We all know that time has three tenses: past, present, and future. I was struck by this reality when I was thinking about Paul’s encouragement for believers to “redeem the time.” (Ephesians 5:16) As we approach the end of the year and prepare to embark on a new one, the question begs, “in what ways can we ‘redeem’ time?”
There are two ways to redeem time that has already gone by. First, we can learn from mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. I’m on a plane as I write. When I got to my seat, someone else was sitting in it! It was obviously a man and his wife. I didn’t want to separate them…today, even though you buy your tickets together, it is not certain that you’ll get to sit next to one another on the plane. So I looked at them and said, “Well, how can we work this out?” Then Robin said, “Don, our seats are back here.” My bad. It was early in the morning – I was a row off. I apologized. Lesson: double check the sign. There is always a lesson to learn from our mistakes. We can redeem the past by learning from it. Improve your future by carrying forward the lessons learned from mistakes, and secondly redeem time by repeating your wins. What went right last year? Does that bear repeating?
I’ve noticed that sometimes I’m not fully engaged in the present. I can be in a meeting or in a conversation, but distracted by other things on a long “to-do” list. Do you ever do that? Sometimes we suffer from distractedness. Multitasking is a form of distractedness. I’ve read of a few individuals who have gone back to a simple flip phone to eliminate the temptation of constantly using their device. They have decided to put stronger boundaries between their virtual life and their real life. I’m not going to do that. But I do resonate with the need to find ways to be fully engaged in the moment and in the real world. Redeem the time – intentionally reduce distractions. I once heard a person commenting on their pastor’s interpersonal style. Their comment challenged me. “When you are talking with Pastor, he makes you feel like you are the only one in the room.”
Planning and vision casting are two of my favorite things. You can’t read the Bible without getting the impression that God is a planner! Genesis 3:15 is the first revelation of our Redeemer (“He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”) But God’s “plan” of salvation goes back before that moment. Revelation 13:8 identifies Jesus as “the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.” That’s a revelation of long range planning! Effectiveness in ministry is directly linked to vision and planning. A good vision will apply lessons learned from the past, project goals and strategies for the future so that we can be fully and effectively engaged in the present. For pastors and those in ministry, we have the opportunity to speak prophetically to the future of the ministry in which we are engaged. We do this not simply with ambition, but by availing ourselves to the fullness of the Spirit to sanctify and inspire our imagination to envision a better future. In this way, we are “redeeming the time.”
As we approach 2019, let us “walk circumspectly (diligently), not as unwise (wasters of time and opportunity) but as wise, redeeming the time…” (Ephesians 5:15) Learn from the past (assess), be focused in the present (engage) and anticipate by faith a great New Year (envision).