In 1964, Bob Dylan wrote a lyric for one of his songs that said;
“the times they are a-changin’ … ” And he was right. If you were alive in those turbulent years, the times were drastically and permanently changed many things.
Well, that song is probably even more true today than it was back then. Only a few years ago, our nation seemed peaceful and fine. People seemed to get along. Perhaps the change happened very slowly, but for many, it took them by surprise. Now we have a pandemic, riots, racial conflict, political divisions, and cultural upheaval. Times have changed and continue to change.
But there is another song that has another line that is also very poignant. It came at the end of that same turbulent decade. In 1969, the rock/jazz, “Chicago” had a hit a song that asked the question:
“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
Asking what time it is might be the most important question we can ask as we embark on the third decade of the twenty-first century! What is happening around us? What does this mean for God’s Kingdom? How do we as Christians respond to these events? What does God want us to do in these times of change and turmoil? How do we handle all this?
1 Chronicles 12:32 tells about :
“(the) men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do …” Issachar was the fifth son of Jacob and Leah. The great female judge Deborah in the book of Judges was from the tribe of Issachar. They were one of the tribes that supported King David in unifying Israel. In the past, Issachar supported King Saul while he was alive. But they understood that times had changed and they changed for the good of their nation. They didn’t merely know what was going on, but they knew how to respond to changing times.
Knowing our times is very important for Christ-followers. We need to discern what is true and false, what is good and what is evil, and who speaks the truth and who doesn’t. How can we effectively be
“salt and light” without being a
“stumbling block” to those around us in changing times?
Right now, we need to be like the men of Issachar. In these perilous times, we need God’s help us as things change. This week, I want to give you
some valuable tips that I am learning about handling the changes around me:
1. Know what time it is with God. To be able to tell the right time, you need the right timepiece. To know what is really happening, you need a personal and intimate walk with God. Just yesterday, I read Proverbs 8. In that wisdom chapter, you will see words like
“prudence,” “knowledge,” discretion,” “counsel,” sound judgement,” and several others. You can’t know the times on your own. You need a personal relationship of faith with God. You need to be walking with Him minute by minutes to be able to see life, truth, culture, values, morality, ethics, history, and eternity clearly. Only God can give you that kind of insight into these times!
Daniel 2:21 says:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” You need to be seeking God, walking daily with God, and trusting Him for everything to be able to have His wisdom and discernment. Things may change but Hebrews 13:8 tells us that
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,”
2. Know what time it is with wisdom. Ecclesiastes 3:1ff begin with these words:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot …” Many people think the world never changes. But they are wrong! Calamities come and go. Prosperity comes and goes. Disasters come and go. Success comes and goes. These are the seasons of life in this present age. Our Lord has not returned so good and evil co-exist for a while longer, giving people a little longer to repent. In this “in-between time,” disease, war, famine, earthquakes, wickedness, suffering, and man’s inhumanity to man continues. But one day, the Lord will return to bring justice, righteousness, and peace in His 1000-year reign. Proverbs 9:10:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” So, find this wisdom with God at the helm of your life!
3. Know what time it is with wise counsel. Seek godly counsel and support from wise friends who know their times. Look for people who are walking with God, have life experiences, and have successfully navigated through change with God’s help. Don’ pick somebody who is not an “armchair quarterback” who has never been through tough times. Find a somebody who you can bounce an idea off or talk through what’s going on. And most of all, ask questions, listen, and probe them for their take on your worries, your queries, and your up-coming decisions. Then, listen, consider, and act! Proverbs 15:22 says:
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
If you have a money question, ask Christian who has money expertise. If you have a marriage question, ask a godly couple who have a long-term happy marriage. If you have a Bible question, find a faithful student of the Word of God. Look for wise people in the various areas of your life where you need help. Choose people who have “been there, done that,” and thrived with God’s help. I will always be grateful several pastors and godly friends who have helped me know what time is! You need counselors too!
3. Know what time it is with Scripture. I know I keep harping on this, but it cannot be over-emphasized. You need to be in the Bible every day. You need to know how God thinks, what matters to God, what is accurate theology, and how God wants you to live. The Psalmist (119:105) declared
: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” From the Bible stories, you will learn how wise people thrive and ungodly people fail. From the psalms and the proverbs, God will feed your soul and fill your mind with wisdom. From the prophecies, you learn about God’s sovereignty and plans for the future. From the Gospels, you will learn at the feet of Jesus and learn how to live, how to order your life, how to die, and how to live forever. To discern the current times, you need to Bible! As John R. W. Stott put it:
“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” In order to know these times, you need the wisdom of the ages that is found in the Bible!
4. Know what time it is with submission. When you submit to the will of God, it means that you let God run your life, your plans, and your dreams. Sure, we can ambitiously plan our course and dream of what could be with God’s help. But sometimes we can be out of the will of God, operating in our own strength, and doing things for our own motives. In times of change and uncertainty, the best things to do is to
“Be still and know” that He is God (Psalm 46:10) and to submit to His sovereign will. Kneel before God. Get off the throne and crown Him Lord of your life! Submit to God’s will!
5. Know what time it is with openness. One of my dearest of friends was a wonderful pastor. But he refused to adapt to technology, new ways of ministry, and new worship forms. He still wore a white shirt, a suit, and a tie on Sundays. His church sang hymns and the choir wore robes. He has never had a cell phone, a CD player, or a computer. He has no email address, no social media presence, and no mobile phone so he had only a land-line to which to do his ministry. These decisions inhibited his preaching and teaching, kept his church aged, and kept him from expanding his ministry. Today he is side-lined from contact with people. He misses key ministry opportunities. Just like the Amish, he is convinced that anachronistic living the right thing to do. But it has only made him less productive, out-of-touch, and angry. Sadly, it has put him out of the ministry before his time.
I think the men of Issachar had understanding of their times is because they kept up with the changing times. They did not close themselves off from thinking outside their comfort zones and did not resist change. Now it is certainly possible to be caught up with technological and contemporary solutions that change for the sake of change. That is not what I am talking about! But if you look at the ministries of Billy Graham, Bill Bright, James Dobson, and many others in the past, you will see how God led them to new ways to affect the world and God’s Kingdom. This is what Jesus might have meant when He told the disciples to be
“shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
6. Know what time it is in its context. Look back to see what God has done before. For several years now, I have kept journal. I write about my failures and my successes. I write out my prayers. I confess my sins and my confusion. I write about hard times and heartaches. Mostly, I write about the Bible verses that teach my things I need to apply to my life. Then, when I am worried or frustrated, I pull out my old journals and read what I wrote years before. I am comforted when I see how God helped me in the past. I re-read the lessons I learned back then. Quite often, I myself making the same mistakes as last time and this helped me to change my course. When you see the current times in the context of your past, you will God’s faithfulness through it all. Every time, I look back, I think of 1 Thessalonians 5:24 which says:
“The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.”
7. Know what time it is with faith. You can’t see the road ahead, but God can. When Israel was captive and faced and very uncertain future, they were convinced that the future was dark and hopeless. In Jeremiah 29:11, God told them
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.” Believe that God is doing a new thing! Trust in His sovereignty. Rest in His love and kindness! Have hope is the future He has planned!
8. Know what time it is with peace. There are many people who are consumed with politics, afraid of the future, and angry with change. This Covid-19 thing has got some people furious with the politicians and certain that this is a plot. Others are gripped by irrational fear and panicked by this “plague.” I have my suspicions. but, to be honest, I really don’t know what is happening. But I do know that unrighteous anger and fear are not of God! If you want to know what time it is, you need what Philippians 4:6 calls “
the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…” God’s peace
“will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” So, I want to refuse to complain or cower or complain. I find great peace when I remember that God is in charge and His is in control. I encourage you to find peace in the things of God that never change. When you live that way, you will be able to make a clearer assessment of the times. Instead of making decisions with a mind clouded by anger or fear, you will know the times accurately with God’s peace.
Folks, you and I can’t predict the next cockamamie and ridiculous thing that the world will propose. They sure come up with some foolish ideas these days! But there is one thing that is for sure. In the middle of all these changes stands our Lord Jesus. Matthew 24:30 tells us that one day
“ … They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”
We need to keep track of our time and embrace the future wherever it goes because it is God’s future. We must know what time it is so we can meet Him with clean hands, pure hearts, and faithful results from our labors for His Kingdom.
I love being your pastor!
Pastor Mark Platt