In my childhood churches often sang the hymn, Take Time to Be Holy, by William D. Longstaff. The song dates to the late 1880’s.
The reason the song came to mind for me today is that I reflected on how easy it is to not find time for spiritual things. Christians may want to be spiritual and close to the Lord and may want to worship God and engage with eternal things, but are too caught up in the bustle of work, business, comings and goings, life issues, and the cares of this world.
That, of course, links to the seed among thorns, in Jesus’ parable of the Sower.
“Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.” Mark 4:7
Let me make a number of reflections on this which might stir you to more effective living.
Holiness is not something we turn on and turn off. In view of the line ‘Take Time to be Holy’ one might ask, “How un-holy have you been?”
There is the suggestion that being ‘holy’ is a heightened state that one must try to rise to from time to time, and it takes time and some focus and commitment.
When God called His people to ‘be holy’ God was not suggesting there was some rarified place to aspire to, but a permanently practical level to live at.
“It is written, Be holy; for I am holy.” 1Peter 1:16
It is a matter of ‘being’, which is a permanent state, rather than performing or attaining on occasions. We are to BE holy, not just to act holy, or to look holy, or have rare moments when we attain holiness.
It shouldn’t ‘take time’ to be holy. Holiness is a way of life and a state of being. Whether we are in church or busy at work we are holy. Our thoughts, choices, orientation, lifestyle and very existence is holy, since we belong to God and are dedicated to Him.
Notice how the Apostle Peter describes various things we are.
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people for his own possession, to proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 1Peter 2:9
You ARE these things. You ARE a chosen holy nation and a peculiar people. You don’t have to ‘take time’ to be what you are.
I am a husband and a father and a grandfather and a pastor, and a friend, and various other things, all at the same time. In one sense I never have to take time to be those things, since I am those things all the time.
At the same time, and this might pick up the intent of the hymn writer, I can be a dad and fail to be a dad. I can be a dad for all legal intents and purposes, but neglect my children. I can be abusive, or thoughtless, or absent.
With that perspective in mind, I might need to take time out to practice my role as father to my children, or husband to my wife, or grandad to my grandchildren. Similarly I might need to stop being distracted and refocus my heart and my program, to live out the holiness and spiritual realities of my life.
At the same time, there is the possibility of someone who is living opposite to what they are. I might be a dad to a child, but have abandoned the home and abandoned the child. This is yet another situation touched on by the call to be holy.
You might have given your life to Christ and have abandoned your connection with God. The example here is the Prodigal Son who abandoned his home life to indulge his selfish desires. He took his inheritance and packed off to spend it.
“The younger son gathered his possessions and journeyed to a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.” Luke 15:13
This son was a son, but he abandoned his reality, in search of something else. Yet, in time, he came to his senses and returned to his home, this time humbled and seeking only to be a servant, not a son. Yet who he was still stood. He was still son to his father and the father rejoiced to receive him back and reinstate him to his former status.
“This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:24
If you are in a place like that of the prodigal son, then there is a call to you by the Spirit of God. Take time to be Holy. Stop being what you have chosen to be and return to what you are. You are holy. You are set apart for God. You are called by God to love and serve Him and enjoy Him forever. Come home.
Yesterday I met a man who God is greatly blessing. He told me that for twenty-five years he had abandoned the church, due to an upset with a minister. He didn’t take time to be what God had made him, and tried to fill his life with a bunch of other things. Finally he returned to his God and was surprised and delighted to find God ready and willing to being wonderful blessings onto him, even in his later years.
As a final reflection on this line from an old hymn, let me suggest that you have a life purpose that you may be wasting. A television set can be turned on but the screen adjusted so there is no picture. The set would broadcast sound, but no picture. If such a TV set was introduced to people who had never seen one they would delight in the sounds without knowing what they were missing.
Similarly you might be delighting in a form of relationship with God that is missing whole dimensions of closeness, anointing, purpose, calling, power, grace, fruitfulness, equipping, joy, peace, revelation, gifts of the Holy Spirit, release from sin and bondage, and so on.
In the case of the TV set the words, ‘Take time to be a TV set’, would be a calling to stop just broadcasting sound and let the image show out as well.
Take time to be holy might mean to you, stop living in a shallow, empty form of Christian life, such as ‘having a form of godliness but denying the power of godliness’ (2Timothy 3:5), and engage with the reality of salvation and grace and the power of God in your life.
Stop being a muted Christian living with much of your spiritual equipment shut down, and discover the wonder of being a peculiar treasure in God’s hands, one who is filled with the power and grace of God, alive to all that is eternal and free from all that is carnal, thriving in the presence of God and powerfully bringing God’s Kingdom to earth.
All of that is what God may be calling you to when He says to you, Take Time to Be Holy.
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.