"Tempus Fugit"


            No, friends,  it is not a new chocolate dessert!  It is a Latin expression that means: “time flies”.  Have you ever seen time fly? As children we used to ask the riddle:  “What happens when you thrown an alarm clock out the window?”  And after the briefest of pauses we supplied the answer that we thought only we knew:  “Time flies!”  But it is no joke, and February, the shortest month of the year, is a good time to remember how quickly time passes and how short our lives are.  The Psalmist puts it this way in Psalm 90:4-12:


For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past,

            And like a watch in the night.  You carry them away like a flood;

            They are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up:

            In the morning it flourishes and grows up; In the evening it is cut down and withers...


            For All our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh.

            The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,

            Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away...


            So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.


            When we were children we used to think time passed oh soooo slowly!  Remember how that last hour of school from 2:15 to 3:15 in the afternoon almost never came to an end? And how long was the day before your birthday!  The normal life span is like a mountain - up one side to the top is halfway, and down the other side to the bottom is the other half.  All our youth we were like impatient drivers going uphill, pressing on the accelerator of the car with all our might, trying to get it to go faster, faster up the hill!  Then suddenly we realized that we were near the top, older, that life was going fast, and we took our foot off the accelerator, but things didn't slow down and before we knew it we were over the top and going down the other side, faster and faster!  Now going fast didn't seem such a good idea! Time to slow down, and so we press the brakes, only to find that they don't work.  Surprise!  Time always moves at the same rate: 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours per day.  All days have the same number of hours.  All weeks have 168 hours.  Unfortunately it takes most of us about half a life span to begin to appreciate how quickly time passes, and as we begin to appreciate this truth, it seems to us that time is speeding up, but it isn't. 

            Also, let none of us forget that no one knows if he will reach the 70 or 80 mark.  When we contemplate the body of an infant crib death, or of a young man of 20 in a casket, or the death of the mother or father of a young family, we realize that the mountain was shorter, the life span was shorter than we thought.  A young person who dies at 20 was at the halfway mark at 10, but alas, he didn't realize it!  Years ago, that 20 year old in the casket was my brother.  It could have been me, or you!  Young person, young friend, suppose you have already passed that mark without knowing it.  Suppose that  the time of your departure is at hand.  If you are 18 and your life is to end at 20, what should you be doing with that life now?   Man or woman in your late twenties or early thirties, suppose that this were the last year of your life and you knew it - how would you live it for the Lord?  I have before me today's local newspaper with four obituaries:  one of a young man of 28, another of a woman of 49 - mother of three, a third of a woman of 52, and the fourth of a man of 72.   The 28 year old was my neighbor.  If one of those were your case today, what would you wished to have done differently?  A friend of mine saw an inscription on an old clock in Chester Cathedral:


                        When as a child, I laughed and wept, TIME CREPT.

                        When as a youth, I dreamed and talked, TIME WALKED.

                        When I became a full grown man, TIME RAN.

                        And later, as I older grew, TIME FLEW.

                        Soon I shall find, while travelling on, TIME GONE.

and he added:

                        And face eternity begun, TIME DONE.


Brethren, I speak to my own heart as well in saying: Let us remember how short life is, and give our hearts to wisdom - wise use of time and energies while we can.  Yes, I ask myself the same questions I pose for the reader:  Am I using time wisely for the Lord or only for myself?  Am I living with eternity's values in view - that is - will what I am doing today matter 1,000 years from now in heaven?   Is this important to me, or has spiritual dullness crept in?  Time to look in the mirror and say, “Self, life's end is fast approaching, but is it closer that you think, approaching unknown to you, and you have yet to do some service for the Lord?  Who do I need to witness to?  Who do I need to help, to encourage, to forgive, to exhort?  What weights do I need to throw off?  Have I made treasures on earth that should have been made in heaven - and can I liquidate them and invest them in heaven before it is too late?  Time is short.  “Tempus fugit”, Latin for “TIME FLIES”, is all too true.  The Lord has been trying to teach us that in His Word for all these years, hasn't He?  None of us, young or old, has any time to waste.  Friends, we should think of the shortness of time, and to the unsaved around us we should proclaim with conviction: “Life is short, death is sure, sin the cause and Christ the cure.”  And to our own hearts and to other believers we should say, in edification and exhortation: “Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last.”   For many years now I have had the poem, “No Time”, written inside the cover of my Bible as a reminder to abandon the idea that  “I don't have time” for the things of God.  Perhaps the Lord can use the same poem to speak to your heart, too, and move you to action before it is too late.


            I knelt to pray, but not for long,

            I had too much to do.

            Must hurry off and get to work

            For bills would soon be due.

            And so I said a hurried prayer,

            Jumped uf from off my knees.

            My Christian duty now was done,

            My soul could be at ease.


            All through the day I had no time,

            To speak a word of cheer.

            No time to speak of Christ to friends,

            They'd laugh at me, I feared.

            No time for God or for His Church,

            Through life that was my cry.

            No time to give to Him or them,

            At last, t'was time to die.


            And when before the Lord I came,

            I stood with eyes cast down.

            Within His hands He held a book,

            Of those who'd won a crown.

            He looked into the book and said,

            Your name I cannot find.

            I once was going to write it down,

            But never found the time.


Many people, even professing Christians, spend more time preparing for the few short years of this life and a comfortable retirement than they do preparing for eternity.  That is sad short-sightedness.  Time, precious time, frittered away as if it were nothing , watching television, going to concerts, playing sports, seeking fame and honor among men, piling up money in savings accounts, soaking up the sun to change the color of our skin, sleeping and lounging around, playing little board games of trivial pursuits to amuse our bored selves - oh how we love to waste time!  How little conviction we have about it, and how quick we are to protest and to relieve ourselves of any conviction on the subject.  Many are more worried about “stress” and “burnout” than about fruitlessness.  “But we have to live, don't we?”, someone may exclaim.  God doesn't say that.  He says we have to die: it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this, the judgment (Heb. 9:27).  Eternity is a long time, and the greatest folly one could commit would be to enter it unprepared.  Back to the Psalmist's prayer we must turn in earnest: “So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  In a reading in the Choice Gleanings calendar in 1984, from the pen of G.M.Landis we read:


“My times are in Thy hand.”  Psalm 31:15


Every Christian should realize that his time belongs to God and therefore should be used for God.  The old Puritan, Cotton Mather, would express his regret after the departure of a visitor who had wasted his time, by remarking, “I had rather have given him a handful of money that to have been kept thus long out of my study.”  John Bradford frequently said:  “I count that hour lost in which I have done no good by my pen or tongue.”


This kind of talk will likely draw the accusations of “guilt trip” and “legalism” today, but we will pay no attention to such accusations by the mellow, laid back, taking-it-easy erstwhile professors of Christianity.  The judgment seat of Christ is coming, and all should be viewed in that light.  It is not a sin to rest, but it is one to lounge.  A young man appeared at my door one day smiling and saying, “Hi, I had nothing to do so I thought I'd come over and kill some time with you.” After I recovered from my shock I informed him in the nicest way I knew how that to kill time is a kind of murder.  He left shortly thereafter. Are all interruptions divine?  Maybe, for about the first five or ten minutes, and in some cases maybe not even that long! Do we have time for others?  Yes, but not time to kill.  To young Christian men J.O. Sanders has this to say in his book, Spiritual Leadership:


“The young man of leadership caliber will work while others waste time, study while others sleep, pray while others play.  There will be no place for slovenly habits in word or thought, deed or dress.  He will observe a soldierly discipline in diet and deportment, so that he might wage a good warfare.  He will without reluctance undertake the unpleasant task that others evade because it evokes no applause or wins no appreciation.”    


Do we have time for our family?  Yes, but not to waste, fritter or use as an excuse to escape from ministry.  Do we have time to rest?  Yes, but it is for a rest that makes us more effective in service, not a rest that does nothing else.  The Lord knows when one needs to rest and recuperate, and He knows when one could try harder, give more and go further for Him.  Malachi 1:14 says:  “...cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing”.  The Lord knew that they were holding back, they could have done better, and He was offended by their measured response, carefully counted offerings that were calculated to avoid all sacrifice and personal cost.  In effect He says:  “You could have done better, you could have done more”, and for that very reason they stood condemned in their service.  How will our service appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ? 


            “Go on!  Go on!  There's all eternity to rest in,

            And far too few are on the “active service” list!

            No labor for the Lord is risky to invest in,

            But nothing will make up, should His “well done” be missed.


What should we do?  We need to react seriously to the shortness of time, and use it all wisely for the Lord, but not in a nervous frenzy.  As believers we should resist any view of “grace” or “liberty” that leads to time-wasting or spiritual passivism.  “Waiting on the Lord” may be a spiritual exercise, but it is not done lounging around or goofing off.  As important as it is to wait on the Lord, yet this phrase has often been used as a sort of euphemism for doing nothing or for procrastination.  God says we should redeem the time in Ephesians, the book that is famous for teaching our position “in Christ”, and our position is a wonderful truth but it is not an excuse for inaction.  Ephesians  5:15-17 calls for action on the part of those who appreciate their position in Christ, making good use of time, and to not do so is to walk as fools, or to be unwise. 


            “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away;

            Awake, my soul, be on your guard; Serve now, while still 'tis day!”  


We are taught to do all for the glory of God in 1 Corinthians 10:31, beginning with such ordinary routine things as eating and drinking.  The Lord calls for us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, as an act of worship to Him and in service to do His will, in Romans 12:1-2.  Romans 6:13 exhorts us to yield ourselves, including our bodies and all their members, to God for His service, and in verse 18 we are told that we are the “servants” (slaves) of righteousness.  This is the forgotten side of redemption today, redeemed from slavery to sin, not to do as we please but to serve God.  How wonderful when the light of this, God's truth, enters into our hearts and transforms our service.  Why else should we be filled with the Spirit unless it is to serve God?   Do I hear someone say: “O.K., I agree in principle, but I already did all that once in my life”.   Some think it unnecessary to keep going over this ground, but the Lord says we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23).  Surely the use of time is included in this. 


We cannot live today in the spiritual momentum of yesterday.  If we neglect the need of daily renewal before the Lord, time passes and slowly  the fires of love die down, the fervor cools, the devotion is diverted, the discipline begins to drift, we find that our lives have been filled with busy-ness, with the legitimate but temporal, and so much time has slipped through our hands, never to return.  So then, let us lay aside all weights and run the race, let us cast aside all distraction, trim out of our lives all the clutter that keeps us from using time for eternity, and devote ourselves afresh to serving, in love, the One who gave His all for us.  An unknown poet said:


            The time is short; seek little here below,

            Earth´s good would cumber thee and drag thee down,

            Let daily food suffice; care not to know

            Thought for tomorrow, it may never come.


But better yet to close with the words written by the richest, wisest and most foolish man that ever lived: Solomon.  In Ecclesiastes he wrings his hands and sorrowfully expounds on the vanity and foolishness of a wasted life living for the things and pleasures of this world rather than seeking, loving and serving God.  “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them... Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”  (Eccles. 12:1, 13-14)   Whatever your age, remember your Creator today, and use your life for Him.  How much time to you have?  I do not know, but I know you have today.  Will you devote it to Christ and use it for His glory?


Carl Knott

c/o Iglesia Cristiana "Betel"

Calle Torreblanca, 6

41003 Sevilla, Spain




The author gives permission to copy this article, but not to alter it in any way.