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The Value of Time
by J. Grant Anderson

Days, weeks, months, and years constitute those divisions of duration by which we measure the length of natural life. Time indeed is valuable, because during the span of human existence is sealed the destiny of all mankind. Recently a large moving-van backed up to our neighbor’s house, and I asked our neighbor what he intended to do. He informed me that he was moving to a certain city, where he expected to make his future home. He further stated that opportunities were greater in that place, and that in a few years he would be independently rich. That very night a swiftly running passenger-train struck the moving-van, and the poor man who a few hours before was bubbling over with enthusiasm was hurled to his death. Then I remembered the words of James 4:13:-15, which seemed to me at that hour as the greatest warning in the Word of God. James say: “Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”

Men Appear to Have Plenty of Time

When the springtime rains have covered the lowlands with water, until one can hardly get about, water is but little appreciated; but along in August, when, for lack of rain, the landscape is brown and vegetation is dying, oh, how we long for and appreciate a few hours of refreshing rain. Thus it is in life. When young and happy and nature’s reservoir of vital forces is overflowing, when life seems to be one endless song of delight, time seems to be but little appreciated; but later on, upon that sad day when the attending doctor walks away from your bed and says, “I can do nor more for you,” when the patient nurse informs the family that it is a matter of only a few moments, when earthly scenes and faces are slowly---and forever---fading from view, then, if not before, a proper value will be placed upon time. A man who had allowed time to pass by unheeded, when told that he must die, exclaimed, “The world would I give if I only had yesterday back again.” But yesterday was forever gone.

The World A Stage

There was a time in my younger days when I thought that this great world was a platform upon which life acted out its part alone. Everyone about me was busy and seemed to be full of activity. On the way to school with my brother and sister I could see the wild flowers growing, and the fields of waving grain appeared like animated beings, as the wild winds swayed the tender stalks; the old tree in front of the schoolhouse appeared to me like a mighty giant that had defied a thousand storms. About that time some event occurred that changed the course of my reasoning, for a dark shadow suddenly crossed the pathway of my life. First, a little boy with whom I had played for years died suddenly, which, to me, was a terrible shock. Next I witnessed the death of an uncle, and soon my grandfather passed away. I remember hearing the minister say at one of the funerals that everything which lives must die; so the next day, on my way to school, I said to the wild flower, “You, too, must die,” and instinctively I knew that soon the reaper would cut down the fields of waving grain. I said to the big tree, among whose branches the birds were singing, “You, too, will feel the sting of death.” I also marked the sparrow’s fall.

As I grew older, I became more and more familiar with the laws of life and death. Stars die, mayhap. It is said that conflagrations have been seen far away in the distant ether, so that astronomers have marked the funerals of worlds---the consuming of those mighty orbs---which we had imagined as set forever in sockets of silver to glisten as the lamps of eternity---they pass away, and are no more. “The sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth,” and the inspired writer, James, continues, that the same laws of dissolution are applicable to the human race. Broken columns stud the ages, telling the sad story of the unfinished work of man. He began, but was overtaken by death, and the work was never completed. Man is running a race with death. He may seek a higher altitude, a balanced ration, and perfect sanitation, but he can escape death only temporarily. The old must die, but death may be as near the young as he is the old; so all should be fully prepared---prepared to meet their God.

Time a Gift from God

Time is valuable because it is lengthened out to us one hour at a time by a loving Creator. Time is not on the market, and cannot be bought or sold. The great issue before us, however, is not how long we shall live, but how well. It is not the quantity of time, reckoned by months and years, but the quality of our acts, determined by the motives that prompted us to do and say. The story of that queen who, it is alleged, offered the wealth of her kingdom for a moment of time is worthy of earnest consideration, because those sixty seconds for which she offered millions, but could not buy, were the same measurements of duration which she allowed to pass idly by, in her former days. I visited the studio of a sculptor who had just completed a figure of a woman, whose hair was hanging over her face, and who had wings under her arms. Astonished at her strange appearance, I inquired the meaning, and was told that the statue represented Opportunity, which is seldom recognized, and when passed has gone forever.

A Forced Journey

We had no choice in the selection of our parents or of the beginning of our existence. We find ourselves today created intelligences, beings possessed with reasoning faculties, traveling upon a pathway over which we cannot return. We must go on. We pass this way but once; we cannot retrace our steps. Immutable laws, of both physical and moral nature, are behind us, forever pushing us out into the future, where all must go, but from whence none return.

If one had ten miles to go to catch a train and had only sufficient time at his disposal, and if by missing the train he would be left behind forever, he certainly would improve every moment, and allow no time to be misspent. Suppose he should be misdirected and lose ten minutes on a wrong road, what then? He had only time enough to make the journey before he lost those valuable ten minutes. If he succeeds now, he must also make up lost time, and so he quickens his pace and hurries on. It is the same upon the journey of life. Beginning upon the day that we cross over that invisible line from childish innocence to moral accountability to God, we have only time enough to gain the celestial city, if we improve every hour, day, and year of our lives. Many (all of us adults), and to say, have been misdirected by the enemy of out souls, and have lost much valuable time upon the wrong road. If the reader is yet unsaved, he must hasten to God while the doors of mercy are still open; the backslider must arise and quickly return unto his Father’s house; and the neglectful Christian must hurry and complete the task given him to do, before the night comes when no man can work.

Time Fleeting

In youthful days we look forward with bright anticipation to the time when we shall be full grown and can take our place in the business affairs of life. To the ambitious child time drags wearily on. Chafing under home government and “peeved” by little quarrels with brothers and sisters, he looks out into the great wide world with a longing hear and mind. To him time moves as slowly as though drawn by primitive oxen, when, alas! He awakens, like one who has overslept in the morning, and finds himself a middle-aged man. Noiselessly and silently as the snow fell in the night, so age had come upon him, and now he rubs his eyes, looks backward, and wonders where the days and years have gone. Memory carries him backward to the scenes of his youth, where, with father, mother, brothers and sisters, he passed the golden springtime of life. He longs to return to the old home; but who can turn backward the wheels of time? He would be glad to meet with those loved ones of long ago, but time has wrought great changes, and of most of those whom he loved so well---yet so little appreciated---it could be written, “THEY ARE GONE.” Mute are the lips he ofttimes kissed, and stilled are the hearts that one time beat so rapidly at his approach for today they sleep in their narrow beds on yonder hillside.

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are, ‘It might have been.’”

A friend met me at the depot in a certain city and invited me to spend the night at his home. I gladly accepted the invitation and spent a pleasant evening with the family. A few weeks later I was met at the same depot by the same person, and upon this occasion he said, “Will you come up to the house?” I noticed the peculiar phraseology of his invitation, and when we arrived at the house, with salty tears running down over his cheeks he told me the details of the sudden death of his companion, who had so kindly entertained me a few weeks before. What stirred the deeper feelings of my heart were his words of bitter regret. “Oh, if I only had her back,” he cried, “I would treat her with more consideration. The girl whom I took from her parental home, who gave her best for me, now lies cold in her dusty bed.” He took me out to the cemetery, and I saw the new-made mound all covered with beautiful flowers. Nothing in particular was said; but I thought of that oft-quoted phrase, “A rose to the living is more than garlands of flowers to the dead.”

The Brevity of Life

The fathers of old all but exhausted their vocabulary in describing the brevity of human existence. They compared the brief period that we call life to a shadow, which now may be see, and in a moment is gone. One writer likens life unto an eagle that hovers over the hilltops, watching the unsuspecting quarry, when, suddenly without warning, she darts as swiftly as the lightning’s flash, catches, and soars aloft with the lifeless prey. They illustrated its brevity by a hand’s breath, a swiftly moving messenger, and Moses, when reviewing the past, declared that we spend our years as a “tale that is told.”

A babe was born into our family some time ago, but he lived upon earth only one short day. The sun rose and set but once in his short life. Verily, to him life was but a step from the cradle to the grave. The sacred writer in speaking of a long life-time declared: “The days of our years are three score years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be four score years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away,…so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psa. 90:10-12).

The End of Time

It is appointed unto man to die, and upon that day of physical dissolution, the period of duration we call time comes to an end. With the passing of time, the door of opportunity also closes forever. Who would dare dispute the words of the Master, who declared, “Ye…shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come” (John 8:21)?

Death is not an accident of nature, but come by intelligent appointment, as a penalty for sin, and for the inner man is only a change of location, and not of condition. At physical death, the dust returns to dust, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. The natural body is dissolved and returns to its former conditions, and may assume other forms in vegetable, animal, or mineral; but the spirit, or soul, of man, being immortal (see 2 Cor. 4:16, 18), will live on and on while ceaseless ages roll. The Bible speaks clearly upon the subject, that there is no power in death or the grave to absolve from guilt, for it states emphatically, “He that is unjust [ in life], let him be unjust still [beyond death]…he that is holy [in life], let him be holy still [beyond death” (Rev. 22:11). Time, then, is man’s probationary period, and to neglect its opportunities of mercy will result in eternal loss.

Yes, our future destiny depends upon the use we make of time, so let’s improve it well.

[ The End ]

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