It’s a new year. Stretching before us is 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds. What will we do with this time?
Ephesians 5:15-21 says:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (ESV).
Making the most of our time is important because the days are evil. Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 says the race doesn’t always go to the swift, the battle to the strong, nor favor to those with knowledge. Time and chance happen to us all. Fish are caught in a net. Birds are caught in a snare. Men are snared at evil times. That is, because sin is in the world, death is here. We never know when we are going to die. We need to use this moment, this day, wisely because for all we know, it is the only one we have.
Therefore, we need to walk carefully, not recklessly. We need to seek out wisdom and use it to guide us through today. Proverbs 3:13-27 talks about the great blessings of seeking wisdom. Having wisdom is better than having gold and silver. Wisdom provides longer life. Wisdom provides great blessing. Wisdom provides security and protection. If we are going to use our time wisely, we need to seek wisdom and walk by it.
Of course, seeking wisdom is tied up in discovering the will of the Lord. The issue here is not to find the will of the Lord so we can earn anything. The point is God’s way works. If we want to walk carefully in wisdom, we’ll need to do it God’s way. Anything else is folly. If wisdom protects us, then folly exposes us to harm. If wisdom provides blessing, then folly produces woe. If wisdom lengthens life, then folly shortens it. If wisdom is according to God’s will, it just makes sense that we want to discover what is pleasing to God (Ephesians 5:10) for our own good, let alone for God’s glory.
Instead of being drunk with wine, we should be filled with the Spirit. Paul’s point is that to the degree we imbibe intoxicants we cannot be controlled by the Holy Spirit. We are to walk by the Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). The worldly strive to escape the evil days by drinking their sorrows away. We must make the most of our time in these evil days by drinking full of the Spirit, letting Him guide our life, giving Him control so our lives can have significance and meaning.
Then Paul talks about singing. For so long, I’ve used this passage to demonstrate the authorization for singing only that I’ve forgotten to look at exactly what this verse is saying in context. While this passage does authorize singing and not instrumental praise and edification, God didn’t have this verse written merely to provide a proof text for our modern debates on musical worship.
Our singing to one another is a consequence of being filled with the Spirit instead of drinking intoxicants, which leads to debauchery. I Peter 4:3-4 says we should no longer join the Gentiles in their sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. The Gentiles will malign us for not joining them in their debauchery. Drinking intoxicants will lead us into debauchery with others. Ephesians 5:18-19 provides contrasting pictures. One is of drinkers rowdily singing their debaucheries. Think about it. What is the common portrayal of drunks walking along the street together? Isn’t it stumbling along, tripping over each other as they sing some drunken song? The other picture is of Christians gathering together to sing songs that edify each other and praise God. I can’t help but think of the contrast between a worldly drunken party ringing in the New Year and Christians gathering to praise God through song and prayer as they prepare for a New Year. If we want to use our time wisely this year, we will be filled with the Spirit, gathering with each other to lift each other up through song and praise.
We give thanks always and for everything to God. Are we walking today? Are we breathing today? Do we have food to eat today? Do we have clothes to wear today? Then we need to give God thanks. Has God forgiven us of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ? Then we need to give thanks to God. Too often we allow our lives to be run by bitterness and resentment over what hasn’t happened. If we will use our time wisely, we will take time to thank God for what He has done. Write a daily gratitude list to count the blessings of God in your life. Watch how that changes the way you face these evil days.
Finally, we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Instead of trying to be the pre-eminent, we grant others that honorable role. Instead of trying to demonstrate how everyone should always listen to us, we start listening to others. Instead of trying to have things our way, we submit to our brethren. Why? Because when we do, we show reverence to Jesus. Sadly, too many of us walk around trying to impress others with our great spirituality when what we need to do is be impressed with the others around us.
I realize, of course, by the time you read this on Sunday, some of our 365 days of 2010 will already be gone. That is time we never get back. I encourage you to let that be in the past. Don’t worry about it anymore; you can’t change it. Instead, press on for the prize of God’s heavenly calling and make the best use of your time today. It is the only day you have. If you get to live tomorrow, you can do the same thing then.