Turning Points Magazine & Devotional

November 2023 Issue

The Agents of Heaven

From the October 2022 Issue

Start Early

Online Exclusive: From This Point Forward

Start Early

Are you an early riser? Aristotle said, “It is wise to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” By 1496, his advice had evolved into this English proverb: “Whoever will rise early shall be holy, healthy, and happy.” Benjamin Franklin turned this statement into a poem memorized by generations of schoolchildren: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” No one has improved on it since.

Our schedules vary, but whatever your typical routine, I want to suggest starting the day at 5:16 every morning. I’m talking about Ephesians 5:16 and about its emphasis on “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

As children of God, we should be wise stewards of our hours, redeeming the time, however disturbing and stressful the days may be.

According to this verse, we wake up each morning to an evil day. That’s putting it starkly, but that’s what the verse says. When the sun rises in the east, it rises on wicked people doing evil things in a fallen culture. As children of God, however, we should be different, wise stewards of our hours, redeeming the time, however disturbing and stressful the days may be.

Here’s my perspective. When we rise from bed every morning, we have another day before us, 24 hours to do all that needs doing for that day as the world cycles through its events, as it lurches between war and peace; morality and immorality; security and anxiety. These are evil days and perilous times, but if the digital clock of the soul is set at 5:16, we’ll start each morning with a desire to take advantage of every opportunity for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. We can face each day with strength, purpose, passion, and conviction.

To really understand Ephesians 5:16, we need to know its context. This verse doesn’t appear in a vacuum. It’s woven into a wonderful paragraph that tells us how to live in times like these.

Rise and Shine—5:14

Paul begins the paragraph in Ephesians 5:14 by calling us to wakefulness and telling us: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” The world is a dark place, but God’s children have the light of Christ within them. Our pathway is illumined for us. Our understanding of the world is enlightened. Our faces are bright. Our testimonies are shining. Christ has come into our lives and switched on the light. So every morning, rise and shine!

Walk Circumspectly—5:15

As we plunge into the day, we must guard our steps and “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (verse 15). We seldom use the word “circumspectly” now, but maybe we should get it back into circulation. Look at it: circum-spect-ly. The first part of the word, circum, suggests a circumference or circle. The term spec is like our word “spectacles” or “spectator.” It means “to watch or to see.” So the word “circumspectly” means to pay attention to the sphere of your life. Draw a circle around your steps and watch them carefully. Watch your environment and watch your direction. The New International Version says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.”

Redeem the Time—5:16

Why every moment today is precious, not to be squandered or mishandled.

One of the key ways of walking circumspectly is by redeeming the time, making the most of every opportunity, and that’s the next thing Paul says in this passage. Be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, or redeeming the time.

This verse is 5:16, and it tells Christians they should be experts on time management. Psalm 139:16 says, “In Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me.” God has allotted us a certain amount of time on earth. It passes quickly, and our clocks are constantly moving forward. Once an hour is gone, it never returns. God has assigned our tasks for the day. Our time is in His hands, and He has work for us to do. If we waste the hours, we’ll leave the work unfinished. But if we walk circumspectly, we’ll redeem the time and complete the work. That’s why every moment today is precious, not to be squandered or mishandled.

Understand the Will of the Lord—5:17

Using our time wisely means knowing and doing the will of God. “Therefore,” continues verse 17, “do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Every day we should awaken with the attitude, “Lord, what is Your will for me today? How can I serve you in ways large or small?”

If you want to redeem the time in these evil days, start early.

Elizabeth Fry is a heroine of Christian history because of her tireless efforts to reform prison life in nineteenth-century England. She once testified that her first thought upon waking in the morning was, “How best may I serve my Lord?” That question helped frame the planning of her day and resulted in a fulfilled life.

It reminds me of the two questions Paul asked God on the Damascus Road: “Who are You, Lord?” and “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:8-10) Why not awaken each morning and say, “Lord, what shall I do today?” God will help us ponder our steps and serve Him by unfolding His will for us each day.

Be Spirit-Filled—5:18

A critical ingredient of daily life for believers is being consistently filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul continued in verse 18, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” To be Spirit-filled means to be Christ-centered. It means we yield ourselves fully to the Lord each day, allowing the indwelling Holy Spirit to control and empower us, like the old hymn says: “Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see / Christ only, always, living in me.”

Being filled with something is a powerful force. When I was a teenager, I delivered newspapers in Dayton, Ohio. Among my customers was a surly man who frightened me. When a newspaper landed on the grass, he called the publisher and complained. One Halloween, my buddies and I decided to play a trick on him. We crept up to his house in the dark, every nerve taut. For some reason he was expecting us, and he jumped out of the bushes, yelling and throwing tin cans. He scared the daylights out of me, and I took off down the street, dashing across Woodman Avenue and hurtling a fence into a cornfield. I never touched the fence. I just jumped right over it and kept running.

The next day on my paper route, I stopped and looked at that fence. It was so tall I couldn’t imagine how I managed to jump over it. But I did jump over it—because I was filled with fear. When a powerful force surges through us, we can do things that almost seem impossible. We have a power that controls and enables us to do things we couldn’t otherwise do.

Imagine starting each day being filled with the Holy Spirit. Imagine waking up and saying: “Lord, what do You want me to do today? Confessing and forsaking all known sin, I commit myself to using every moment today for serving You. May I be fully controlled and empowered by Your Holy Spirit.”

Sing, Give Thanks, and Be Humble—5:19-21

How do we know when God answers that prayer? The next verses in Ephesians give us three ways. First, we’ll find a melody in our hearts. The passage goes on to say, “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (5:18-19).

Second, we’ll develop a thankful spirit and learn to look at things with a positive sense of gratitude, for verse 20 says, “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Third, we’ll go into the day with a humble spirit, sensitive to the needs and wishes of others. Verse 21 says, “Submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

Singing, gratitude, and submission—people with those characteristics make the best use of their time for they are Spirit-filled.

What we do each day between 5:14 and 5:21—Ephesians 5:14-21—will determine whether we succeed or fail in our daily lives.

If you want to redeem the time in these evil days, start early.

Start at 5:16.

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