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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Ecclesiastes | What Time Is It?

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1–8



How does your calendar look this week?

If it’s anything like mine, it’s crammed to bursting. Just the way I like it. I am the master of my to-do list, time lord of my patch of the galaxy.

And then I spot the deadline I’d put off. I start to get emails quicker than I can clear them. I’ve got that meeting that I could really do without. I’m sweating serotonin by lunchtime.

Am I going to have enough time for it all?

No, says the Teacher. You will never have enough time. Because time is not something you have. Which is a difficult truth for those of us who swim in hyperproductivity cultures. Time-management books from productivity gurus preach the idea that we can master our schedules and craft the life we want to live – if only we can get our time under control.

I lap that stuff up. I want to believe that I am on top of my life, that I really can do it all, be everywhere and never need to say ‘no’ to anyone. Which, inevitably, gives rise to a kind of anxiety I can’t seem to time-manage my way out of.

In contrast to the productivity gurus, the Teacher’s invitation is this: reframe your relationship to time entirely. Instead of managing it, learn to listen to time. And see if you can hear God’s voice in it.

So, look at your calendar again.

Do you see a tool through which to exert your mastery upon the world? Or might you see opportunities to respond to the needs of the place in which God has put you?

If it’s a time to plant, we might need to dig deep and work hard. If it’s time to mourn, we might need to mourn with those who are mourning, over lost loved ones or lost employments. If it’s time to be silent, we might need to listen to those who need to know they have been heard.

Of course, knowing what time it is and yielding to it in the right way requires wisdom that only God can grant. But, as James tells us, we only need to ask for it. If I can do that, I might learn to live in time rather than over it. To see interruptions on my calendar not as irritations, but as invitations. And to model a relationship to time that makes my neighbours curious.

What time is it on your frontline this week?


Tim Yearsley
Head of Innovation, LICC

How would you describe your relationship to time, and how might The Teacher’s approach be a challenge or opportunity to you? Join in the conversation in the comments below.

Plus, join award-winning author and theologian James K A Smith at LICC on 3 November for a live Q&A on his new book How to Inhabit Time. The event will explore how being aware of God’s work across all of time changes the way we see the past and look forward to the future – and helps us live faithfully now.


Ecclesiastes | Death Under the Sun (3/4)


  1. Thank you so much for this. I have always liked this Bible passage; but your take on it is especially insightful in present day context.

    By Sabine Burningham  -  22 Aug 2022
  2. One of the greatest teachers I have had in ministry comes from developing M.E. (Chronic Fatigue) a year after I was ordained Deacon. I had to learn that there is indeed “a time for everything” but not “all at the same time!”
    I have had to learn to listen to God, to listen to my own body and to schedule rest and relaxation in between action and activity: to move as Christ did from action to passion, from doing things to have things done for me and with me.
    Thirty five-years later, although retired now, I can still preach, teach and heal in Christ’s name but in God’s timing: not my own. His his strength: as mine often fails. Thank you for reminding me today.

    By Gill Mack  -  22 Aug 2022
  3. A really helpful reflection.

    I’d also appreciate some exposition of the use of the word “frontline”. I know the Bible is full of imagery of war, whether physical or spiritual, but it also the Gospel of Peace. I find the use of the term “frontline” really unhelpful since, to me, it “others” the people we interact with. It pushes them away from us, makes them the enemy, or victims of the enemy.

    By Adrian P Beney  -  22 Aug 2022
    • Hi Adrian, thanks for engaging with this and your ask. LICC use the term ‘frontline’ as our own shorthand for the ordinary places Christians show up in a given week.

      So often, we think of ‘the mission field’ as the local geographical area around our church, or somewhere overseas. By introducing the term ‘frontline’ we are attempting to spark the imagination of the ordinary Christian in the pew to see that wherever they are in the week can be validly considered a context for mission. It’s explained a little more here: https://licc.org.uk/ourresources/fruitfulness/

      If you find Frontline an unhelpful word, though jettison it! We certainly don’t want to ‘other’ the people we interact with in the way you suggest this might inadvertently do. The first reflection on Ecclesiastes (from the prior week) addresses that to some extent, which you might find helpfully reassuring: https://licc.org.uk/resources/ecclesiastes-life-under-the-sun/

      Thanks again for engaging


      By Tim Yearsley  -  23 Aug 2022
  4. I loved this message! It scratches where so many of us itch in our busy-worshipping culture. Two thoughts from me: 1) The anxiety about being time-poor arises in our conflicted understanding of who’s in control. There’s actually not too much wrong with doing as well as we can with the resources we have, and it’s good modelling to those who we forget are watching, whether believers or not. 2) The point of this Scripture passage validates in-the-moment prayerfulness, so that we can discern whether this latest interruption (or delay) is a God-conceived opportunity to bring the living Christ to another person by choosing to share our rationed time with them with a grace that WILL make them curious. Bring it on!

    By Letitia Burridge  -  22 Aug 2022
  5. I’m just reading ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ by John Mark Comer which I’d recommend if you want to explore this further.

    By Nicola Normandale  -  22 Aug 2022
  6. Thanks Tim, that really spoke to me at the start of this new week at the office, aka my dining room table.

    It’s so easy to try to cram everything in and only feel satisfied if I’ve cracked the ‘to do’ list.

    I’ll look at those interruptions in a new light and try to see where God might be with me in my work!

    By Steve Matthews  -  22 Aug 2022
  7. Very helpful reflection. I feel that this issue is really important, not only for our own mental health and well-being, but also for that of our families, and especially that of our children, if we are blessed to have them. They are indeed watching our lifestyle, and what we model in terms of busyness, or ‘there being a time for everything’ sends out loud and clear messages to them, whatever we say.
    I know it’s a bit of a truism. However, for children, love is indeed often spelt ‘time’. As mine have grown into young adults, I’ve found it really instructive what they have observed about the way of life of my husband and I.

    By Margaret Benton  -  22 Aug 2022
  8. ‘Time is a form of order, not a measure, in which all things are related to each other.’
    ‘We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heartbeats.’

    These are quotes (from Aristotle and others) about the nature of time and our role in it as parts of creation.

    By Simon Hettle  -  22 Aug 2022
  9. I once went on a Time Management course as a “perk” from my tenure as a Library Board volunteer. I was also a busy young mother to a 4 year old and an infant. We were told to fill in a timesheet of our workweek which was ruled off into segments starting at 9:00 AM and ending at 5:00 PM. When the coordinator saw my filled in day that started at 6:00 AM and ended at 11:00 PM, he was amazed–and more amazed when he saw the hour blocked as “Me time”–when both of my children were asleep in the afternoon.

    To this day, I still take “Me time”–time for prayer, reflection and relaxation, although I no longer have to block an hour of my day. For the sake of one’s mental health, it is important to heed the Teacher and take time to refresh our souls–“to build up” and prepare ourselves for when we are overwhelmed by the demands of time.

    By Dawn Upham  -  23 Aug 2022

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