The Problem with Time
New Year’s Eve – 2015 LSB #’s 522 v.1-4, 454, 522 v.5-8
Text – Revelation 12:12
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens & you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth & sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!
THE PROBLEM WITH TIME
I’d like you to think back a few years & remember what life was like when you were growing up. Specifically, I’d like you to consider how often TIME seemed to literally stand still. It took forever just to become a teenager. Life could be boring with little to do that seemed worthwhile or important. As a child, the problem with TIME is that it’s too long.
Then you get old. No one can say exactly when that happens, but the TIME does come for us all. Then, the problem with life is not that it’s too long, but that it’s too short. It is common to hear adults speak of how quickly TIME seems to be passing. The older we get the faster TIME seems to go. It’s as if our lives are getting more & more busy all the TIME.
People are so busy that someTIMEs they feel like they’re losing their sanity. It seems as if we just can’t get enough rest. Even when we get enough sleep, the TIME crunch is right there waiting for us when it’s TIME to wake up. Maybe you haven’t had TIME to realize it, but God’s Word has answers for you.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest.” That includes rest from the crush of TIME, & the audience Jesus is speaking to includes you & me, today. So why aren’t we feeling rested? Is it because God has not given us enough TIME? Did our Lord not foresee the endless number of opportunities that compete for our TIME?
Depending on which translation we use, the Bible uses the word TIME, 771 TIMEs. Twelve of those TIMEs it speaks of TIME as being short. The sermon text is one of them & it turns out that the devil has exactly the same problem we do. His TIME is short! “But woe to you, O earth & sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his TIME is short!” (Revelation 12:12b ESV)
That TIME is of enormous impact is beyond debate. Often it dictates when we eat, sleep, work or play. Compared to some other cultures, Americans are inordinately focused on schedules & TIME. We’re known as a culture that is always in a hurry, pulled in many directions at once, each of which requires a commitment of our TIME.
On the other hand, TIME is also relative, depending on our perspective or situation in life. There are people with too much TIME on their hands where the moments of each day pass by at a snail’s pace – the lonely, the isolated, those in prison, the fearful, the depressed. For them, life itself has little importance, because they seem to have so little control of it.
By contrast there’re others who believe they have all the time in the world: time to pursue their dreams, to raise their children, to build their nest egg, to get their spiritual life in order. For them, there’s no reason to hurry. They have life by the tail & are able to make TIME do their bidding. Life is of great importance to them, because they seem to have total control of it.
In both situations, what people are lacking is a big picture perspective. Our time here is tiny in comparison to the context of eternity. It is laziness & unbelief to claim that you have no control over the time that God gives you. It is arrogance & unbelief to claim that you are the master of your own destiny, & have total control over the time that God gives to you.
The devil heartily encourages both attitudes because he does have the big picture very clearly in mind: “…he knows that his time is short!” Jesus also has the big picture very clearly in mind & encourages this attitude instead: “Repent, for the reign of heaven stands near.” In each viewpoint time is urgent, but each end point could not be farther from the other. Because the consequences of those differing viewpoints are eternal, God’s Word, in Revelation, is giving us the big picture from the heavenly perspective. St. John writes chapter 12 because it explains why the events on earth, of the previous chapters, are occurring.
In chapter 5, Christ the Lamb is seated on the heavenly throne. That event controls the entire book of Revelation, because everything which transpires in world history is under the lordship of Christ. He alone is worthy to rule because of His sacrificial suffering & death on behalf of the world. He dies that we might live. Satan’s goal for us is that we die with him.
Revelation reveals nothing less than the cosmic war between the Light of the world & the prince of darkness. That war broke out in heaven, as we heard in verse 7: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael & his angels fighting against the dragon.” Then it dropped down to earth, which is revealed as the conflict between the Church & the World.
Today’s struggles with sexual identity & sexual freedom are manifestations of that war. The cultural focus on wealth & possessions is a manifestation of that war. People wanting to pick & choose & create their own spirituality, is a manifestation of that war. These trends in our culture are explained by Revelation chapter 12. There’s a battle going on & the time is short.
This war is playing out the promise given to Adam & Eve in Genesis 3:15 as Yahweh curses Lucifer for his rebellion, “I will put enmity between you & the woman, & between your offspring & her Offspring; He shall bruise your head, & you shall bruise His heel.” (ESV)
A lot of what is happening in our lives, in our country, & around the world can be understood if we simply recognize the ongoing battle between the Church created by God & the demon hordes of Satan. If that language sounds a bit strong to you, or overblown, then you’ve clearly missed the big picture that John is writing about in the book of Revelation.
The World around us is truly going to hell in a hand basket. So turn your heart away
from the World & turn it back to Jesus. That doesn’t mean isolate yourself off into a monastery or convent. That’s too easy, even if you don’t find that desirable. You can’t leave the World behind just by hiding from it. Sin would follow you since it springs from your own heart. In effect, you have to turn away from your own heart in order to turn away from the World.
That is the work of the Holy Spirit, as Martin Luther described it so well in the Small Catechism: “…the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified & kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens & sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth & keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
Already in the OT, Ezekiel wrote these words by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh & give them a heart of flesh.” The problems we have with TIME, the problems we have with family, career, church, government – all of them stem from the fact that we are not keeping the big picture in mind as we make decisions.
As children of God you & I are at war with Lucifer. We need to keep that in mind for every decision or judgment we make. Military people talk about the “Fog of War” & how it confuses the picture, making good decisions much more difficult. In the same way, sin & our heart of stone, confuse the picture making good decisions much more difficult.
With that as the context, a perceived lack of time adds pressure that we cannot properly handle. We think we’re too busy so we fail to do the good works prepared in advance for us by God. Being in a constant state of frenzy, at other times we forget to do the good works prepared in advance for us by God. Chief of all, we skip spending time daily with our heavenly Father.
All our struggles with TIME are a manifestation of the war between God’s people & Lucifer. Our lives are the front lines of the battle. As children of God, our relationships with any & all other people are the front lines of the battle. Revelation 12 begins an explanation of all St. John sees happening on earth from the TIME of Christ’s ascension into heaven up to the end of this present world at Christ’s return. Every day is Judgment Day. You & I are always at the crossroads, poised between life & death, order & chaos. Every choice & activity, even the most trivial, is fraught with ultimate consequence. There is no middle ground.
That is the problem with TIME, & most of us are too short-sighted to be aware of it. The sinful heart is naturally short-sighted. For that reason, when John was arrested, Jesus began His preaching by saying, “Repent, for the reign of heaven stands near.” Satan’s time is short & so is yours! “For everything there is a season...” “…behold, now is the day of salvation.”
The next time you’re offended by someone’s words, put them into the larger context of the war going on between you & the devil. The next time you feel taken advantage of for the sake of money put that into the big picture of the war going on between the Church & the devil. The next time you feel the pressure of the clock working against you, remember the fog of war.
St. John wrote in order that we might understand why the events of our lives happen as they do. St. Paul wrote of a similar viewpoint when he stated, “For we are not fighting against flesh-&-blood enemies, but against evil rulers & authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, & against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT)
Fortunately, St. John doesn’t only write of the grim explanation of the war that is impacting our lives, friends & family, neighbors & nation. Also included in the big picture is the reason we have for a sure & certain hope in spite of the cosmic battle being waged against us every moment of our time here on earth.
“For everything there is a season, & a time for every matter under heaven: …a time to kill, & a time to heal; …a time for war, & a time for peace.” The natural state of this broken world is to kill & to make war. It is not lightly that the Word of God says, “The wages of sin is death.” Yahweh sent His only-begotten Son to bring healing & peace into this sinful world. He sent Jesus to bring healing & peace into our sinful lives & into our sinful hearts. Christmas is all about the coming of the Prince of Peace. He made that peace by shedding His blood:
“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation & the power & the kingdom of our God & the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day & night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb…” (Revelation 12:10-11 ESV)
It’s not surprising that TIME is the focus of many a New Year’s Eve sermon. It is an entirely natural TIME to look back & contemplate our thoughts, words & deeds of the year past. It is a natural TIME to consider once again turning our heart back to Jesus & away from our self-centered focal point.
Jesus has won the victory. Are you willing to participate in it, or do you more often join in with the losing side? If you still have pulse & a heartbeat, there is still TIME to join the victory parade & to welcome & invite others to come along with us. Do you remember what the 1st sentence was of the sermon text?
“Therefore, rejoice, O heavens & you who dwell in them!” The TIME may be short, but the victory is ours if we trust in Jesus. Warfare is not easy & the battle does drag on, but the victory is eternal. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle; sing the ending of the fray. Now above the cross, the trophy, sound the loud triumphant lay; tell how Christ, the world’s redeemer, as a victim won the day. Unto God be praise & glory; to the Father & the Son, to the eternal Spirit honor now & evermore be done; praise & glory in the highest while the timeless ages run. Amen. (LSB 454:5)
 Matthew 11:28
 Matthew 4:17b
 11:19b ESV
 Matthew 4:17b
 Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV
 2 Corinthians 6:2b ESV
 Romans 6:23 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet