March 8, 2006

Divine Time Zones

AVE YOU EVER WISHED YOU could have complete control over time? That you could decide the exact time when you would graduate, get a car, or land a job? You would have the power dramatically to change things in your life. It would seem that if you were in control, everything would be perfect.
My parents had been members of a certain church for a very long time. However, a few incidents occurred during their membership that left them with no choice but to search for another church home. They were devastated that they had to come to this decision, but knew that this was what they needed to do.
My parents searched for a new church home for two years. They finally decided that they would choose a school for me, and then go to the sponsoring church that went with it. According to them, the transition was very difficult. They went from knowing everyone to not knowing a soul. They felt very out of place for the first couple of months.
When I entered elementary school, my mother became friends with my first grade teacher, Mrs. Boyer. In 1998 her 17-year-old daughter, Erin, had a brain aneurysm when she was alone at her home (an illness that eventually took her life). However, Erin called my mother just minutes before the aneurysm burst. My mother arrived at Erin’s home and was with her while she was dying. She took care of the paramedics and all of the other details before Erin’s parents were able to get to the hospital.
At the time my parents thought things were tough, with no church home and no solid school in which to raise their child. But if the incident at their previous church had not happened, they would never have thought of our current church home. And if they’d never made the decision to change churches--even when they thought it was a difficult choice--my mother would never have met Mrs. Boyer and been there for Erin. If they’d had the ability to look at the whole picture--which would have taken 10 years to make sense of--they would have understood. Tony Jones, in the book entitled Pray, says that “what seems like a badly written story to us (which may cause us to doubt) makes perfect sense to the author.”
God’s Ultimate Timing
In John 7 the Feast of Tabernacles was about to begin. Jesus’ half brothers were pressuring Him to attend and make a better name for Himself. The Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Booths, was a mandatory event for all adult male Jews within a 15-mile radius of Jerusalem. They would set up little “booths,” or tents, to remember how the Israelites lived in the desert. It was a time of remembrance for all Jews.
Jesus was in Galilee, which is farther than 15 miles from Jerusalem; so He didn’t have to go, unless He wanted to. However, his brothers set it up as a dare for Him to go to this feast. They wanted Him to demonstrate to the world that He could do miracles, and that He was the Son of God. But, when you read further, verse 5 says that even they didn’t believe. It’s almost as if they were taunting Him to prove Himself to the entire Jewish nation. And then maybe if He actually did do something significant, they would have more incentive to believe.
Jesus answers them in verse 6 with a key phrase that He uses quite frequently throughout the Gospels: “My time has not yet come.” However, when He says it here in John 7, He is meaning something different from, for example, when He says it to His mother when she asks Him to turn water into wine (John 2:4).
In that incident the Greek word for time is hora meaning “destined hour of God.” There it appears that Jesus is saying there was a set time to do that specific miracle. But in John 7 He uses the Greek word kairos, meaning “best opportunity,” or the best time to do something.
This is the only time that Jesus ever uses this phrase with that meaning. With God’s perfect sense of time, He knew that later there would be a better opportunity for everyone, including His brothers, to witness God’s work, so He told them “No.” But eventually He did show up at the feast, proving that He did indeed intend to do what they asked; yet it would be better for them at the later time.
There are times when we pray and pray, thinking that God is answering “No,” when He is simply doing what is best for us. Like Jesus’ brothers, we sometimes think that we know the situation better. And if God would just do this one thing, everything would turn out perfectly. In many cases, God does answer our prayer with a yes, but in a different form than we expected--which ultimately turns out better for everyone. We just may not realize it at the time.
The Promise and Threat of Jesus
I’m sure you are familiar with Jesus’ many promises about being able to find God if we seek Him. I think one of the more often quoted promises is found in Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” And in Jeremiah 29:13 God says, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Another is found in John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
I’ve found that whenever people are discouraged or upset, they often read these verses for comfort. After all, it’s reassuring to know that “God will always be there for me. . . . I don’t have to worry, because God is right here with me--always!” However, in John 7 Jesus actually clarified these statements. In verses 33 and 34, Jesus hints that there will be a time when we will seek Him and will not find Him. Where Jesus is, we cannot be.
This is known as the “Promise and Threat of Jesus.” Basically, Jesus is saying that “time is limited. You don’t have forever to choose Me.” As it says in Isaiah 55:6, we must “seek the Lord while He may be found.” Time will not always be there for us to put off our relationship with God. Eventually, we will have to make a choice, or there may come a time when we will not be able to find Him.
William James wrote: “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” Here in John 7 Jesus clearly states that there will be a time when the decision to accept eternal life or not to accept it will be made for us if we don’t make it ourselves.

How We Spend Our Time

Are you making the most of your time?

Filmmaker Walt Disney was known to cut any scene in a movie that got in the way of a story being told smoothly. Ward Kimball, one of the animators for Snow White, remembers working 240 days on a 41⁄2-minute sequence in which the dwarfs made soup for Snow White, and almost destroyed the kitchen in the process. Disney thought it was funny, but he decided the scene stopped the flow of the picture, so he cut it.
Someday it will be time to view the film of our life. Will it be as great as it might have been? A lot will depend on whether we have decided to cut the things we think are “good” to make way for the “great” things that God wants to do through us.
 We need to learn to look at it in God’s time zone.
Ellen Poirier is a senior at Spencerville Adventist Academy in Silver Spring, Maryland. This article is adapted from a presentation she made for a junior religion class.