The act of redeeming time

The average human lifespan is currently estimated at seventy years. Living beyond this age is often seen as a significant achievement in healthy living, typically attributed to a balanced diet and regular physical exercise. However, these factors alone do not account for the full measure of time well spent. For instance, Jesus’ lifespan was significantly shorter than the average, yet His accomplishments are unparalleled by anyone else in history.

For many, success is equated with the accumulation of wealth, which becomes the sole motivator for hard work. Success is often measured by the level of praise one receives from others, driving individuals to seek the greatest possible admiration. While this pursuit may be commendable to some, it does not inherently add meaning to human existence. Merely obtaining enough material goods and maintaining good health are not enough to fulfil one’s deeper ambitions.

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-20 NKJV).

Death is often the most feared aspect of existence for humanity, yet for those who have embraced the Holy Spirit, it represents the opposite. Scripture suggests that our days are fraught with evil. For the faithful, death may be seen as a release from the trials of earthly life. The longer one lives, the greater the risk of falling into sin. The temptations of sinful pleasure are often irresistible to those in the flesh. The critical question that demands an effective response is how to make the most of our time in physical life.

Many may think the lives of the apostles were filled with excitement. However, a close examination of Scripture reveals that these early followers did not enjoy their earthly lives. Consider Paul, who spent much of his time as a Christian in prison. What could have driven them to persevere under such bitter circumstances? The apostles recognized the vanity of life in the flesh. Paul openly expressed his preference for leaving the physical world behind.

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labour; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again” (Philippians 1:21-26 NKJV).

The Apostle Paul recognized the benefits of renouncing the physical body compared to remaining in it. His dilemma of holding two opinions stemmed from considering the Christians who had not yet matured in their faith. Their presence motivated him, even during his imprisonment, to write letters. He did not anticipate that his writings would influence us today; his primary concern was to rescue as many early Christians as possible from a life of evil.

Not all such Christians might have been truly converted at that time. Within the broader Christian community, there is often a mix of genuine and nominal believers. The commitment to nurturing such individuals with gentle care is validated by the hope that they will eventually see the light. Had they reached full maturity as children of God, Paul would have had no cause for concern about their spiritual well-being.

The drive to assist others, spiritually, is propelled more by love than by the pursuit of fame and praise. Individuals with such motivation stop focusing on personal gains in this life. Dedicating one’s life to serving God does not trouble them. They are devoted to service and ready to face even the harshest conditions. They find joy where others may pity them. For these individuals, enduring mistreatment is an honour, even to the point of facing death.

Once, the apostles narrowly avoided death, thanks to the intervention of a Jewish scholar named Gamaliel. They had boldly declared their intent to obey only God’s will, not human commands. This infuriated the Pharisees, who plotted to execute them. At that critical moment, Gamaliel stepped in, wisely pointing out the pointlessness of executing such devoted people.

Instead of granting them freedom, they were conditionally released with the expectation that they would cease their provocative actions. Torture was employed as a means of coercively enforcing obedience, serving as a grim reminder of the pain preceding death. Flogging, a method of torture from the pre-medieval era, was intended to instil fear in those who transgressed. However, rather than being subdued by such treatment, the apostles regarded it as an honour.

Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:41-42 NKJV).

The apostles’ actions, as recorded, were not driven by a longing for earthly longevity. Deacon Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, was stoned to death as he preached God’s word (Acts 6:8-15). James was the first of the original apostles to be executed. The others also met with violent ends, yet without remorse.

The apostles’ experiences suggest that for Christians, redeeming time does not equate to shunning death. Instead, it involves engaging in acts that can be deemed unacceptable by those preoccupied with physical existence. For example, many yearn for a longer life. Jesus, at thirty-three and a half years, was considered too young to die.

A Christian’s focus is not on the duration of earthly life but on the deeds accomplished in that time. Interestingly, some Christians fervently pray for a marital partner, seemingly unaware of Jesus’ teachings on marriage. Apostle Paul devoted an entire chapter to discussing marital considerations.  (1 Corinthians 7)

Paul communicated with Christians who had not yet fully grasped the essence of Christianity. Occasionally, he had to clarify which parts were his own opinion, considering the apparent shortcomings of these Christians. God’s grace and patience are plentiful, and enduring for those who are slow to comprehend. Paul was challenged with addressing individuals who were novices in Christian matters. For those who had attained maturity, sexual desires would no longer be an influence.

“Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress, it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:25-31 RSV).

Jesus’ stance on becoming a Christian is a radical commitment. He allowed no room for ambivalence in matters of faith. He taught that those unwilling to leave their spouses for His sake were unfit for discipleship. Following Jesus comes at a high cost; it requires leaving everything behind, including family and personal desires, to become His disciple.

Jesus was candid about the discipleship demands; He did not entice people into following Him. He presented the terms from the outset to those sincere in their pursuit. Therefore, those deciding to follow Jesus were fully aware of the commitment involved. Embracing Christianity is personal, uninfluenced by external pressures.

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish. Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28-33 RSV).  

Jesus used earthly situations to convey the importance of discipleship. He never coerced anyone into discipleship but aimed to enlighten those who might follow Him unawares. Christianity is a serious commitment, akin to a matter of life and death. Those who choose to follow Jesus must be ready to give up everything, including their lives.

Human existence transcends the physical realm; it encompasses a state of spirituality. Acknowledging one’s spiritual nature can alter priorities, diminishing the pursuit of material wealth. Jesus emphasized the requirements of God’s Kingdom from the beginning of His ministry. Devotion to His teachings involves relinquishing earthly distractions.

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:57-62 NKJV).

These conversations have been recorded to guide those drawn to follow Jesus, making them cognizant of the associated conditions. One cannot be devoted to Christianity while simultaneously entangled in worldly matters. Material possessions are ephemeral, as is the physical existence of an individual. This serves as a call to reassess one’s priorities, reversing the conventional order. The paramount consideration should be extroversion over introversion, prioritizing the former.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42 NKJV)

Martha’s grievance is justifiable under the circumstances. From a human perspective, Mary’s lack of consideration warranted reproach. Yet, Jesus seized this moment to emphasize what is truly essential. Ignorance is humanity’s most formidable adversary, making the prioritization of knowledge crucial. Humanity stands on the verge of oblivion, primarily due to a lack of knowledge. Concentrating on the teachings of Jesus can lead to a more effective redemption of time.

Reassessing the method of redeeming time is necessary. One may live for a hundred years and yet achieve little of lasting significance. Jesus exemplifies the optimal use of time. Without such concentration, existence in the physical world appears insignificant. His name may not have been as celebrated in the past, which led to his unfortunate crucifixion. However, today, even the most ardent sceptics acknowledge the influence of Christianity. Those who receive God’s word should listen and adjust their lives according to Jesus’s teachings.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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