Remember the time crunch you faced in school when you took a quiz or exam? Whether you had ten minutes or three hours, on cue you had to put down your pencil. Or stop typing. Whether you knew the answers or not, time was up. Turn in your paper!
Tests and timing go together in school.
In the spiritual life, too.
Two weeks ago, my blog post quoted Ecclesiastes 3:1: “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” After writing about how God gives us enough time for everything we need to do, I found my schedule being stressed and strained.
Proverbs 30:5 informs us that “every word of God is tested.” So I’m not surprised that my adherence to the truth of Ecclesiastes 3:1 would be contested.
Here’s how I dealt with it. I distilled the verse to its essence by temporarily removing words and phrases. (I emphasize “temporarily” because the Revelation 22:19 warns against subtracting from God’s Word.) I wanted to discover the root meaning of the verse.
Hebrew and Greek, the original languages of the Bible, have no indefinite articles, so Bible translators insert the words “a” or “an” to smooth out English versions.
That’s what they did with Ecclesiastes 3:1. It refers to “a time” and “a season” even though there is no “a” in the Hebrew text. Therefore, we could remove the English indefinite articles and, at least in theory, not corrupt the text. Here’s what the verse would look like: “There is time for everything and season for every activity under the heavens.” The first half of the sentence still reads pretty well, but the second half is stilted.
Here’s another fun fact. Biblical writers were fond of a style of poetry called “parallelism” in which the second line of a verse either repeats, opposes, or completes the thought of the first line. The second line of our verse repeats the sentiment expressed by the first: time is available.
Scholars call this technique “synonymous parallelism” because the same idea occurs in each of the two lines.
Consequently, we could delete the second line from this verse and not diminish the main point. Here’s what would remain: “There is time for everything.”
I could simplify this core idea even further. Since “for everything” covers all situations, the promise is universal: there is time.
There is time?
As I was working through this exercise, the truth of what I was reading began to amaze and frighten me. Amaze, because I appreciated that God cared about the time pressures I struggled with. Frighten, because I knew the Lord would insist that I trust His Word. He didn’t want to entertain me with some biblical insight; I had rely on what He said!
And that’s when the challenges hit me. I’ve seldom felt so busy without relief. And confused. Most of the demands on my calendar are legitimate, so that makes it hard for me to decline them. I’ve been striving for efficiency, but I can only go so far before I’ve maxed out my capabilities. At some point my schedule is full.
At least that’s what I thought. But maybe I’ve been wrong. Perhaps I actually do have sufficient time to accomplish – what?
His Word said “everything.” I have enough time for the whole ball of wax? It sure doesn’t strike me that way! In fact, I feel late, lazy, and rushed; like I have too many tasks and too few hours.
I’ve quoted Ecclesiastes 3:1 over and over, sometimes aloud, in an attempt to settle my heart. But also to prepare my faith for a miracle. Because at the end of this season, I want to look back and realize that I can depend on God’s Word. Even if I don’t understand how He can fulfill it.
What would our life with Christ look like if we banked on His promises? What freedom would we enjoy, what liberation from mental or circumstantial chains?
Jesus can use a single verse to open up to us a new and vital way to live. Circumstances don’t get the last word; He does!
Let’s believe His Word; let’s handle our responsibilities with confidence. In Christ, we have enough time. Even when it’s tested.