“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4) Jesus tells the disciples that he must continue working while he’s with them. The “night” mentioned here makes sense when you imagine our lives as a 24-hour period. Our lives have a morning, afternoon, evening, and eventually night. We all have limited time. Jesus presents the importance of making the most of every opportunity to minister to others and honor God. But unfortunately, my initial response to this as a young pastor was to pack as much frantic activity into every minute possible. I was supposedly pouring on the productivity. But in the meantime, I wasn’t investing in truly important things.
We get a different angle on “working while it is day” in John 11. Shortly after Lazarus falls ill and dies, Jesus announces that he’s going to Judea, where Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha live. When the disciples say they’re concerned about Jesus’ safety, he replies: “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (John 11:9, 10) Jesus mentions a 12-hour deadline for each day, but notice that He doesn’t see this as cause for hurry. He’s not trying to cram more activity into a shorter time. If anything, he seems more relaxed. He doesn’t dash over to Lazarus, Mary, and Martha’s house right away even though he knew about Lazarus’ illness. Instead of saying that we should cram, Jesus shows that we can trust. And a big part of trusting in God is reflecting carefully on what activities we allow into each day. We can pray through our plans asking for God’s guidance on each item and then simply work through it steadily knowing that He’s in charge.
It’s natural to ask, “How much activity can I pack into this hour?” when we’re dealing with limited time. But perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. Time’s steady march is especially harsh when we look over our whole lives. The fact that someday our lives will end makes us wish we could slow down time or rewind precious moments to savor them more. But time’s relentless passing also means that we get to look forward to more joys in the future as well. We can appreciate time’s march instead of fearing it. Especially in an uncertain time like this, we can look forward to the day when Christ will break through the clouds and once again be with us in person again.
Realizing the future joys of spending eternity with Jesus will also help us appreciate the here and now. We’ll know which activities really matter when we see them from the perspective of eternity. We can also "slow down" the minutes by realizing that the boundless resources of eternity belong to God and He has given us the time we need to truly glorify His name and care for those around us. And when we lie down in bed each night, we can relax into peaceful sleep without regrets about how we’ve spent our day. That’s how we can make every minute count.