If I Could Put Time In A Bottle
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IF I COULD PUT TIME IN A BOTTLE
October 10, 1993
Chuck Swindoll really got my attention concerning time.
"Let's play `Let's Pretend.'" Let's pretend that your
banker phoned you last Friday and said he had some very
good news. He told you that an anonymous donor who loves
you very much has decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into
you account each morning, starting the following Monday
morning. That's $864 a day, seven days a week, fifty-two
weeks a year.
He adds, `But there's one stipulation...you must spend all
the money that same day. No balance will be carried over to
the next day. Each evening the bank must cancel whatever
sum you failed to use.'
With a big smile, you thank your banker and hang up. Over
that weekend you have time to plan. You grab a pencil and
start figuring: $864 times seven equals over $6,000 a
week... times fifty-two. That's almost $315,000 a year that
you have available to you if you're diligent to spend it
all each day. Remember, whatever you don't spend is
forfeited. So much for `Let's Pretend.'
Now let's play `Let's Get Serious.' Every morning Someone
who loves you very much deposits into your bank of time
86,400 seconds of time - which represent 1,440 minutes -
which, of course, equal twenty-four hours each day.
Now you've got to remember the same stipulation applies,
because God gives you this amount of time for you to use
each day. Nothing is ever carried over on credit to the
next day. There is no such thing as a twenty-six hour day
(though some of us wish there were). From today's dawn
until tomorrow's dawn, you have a precisely determined
amount of time. As someone has put it, `Life is like a
coin. You can spend it any way you want to, but you can
spend it only once.'
One of the most fascinating (and, I might add, frustrating)
of all subjects is this four-letter word time. It's
amazing. We all have the same amount of time. Whether we
are penniless or whether we happen to be the richest person
on earth, whether we are young or old, single or married,
employed or without a job, an adolescent in school or the
President of the United States of America - we have exactly
the same amount of time.
Think of how much `time' is woven into the fabric of our
conversation every day. Here is a list of some familiar
- `What time does the meeting start?'
- `What time does the meeting end?'
- `I don't have time.'
- `How much time will it take?'
- `Don't waste your time on that.'
- `It's time to go.'
- `Time out.'
- `It's time we had a long talk.'
- `What time is supper?'
- `Take out a clean sheet of paper. It's time for a quiz.'"
Time has been defined as "a stretch of duration in which
things happen." This reminds me of the fact that we will
have all eternity to enjoy our victories, but only one life
in which to win them.
In our text Solomon saw something above man, a God who was
in control of time and who balanced life's experiences (v.
1-8), then he saw something within man that linked him to
God (eternity in his heart) v.9-14. Thirdly, Solomon saw
something ahead of man- the certainty of death (15-22).
Finally, he saw something around man, the problems and
burdens of life (4:1-5:9).
God seems to use four factors to keep our lives from
becoming monotonous and meaningless. They are: time,
eternity, death, and suffering. Michael Jordan retired from
the NBA this week. He said, "I have nothing left to prove."
What was he most proud of? That his father saw him play his
last NBA game. It is apparent that death got Michael
This passage serves as a reminder that the plan of God
encompasses everything from our being born to the day of
our death. God appoints both our birthday and the day of
In v.28, Solomon turns to 14 pairs of opposites, using the
word "time" as he presses home the point of God's fore-
ordination and man's accountability.
Let me make one more statement of introduction while giving
a considerable conclusion of this text. God, Himself, wants
to be known and obeyed by man; accordingly, He has shut man
up to the riddle of life, yet given him an unquenchable
hunger to know how it all, from the simplest to the most
profound, fits with everything else.
I. LIFE'S COMPARISONS. v.1-8
v.1 Solomon tells us that not only are there times and
seasons in this world, but there is also an over-ruling
providence in our lives. From before our birth to the
moment of death, God is accomplishing His divine purposes,
even though we may not always understand what He is doing.
This defies the theory of fatalism and deism. The first
being the belief that all events are determined by fate and
hence inevitable. Deism - the belief that God exists and
created the world but thereafter did not control it.
Note 14 Comparisons:
1. "born - die": the entirety of human existence llustrates
the comprehensiveness of God.
Things like abortion, birth control, mercy killing, and
surrogate parent- hood make it look as though man is in
control of birth and death, but Solomon said otherwise.
Birth and death are divine appointments, for God is in
Ps. 139:16, "All the days ordained for me were written in
Depressed people have a tendency to ask "Why was I born?"
"Why can't I die?" It seems as though when life boils
itself down to the basics, we go back to birth and death.
2. "Plant - Pluck up":
A successful farmer knows that nature works for him only if
he works with nature. This is also the secret of a
successful life; learn God's principles and cooperate with
ILLUSTRATE PERSONAL LEVEL: There are times when you feel
you should move on, and you try to uproot yourself, but you
can't because things don't fall into place. And there are
other times when you are convinced that you'll be there
forever and, lo and behold, two months later you are 100
miles away. God has a way of uprooting us and planting us,
and He does it in His time.
3. "Kill - Heal": Refers, possibly, to sickness and plague.
God permits some to die while others are healed. Read our
papers and on one side there is an article on murder and on
the other side medicine - a miracle drug.
4. "Break-down - Build-up":
Relationship with nations; old walls; relationships 5.
"Weep - Laugh":
C.S. Lewis - "Pain is God's megaphone." He whispers to us
in our pleasure, but He shouts to us in our pain.
I love to laugh, but laughter does not teach me as much as
tears. Maybe that is why I can never remember a joke. I
remember a broken heart.
However, I do love to laugh. Many preachers don't know how
to laugh. Maybe it is because they are too serious about
straightening everybody out.
JOKE: I heard of a pastor who left the pastorate after 20
years to become a funeral director. Somebody asked, "Why
did you do that?" "Well, I spent about 12 years trying to
straighten out John. He never did straighten out. I spent
14 months trying to straighten out the marriage of the
Smith's, and it never got straightened out. I spent 3 years
trying to straighten out Susan, and she never did get
straightened out. Now when I straighten them out, they stay
I hope I am remembered as a fun- loving dad.
6. "Mourn - Dance":
Death, divorce, disappointment wedding
Jewish song: "Sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years. One
season following another. Laden with happiness and tears."
7. "Cast away stones - Gather stones"
8. "Embrace - Refrain from embracing"
They go together: times of affirmation times of
For life to stay balanced, both affirmation and
accountability are needed.
9. "To get - To lose"
(A time to search, and a time to give up to lost) ILL.
Johnny Riverbark on Miss. River
10. "To keep - to cast away" (to throw away):
God put this in the Bible for Cindy Alexander. This gives
Biblical authority for garage sales.
However, Janet has offended this principle; she wants to
keep everything. Some things you had rather die than part
with - like those things that find their way into the attic
or the bottom of a trunk in the basement.
11. "To tear - to sew"
May refer to the Jewish practice of tearing one's clothes
during time of grief or repentance.
12. "To keep silence - to speak" Someone said, "I never
felt sorry for the things I did not say." There are times
we need to say it and say it well.
13. "To love - to hate"
14. "War - Peace"
Together, we are reminded of acts of injustice, acts of
prejudice, and inequities ought to be hated and ought to be
II. LIFE'S CONSIDERATIONS. v.9-14
What's the profit? v.9a
What's the purpose? v.9b
A. Man's Profit Is That Life Is A Gift From God. v.10, 13
If we believingly accept life as a gift, and thank God for
it, we will have a better attitude toward the burdens that
come our way.
B. Man's Purpose Is Linked To Eternity. v. 11
God has not only put things into perspective by having a
timetable in which events run their course, He has put
within every human being's heart a curiosity about
tomorrow, an eternal capacity that prompts me to probe, to
be intrigued, tosearch.
Meaning what? Meaning you and I are not ready to handle
life until we are ready to face death. When we get eternity
securely in place, it's remarkable what it will do to time.
Thomas Watson said, "Eternity to the godly is a day that
has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has
C. Men's Perspective Is Linked To Reverence. v.14
"fear" - not the cringing of a slave before a cruel master,
but the submission of an obedient child to a loving parent.
III. LIFE'S CERTAINTIES. v.15-22
God will call the past to account. v.15 How can God be in
control when there is so much evil in our world, with the
wicked prospering in their sin and the righteous suffering
in their obedience?
1. God has a time for everything
2. God is working out His eternal purposes
James Johnson wrote 7 sermonsentitled, "God's Trombones"
Listen as he describes the after- life when "time shall be
no more." "In that great day, People, in that great day,
God's a-going to rain down fire. God's a-going to sit in
the middle of the air To judge the quick and the dead.
Early one of these mornings, God's a-going to call for
Gabriel, That tall, bright angel, Gabriel; And God's a-
going to say to him: "Gabriel, blow your silver trumpet,
And wake the living nations."
And Gabriel's going to ask him: "Lord, how loud must I blow
it?" And God's a-going to tell him: "Gabriel, blow it calm
and easy." Then putting one foot on the mountaintop, And
the other in the middle of the sea, Gabriel's going to
stand and blow his horn, To wake the living nations...
Oh-o-oh, sinner, Where will you stand, In that great day
when God's a-going to rain down fire? Oh, you gambling man
- where will you stand? You whore-mongering man - where
will you stand? Liars and backsliders - where will you
stand, In that great day when God's a-going to rain down
And God will divide the sheep from the goats, The one on
the right, the other on the left. And to them on the right
God's a-going to say: "Enter into My kingdom." And those
who've come through great tribulations, And washed their
robes in the blood of the Lamb, They will enter in -
Clothed in spotless white,...
And to them on the left God's a-going to say: "Depart from
Me into everlasting darkness, Down into the bottomless
pit." And the wicked like lumps of lead will start to fall,
Headlong for seven days and nights they'll fall, Plumb into
the big, black, and red-hot mouth of hell,...
Too late, sinner! Too late! Good-bye, sinner! Good-bye! In
hell, sinner! In hell! Beyond the reach of the love of God.
And I hear a voice, crying, crying: "Time shall be no more!
Time shall be no more! Time shall be no more!" And the sun
will go out like a candle in the wind, The moon will turn
to dripping blood, The stars will fall like cinders, And
the sea will burn like tar; And the earth shall melt away
and be dissolved, And the sky will roll up like a scroll.
With a wave of his hand, God will blot out time, And start
the wheel of eternity.
Sinner, oh, sinner, Where will you stand In that great day
when God's a-going to rain down fire?"
Time has begun for you and me, but it hasn't yet ended, by
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