I just want to be very clear in case you don't want to read a sermon this morning from me. This is one. it is not a motivational message or a business focused inspirational tidbit. It is an extraction of principles from the scripture governing our approach to and use of time as Christians.
So, you can ignore it if you like, but I invite you to read along and be encouraged with me.
I will be preaching this in a couple of hours.
Time Principles from Romans 15:23-33
The Apostle Paul gives us a rare glimpse into his understanding of time as he explains in what may seem to be a routine note, to the Romans, his plan for a visit.
What principles of time are you employing in business, ministry, and life? I would like to suggest seven that we can extract from Paul.
Principle # 1
¬“ (from the NIV) Romans 15:23 - But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you,”
Here we catch a glimpse of an unspoken concept – that of free time. Free time is time to do the things that your heart desires but your priorities prevent.
For Paul, his missionary work took priority in his schedule. If he could be useful and busy about his mission, that came first. At the same time, he desired to spend his time in certain places with certain people when and if the opportunity presented itself.
That was free time.
What do you desire to do with your free time? It is a legitimate desire. It is a possibility. Make a list and then work to free some time for doing that very thing. Who will you be with? What will it be like? State it as Paul did.
God has given you a big picture dream and vision which drives your life mission, but it does not erase all of the things that you would like to do when you are free to do them. Life is never primarily about vacations, side trips, and lunch breaks, but these things occupy our longings and give us both incentives and diversions.
Let’s get our work done and then play a bit.
Principle # 2
Passing Through Time
“ (from the NIV) Romans 15: 24¬ - I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.”
So often, our free time is the time we grab when we are passing through on our way from somewhere and to somewhere else. It is an entirely valid pursuit to fit things in to the cracks of our lives. If we didn’t, so many things would never get done.
Businesses would not be built.
Hobbies would not be cultivated.
Friendships would not be nurtured.
Books and music would not be enjoyed or even created.
So much of what is good in life happens when we are passing through life. If we do not take advantage of the opportunities along the way, they will be lost.
Paul had two excellent reasons for stopping by Rome along the way. One was to have the Roman believers assist him on his journey. The other was to simply enjoy their company.
Do not discount either motive.
Principle # 4
“ (from the NIV) Romans 15: 25 - Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26 - For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.”
The primary reason for Paul being on this upcoming journey is service. Specifically, it is service to God’s people in Jerusalem. They were experiencing a time of need. Perhaps it was because, as Barclay suggests, that they had lost their jobs in the industries that supported Temple worship. These were controlled by a small and select group of men who were particularly opposed to the Christian movement.
Having been excluded from the economy of Jerusalem because of their faithfulness to Jesus Christ, they were hungry. Paul saw it as an obligation and an opportunity to help them.
Another group of poor believers in Macedonia and an Achaia had embraced the opportunity and had freely given of themselves and their limited resources. They understood that whatever had been entrusted to them was a stewardship and that the only way to preserve resources is to give them back to God.
So it is with time. Time spent in service is never time wasted, nor is it lost.
What are you doing with your time to serve other people? Is some part of your day spent, each day, in reaching out to others and touching human need? Is your time filled with significance?
Principle # 4
“ (from the NIV) Romans 15:27 - They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. “
What made this use of Paul’s time and the other believers’ money and obligation?
Fellowship is the reason.
Fellowship is partnership and sharing. Paul reminds the Romans that they have shared the spiritual heritage and benefits of the Jewish people, the legacy of the law, the rich traditions of the God’s hand at work in the history of Israel, and especially, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
They owe something to the believers in Jerusalem.
Material and spiritual blessings are sometimes interchangeable. They are not equal, but they are in close communication, one with the other.
Likewise, we are a part of each other and owe each other love, respect, fraternal caring, service, and help. God has molded and melded the church from a conglomeration of people groups and backgrounds and has gathered us into one family.
If nothing else, we need to spend time together and to take the time to meet one anothers’ needs.
Principle # 5
“ (from the NIV) Romans 15:28 - So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. “
The opportunity has arisen, in the mind of Paul, to do to things. The primary thing is to go to Spain, the western frontier of his known civilized world, a place bustling with opportunity and influence where some of the most innovative thinking on earth was taking place in Paul’s time.
It was time for the gospel to go to Spain – at least it seemed that way to Paul.
Paul was always looking for opportunities.
The second opportunity was to stop by Rome on his journey – to visit with friends and share the benefits of fellowship.
Opportunities can sometimes be planned and at other times, simply emerge.
Curiously, this opportunity did not materialize, a fact that we will visit in a moment. However, Paul was ready for it and we need to be ready for the opportunities that come our way.
What opportunities might await you this very day and how will you greet them?
Principle # 6
“ (from the NIV) Romans 15:29 - I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.”
Time spent in cultivating friendships in Christ is precious time, blessed and valuable.
We must cherish such time and see it as part of the full blessing of Christ. Isn’t it wonderful that God, in His love, mercy, and wisdom gave us such wonderful comrades on the journey of faith and service?
I have been sitting over a cup of coffee with dear Christian friends, in the midst of a conversation about deep matters or heart and eternal truth and suddenly realized, “The is holy ground.”
There are sanctified moments in our memories, flashes of time, indelibly etched upon our consciousnesses that nurture us at the core of our being.
Are you allowing time for precious moments in your life? Are you making time for those snapshots of seconds, minutes, and hours that give you great strength and encouragement for how you will use the rest of your time in the service of the master?
So often in our businesses and ministries, we do not value the shorter, precious moments that God affords us. We must appreciate them as we anticipate them, as we participate in them, and as we look back upon them.
Principle # 7
“ (from the NIV) Romans 15: 30 - I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 - Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there,”
Perhaps the most neglected time in the day of any busy Christian is prayer time. It is time spent in the struggle preparing for the struggle. It is time when we can identify closely with the challenges that are faced by our brothers and sisters near and far.
The word used for struggle has the same root as that for “agony.”
This call to pray together is rooted in the very person of Jesus Christ whose entire life was about intercession and in the love of the Holy Spirit.
“Pray for me,” Paul suggests, “and you will be part of me.”
When we pray for someone, we join them. We share in their successes as well as their pain and disappointments.
Paul had two pressing and legitimate concerns:
First, he prayed for deliverance from those who were “gunning for him” in Jerusalem. He was a man with a price on his head and he had many enemies. This was such a legitimate request that it may come as no surprise to learn that God answered this prayer in a funny sort of way. When he did make it to Jerusalem, Paul was arrested and spent four years in prison.
The deliverance came in the fact that those became ironically effective years and productive times. Epistles were written. Influence was shared. Lives were changed. Believers were encouraged.
So the second prayer request was of even greater significance. Paul prayed and requested prayer that his ministry would be effective and acceptable.
God allowed something that seemed to be Him ignoring the first request in order to accomplish the second. In fact, God never stopped answering Paul’s prayer for deliverance, but that is a different story.
Time spent in prayer is never wasted.
“ (from the NIV) Romans 15:32 - so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. 33 - The God of peace be with you all. Amen.”
What Paul looked forward to most was a time of mutual refreshment with the Roman believers. They needed it and he needed it.
While it would not happen the way he predicted, he relished the thought.
In fact, Paul would come to Rome within a few short years – in chains. Yet, he would also come in joy and his presence would bring refreshment and courage to the church there.
He valued, as must we, the will of God and gladly submitted to that will. He associated it with joy and refreshment.
The most refreshing experience of time is to be found in the will of God, doing what He wants us to do, being where He wants us to be, speaking what he wants us to speak, enjoying the company of those He brings into our paths, and exercising our ministry and influence among them.
So, we see that Paul values time and takes the expenditure of time very seriously. You have today – at least for now and you may have tomorrow. What will you do with it?
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