GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) — “This is our time,” young pastors and church leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention can be heard saying. And so it is. We now are on the shoulders of those who have come before us. And one day atop our shoulders the next generation will stand.
The dethroned King Richard II — imprisoned, a victim of both treason and his own naivety — muttered a depressing commentary at the end of a lifetime full of regret, awaiting nothing but death itself: “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me” (W. Shakespeare, Richard II).
As a pastor I sat by the bedside of more than a few whose final days were full of such sorrow. Imprisoned by regret and bound by dwindling days, they realized all too late that their lives had been wasted on things altogether unimportant and unnecessary.
From a Roman prison cell the apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, his son in the faith, on the circumstance of his own impending death. Paul anticipated his final breath with a very different attitude from Shakespeare’s Richard II.
“The time for my departure is close,” the imprisoned Gospel warrior wrote. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). In full expectation that this may be his final script, Paul wrote from a position of great contentment. The apostle had poured out his life for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (v.6) and at the end of his days he reminisced with great joy instead of wallowing in sorrowful regret.
In full disclosure, my days are not always lived with urgency for the Gospel. I sometimes do a lot of things without getting anything eternal done. I have learned that if Satan can’t get me to default on the best thing, he’ll distract me with a lot of good things. So the main becomes peripheral and the peripherals become urgent. On these days I am more like Shakespeare’s Richard II than the Bible’s apostle Paul.
“Preach the Word.” “Be ready.” “Do the work of an evangelist.” Paul wrote these words of urgent exhortation to young Timothy knowing that all too quickly the young man would find himself in the same condition as the old one, reflecting on his yesteryears while anticipating a final breath.
Time passes so quickly. Yesterday I was a preteen boy playing baseball in the backyard with my brothers. Tomorrow I’ll be sipping a senior coffee from McDonalds with friends from decades past who do good to just remember my name.
I pray for myself and my peers — young pastors and leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention — that this truth grips us quickly. Every breath is a gift from God and every gift from God is to be poured out on the altar of Gospel advance. Not only are useless debates, childish banter and foolish exchanges unbecoming of the people of God, we simply don’t have time for it.
“This is our time,” we suppose. And so it is. May our time be marked by a Pauline sense of Gospel urgency, not a Richard II foolishness of wasted years. Call this my Christian mid-life crisis. I’m fine with that. But brothers and sisters, this truth is beginning to catch up with me: If we waste time now, time will waste us later. God’s Gospel story is passing through our generation right now. The name and fame of Jesus Christ is being propagated among the nations and God has invited us to join Him in this eternally significant work.
Let’s not waste time with the foolishness of self-promotion or the wickedness of others’ degradation. Instead, let’s “preach the Word,” “be ready” and “do the work of an evangelist.” Let’s solidify God-honoring partnerships for Great Commission causes instead of dissolving proven missional methods for peripheral reasons. Let’s hold each other to account without holding each other in contempt.
Let’s pour our lives out for the advancement of the Gospel and selfless service to Jesus’ bride, the church. Our commission is too great and our time too short for anything less.