The time is short

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1 Corinthians 7:1-40

“I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.”

So said French mathematician and Christian thinker Blaise Pascal.  Therefore, said Pascal, we fill our lives with diversions so that we might distract ourselves from “our feeble and mortal condition.”

In other words, we humans are a restless bunch.  The married want to be single, the single want to be married.  One worker wants to be free of work, the unemployed man just wants a job.  We are forever looking ahead and thinking “if only”, or backwards and thinking “those were the days.”  We find it almost impossible to settle in the here and now.

The Corinthians were no different.  In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul addresses a restless church and his overwhelming message is “Stay put!”  And this was his message because these Christians were anything but content.

You see married people didn’t want to act married (v1-5); those married to unbelievers didn’t want to stick with their spouses (v10-16); single people didn’t want to be single (v6-9, 25-40); slaves didn’t want to remain in their duties (v20-24) and even the circumcised wanted to become uncircumcised (v17-19).  How restless do you have to be to want to alter your circumstances at that level.

But Paul’s message is emphatic:  Stay put!  It’s not a hard and fast rule. There are many examples within the chapter of people changing their life circumstances (e.g. v21 or v36).  But as a rule of thumb Paul says, Stay put where God has you.

He has three reasons for this:

First he says, “Remember your calling”

“As the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.”   (1 Corinthians 7:17)

“Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”  (1 Corinthians 7:20)

“Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.”  (1 Corinthians 7:24)

God has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9).  And, Corinthians, He’s done it while you have been in the midst of any and every circumstance.  Therefore your life situation is not the point. Fellowship with Jesus is the point.  And you can have that while married or single, slave or free, circumcised or uncircumcised.  If you’re not content in Christ then getting married/divorced or changing jobs won’t solve it.  There’s nothing in your circumstances you need to change.  Flee sin, but don’t flee your situation.

The second reason we should as a rule, stay put, is evangelism.  As we build up a witness in one station in life it can have a tremendous impact on those around us (e.g. v16).

Thirdly we should generally stay put because “the time is short.”

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short:  it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it:  for the fashion of this world passeth away.  But I would have you without carefulness.”  (1 Corinthians 7:29-32)

Paul is not advocating the abandonment of our marital and other duties (he does the very opposite in this chapter).  But he is saying:  Don’t live for your marriage.  Don’t live for the idea of getting married.  Don’t live for your job.  And don’t live for your kids.  Don’t live for that relationship.  Don’t live for that achievement or that possession or that feeling.  Live for that Day when everything you’ve lost will be more than made up for and when everyone you love will face Jesus.  Live for that Day because the time is short.

When we hear that “the time is short” we usually think “Yikes, I’d better run around and get as many experiences as I can.”  But that’s only because we think that our time to live is running out.  Paul is saying the opposite.  The way he thinks about it, time is short and then we will really live.  Not long now and we’ll inherit immortal bodies, explore a glorious new creation, be released from every burden and labour, and enjoy the ultimate marriage with Christ forever.  Not long now until life really begins.  The time in which you’re asked to stick at that difficult job, that difficult marriage, that difficult singleness, it’s only short.  Relatively speaking!

Are you restless in your work, your home, your marriage, your singleness? Do you peer over the fence with longing, thinking you’ll be happy if only you have that job, that relationship, that set of circumstances.  Those things will never satisfy.  We are not to set our hearts on them.

As we battle discontent, it may be that the Lord will bring us out of our current life circumstances.  But that is not our hope.  Instead, we seek to know Jesus in the place where we are.  We seek to witness to Him in the here and now.  And we take heart, the time is short: Soon and very soon, we are going to see the Lord!

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