And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
~ Romans 13:11
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.
~ Ephesians 6:13, Psalm 37:19, Amos 5:13
And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
~ Acts 11:28-29
I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
~ 1 Corinthians 7:26, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Buying Up the Opportunities, by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The following is an excerpt from his work, “From Darkness and Light: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17-5:17”.
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
~ Ephesians 5:16
The apostle is saying something very important. His great concern is that all Christians should realise the difference between themselves and those who are not Christians. The Christian has the wisdom of God in Jesus Christ. He knows things, he has an insight into life that nobody else has; and what he must do, therefore, is to walk circumspectly. He must understand the condition of the world in which he lives—the days are evil. It is only a Christian who can say that. The non-Christian even resents that statement. He believes that the world is wonderful, that life is amazing. No, says the Christian, the days are evil. And so, we (see) that the Christian regards his life in this world primarily as a great opportunity—an opportunity of behaving as light, an opportunity of witnessing to the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way, he redeems the time, buying up the opportunities.
That, then, is the thought we must have in our minds as we proceed to consider how the Christian uses his life in this world as an opportunity to disseminate the knowledge and the light that comes from God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The first thing, therefore, which we must emphasise is that he must indeed redeem the time. The meaning of the word redeem is that of buying up something, and especially the idea of buying it for ourselves. If you like, it is the picture of a man who is looking for a bargain. He wants to buy something for himself, and he is watching the goods on the stall or in the shop window. He is anxious to get that bargain, so he looks around and shows great keenness.
Now, that is the exhortation that the apostle gives us here as Christians. Realising what you are, he says, and that the days are evil, and understanding the condition of the world in which you find yourselves, be like men who are watching for opportunities. Be ready to grasp them and to take hold upon them. That is quite a familiar picture of the Christian in the New Testament. The apostle Peter puts the same thing in his own language in these words…“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries” (1Pe 4:3). Surely, the apostle Peter is arguing, it is almost unnecessary that I should plead with you about this. You have already spent enough of your time in this world doing those other things, wasting it, and throwing it away. Well, he says, don’t do that any longer. You have wasted so much of your life in this world with rubbish and nonsense. Not anymore! Be alive, alert, seek every opportunity. Hold on to every minute and every second—redeem the time. In light of the fact that you wasted so much and allowed so many glorious opportunities to slip by, don’t do it anymore.
Paul is not merely exhorting us not to waste our time. He is very positive. He says you must go out of your way to seek opportunities.
You see, it is so much stronger than the negative, though the negative is, of course, included. You cannot do this if you are wasting your time. But it is not only that. Be alert, be alive, seek opportunities. Look for them and take them eagerly every time you are presented with one. This, of course, is all-important because the days are evil and because of the conditions in which we find ourselves.
Now, it seems to me that here the apostle is exhorting us to buy up the opportunities for two main reasons. The first is for our own sake. Then, secondly, for the sake of other people.
Let us consider the first of these. You are to redeem the time, says the apostle, for your own sake. How am I to see to it, during the remainder of my brief life in this evil world, that I buy up the opportunities?
Let us see first what he tells us negatively. Then we shall see how he refers us positively to what the will of the Lord is. We find very practical advice and instruction with regard to this in the first Psalm. If I am to redeem the time, there are certain things I must not do. I must not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. I must not waste my time in standing in the way of sinners. I must not loiter about in the sort of place where I know that they are likely to be passing along. Neither am I to sit in the seat of the scornful. If I do those three things, far from buying up the opportunity, I am wasting opportunities. Here is God’s instruction: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.” You know their outlook; you know their view of life. Have nothing to do with them. Do not have any interest in their philosophy, their counsel. Do not invite sin, or as Paul puts it in writing to the Romans, “Make not provision for the flesh” (Rom 13:14). If you put yourself in the way of sinners, the end will be that you will be sinning with them. Therefore, if you know of literature of a type that is likely to harm you, do not look at it. Throw it into the fire. Have nothing to do with it. Do not spend too much of your time reading unsavoury details about law cases in newspapers. They do not do you any good. That is standing in the way of sinners; and if you stand there, you will be carried along with them before you realise it.
The same is true of sitting in the seat of the scornful. The apostle Peter puts this quite plainly to us in his First Epistle in the second chapter, verses 11 and 12: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims”; that is what you are—you are strangers and pilgrims in this world since you have become Christians. “I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles.” That is the same thing, exactly. There, then, are the negatives.
What about the positive? Well, go back again, and you will find it all in the first Psalm. Here is the blessed man: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” You see, this man is not wasting his time with unworthy and harmful literature. Rather, he spends his time in the law of the Lord, and he meditates in it day and night. He is not like the man who says he is so busy that he really has no time for Bible study and for reading good books. But how is he so busy? Does he spend more time with his newspaper than with his Bible? Then, he has no excuse any longer. Let him give the time he was giving to his newspaper to the law of the Lord instead. The Christian meditates on the law of the Lord day and night. This is his delight. He says, I want something that will build me up and help me and enable me to function as light; so, he is a man who is very careful about the portioning of his time. He does not fritter away his time and find at the end of the day that he has not read his Bible, scarcely prayed to God or done anything else because his time has gone with the frivolities of the things of this present world. No, no, this is the man who buys up the opportunity. He has to discipline himself. He says, “I must do this, I insist on this. I am doing so at all costs.” Never was this more necessary than it is today.
Or take another exhortation that is given by our Lord Himself. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Mat 6:19). Do not spend your time in this world doing that. What then? Well, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Mat 6:20). You are a pilgrim of eternity; that is where you are going. Well then, do not spend all your time in laying up treasures in this world because you are going out of it; you are going to decay, and you will leave them behind you. Look ahead, prepare ahead, lay up treasures there, redeem the time. Buy up the opportunity.
Take the similar exhortation in Luke’s Gospel chapter 16, verse 9: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” What does he mean? It is a comment on the parable of the Unjust Steward. What was the characteristic of that steward? It was his wisdom. As our Lord says, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luk 16:8). Here was a man in trouble, and he jumped at an opportunity. He said, “Now, before the sentence drops on me, I am going to prepare for the future; so, he went to customers and said, ‘How much do you owe?’ One man said, ‘I owe this much’—so the steward said, ‘Write down much less, half that.’ ” And so he went on. What was he doing? He was preparing himself for the calamity that was about to descend upon him. He was a wise man. He saw what was coming, and he acted immediately, redeeming the time. You and I are to be like that. So our Lord says, “Use your money in such a way in this world that when the end comes, you have your preparation already made there, so that when you cross right over into the other world there will be many who are ready to receive you and to rejoice at the sight of you.” You see, you are living in this world in such a way that you are really making preparation for that next world. You are buying up the opportunity.
I could quote Scripture almost endlessly to you in this connection, but let me mention just one passage—a very striking one at the end of the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof ” (Rom 13:11-14). These are all different ways, you see, of telling us to rouse ourselves, to realise who we are and what we are and to clutch at every opportunity. Be alive and alert. Regard this world as but an opportunity of pleasing Him. Make to yourselves friends, even with the mammon of unrighteousness; lay hold on eternal life.
If anything further is needed to press upon us the urgency of doing this, think of this: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2Co 5:10). Christians, we must give an account of “the things done in his body, according to that (we have) done, whether it be good or bad” (2Co 5:10). “Very well,” says the apostle, “knowing the terror of the Lord, I persuade men.” What he means is this: he knows that he will stand before his Lord. It is not that he is in danger of losing his salvation. It is not judgment in the sense that our eternal destiny is going to be determined. He is talking to people who are already Christians and whose eternal destiny is safe. This is a kind of judgment of reward. The One Who came from heaven to earth for us and died on that cruel cross of shame on Calvary’s hill; Who spared not Himself, Who endured the contradiction of sinners. He Who even bore that agony in the garden and on the cross, He will look at us—and what He will look for is this: how we spent our time in this world after we realised what He had done for us. It is the terror of love you see, not the fear of torment. You will look into that beloved face and into those eyes and you will realise, as you have never done before, what He did for you. Then you will realise with shame what you did not do for Him. “Oh,” says Paul, “buy up the opportunity, do not waste a second. Keep that in the forefront of your mind.”
The apostle John says exactly the same thing in his First Epistle, chapter 3: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Then he immediately adds, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1Jo 3:2-3). That is precisely what the apostle Paul is saying here. “Ye are all the children of light,” he says, “and the children of the day” (1Th 5:5); you must not walk as if you are still in darkness. No, realising what is coming, you know you have not a second to waste. Buy up every opportunity. Make full use of the time you have got left in this world. And then, finally, to cap it all, there is a great statement in the book of Revelation in chapter 14 and verse 13: “Write”—you must have heard this at funeral services; have you ever realised its significance?—“Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev 14:13). Here it is again. Thank God, the works that follow us are our good works! They are the works that we have done as we have been buying up the opportunity or redeeming the time. It is all being recorded, nothing will be forgotten; you will hear the blessed words: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mat 25:34). This is an amazing thing—“their works do follow them.”
Very well, then, here is the exhortation in the light of all that. In order that you may have that reception, that you may hear that encomium, redeem the opportunity! What a wonderful thing it will be to hear those words: “Come, ye blessed of my Father.” Work it out in terms of Matthew 25, of the people who visited Him in prison by visiting His people in prison and giving them food and drink and clothing. You see, they bought up every opportunity, they were living in the light of this, and they redeemed the time.
What is time? Who can readily and briefly explain this? Who can even in thought comprehend it, so as to utter a word about it? But what in discourse do we mention more familiarly and knowingly than time? And we understand when we speak of it. We understand also when we hear it spoken of by another. What then is time? If no one asks me, I know. If I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not.—Augustine
Wisdom is seen when professors walk not as fools in a vain, careless, and sinful manner but as wise. This they do when they walk as the Word of God directs them; when they walk uprightly according to the gospel; when they walk as they have Christ for an example; and when they walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. One special and particular instance of their walking wisely is redeeming the time because the days are evil, which is done when they lose no opportunity of doing good to others.—Richard Sibbes
Though these transitory days, months, and years will at last expire, yet eternity shall not. O it is a long word and an amazing matter! What is eternity but a constant permanency of persons and things in one and the same state and condition forever, putting them beyond all possibility of change? –John Flavel