Pastor Tim Smith: Our lives are governed by time but God is outside of time

Pastor Tim Smith

Pastor Tim Smith - Credit: Archant

“I’m fascinated by time because I’ve always lived in it; we’re all living in time and living with time. Time is probably the biggest influence on our lives and yet we’re unable to fully understand it, grasp it or explain what it is.”

Those were the words of film director Christopher Nolan during an interview to promote his new ‘time-bending’ film Tenet, which has a hard to follow plot, where at one point during a car chase, one vehicle appears to move backwards in time!

Nolan is right in his observations about how much our lives are governed by time, isn’t he?

One look in the bathroom mirror this morning reminded me of the impact of time on my physical appearance; and as I sit here typing these words I’m also thinking of the different tasks I need to complete before the end of the day and wondering how I’m going to fit it all in; where will I find the time?

We celebrate or commemorate the passing of time each year on our birthdays. We also think in terms of time when we remember our loved ones who are no longer with us; for example it was recently 48 years since my grandad died; I was eight years old when he passed away but I can still vividly recall some of the events of that day – Tuesday, August 29, 1972 – and I wonder, where did all those years go?

In the Christian faith we are reminded that we put our trust in a Creator God, and so we also recognise that time itself is something that he created.

King David, the writer of a number of the Psalms identified this when he wrote in Psalm 139:16, “Lord, you saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

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David, here, highlights one of the differences between people and God.

Our lives are governed and limited by time, but the Bible tells me God is outside of time.

In the very first verse of Scripture we read that “In the beginning, God created”, meaning that He was there before the beginning.

Then in the book of Revelation, at the end of the Bible, we read God describing himself as “the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end; the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come.”

Although I might find it difficult to comprehend these things, as a Christian I have found great encouragement in believing that if God knows the beginning from the end of my life, then I can entrust myself every day to his loving care.

There’s a particular word that describes this divine characteristic: Providence, which comes from two Greek words – ‘pro’, meaning ‘before’, and ‘video’ meaning ‘to see’. To ‘see before’ is providence.

I exercise providence when I put a couple of paracetamol in my pocket before I leave the house, anticipating that I might need them later in the day when I’ve got a headache.

When we apply this word to God, it means that in relation to my life or yours, he looks ahead in the weeks, months and years of my life that are ahead, and he plans and provides for my needs accordingly.

We see a wonderful Biblical example of divine providence in the Old Testament character of Joseph. You can read the story for yourself in chapters 37 – 50 of Genesis. As he looks back on over 20 years of his life, Joseph says to his brothers, who had done a wicked thing when they sold him into slavery, “God sent me here ahead of you, to save your lives.”

Joseph believed in God’s providential care for him; so did the 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon, who wrote, “The providence of God is the great protector of my life, and under his divine care I am perfectly safe from danger.”