The Measure of Time
Updated: Apr 24
The Measurement of Time Thursday, April 23, 2020
The 47th chapter of Genesis tells us how Joseph went to Pharaoh and explained to him that this father and brothers and all their possessions had come from Canaan, and taken up residence in the land of Goshen. The seventh verse of this chapter tells us how Joseph brought Jacob, his father before Pharaoh. Jacob blessed Pharaoh and then the Egyptian ruler asked an unexpected question: “How old art thou?” And I suppose this is a question which has bearing on each one of us every day we live. Think of it with me for a few moments as a measurement of time.
There is a right way and a wrong way of measuring a door or a field or the distance of a highway and so there is a right way and a wrong way of measuring time. It is with reference to this higher meaning and form of measurement that I would like to think with you today.
Some people make the mistake of measuring life by the amount of money they have gained. We may hear someone say that a year was wasted and, when he is asked why, he will say the times were bad and he made no money. Now, it is all pretense and insincerity to talk against money as though it has no value. Money is many good things. It can provide comfort and pleasure and education and it brings many conveniences and blessings to life. At the same time, although bonds and mortgages and notes and leases have their use, they make a very poor yardstick with which to measure life because there are many people who possess much in the way of wealth who possess little of anything else and are poor, notwithstanding the accumulation of material goods.
Others make the mistake of measuring life by reputation. They are ambitious for honours and attention, which flatter their vanity, and they count their years according to the number of rungs they rise on the ladder of fame and prestige.
Others make the mistake of measuring life by its length. Now, it is not true, whatever anyone says, that “you are as young as you feel.” Some of us may feel longer at our age than others do, but let us not deceive ourselves. We are as old as we are and it is self-deception to think otherwise. But however long one may live, if he has spent his days only in worldly gratification and for the seeking of pleasure or wealth or honours and has not used his years for the service of God and men, the sum of them is not much above zero, if indeed above zero at all.
I have encountered some people who measure life by their sorrows and misfortune and, of course, this is a terribly morbid way of measuring time. The years when we lost property or when dear ones died or when we met other misfortune may stand out in the calendar of life, but we ought not to measure life as a whole by them. Surely the brightest life will have its shadows and the smoothest path its thorns. There is no escape from trouble of some kind. There’s never a day so sunny but what a cloud may appear. There was never a life so happy that there were no tears. But it is very unprofitable and unreasonable to measure life by misfortune.
If there are wrong ways of measuring time, there are right ways, too. For example, we measure time by birth. I read of a man whose father taught him to know what time it was and, when the boy could tell the time, his father said, “I have taught you to know the time of day. I must now teach you how to find out the time of our life.” In a way, he was echoing the wise petition of the Psalmist, who said, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). It is a good idea to measure our lives by the time of our birth.
But I trust that many who are reading this have not only been born, but born again, born “not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever.” There are two ways of measuring life—by birth and by the new birth. A man eighty-three years old, when someone asked, “how old are you” answered, “I am three years old.” He responded to the bewilderment of his questioner by saying, “My body is eighty-three but three years ago when I became a Christian I really began to live. I am three years old in Christ.”
Another man, when he was asked where he was born said, “I was born in London and I was born in Liverpool,” and explained, as you can imagine, “My body was born in London, but my spiritual birth was in Liverpool.”
Time can be measured, too, by knowledge. The thoughts we have, the accumulation of wisdom and knowledge we have, make a good index of our age. We should grow wiser from the experiences of life and our judgment more safe and mature, in both worldly and spiritual things, as we advance in years.
We may also measure time by character. As the chronicles of the tree are its rings, so those of a man are his definite expansions—the inner circles of growth that shows coming more and more toward the perfection and full-grown character—“Unto the measure of the stature of a perfect man,” as the Scripture says. Are you a better solder than when you enlisted? A better sailor than when you shipped before the mast? A better man, a better Christian than when you first began to follow Christ? Each of us certainly ought to be and it is proper for us to measure life by the growth in grace which God, in His loving favour, has enabled us to attain.
We may measure time, too, by service. John Bradford once said that he counted the day nothing at all in which he had not, by tongue or pen, done some good.
So…how old are you? Old enough to be brought under definite obligations to God for His redeeming, saving, keeping grace? Old enough to have made attainments in the Christian life? Old enough to have learned the ways for the Master and to have done as much for Him and His kingdom as possible? And, if you are not a Christian, are you old enough to have run up a fearful account against your soul in the great book of God’s remembrance? Old enough to make the work of future repentance more bitter and difficult? Old enough to make it extremely unlikely that you will ever turn to God and lay hold on eternal life?
A venerable lady was once asked her age. “Ninety-three,” she said. “You see the Judge of all the earth does not mean that I shall have any excuse for not being prepared to meet Him.” Whatever your age today, you are old enough to know Christ as personal Saviour, to be ready for death if called to die and to live for God and His glory if permitted to live.