History tells the stories of when human civilisation has come under great threat through war, disaster or disease. Around 1350, an infectious fever killed up to 200 million people. Rats carrying infected fleas from China and India brought The Black Death resulting in populations being reduced by up to 50% around the world. It is still around in some parts of the world but using the broad-based antibiotic streptomycin has proven to be dramatically successful against the bubonic plague within 12 hours of infection. What is the time on the clock for humanity and who might step forward ‘for such a time as this?’
A man was born on 6 August 1881 at a remote farm in Scotland who changed medical history and saved millions of lives. He received the Nobel Prize in 1945, was knighted and received many accolades for his discovery of penicillin, the forerunner of antibiotics used to benefit most people at some point in their lives.
- ‘One sometimes finds what one is not looking for. When I woke up just after dawn on Sept. 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I guess that was exactly what I did’ – Sir Alexander Fleming
- ‘To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour’ – Sir Winston Churchill
A whole nation was on the brink of extermination but a young woman stepped forward to risk her life and a nation was saved:
- ‘For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ – Esther 4:14
So you might wonder where the Jewish nation would be without Esther, the tyranny of Hitler without Churchill or the impact of slavery without Nelson Mandela. And so you could go on looking at the impact of one person willing to step forward through history to the modern day. Each person with a sense of duty or knowing it was their time to make a difference. The Corona Virus striking the world in 2020 led to thousands of health professionals and other essential workers doing just this, because it was their choice to use their time for others. This begs the question as to how we see time and what we do with it.
- ‘Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him!’ – Charles Dickens
- ‘My favourite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time’ – Steve Jobs
- ‘I have spent probably years of time waiting in studio lounges - waiting on a mix, waiting on my time to sing, waiting on, waiting on, waiting on. That's just the nature of life’ – Amy Grant
If you reflect on the use of your time in this past year, what do you think would be the split between your time wasted or well spent, time queuing and purchasing, time alone or with others, time when you’ve stepped forward or held back from a fellow human being for their good?
- ‘Lost - yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever’ – Horace Mann
- ‘You may delay, but time will not’ – Benjamin Franklin
- ‘Time goes on. So whatever you're going to do, do it. Do it now. Don't wait’ – Robert De Niro
- ‘Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; They fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day’ – Isaac Watts
- ‘Fly envious Time, till thou run out thy race’ – John Milton
Another famous writer viewed life in terms of the Seven Ages of Man: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon (an ageing buffoon) and old age, facing imminent death: ‘All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages’ – William Shakespeare
What are mountains you could climb between your entrance and exit? Sometimes people think about ‘bucket lists’ as self-centred things to be done before the exit, but what if we didn’t see them as our own ‘shopping lists’ so much as the things we can step forward to do for others at the right time?
‘So much to do if I only had time, if I only had time,
Dreams to pursue, if I only had time, they'd be mine
Time, like the wind, goes hurrying by and the hours just fly
Where to begin? There are mountains I'd climb if I had time’ – John Rowles
God knows all about timing – timing that is perfect, spot on and no mistakes.
- ‘To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted’ – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
- ‘But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law’ – Galatian 4:4
- ‘Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready”’ – John 7:6
- ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly’ – Romans 5:6
- ‘In those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is’ – Mark 13:19, 32-33
You may worry whether you get your timing right but if your heart is to live to the glory of God, then you can take heart for he will help you with the timings in your life if you will be willing to step forward for such times as he shows you.
- ‘My times are in your hand’ – Psalm 31:15
- ‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’ – Ephesians 2:10
In your life, you are the principal actor. Live it out to the full, not wasting time but using it as a most precious resource for work, rest, play, the glory of God and the benefit of others for none of us knows how close it is to midnight.
TAGS – value, purpose, reason, sacrifice, serve, servant, community