When Were the Good Old Days?

I’m not sure how many of you are old enough to remember Archie Bunker, from the 70’s TV show All in the Family. I was born in the late 70’s, so I’ve only caught it on re-runs. The show centers on a man in his 50 or 60s who’s having a hard time coming to grips with the rest of the world. He’s a working class bigot with changes swirling about him: from African-American neighbors to women’s lib to homosexuality and on and on and on. And the opening theme of this sitcom had Archie and his wife, Edith, singing a song called Those Were the Days. It talks about how good everything used to be: “You knew who you were then, girls were girls and men were men; didn’t need no welfare state, everybody pulled his weight. Those were the days.”

That mentality runs contrary to what we see in Ecclesiastes 7:10, “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” Anyone over a certain age has said and meant and believed otherwise. The question is: do we really want to go back? Ever since most of us were alive there’s been world wars, nuclear bombs, racism, depression, and sin, left and right. Things may be different now—certainly not better—but it’s foolish for us to want to go back. Perhaps most of our youthful days were somewhat idealistic (unless you grew up in the middle of a war zone—domestic or otherwise). What former days truly were better? We would have to go all the way back to the Garden of Eden, before the fall into sin, to find one. Since then there has been disobedience, murder, envy, strife, wickedness, idolatry, and beyond. It may have been packaged in more palatable forms (for you), but it was sin all the same. The answer to our problem ultimately lies in the future—when our faith will be realized in Christ. Certainly our pardon was purchased in the past, with Christ on the cross, but even that day was not the day we ultimately love and want to experience. We long for Christ’s return—not a former day, but a future one—when things truly will be better. Don’t live in the past, your hope is in the future.

How to Use the Time

In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we’re told, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Each of us has been given the same amount of time per week. Each of us gets 168 hours—whether you are a king or a peasant. Each of us should be spending roughly 56 of those hours sleeping; it’s how God created us; it’s what we need to not only survive, but flourish. That leaves 112 hours. 40 of which, most of you are probably going to work, whether it’s at home or at some other place of employment. And so that leaves you 72 hours—plenty of time—to effectively use your time for God. We’re told in Ephesians 5:16 to make the best use of the time—or to redeem it, or buy it up—for the days are evil.

Now, much of what we see in Ecclesiastes 3 happens outside of our control, for God determines a time for everything. Yet, that does not give us permission to adopt a fatalistic, ‘Oh well, I have no power’ attitude, and therefore do nothing. In fact, we’re to do quite the contrary. Because we are not ultimately in control of time, we must make the best use of the time we have been given, remembering that there is One in control of time: Jesus Christ. He existed before time began, entered time and space as a man. Yet, despite the fact that He was in time, He was not subject to time. No, rather He controlled it. In Mark 1:15, at the beginning of His public ministry, He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”   Throughout His ministry He let others know that His time had not yet come—meaning it was not time to reveal His true person and purpose, that He was the Son of God, who had come to die for the sins of His people. And then in Mark 14:41, as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, “The hour has come.” And when it had, He went to the cross for you and for me. In all of that, He was in control of time, for He is God. But, you and I are not. We are subject to time and space, with eternity in our hearts, yet with no ability to determine the beginning from the end. As you contemplate the time you have or don’t have this week, remember your need for the One who controls it all.