But, Lord, in Thee is all my trust, Thou art my God I cried; My life, my times are in Thy hand, I in Thy strength confide.
Psalter #80, stanza 9
We are all creatures of time. For the timeless God, in His infinite wisdom, created us so. He, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, has so designed things that all of our life here on earth—as we journey from here to heaven—is governed by time. Not only must we teach our children how to tell time on the face of the clock that hangs on the kitchen or dining room wall, or how to tell the day, month, or year by the calendar that may hang on that very same wall, but we must teach them how everyday life is governed by time(s) as well. They learn that each day holds breakfast time, dinner time, supper time, and bedtime. They learn already in the early years of childhood that there is not only a time to play but also a time to work. At a very young age they learn that Sunday is a day set apart from the rest, in which there are designated times for congregational worship. As young people, they learn the time—and the importance of keeping the time—of curfew. And the list goes on, for this is only a sampling of the different times that we and our children experience throughout the course of life.
As parents, it is important that we teach our children the instruction Scripture gives regarding time. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we read that there is “a time to every purpose under the heaven.” We are born, and we die; we laugh, and we cry; we build up, and we tear down; there are times of embracing, and times to refrain from embracing; times of love as well as times of hate; and times of war as well as times of peace. Such are the times of life. And God has a purpose in all of them. As the Lord sees fit to lead us through the joys and sorrows of life, our children must learn and know—as well as be assured of and comforted by the fact—that our lives and times are securely held in the palm of His almighty hand. This is our assured confidence, that just as the Almighty, everywhere present God has a time and a purpose for everything, He will most assuredly uphold and preserve His children through all the joys and sorrows, pains and pleasures, and other various times of life.
Already in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, time was a facet of His creation. At the end of each day of creation week, we read that the evening and the morning constituted the day. On the fourth day, God created the sun, moon, and stars to divide the day from the night and the darkness from the light (Gen. 1:14, 18). When it is light, our children know it is daytime. When it is dark, they know it is nighttime. And so we must ask them, “Can you tell us the time?” For it is necessary, extremely necessary that they be able to do so. They need to be aware of the time in which the Lord has us living, the truth about it, and how they should conduct and behave themselves as they live in it.
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
Romans 13: 11, 12
I can recall bits and pieces of a sermon in which the verses quoted above were either the text or a part of the text on which the sermon was based. The verses surrounding them could very well have been included as well. It was preached ten or more years ago during a time of vacancy in my congregation. Although I cannot recall the theme of the text or the main points that went along with it, I do remember being called several times to “Wake up!”—not in the literal sense as to being asleep during the sermon but to “wake up” spiritually in regards to the time in which we are living.
What time is it then? God’s Word is very clear. The inspired apostle Paul writes, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” Knowing that these words were penned almost 2,000 years ago, one might be led to think that the day, being at hand then, most surely should have dawned by now. But the child of God knows that God is not bound by time and that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (II Pet. 3:8). Therefore, we must take these words of Scripture and instruct our children as to how they apply to our lives today. Though the night is far spent, it is not over. We are living in the night. We are surrounded by darkness. And the darkness will only continue to deepen… until the dawning of the day.
We live in a world of darkness. Spiritual darkness. Sin abounds on every side—drunkenness, rioting, covetousness, pride, sexual immorality, hatred, murder, greed, lying, discontent, stealing, slandering, and all other forms of ungodliness. We need to call our children (along with ourselves) to wake up, take heed, and know exactly what time it is. It is night! It is dark! And the lawlessness and wickedness of this world will only intensify with time. Sexual immorality will increase—modern-day technology makes pornography and enticing videos, TV shows, music, books, magazines, and such just a hands-breadth or click of a button away. Murder will increase—not only the violent murder of the taking of another’s life, but also the legalized and just as violent murder of the unborn; and add to that the hatred (murder) of the neighbor that is done by the thoughts of one’s heart and the slandering words of one’s lips. Wars and rumors of wars will increase—although we may not have been adversely affected as of yet, one need only to read, watch, or listen to the news to know that this is true. Opposition and hatred for God and His church will also increase and continue to increase over time. Persecution and controversy from within and without will intensify. The Devil is hard at work seeking to destroy the church—working first to destroy the lives of the covenant families within her (divorce and remarriage, rebellious children, and the like). He works especially hard on our young people (the present and future church), placing greater pressures and temptations upon them, doing all in his power to get them to conform to this world. All of these evils, along with many others belonging to this sin-cursed world, will only continue to increase and intensify as time goes on.
Therefore, we are exhorted—commanded really—by God: “Children, wake up! Stay awake! The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light!” This is the calling of God’s people. And our children need to learn that this is not a one-time calling, but a life-long calling. We are to live as children of light in a world of darkness. Simply put, we must live the life of the antithesis. We must live godly in a godless world. Live according to God’s law in a lawless world. Live out of love for God in a loveless world. And live with the hope of heaven in a world that has no hope.
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world…. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
(Jesus’ high-priestly prayer—John 17:14, 15)
Being instructed to put on the armor of light is a calling to prepare for battle. The darkness hates the light and does its very best to extinguish it. As children of the light, we must stand in opposition to the darkness of this world, even taking the offensive over against it. After Jesus describes the life and blessedness of those who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven as recorded in the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5, He says, “Ye are the light of the world…. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (vv. 14, 16). This is God’s purpose regarding the present-day time. We are to bring glory to His Name in all that we say and do. As citizens of the kingdom of heaven and children of the Most High God, we are called to live an antithetical life. We are called to live holy in an unholy world. In I Peter 1:15, 16, the apostle Peter exhorts the people, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [conduct and walk of life]: Because it is written, be ye holy; for I am holy.” In writing these words, my mind cannot help but wander to the words of the well known hymn:
Take time to be holy, Speak oft with thy Lord, Abide in Him always and feed on His Word. Make friends of God’s children, Help those who are weak, Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy, The world rushes on, Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone. Abiding in Jesus like Him thou shalt be, Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy, Be calm in thy soul, Each thought and each motive beneath His control, Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love, Thou soon shall be fitted for service above.
Our lives must be characterized by love for God. We must not sit idly by in spiritual separation from the world; but rather, as we view the darkness of this world in the light of God’s holy law, we live in joyful accord with that law, giving a witness to all around that we belong to Him and are children of the light. We and our children must be ready to give an answer when asked for a reason of the hope that lies within us. And such an inquiry of our hope will never come unless our lives first give evidence to the fact that we are a peculiar and holy people, set apart from the rest. We are living in the night. Are we living as the light?
…for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
All of time serves our salvation. What a great comfort for the child of God! Even though we are living in the night, with sin and darkness all around, we know that the day is at hand. Our Lord is coming. Coming soon! Every joy and every sorrow, every pain and every pleasure, and every circumstance of life in which God places us is hastening us toward the second coming of Christ. What a day that will be! Our Lord Jesus returning in great power and glory on the clouds of heaven. He, who is the Light, will illuminate the darkness and bring the time of no more night for His people. What joy for the children of God!
As we continue to journey with our children toward heaven—encouraging and admonishing each other along the way—may our prayers be likened to that of our Lord in His high-priestly prayer, praying not that God take us out of the world, but that we not be led into the darkness and temptations of the evils that abound within. Wake up! Stay awake! The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Walk as children of the light. Watch for the day. Wait for the day. And pray that the day come quickly.