One of the startling realities of life is how quickly time passes. Children grow up and people get old in what seems like an instant. Realizing your friend’s little girl has been married for twelve years or that your “new car” is eight years old always comes as a shock. You start working for a company as a young person, and before you know it you have been there 15 years and are considered an “old-timer.”
Time rushes by so rapidly. We spend about 20 years getting up to speed in life, and another 20 slowing down. The 30-40 years in the middle go by faster than we can keep track. The question, whether in our workplace pursuits or personal lives, is what are we going to do with the years we have?
In the Bible’s New Testament, the apostle Paul makes an interesting observation: “Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is”(Ephesians 5:15-17).
I am not certain what Paul meant in stating, “The days are evil.” Did he mean there are evil people out there trying to destroy us, or that time is not on our side? He could have implied both. If we compare the world to a big football game, sometimes it seems as if we in the final two minutes, trailing by four points, and the other team has the ball. Is that how we should live, trying desperately to catch up? In the context of real life, I cannot see the clock, and am not certain what the score is. But we still need to play to win – playing full speed to the finish. As has often been said, the game is not over until it is over.
Here is how I paraphrase Ephesians 5:15-17: “Play the game well, not as untrained or poorly disciplined players, but as team members who know all the plays and rules by heart, and know what the coach is thinking. Do not make any foolish mistakes or commit penalties because the clock is running out.”
Many organizations formulate “vision statements,” attempting to generate enthusiasm for a new plan or direction. However, vision might be too lofty a term for most of these statements. A dictionary defines vision as either an unusual look into the future, or special insight. Most of what is described as “vision” really is a strategic plan. Plans are good. But when we produce a “vision statement,” it really should be saying we want to be vitally involved in the game.
We find some accounts of vision in the Bible: Moses leading his people out of Egypt is one, as is David’s desire to build the temple for God. When Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago, His vision became a motivating force – the redemption of mankind from its rebellion against God and His perfect standards.
Once we have embraced a vision, what should we do then? Continuing the sports metaphor, if we want to be in the game, we need to train, practice to refine our skills, do everything we can to prepare, and be willing to sit on the bench for a while if necessary.
Life is probably most like a relay race. We receive the baton, run our best, and then pass the baton to the next runner. Receiving and passing the baton are the critical steps, not only at the beginning and end of our lives, but all along the journey. Running can be a lonely pursuit, but to win we must keep running, in determined pursuit of our vision.
Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. Jim is the author of High Performance Cameras for Ordinary People, a book on digital photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.
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1. At this point in your life, how has the passage of time affected you? Has it caused you to reevaluate your personal and professional use of time?
2. What do you think Mr. Mathis means when he states having a vision is different from having a strategic plan? In your thinking, what is “vision”?
3. How can your vision for your life or your business affect how you approach what you do – and how you do it?
4. Does the comparison of life to a relay race make sense to you? Why or why not?
If you would like to look at or discuss other portions of the Bible that relate to this topic, consider the following brief sampling of passages:
Proverbs 29:18; Ecclesiastes 3:1-12; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:9-10