This has to do with how we rightly see things, perceive things. And he says this: the present world is passing away. Brethren! the reality is that everything that has to do with this world is going to be gone, and it’s going to be gone like that. We are in a passing world. This isn’t forever.
Listen, you may think when you are going to that altar, and there’s the man and he is waiting for you ladies, and you’re walking down the aisle, “This is the greatest thing. This is the thing my heart has always desired. This is going to last forever.” But it doesn’t last forever. You set your joys there, and they are gone. It is passing. Nothing we have right now is going to be here fifty years from now. None of it. Most every marriage in this place, in fifty years, is gone; it’s done; it’s over. Your wife is no longer your wife, your husband is no longer your husband, because you are dead or Christ has come, and there is no marriage there.
That is in this world. In a world that is fleeting, in a world that is passing, those of us with families, those of us with wives, husbands, children, we should live as though we had none, because it’s all passing away.
All I can say is, “Paul, that is risky language, that is daring language.” Do not make marriage or a wife or a husband your heaven, because it will soon be gone. These things are passing, that fall is coming, and even though those of us in Christ would be rescued there at the end, where Christ’s arms will bear us up, we will not be dashed against those rocks, brethren, the time we may find ourselves there is close at hand. The world is perishing around us.
You folks at Corinth, you are looking to marriage as where you are going to put your joy. Marriage as what is precious. Whether you have sexual relationships as that which is desirable, or not having it as that which is most desirable. He says, “This is what is precious. It is time, and the time is short, and this world is passing. Brethren, men find things precious in proportion to the importance that men put on things. The greater that thing has an ability to affect and concern their welfare, the greater degree that they will esteem that thing.
Brethren, do you realize our eternal welfare depends on time? Time is not just precious because of its importance, time is precious because of its shortness. The time is very short. Often, when something is rare – think about the rarity – men when they find something that is rare, they tend to put value on things too. I mean, you think about stamps and baseball cards, but men especially set a high value on things that are scarce if it’s something they can’t live without.
You may recall when Syria besieged Samaria, back in 2 Kings 6:24-25, “There was great famine in Samaria,” You know what happens when there is great famine? Things become scarce. And then, do men put high prices on them? They do. “As they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver.” A donkey’s head, eighty shekels. Why? What might in another day be utterly useless and not worth anything – eighty shekels.
Brethren, the question I ask you is not time all the more to be prized when your whole eternity depends on it, and because you have so little of it. Time is so short, brethren, the work Jesus Christ has called us to do is so great! The work we have to do to prepare for eternity must be done in time. Jesus sets us to a work. He says, “Pray for laborers.” He says, “Go into the nations.” He says, “Be witnesses of mine. Be light. Be salt. This is what I have commissioned you to do. Go and do it.” And we have such short time to do it. The work is great. The time is short. Brethren, we ought to value it on that note. Time is short. Time is short.
And what he is saying to us is: don’t become so overly consumed with a spouse, with a wife, with a husband, that you lose sight of that reality. Don’t let a wife blind your eyes to the fact you don’t have long in this world. Not only do you not have long with her, you don’t have long in this world; you don’t have long to do what God has called you to do. You don’t have long to do this work. The greatness of all this work that Jesus Christ gave to His church to do. So, if you are married, buy up the time as though you were not married. Don’t become so overly consumed with a spouse. Or some of you who don’t yet have one, so overly consumed with finding a spouse that you waste your life.
Don’t fritter your time away simply because you are married. And if he is saying that, listen, if he is saying that to the married man, “Live as though you don’t have a spouse; live as though you don’t have a wife,” what in the world would he say to the single person? If the married should live as though they are that way, how then should you live if indeed you are not married. Young people, are you buying up the time with fervency that singleness allows? Or are you in bed at 10 am? “As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.” (Proverbs 26:14).
Brethren, this is for real. Time is precious because of the uncertainty of its shortness. It isn’t just short, you are uncertain as to how short it is. And it may be a whole lot shorter than you think. You can lose something precious, something that you treasure, and it can be returned. It can be stolen, the police can find the burglar, and it can be restored. You can get your wallet stolen or lose it somewhere, and somebody drops it in the mailbox, and suddenly it shows up back on your doorstep. But the fact is, if you lose time, you can’t get it back. You can lose your reputation, that’s harder to get back, but you can. Brethren, once time is gone, it’s gone forever. Period.
It doesn’t matter if you are like Peter, and you repent and you have godly sorrow and you fall on your knees and you weep bitterly, brethren you can be forgiven, but you can’t get it back. And no matter how much you repent, you cannot restore lost time. Repent, and weep, and sorrow, but it’s gone. If you wasted it, it’s gone. There can simply be no delay. If you do not buy up the time now, you’ll have no other opportunity. You have an eternity before you. The Lord God of heaven gave you time here in order to prepare for eternity. And He didn’t give you much of it, so don’t waste it.
What makes it so unreal, what makes it so unsubstantial is not that it isn’t real. It is real. What makes it such a shadow; what causes the reality to be so suspect isn’t that it isn’t real. It’s that tomorrow, it may be gone. It’s the shortness. It’s the fact that I can’t really put my hopes here. I can’t walk down the aisle, as I am leaving the church building with my wife, and think, “Great! Now I am going to be happy forever. This is going to last forever.” Ladies and gentlemen, nobody in this world walks off into the sunset and lives happily ever after. That is a myth. It doesn’t happen.
Listen, I’ll tell you this: Here’s one more thing about time I’ll tell you. Its end is certain. We may not know how much of it we have left. It’s very uncertain how much time we have here. You can’t get it back when it is gone. But we know the end of it. The end of it is certain; the end of it is judgment. Death is coming. Hell is moving. Ladies and gentlemen, we are caught in a river that is more powerful than we are, that is sweeping us along, and there are falls at the end. And I’ll tell you this: Only those in Jesus Christ would be saved from the destruction at the bottom of those falls.
That time is coming. The time is short. We go live in our vacations and our houses and our fancy things, brethren let me tell you this: You get to the heart and the soul and the core of what it means for a man to live his life, who is married, and live it as though he is not married. What does that look like? What does that have to do with? I think it has to do with this: It has to do with setting your joys, your hopes, your heaven, all your glory in that; in a spouse; in a relationship here. It’s fleeting, it’s shadow, it’s going to be gone. Don’t set it there. Set your hope in heaven.
I think another thing that would tend to press upon us is: Don’t allow marriage to keep you from seeking first the kingdom of heaven. Don’t let it be that. Don’t allow it to be a snare. Yes, men, love your wife. Yes, that is real. Yes, provide for your house. Yes. Those are all real things, good things. But men, women, we still have this word, Luke 14:20. Did not the man there say, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”
Brethren, you know one of the ways we live as to say we don’t have a wife, is when the Lord says come. When the Lord says come, you don’t want to be like this fool who says, “I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come.” Brethren, we are to come when we are called, as though we had no wife. Brethren, don’t love your wife more than Christ. Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
Brethren, Jesus Christ calls us to absolute devotion and commitment to Him. Christ is Lord. Christ is King. He didn’t come to haggle, He didn’t come to debate, bargain, or dispute that point. Your time is short; your life is short. Your time is His; your life belongs to Him. You were bought with a price. He doesn’t come to haggle. He doesn’t come to say, “It’s okay for you to serve your wife and not Me. It’s okay to be led over there by her.” He comes and He says, “I have total demand on your life. All of it, on the altar. All of it, sacrifice to Me. I want your love, I want your affection. All of it.”
Brethren, I would say this too: Don’t let your wife, don’t let your husband be a snare to you from storing up treasure in heaven. Don’t store up treasure here. Look, I guess this just brings in another note. You that are married, live as though you have no wife, live as though you have no husband, when it comes to your faith. What do I mean by that? Some people, they feel like, when they are single they could go off and help Trevor over in Papua New Guinea, but “Oh I have a family.” Brethren, is God not able to preserve one as well as twelve? Brethren, we have seen something of a work of God here in San Antonio. But who knows? Is there an ebb here? Is there a falling off? Is God withdrawing? Would He have us to heat up our passions and lay hold on Him, and pull Him back, and say, “God, please don’t go. Please don’t pull back. Please don’t stop saving. Please, come back. Come in greater power. We need more. We haven’t hardly yet tasted of it.”
Brethren, this is time. This is the time we have been called to live in. And one thing that is certain about this time is we need God in it if we are going to accomplish anything. If we are going to do the work; if we are going to carry on; if we are going to be victorious, we can only do it in time. God help us, brethren. Hold on to God in this time. Walk with Him, talk with Him, plead with Him, hold on to Him. It’s going to be gone very shortly. It’s going to be gone. Brethren, this is our time. We are not guaranteed of tomorrow, this is our time.