Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; – Romans 13:11
“You know what time it is,” Paul writes. In our post-industrialized culture, we are well aware of precisely what time it is. That is, we are surrounded with calendars and clocks and and other time-telling mechanisms, which help keep us on schedule or remind us that we are running behind. However, when Paul writes about time, he is not writing about the exact day or hour but about an awareness of the ripeness of time, the fullness of time. He is writing about what I like to call Prophetic Standard Time. In fact, had someone responded to Paul by saying, “Yes, I know what time it is, it is 9:00 in the morning,” she would have missed Paul’s point entirely.
Paul’s understanding of time is less exact and more profound. It is more like the farmer who knows, not from the calendar but from the angle of the sun, when it is time to plant. It is like lovers who know that their relationship has matured to the point that it is time to talk about marriage. It is like parents who know from the emotional and spiritual development of their child when it is time to back off and give a bit more freedom.
“You know what time it is….it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep,” Paul writes. In addition to the prophetic sense of time, Paul is also using time to speak of urgency and importance. One of the problems we often face in our over-scheduled lives is that not all of the important things in life are urgent, and not all of the urgent things in life are important. Most time planning systems work by helping us distinguish between the things which are merely urgent and the things which are truly important. I like to call this, distinguishing between deadlines and lifelines. It is this wisdom which Paul offers – an awareness that eternal matters may not seem urgent, but they are of greatest importance. In fact, they are only things that really matter. They are lifelines in a deadline world.
“Salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” Though it often goes unseen and unappreciated, God’s work is unfolding within and about us, bringing healing and wholeness, ushering in a kingdom of justice and peace, creating relationships of grace and mercy, and heralding truth which sheds light and offers life. Paul’s message to you and me is the same one he wrote to the Christians in Rome, “Wake up, be alert, join in. You don’t want to miss this!”
Lord, forgive me for rushing through life chasing deadlines which are urgent while neglecting the lifelines which are truly important. Speak to my heart that I may not merely know the day and the hour but perceive that this is the time for me to live fully and faithfully in your grace and truth. Amen.
A Bible study devotional by Gorman Houston