to go at all. I wondered for just a bit if someone had replaced all my children with doppelgangers. Our culture is collectively rediscovering that there is a whole world outdoors that reflects God’s beauty and is worth exploring to its fullest. We are reconnecting on walks in ways we haven’t done in some time. I wonder sometimes if our reaction once things get back to whatever normal is going to be on the other side of this will be to overload on busyness to make up for the lack we have enjoyed, or to realize just how busy we were in comparison with how we have been and opt for a slower pace all on our own. Then again, perhaps not, but maybe. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that these are interesting times and not necessarily in a good way.
Well, this morning I had planned for us to tackle another tough question together. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the particular issue I had in mind, while certainly of vital importance in general, is just not something that’s on the hearts and minds of most folks right now. In fact, I doubt it even makes the top ten list. That does not mean, however, that we aren’t still going to seek to answer a tough question. We’re just going to go in a slightly different direction than we were originally. This new question is one that everyone seems to want to weigh in on because so many folks are asking it. It goes something like this: What are we supposed to do with all this extra time on our hands?
Think about it. I would be willing to make a fairly significant wager that many, if not most, of you have more time on your hands than you’ve had in quite some time. You don’t have after school activities to attend. You don’t even have school to attend for that matter. You don’t have ball practices or dance rehearsals. Scouts and music practices are done. You can’t go to the store just to shop. The malls are all closed. Restaurants have all gone to take-out only. Movie theaters are shut down as are most movie studios meaning we may see a dearth of new releases for a season after things start opening up again. There aren’t even any sports on TV—and as a Kansas Jayhawks fan, no one is more disappointed about that than I am. This would have been the week we were celebrating our national title win. I’m just saying… We still have plenty to stream on our various devices, but as I said a minute ago, even that’s not such an attractive option when it has gone from a pleasant distraction to the only option for entertainment. Again, then: What are we supposed to do with all the extra time on our hands?
There’s another version of that question. This one flows out of our cultural desire to be productive in all things. Our question is not simply about what we’re supposed to do with all the time we have, but how we can get the most out it. How can we be productive with this gift we have been given (once we get to the point of seeing it as a gift)?
Now, that’s a pretty good version of the original question. It’s definitely an improvement. I mean, if our only goal is to fill time, we can fill time. The problem isn’t in our ability, but in the kinds of things we’ll choose to fill it with. Focusing our efforts in the direction of being productive is better than the free-for-all that was bound to happen before.
Can I suggest, though, an even better way to phrase that question? As I’ve looked around at many of the most common suggestions for how to be productive with the time we have, they are all focused on getting as much done as we possibly can. Folks post pictures of these huge projects they’ve completed. We need to use this time to write our magnum opus. We need to build our lifetime masterpiece. Every single thing that’s been lying around the house undone can be completed now. We can all check off every item on our “I’ll get to it someday” list.
In a day when the pressure and stress are turned up to eleven as we collectively figure out how to navigate this new reality, thinking even somewhat along those lines just adds pressure and stress on top what are already wearing us down. Who needs that? Not me, and I suspect you might agree. This doesn’t mean we need to throw out the question and give up altogether, though. It means we need to refine our question so that it is actually helpful to us. Our goal shouldn’t be to merely be productive with the time we have, but to redeem it. Those are not the same thing. Focusing on being productive keeps our eyes fixed on how we can get the most out of our time. This shift to a redemption mindset refocuses us on how we can put the most into it so that we come out of it better than we started. Do you see the difference? So then, how can we redeem our time? This matters because if we get it right, the blessing that comes out of it will last long beyond the time in question. Redeemed time now will be a blessing forever.
The thing about thinking of redeeming our time, though, is that we tend only to think in that direction when we feel we have too little of it. That’s actually the exact opposite of the challenge we are faced with right now. You see, if we are going to think in terms of redeeming our time, we need to change our mindset when considering our time altogether from one of abundance to one of scarcity. Okay, but how do we do that? Well, we start thinking more with the end in mind.
One of the things that made the church in the first century so much different from the church of the 21st century was that they tended to have a more poignant hope for the return of Christ. Their understanding about the timing on that event tended to be much shorter than ours. Jesus left and said He’d be coming back one day. They figured He meant someday soon…like, within their lifetimes. At least one of Paul’s letters includes a passage intended to offer some hope and encouragement to believers whose loved ones were dying before Jesus had returned and they were worrying their dearly departed were going to miss out on the fun when He did. As you read the various letters of the New Testament there is much instruction on how to be preparing for His return, and the spirit in which this instruction is consistently given has an eagerness to it that we don’t often have when talking or thinking about Jesus’ return today.
And, lest you think I’m offering a scolding here, the reason for this is fairly easy to understand. They were living in a day when there were many people still alive who had seen Him post-resurrection. They could not have even imagined nearly 2,000 years would pass and still His people would be waiting for His promise to be fulfilled. We, on the other hand, are living in that nearly 2,000th year and the thought that His return really could be imminent just doesn’t compute. We live like we have all the time in the world because, if we’re honest, we think we do. Now, that changes a bit when we lose a loved one. The loss impresses upon our hearts and minds the notion that our time really is short; that we could go at any time, but it doesn’t usually last long. Given a few days, weeks, or months, we go back to how we always thought before.
Okay, fine, but how do we make this mental shift? If this kind of long-term thinking is natural, how do we get beyond this to think in ways that lend themselves to a proper sense of urgency that plays into this drive to redeem our time? The apostle Peter offers us a little something to help. Toward the end of his second letter he offers us a bit of perspective on the timing of God’s activity that has the power to help us think in the very terms we need here. That’s not all he has to say. He goes on to lay out a framework that if we will adopt for our own lives will lead to the kind of redeemed time we are seeking to experience. Let’s take a look at this together.
Let’s get a bit of a running start so we have some context. Grab a nearby copy of the Scriptures and find 2 Peter 3 with me. If you’re going analog, the letter is tucked in the back amid all the tiny letters in between Hebrews and Revelation. If you find something by John, turn back a few pages. If you’re in James, keep going just a bit further. Peter’s whole second letter is written with the end in mind. He calls his readers to grow in the faith they have claimed for themselves, reminding them of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures that pointed them to adopt it. He warns them against false teachers and warns those false teachers themselves with some language that is almost unsettling in its strength. Finally, he begins to wrap everything up in chapter 3. Look at this with me.
“Dear friends, this is now the second letter I have written to you; in both letters, I want to stir up your sincere understanding by way of reminder, so that you recall the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the command of our Lord and Savior given through your apostles.” In other words, I’m just reminding you of what you should already know. Pay attention to this next part, now. Peter’s words certainly call us to do just that in v. 3: “Above all, be aware of this…” Pause there just a second. Whatever follows this kind of a statement should have our attention. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit to teach us how to walk in the way of Jesus, thought this next thing was the most important thing in the letter. Let’s give it the attention it deserves: “Above all, be aware of this: Scoffers will come in the last days scoffing, and following their own evil desires, saying, ‘Where is his coming that he promised? Ever since our ancestors fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation.’”
So what’s this? In Peter’s day, just like ours, there were folks who heard this talk about Jesus coming back and the ensuing end of the world and thought it was so much nonsense. You know what a scoffer is, right? These are the folks who find something ridiculous and accordingly ridicule it instead of taking it seriously. Things haven’t changed much, yes? If anything, this tendency to scoff at the notion that Jesus is going to return someday and that will be the end of the world has only increased with the passage of time. Still, Peter’s wisdom that follows here is timeless.
He starts with something that needs a moment of explanation and then gets a lot more practical for our purposes. Come back to the text with me in v. 5 now: “They deliberately overlook this: By the word of God the heavens came into being long ago and the earth was brought about from water and through water [read Genesis 1 and pay close attention to the first couple of days to understand what he means there]. Through these the world of that time perished when it was flooded [he’s talking about the Great Flood here]. By the same word, the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” That sounds pretty wild, but he’s making a fairly simple point. If indeed God created the world and has shown a willingness to bring judgment to the world in the past, there’s no reason to think He’s not going to do the same thing again. Now, He promised He wouldn’t do it with water, but as Peter points out here, He didn’t say anything about fire. There’s no reason to doubt the prophets who have promised an eventual judgment for sin in the future.
Still, there remains the tension surrounding the fact that this judgment hasn’t yet arrived. If people were feeling this tension when Peter was writing within a generation of the resurrection, you can bet they’re feeling it now. In fact, if you’re watching this and you’ve ever struggled even a bit with believing there really is an end coming, hit that like button or post a comment. Listen well to what Peter says next: “Dear friends, don’t overlook this one fact: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
Got that? Time with the Lord doesn’t work the same as time for us. That doesn’t mean his clock runs differently than ours. It means that while He exists in time, He is eternal in nature and so what we characterize as soon and what He characterizes as soon aren’t necessarily the same thing. In fact, I’m just going to say it isn’t the same thing. In the scope of eternity, the nearly 2,000 years that have passed since Peter was writing this are barely a blip on the radar. But lest we think otherwise, Peter makes clear that God isn’t slow in all of this waiting. He always acts right on time. If we are still waiting for the end to come, it’s because the time isn’t yet right for it to arrive. In fact, as Peter makes clear, God’s waiting is for the purpose of redemption. He doesn’t want anyone left out who wants to be in on the party when He finally returns. That makes the waiting harder on the rest of us who are already in because it means we still have to live life in a world broken by sin; a world where things like the coronavirus can wreak such havoc. But our place is already secured no matter what—no matter what. As Paul gloriously reminded us, there is nothing—and what does nothing mean? Nothing—that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The question for us to concern ourselves with is not how soon it will come, but how we should be living in the meantime. In other words, how can we redeem the time we have? Redeemed time now will be a blessing forever.
Let’s get right down to it here. Find v. 10 with me: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief [that is, you don’t know when it will happen—no one does]; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed.” Just a quick word here. There are lots of wild descriptions like this of the end of the world. How literal are we supposed to take these? Honestly, not very. That doesn’t mean we don’t take them absolutely seriously. We do. We must because they’re true. But they consistently use figurative language we shouldn’t press for details about the end of the world. Rather, we should understand the point they are making: The end is going to be wild and crazy, destructive and disorienting. It’ll be beyond what we can imagine. That’s not the thing that should draw our attention, though. Peter gets to that in the next verse.
“Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for the day of God and hasten its coming. Because of that day, the heavens will be dissolved with fire and the elements will melt with heat. But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” Do you see it? Are you seeing this mindset shift on time Peter is commending to us? The truth about the end of the world is it could come at any time. We just don’t know. And it’s going to be crazy when it arrives. What we do know is that it’s going to be soon. How soon? We don’t know. But it could be tomorrow. We don’t know. So…we’ve got to be always ready. Our temptation when it comes to thinking about the end is to frame it like this: Jesus could come tomorrow…but He probably won’t because He hasn’t any of the last 2,000 years, so I’ve got time to put things off. Peter is saying that our thinking needs to be this: Jesus could come tomorrow…and just in case He does, I’m going to do everything I possibly can to be ready for His arrival. I’m going to redeem my time. Redeemed time now will be a blessing forever.
Verse 14: “Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found without spot or blemish in his sight, at peace.” Indeed, if He really is coming like a thief when we least expect it, we don’t want to get caught with our hand in the cookie jar hoping we had just a few more minutes to dust off the crumbs and brush our teeth before mom and dad arrived back home. There’s also this: “Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. He speaks about these things in all his letters. There are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable will twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.” Don’t get impatient or walk the path of the scoffer with the delay in Christ’s return. His delay means that you have had a chance to experience salvation for yourself. He could have come before you made the decision to trust in Him and then where would you be? Be grateful and get ready. Help those around you do the same. Redeem your time. Redeemed time now will be a blessing forever.
“Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard…” That is, redeem your time. It’s easy to buy into the lie that the end will be delayed forever. Don’t let that lie distract you from the truth. Be on your guard, “so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stable position.” Have you ever known someone who was set on the right path and then fell from there because they bought into a lie of some kind? In a day when we are confronted with more truth claims than ever before, and in a day when we are confronted by those even more frequently than usual because we are turning to our devices even more than usual thanks to our current circumstances, we have to be able to discern what’s true and what’s not. Now just as then there are clever teachers who broadcast lies under the guise of truth. They hold out earnestness and showmanship as adequate substitutes for substance. For a culture driven by entertainment, this is an easy trap to trip into without even realizing we’ve done it. This is a recipe for a whole lot of unredeemed time.
Instead—v. 18 now—“grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” This, my friends, is the secret to redeemed time. We make sure that in every activity we pursue we are growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Okay…but how? Let me give you five really concrete things you can be doing to see this happen. These may be things you are already doing, but then again, maybe not. Either way, in this season when we have a little more time than usual, it is all the more important to be intentional about them. Don’t settle for merely being distracted. Set your sights on redeeming your time. Redeemed time now will be a blessing forever.
The first thing you can do to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is to read your Bible. I know, I know: The preacher telling you to read your Bible is about as surprising as the government saying you owe them money. The difference is that the government will eventually just dip into your bank account and take it from you. No one is going to be looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re reading your Bible. But, without this practice, you will absolutely not grow in Christ in any kind of healthy way. It just won’t happen. Believers who don’t read their Bibles on a regular, consistent basis, are believers who are shortchanging their kingdom potential in truly profound ways. If you want to redeem the extra time you have at home these days, build an intentional practice of Bible reading into your routine. If you start this and do it every single day between now and whenever we can start getting out and about like normal again, it will have become a habit that will stick with you with only the smallest amount of effort on your part; it will become part of your life’s foundational rhythm. That’s hard to change once it gets set in place.
Well, that sounds nice, but how do we actually do that. The simple answer? Get reading. Let me share with you, though, what I have found to be a particularly helpful tool. It’s what I use to do 95% of my own Bible reading. It’s called the YouVersion Bible App. I know many of you have it, but if you have a smart phone and you don’t, you need to download it. With this App you will have access to pretty much every Bible translation there is in more languages than you even knew existed. You will also have access to Bible reading plans for pretty much any set of circumstances you can imagine. You can set these to remind you at a certain time of day to sit down and read. You even get the satisfaction of checking things off your reading list and getting little badges because who doesn’t want those. You can make your own notes. You can write your own prayers. You can highlight and bookmark various verses. You can even read along with other people with whom you’ve connected just like you do on Facebook, sharing your thoughts on what you’re reading with the group. I use it literally every day. If you follow my blog entries, they all come directly out of what I’ve been reading using the app. This is worth your time. It has the potential to be a catalyst to your actively redeeming your time. And redeemed time now will be a blessing forever.
Practice number two—and you can probably already guess what this is going to be—is prayer. If you want to make this even more redemptive, pair it with your practice of reading the Scriptures. If we are going to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, staying in active communication with Him is going to be a vital part of the process. If you want to learn more about prayer, check out the two-part study we did on prayer on our videos tab here, on our YouTube channel, or on our video page on our website.
The third practice for growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is giving. Forget for a minute that I’m a preacher and you’re hearing this in the context of a sermon. Here’s why this is so important: The threat of our lives being taken over by our stuff never ends. We can be owned by our stuff whether we are in a season of plenty or of scarcity. Our nation has generally been in a season of plenty for several months. We are now, though, in a season of growing scarcity—a scarcity that all signs suggest will get worse before it gets better. It’s tempting to think that generosity is something we only really need to worry about when times are plentiful, but as Peter might warn, this is an error of lawless people that can knock us from our stable position if we are not careful. In fact, a looming season of scarcity is precisely the time when our natural tendency to draw inward and hang on to our stuff even more tightly—to think first and foremost of ourselves and our needs—can become the most overwhelming. The only way to fight this is by giving, by practicing sacrificial generosity. You cannot be owned by something that you are actively giving away. It’s not possible. And although I would of course be delighted to have you join with us in advancing the kingdom more effectively by the combining of our God-given resources, where you give isn’t my chief concern. That you give is. This holds whether or not you’re a follower of Jesus too. Whether or not you even believe in God you cannot be owned by something you consciously give away. Find a cause that matters to you and support it with a sacrificial generosity. For the followers of Jesus listening to this, you do this because such a practice is a way to declare your trust in Him to provide for you even when your resources by themselves don’t seem like they’ll be enough to meet your needs. My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Rest assured, if you become more generous during this season, you will have powerfully redeemed your time. Redeemed time now will be a blessing forever.
Don’t just be sacrificially generous with your financial resources, though, be sacrificially generous with yourself. The fourth practice to redeem your time is serving. Now, you can’t serve the people around you the ways you once could. But, some of the most powerful innovations have come when we have been forced to think in ways that differ from the norm. How can you be a blessing to your neighbors—whether they are immediately next door to you or not—in the name of Jesus Christ? Here’s one thought: Since you can’t spend money on many of the other things you might normally purchase right now—like toilet paper, for instance—go and buy some extra stamps and stationery and take back up the old practice of letter writing. You would be amazed at just how much a dollar’s worth of ink, paper, and postage can mean to someone else. Make phone calls. Offer to make grocery or pharmacy runs for folks who don’t need to get out. Cut a neighbor’s grass. Pick up trash (with gloves of course) as you go on walks to get out of the house. Pray for the people in the houses you pass as you go on those walks. Just because we can’t operate the way we normally would doesn’t mean we have to stop being the church. Let us redeem our time by serving. Redeemed time now will be a blessing forever.
One last thing: Worship. Just because we can’t gather in a big room with our brothers and sisters in Christ doesn’t mean we can’t worship. I’m thrilled to have Dana here with me and I hope you have been as blessed by her gift of music this week and last as I have been, but even that’s not what I’m talking about here. As you have some extra time these days, think about how you can intentionally expand the practice of worship in your life wherever you happen to be. After all, if worship is fundamentally about recognizing, celebrating, and participating in the character of God, you can do that anywhere and anytime. No matter what it is you are doing, do it fully to God’s glory, and do that with intentionality. Imagine if when we finally gathered back together in the near future we were in the context of a whole group of people who were filled to the brim with worship before they even entered the building because worship was just a part of their normal rhythm. It can happen. And it will be a powerful moment. Redeem your time. Redeemed time now will be a blessing forever.
So, what will you do? How will you see this season become the one when you grew more in Christ than you had at any previous point in your life? It’s possible. You don’t have to be productive to do it either. You just have to redeem your time. Redeem your time. There’s abundant life just waiting to be lived.