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A Time to Gain and a Time to Lose
You have heard it said, "It is the decisions that kill me"; and there is an element of truth in that.
It all depends on the kind of decisions that are made.
If we make the right choices, the inevitable consequences will be demonstrated in a life of righteousness.
On the other hand, if we make the wrong choices, the effects will be manifested in a life of sinfulness.
It is not easy to make the unpopular decision.
In the book of Esther, we read that Queen Vashti refused to parade her beauty before a company of drunken and lustful men, and as a result, she lost her position of favor before the king.
But she kept her moral integrity.
We also have to decide between popularity and integrity.
If we choose the latter we may be laughed at by the crowd, but we will retain something far more important—our honor.
Sooner or later there comes a time in human experience when a person has to decide on his or her life's ambition.
Is it to be earthly gain or heavenly gain?
Is the object of existence to be the service of self or the worship of God?
Such a momentous decision involves the exercise of personal choice.
And this is precisely what the Preacher has in mind when he says, "There is ... a time to gain, and a time to lose" (Eccl.
Literally, the Hebrew reads, "To seek has its time, and to lose has its time."
So the Holy Spirit would have us understand that somewhere along our earthly journey we have to seek, if we are to find, and we have to lose if we are to gain.
To interpret these concepts we must observe that:
There Is a Time to Choose God's Purpose for Life
To "gain" or to "seek" presupposes the right of choice.
This principle applies in every area of life.
If a person decides to make his ambition that of wealth, fame, or power, he has made a choice.
By the same token, if he determines to set his affection on things above, he likewise has made a choice.
At some point in human experience there must be a time to choose.
This solemn fact inevitably brings us to consider /the sovereignty of choice./
When God created man, He endowed him with life's greatest gift: power of choice.
And within the beauties and duties of the Garden of Eden, Adam was given the freedom to exercise his right of choice, even though this involved the possibility of disobeying the will of God.
This is why his Creator said to him, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen.
Not to have allowed this sovereignty of choice would have made Adam nothing more than a robot.
We know, of course, that when put to the test, Adam misused his sovereignty of choice and through disobedience brought sin into the world, and death by sin (Rom.
The apostle Paul tells us that when offered the forbidden fruit "Adam was /not/ deceived" (1 Tim.
This means that with the full knowledge of the consequences, he transgressed the will of his Creator.
In like manner, we can choose whether or not we please ourselves, or "seek first the kingdom of God and /his/ righteousness" (Matt.
You and I have the power of sovereign choice.
But more than this, we must recognize /the urgency of choice./
This was the burden of Joshua's final message to the children of Israel.
Addressing them on that historic occasion he said, "Choose for yourselves /this day/ whom you will serve....
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh.
His emphasis was on the urgency of making the right choice.
And this note of urgency is found again and again throughout the Scriptures.
Paul sums up the matter when he says, "Behold, /now/ is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor.
Life, at best, is so short, and yet what wasted moments, hours, days, and years we shall have to lament when we stand before the judgment throne!
We tend to forget that everyone will have to give account of himself.
Not only will our works be evaluated, but our very words.
Jesus made this plain when He cautioned, "Every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment" (Matt.
Thus we see that there is such a thing as the urgency of choice.
This is why the devil concentrates every effort to make us procrastinate.
Someone once had a dream in which he found himself in hell, overhearing a discussion between Satan and his demons.
"But what is the method for keeping people from entering the kingdom of our Enemy?"
"Disprove the existence of God," suggested one demon.
"But that is no use," replied Satan.
"At no time in history has man been able to accept atheism.
There is a fundamental God-consciousness in him that no amount of argument or debate can change.
The fact that there are so few individuals who call themselves atheists only goes to prove my point."
"Well, let us try to undermine faith in the Bible," urged another demon.
"That is no use either," countered the devil.
"Think back through the centuries and recall what has been done to destroy this Book.
It has been attacked by the greatest minds, it has been banned, and even burned, but from the ashes of such burnings have sprung up even more translations and also the men and women to proclaim its message.
No, undermining faith in the Bible will not do."
"Then I have an idea," blurted out a more thoughtful demon.
"Let us start a campaign to spread the idea that there is plenty of time and, therefore, there is no hurry or urgency to consider spiritual things."
exclaimed Satan, "You could not be more accurate or relevant.
Men and women, by virtue of their natures, will fall for that proposition; and, of course, it is fatal, as far as their eternal destiny is concerned.
But why should I care, as long as they finish up in hell?"
With the urgency of choice, there is also the /destiny/ of choice.
In this regard, we need to think of a man like Moses.
We read in Hebrews 11:24-27 that:
by faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.
We cannot study these verses without being amazed at this man's sense of values.
Moses, under the providence of God, had been brought up in the luxury of the Egyptian court and trained in all the learning of the Egyptian universities.
If anyone had a chance to acquire earthly wealth, power, fame, and glory, it was Moses.
And yet we read that he "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin" (Heb.
He weighed up the issues, he evaluated the gains and the losses, and he made a choice.
The only explanation for this amazing choice is the ultimate end he had in view.
Three words help us to sum it up.
There was, first of all, the /reproach/ of Christ.
Like Abraham, Moses rejoiced to see the day of Christ and was glad.
What others would have considered as something to be shunned at all costs, he esteemed as a prize to be eagerly sought.
With Paul, he could say that he counted "all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus [the] Lord" (Phil.
So he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasure of Egypt.
But then he saw something else.
Beyond the glitter of the pleasure and treasures of Egypt, "he looked to the reward" (Heb.
There was the /reward/ of Christ.
Like the apostle, he pressed "toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil.
He could see beyond earthly gain to that heavenly reward.
But, supremely, Moses had eyes to perceive the /reality/ of Christ, for "he endured as seeing Him who is invisible" (Heb.
To him, this was life's greatest ambition.
And, of course, this was true of Paul the apostle.
At the very end of his life he could say, "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Phil.
How this glimpse into the life of Moses shames our modern generation with its shallow outlook and materialistic ambitions!
Only a man with a sense of destiny can choose the reproach of Christ, the reward of Christ, and the reality of Christ!
All the men whom God has chosen to bless in this sin-cursed world of ours have been men who have chosen to forsake all for the reproach, reward, and reality of Christ.
We could name such personalities as Martin Luther and his Protestant Reformation, William Carey and his modern missionary movement, David Livingstone and his vision and burden for Africa, and Roger Williams and his passion and program for religious liberty.
These men "endured as seeing him who is invisible" (Heb.
There is a time, then, to choose; and we must face this choice.
Will we use the sovereignty, urgency, and destiny of choice to make the right choice?
Then we must acknowledge that:
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