Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15, 16).1 Ancient Greek had two contrasting words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos gives us the word “chronology,” which implies minutes and seconds (i.e., the clock) and refers to sequential time.
A practical example pertaining to chronos time is an office worker who hates their job and can’t wait for 5:00 p.m. so they can get out of the office, or a church member who has made after-church plans but the service is long-winded. Such situations refer to chronos time; a person engaged in trivial activity because their next significant appointment is coming soon is said to be “killing” time. The person is basically counting down “clock time” until the next appintment.
Today much of our thinking about time is about a chronos mind-set. We have 24 hours each day—that is 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds—yet we always seem to want more time. Our workweek is determined by the number of hours worked; certain employees are reminded weekly to check the office chronos (name brand Kronos in my office) time clock and make sure our clocked times are correct. Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Numbering our days means evaluating the quality of our time spent. We consider not only where our time goes but also how we spend it and why. Our time on earth is brief (Ps. 39:4-6), and as God’s stewards we must use every second to glorify Him, putting Him first in every area of our lives. Tombstones often display the dates of an individual’s birth and death, separated by a dash. That dash represents the person’s chronos time on earth and how it was spent.
Kairos time, on the other hand, points to the right, or opportune, moment (the supreme moment), a moment of indeterminate time in which events happen.3 Kairos is vital time, God’s time. While chronos is “tick-tock” time, kairos is a powerful moment when time stands still. Kairos time is when God interrupts our routine and touches us so deeply that we are forever changed. It’s a key word used to describe Jesus’ ministry. He went into Galilee saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Jesus’ ministry was filled with kairos moments. Consider these few examples: Jesus called Zacchaeus down from the sycamore tree, and this resulted in Zacchaeus making a percentage-based “promise”4 to give half of all he had to the poor, and return four times as much to those he defrauded (Luke 19:8). No one was paying attention to blind Bartimaeus, but Jesus heard his cries, and that was the blind man’s kairos moment (Mark 10:46-52). The woman with the issue of blood crept up to Jesus and touched His robe, and it became her opportune moment (Luke 8:43-48).
As zealous, good stewards of chronos time, we often miss obvious kairos opportunities. A moment lost is an opportunity gone forever. Jesus explained this to the lawyer in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Two religious leaders saw a wounded man—beaten, bleeding, left to die—but failed to help. These men were so preoccupied with their positions that they missed the opportunity to minister to the injured man. We forget that time and opportunity, chronos and kairos, are both gifts from God to be used for His glory, and that we have to give an account for how they are used.
Kairos moments surround us. I’ve had several. God saw my need and rescued me.
One that is printed in my memory is the day I received a call to come in for a job interview with the treasurer of the Africa-Indian Ocean Division, now known as the West-Central Africa Division. I had never before applied for a job with the division. One of my friends thought I was wasting my chronos time by working for a Christian-owned investment firm, working with investment projects and foreign donors, flying all around the world, and enjoying what I thought was the time of my life. He suggested that I update my resumé and even offered to do the updating. Without my knowledge—apparently moved by the Holy Spirit—he submitted my resumé for the job. I’ll never forget my former boss’s response when I told him about my interview. He said, “Child, God wants you to work for Him. Who am I to stop it?”
I interviewed, got the job, and my life was totally changed. I’ve since enjoyed working for the church. God saw my need and worked through a friend to bring me into this particular field of His work.
To appreciate kairos moments, we need to be more open about how we view time. Life is not only about working vigorously; it’s also about being alert to opportune kairos moments to glorify God. Instead of thinking of time only as grains of sand slipping through an hourglass, we ought to also view our time as opportunities to allow God to work in and through us. We ought not to be like the young lawyer, glorifying self instead of God. Or in such a hurry as the priest and Levite that life passes us by because we passed by our kairos. It is true that we live in a chronos world, but there are many kairos moments to be experienced. Let’s not be so focused on meeting deadlines that we miss opportunities for ministry.
Zacchaeus, blind Bartimaeus, and the woman with the issue of blood were all seeking Christ. They recognized their need to experience a kairos moment. We, too, must be willing to seek God (Matt. 6:33) and learn of Him through our daily devotionals, our Sabbath School lessons, and the Spirit of Prophecy.
Jesus sought God first, early in the morning (Mark 1:35), and He encourages us to do the same. It is my prayer that we endeavor to use our time wisely, thereby experiencing many kairos moments.
Johnetta B. Flomo is administrative assistant for the General Conference Stewardship and Deaf Ministries departments and senior editorial assistant of the Stewardship Ministries newsletter, Dynamic Steward.