The series The Gift of Limitation serves as the supplemental Bible study guide to the sermon of the same name available here as a podcast (February 28, 2016). This series aims to highlight how the power of God at work in your life entails honoring specific divine limits. If you respect these limits, God offers protection and will demonstrate His divine power. If you overstep these limits, you fall out of the domain of God’s protection and are left to your own devices.

The gift of rest equals a limit of time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.”

What these verses tell us is that God has already appointed a time for everything, not only in your personal life but for all external events as well. In modernity, we have a lingering sense of the urgency of time, so we have to get as much done now as we can lest we run out of time.

Solomon writes in the Book of Ecclesiastes that all of our toiling under the sun is hebel or “vanity,” as if we are chasing after a mist or vapor. Why? Because God has already appointed a time for everything.

Hence, in 31:15, the psalmist writes, “My times are in [God’s] hand.” God holds us and time in His hands. Fighting with time will get us nowhere. In order to receive a gift of rest and unburden ourselves from the anxiety of pressured time, we ironically have to spend less time doing other “stuff” and more time with God. It is then that He will reveal what is appointed and what season we are in, giving us rest from pointless, unnecessary toil.

As I had written in a prior lesson of What Christians Should Know, stewardship is the principle that relates to a steward, or someone who has the responsibility of managing and looking after someone else’s things. In contrast to what we may think, time is never ours. Time was created by God (Genesis 1:5), and every second of our lives is borrowed from God. So, if we are stewards of God’s time and manage what is His, how are we spending our time? In an economic sense, God lets us keep 90% of what is His, and we give 10% back to Him (the tithe). From the perspective of time, He allows us to keep 6/7, and we give back to Him 1/7 (one day out of the week, or the Sabbath). The dedication of time is so sacred that The Lord decreed in the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) that a full 24-hour period be set aside to be holy and to not do any work. There are 10 Commandments. The first three deal with our relationships with God, and the final six deal with our relationships with our neighbor. Interestingly, how we spend our time, then, is the fulcrum that sits between our relationships with God and how we deal with others.

The Sabbath is the ultimate expression of rest memorialized in a weekly 24-hour space. And look at how culture taints the holiness of the Sabbath. It says, “You can get stuff done on your day off. Take this time to catch up on errands. Use it to get ready for your work week.” It is very easy in 21st century America to dismiss God altogether on Sundays (or whenever you choose to observe your Sabbath).

From the perspective of culture, genuine Sabbath rest is counterproductive, useless, and an ineffective “use” of time. Yet from God’s perspective, you cannot override His sovereignty, and wrestling with time will get you nowhere. You have to “wrestle” with the One who stands over time, and this entails limiting the amount of time spent doing everything else. Hence, a gift of rest equals a limit of time.

Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal

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