Running Out the Clock?

There is a strategy often used in football by a winning team who takes possession of the ball with 2 minutes or less on the game clock. They ‘run out the clock.’  The quarterback lets the maximum time pass, takes the snap, and quickly kneels to end the play. That is repeated several times until the game is over.  The ball is not advanced, no play is attempted. Why? Because by kneeling on the ball there is no risk of losing the ball to the other team recovering a fumble. The team in the lead has no imperative to attempt a long pass down the field. I understand the strategy but it makes for a boring game conclusion.

Are you living your life in that manner, just burning through day after day, running out the clock?
Have you determined, for your own reasons, to take no risks in life, to just play it safe protecting yourself, your time, your ‘lead’ so to speak? I know the temptation!

At the conclusion of yesterday’s ministry, while reflecting on the efforts made, I wondered aloud if I was just running out the clock?  The past year has been one of the most challenging years of ministry in my entire lifetime.  (Yes, I know it has been difficult for MOST of us.)  In December, 2019, months before the pandemic arrived, I informed the church board that my plan was step down from the leadership of the church at the end of 2021. At that time I hoped for a good final year, a strong finish.  But, life happened, the church closed for months and when we re-opened it was to limited attendance and ministry. Many weeks end with my sense that there was no advance of His work. The frustrations that are common to us all in these times may well tempt us to kneel on the ball, so to speak, running out the clock.

When Christians choose to be pre-occupied with secondary issues, to waste endless hours ‘studying’ the issues, to refuse to engage their minds with the hard things, to ignore the questions that are begging for real answers, to pray sleepy prayers that lack any real passion, they are not really ‘in the game.’ 

Paul was inspired by the Spirit to address us this way.  Yes, it is the old English version of the Scripture which I use because I want one line to stick with you today – “Redeeming the time.”  “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:14-17, KJV)  The passage is a series of directives that build one on the other.

WAKE UP, rise from the dead.  

Christians can slip into a kind of zombie state, walking through the motions, going to church, singing the songs without life, without an awareness of the Holy Spirit. Wake up! Shake off the lethargy.


There are people who are existing without God and hope, their lives confused. Are we aware of their need?  Do we even seen our own need, or are we staring at the ground in front of us, blind to life’s reality that is swirling at the periphery of our vision?

REDEEM the time.  

The word Paul uses that we translate “redeem,” is powerful in imagery. It was used of paying a ransom for someone who needed rescue, about buying freedom for someone held in debtor’s prison, or about paying the price of freedom for a slave! When a person was ‘redeemed,’ he was able to return to life, to be useful once again.  If we are running out the clock in life, we have sold ourselves to a kind of slavery, becoming unproductive, useless to the Kingdom of God. So, we are told to pay the price of sacrifice to own our time once again, to make life count for something.

UNDERSTAND the will of God.  

Yes, Christian, this is a critical factor.  The Word reminds us that “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you  (Redeemed!) with a high price. So you must honor God.” (1 Corinthians 6.20)  God has freed us from hopelessness, from slavery to Self, so that we might serve Him. Will we? Only if we know what He wants from us which is not hard to discern. He desires that we become ‘holy,’ devoted to His ways. He desires that we live in love – for Him, for our neighbor. He desires that we pursue Him in worship that is deep, real, and heart-felt.  

This Monday morning, I want each of us to ask ourselves if we are, in fact, ‘running out the clock’ on life.  If we discern, with the help of God, that we have settled for a risk-free life, that we are content to let day after day pass without any real or meaningful spiritual service, let’s take the wisdom of this word. Wake up. Look around. Redeem the time. Understand God’s will.

Here is that passage again, our word from the Word. “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 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 5:14-17, NIV)


See A Victory

The weapon may be formed but it won’t prosper
When the darkness falls it won’t prevail
‘Cause the God I serve knows only how to triumph
My God will never fail
My God will never fail

I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You Lord
I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You Lord

There’s power in the mighty Name of Jesus
Every war He wages He will win
I’m not backing down from any giant
I know how this story ends
I know how this story ends

You take what the enemy meant for evil
And You turn it for good
You turn it for good

Ben Fielding | Chris Brown | Jason Ingram | Steven Furtick
© 2019 SHOUT! Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Fellow Ships Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
So Essential Tunes (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI License # 810055

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