Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14
It’s an old story but one worth repeating. A man rushed into the railroad station and breathlessly asked, “When does the 8:01 leave?” “At 8:01,” replied the railroad clerk, not bothering to look up from his newspaper. “Well,” said the man, “it’s only 7:55 by my watch,” but, somewhat worried, added, “it’s 8:04 by the station clock. Which one should I go by?” Sardonically the railroad clerk replied, “You can go by any clock you wish, but you won’t be going on the 8:01 because it has already left.”
Like it or not – whether you make the 8:01 or you don’t – we are all victims of time, which moves like an unending river and stops for no one.
What is time? “Well,” you may say, “everybody knows what time is.” Not so. Time is difficult to describe, let alone define. Scientists talk about biological time. The blossoms of some plants open in the morning and close in the evening when the sun sets. Who told them to do this? Some birds navigate long, long distances, moving with the seasons. They have no computer chips, no gyroscopes, no road maps. But they know when to go, where to go, and how to get there. Who gave them this knowledge?
Sir Isaac Newton believed that time was absolute and ran at the same speed under the same condition hour after hour, day after day, year after year in a kind of unending infinitude. “Not so,” said Albert Einstein. He contended that time is relative. He reasoned that if a clock were moving away from you very quickly, one tick of its second hand would appear to take longer than a second on your own wristwatch. Why? Because of the extra time the light takes to reach you.
On the wall of the Greenwich Observatory just outside of London is the following: (It forces you to think.) “If time is not absolute, it can only be defined in terms of change. Will there ever be a moment when change stops? The laws of thermodynamics say that energy, in the form of heat, will pass from hotter objects to cooler ones, but never the reverse. Over time, this causes an averaging out of energy differences – a process known as entropy. At some point, the Universe will reach a state of maximum entropy. Nothing will be hotter or colder than anything else. There will be no exchange of energy and therefore no change and no time.”
Moses sat by many a campfire and watched the coals eventually burn down, and thought about life and what it is all about. And what was his conclusion? He wrote, “The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
The strange thing about time is that you can never be absolutely certain what time it is in relation to your future. The fact is that God has a timetable which may be totally different from what you have in mind. Do you ever read the obituaries? “No,” you may probably say, adding, “that’s morbid.” Not really. They chronicle the lives of people. Some live to a ripe old age of 80 or 90, but it’s amazing how many never reach even 40.
You know, when God says it’s time for the 8:01 to depart, no matter what your watch says or the station clock says, it leaves. And I, for one, am determined that when the 8:01 leaves for heaven, I don’t want to be caught in traffic somewhere trying to get to the station. Better make sure you have your bags packed and are ready no matter when or where the 8:01 leaves the station. May God help us – as Paul put it – “to redeem the time because the days are evil.”
Resource reading: Psalm 90:1-17