According to the Business Dictionary, the title of this essay is a provision often included in construction, supply, transport, and other types of contracts to stress the punctual completion of the job (or repayment of a loan) as a vital element of the performance of the contract. Any failure to complete the work (or to pay the sums) within stated time limits may constitute a breach of the contract.
Salvation is not a transaction based on a contract. It’s a gift. It isn’t earned. It’s based upon the grace of God extended to all and accepted through faith. And while this gift shines from the cross of Christ through the meandering corridors of History, each of us has but a fleeting moment upon the world’s stage. When it’s done it’s done. It’s just the opposite of a concert; when the curtain comes down, we face the music. Or as the Word of God puts it, “Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences.”
The world tells us, “Opportunity only knocks once” meaning if you miss your chance it won’t come again. Looking at the totality of life that’s true, but looking within the fragile bubble of time that is our here-today-gone-today life we have opportunity after opportunity. We had last week, and yesterday, today, and God willing tomorrow. At any moment we can make an altar of our prayers and confess Jesus as our Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead. If we’ll do those two things the Word of God promises, “You will be saved.” If the curtain comes down before we do so we might not like the sequel.
The whole of the Old Testament points to Christ: the fulcrum of History. And throughout the New Testament God points back to examples and signposts of what was to come. To the Jews there is no more powerful story than their exodus from Egypt. Because they refused to believe God they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. These people who witnessed the miracles of Moses crossed the Red Sea on dry land, ate the manna from heaven, and drank from the rock which followed them refused to worship God. Instead, they followed the trinket gods of their own imagination. And God left their bodies in the dust as a testimony to their hardheartedness.
Their rebellion and their lack of faith becomes a warning to us when the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us, “Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in ‘the bitter uprising,’ that time of wilderness testing! Even though they watched me at work for forty years, your ancestors refused to let me do it my way over and over they tried my patience. And I was provoked, oh, so provoked I said, ‘They’ll never keep their minds on God; they refuse to walk down my road.’ Exasperated, I vowed, ‘They’ll never get where they’re going, never be able to sit down and rest.’”
Today is all we have. No one promised us tomorrow. If we miss our chance, if we refuse to follow God and instead embrace the world we should be prepared for a hand full of ashes. The Apostle John put it like this, “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out.”
But John didn’t leave it there. He finished the passage with a promise, “but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”
And when it comes to the promises of God we need to realize, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.”
Sometimes life seems like a long time. It always feels like we have hours to kill but not a moment to spare. Our fleeting moment upon this stage is rushing by. Like flowers in the field we sprout, bloom, and fade away. For most of us one or two generations at the most and no one will remember we were here. So grab the chance and remember time is of the essence and listen to these words ringing in our ears, “Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in the bitter uprising.”
It’s never too late. Until it is.