Time and Wisdom


This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 18th February 2007 in GRIIS, on Time and Wisdom, as a special message for Chinese New Year today. It was preached in Indonesian and I personally translated to English.

Psalms 90:12

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

How should we count our days?
How should we utilize our time?
How should we live our life?

Bertrand Russell said that we live in a world that is full of knowledge but lack in wisdom. This is so true, and true of him as well. He is a man with great knowledge but poor morality.

Moses understood it right when he asked for “a heart of wisdom” because wisdom is not knowledge in the head, but it is in the heart. Wisdom is not the same as knowledge. If we have a lot of knowledge but have no wisdom, we are like a big ship without a rudder to control our direction. Hence great knowledge need to be controlled by high morality. Otherwise humans would only become smarter devils who poison themselves and others.

Plato said that our will (impulse) should be controlled by our passion (emotions), and our passion should be controlled by our rationality. He said that our human body has shown such design. Human heart is above the sex organ, while the head is above the heart. This shows that our thinking should direct our love, while our love should direct our impulses. This is a great wisdom but this is also the limit where Greek philosophy stops.

If we further ask, what then controls the rationality, the Greek philosophy has no answers.

Wisdom becomes the foundation of all our knowledge. Wisdom is related to time and morality. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all agree that wisdom is in true virtues because true virtues lead to true happiness. This is great and correct.

However, the Bible’s concept of wisdom surpasses human philosophy and has another element, that is time. What is time? Augustine is a man in history who has very deep understanding of time. Yet he said that before we ask him what is time, he thought he knew, but once we ask, he suddenly realize that he did not know what time is. Time is a very abstract thing, yet very real and we are all affected by it.

How is counting our days related to wisdom? It is related, because it tells us that our decades of life on earth is linked with the eternal God to whom we must give an account. A person who is not conscious of the existence of time can never be close to God. Time is connected to eternity. People who are not conscious of time will live more like animals.

Someone once says that any moment in history is in contact with God. This is a significant statement. This very present moment we have is the moment we can use to have positive or negative eternal impact. Whether we realize it or not, time is constantly shifting us towards the storeroom of history.

What then is the definition of time? The British came up with the statement that time is money. This is a very shallow statement because we cannot use money to buy time to extend our life if God demands it today. The Chinese came up with a similar statement that an inch of time is worth an ounce of gold, but added that it is hard to buy an inch of time with an ounce of gold. This is to say that time is more valuable than money. But these definitions are not good enough.

There are 4 possible definitions according to Scriptures’ teaching:

1. Time is our asset. Time and space are the foundational coordinates that contain our existence. They are the most fundamental assets we have in life. Without time and space, we cannot define our existence on earth. Our birth certificate and tombstone would record both the time and location of our birth and death.

2. Time is our life. If we insult our life, we will waste our time. If we value our time, we will value our life.

3. Time is our opportunity. It is the container of all our opportunities. No opportunity exists outside of time. We need to learn to catch the moments and opportunities hidden in this container called time. Charles Spurgeon said people who are just waiting for greater opportunity are bound to meet with greater sorrow and regret. A wise man seeks opportunity, an ordinary man waits for opportunity while a foolish man neglects his opportunity.

4. Time is our record. Everything we think, say and do in time is all recorded. So time becomes the record of the narrative of our lives. What then are we recording, what are we signing in our paper of life?

If in time, we contain things that are meaningful in the eyes of God, then what we do on earth would surpass time, and would never become obsolete in the storeroom of history as time shifts us, but would last unto eternity.

Therefore, young men and women, do not waste your time.

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