That element of life Peter calls ‘time past’ is irretrievable. What is in our gift to influence, in some measure, is ‘the rest of our time in the flesh’. The difficulty, of course, is that we don’t know just how much time we have at our disposal. God alone knows that.
The word of God clearly indicates that we are each stewards of an individually allocated duration of time. ‘Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?’ asks Job, expressing an understanding given him by God (Job 7:1). Not knowing the exact extent of our lifespan (Ecclesiastes 9:12) places great importance upon ‘redeeming the time’.
"The word of God clearly indicates that we are each stewards of an individually allocated duration of time."
The implication of Paul’s terminology, when writing to the Ephesian church, is that ‘making the best use of time’ (ESV) will cost us something. The word ‘use’ has the connotation of purchasing out of the market place. Of course, we can’t acquire any more time for ourselves than God has sovereignly allocated. Therefore, although this will inevitably involve sacrifice, we should make every effort to prioritise doing the will of God.
A little honest self-analysis will reveal that there are many things, legitimate or wasteful, that reduce the time left at our disposal. We all sleep for a large proportion of our day. Many of us have to work, perhaps needing to travel some distance to do so; further, we have to eat and look after our physical hygiene and well-being. All these demands legitimately take time. Above and beyond this, we commit time to unnecessary pursuits which we find gratifying or entertaining. How much time have we left to occupy ourselves with God’s interests? The answer will be ‘not enough’! We shall be shocked at just how little time we have left.
It is obvious, therefore, that sacrifice has to be made so that our finite resource of time might be redeployed for better use. The words of the American missionary Jim Elliot, who met his death on the mission field in the rainforests of Ecuador aged 28, are apposite: ‘I seek not a long life, but a full one’.