The Time Is Short

What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away (1 Cor. 7:29-31).

The Time Is Short

No matter how much we know that it is true, it is hard for us to grasp that life will not stay the same. Our minds and hearts get used to a particular situation, and it is easy to think that it will go on and on.

We all had certain expectations about this year. For many students, this was their senior year. They were expecting to finish out their school year, spend time with their friends, have graduation parties, and so on. Now, that all seems unlikely.

Recently, I talked to someone who moved here to take a job in our tourism industry. They are now laid off and no longer have the health insurance that this job provided for them. This year turned out very differently than they expected.

Looking forward to this summer, we made plans. I planned to go to our denomination’s General Assembly. That is now canceled. Will we have summer camps? It is hard to say. This summer may be much different than any of us planned.

When bad things start piling up, it’s easy to go in the other direction. We start to think that the bad things will just keep coming. But that isn’t true, either. The sun will shine again, even if it rains for weeks on end.

That’s what this passage reminds us to consider. Life has its up and downs, and these are constantly changing.

The Apostle Paul uses two phrases to explain this. The first is, “the time is short.” We can think of this phrase in a couple of different ways. On the one hand, this is the time between Christ’s first and second coming. Though it may seem long at times, it is short relative to the life of the world. Jesus came once, and Jesus will come again. We should be ready.

The time is also short in relationship to our time in this world. Each one of us had our entrance, and each one of us has our exit. It’s not very long, 70 years, or 80, if we have the strength. Either way, it’s like the flowers of the field that bloom one day and die the next.

We can also think of it in terms of the various seasons of life. My oldest daughter is now 17. Next year, she’ll be graduating from high school. I’m acutely aware of how short a time we have with our children in our household.

What does Paul mean? Maybe he means all of these things. Either way, the time is short, and this is always worth keeping in mind.

The other phrase that he uses is “the world in its present form is passing away.” There is a recognition that the world is changing. Summer gives way to fall, and fall gives way to winter.

Nowhere in the Bible is this more powerfully stated than the book of Ecclesiastes. “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 . . .” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–3).

There are different seasons in this life. One thing gives way to another. Life changes. Solomon went on to say in Ecclesiastes, “Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future” (7:13–14). The world in its present form is passing away.

Holding Loosely to What Doesn’t Last

This is great wisdom. The time is short. The present form of the world is passing away. If we would keep this in perspective, we would be much better equipped to deal with the changing seasons of the world. It would be better for us to look at every relationship, situation, activity, and possession and say, this is temporary.

In particular, God wants us to apply this wisdom to five things.

1. “From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not . . .” At first glance, this actually sounds wrong. We must remember, though, that wisdom often teaches us things by stating one perspective without intending it to be applied in every possible way. This obviously does not mean that we should literally ignore our wives or pretend like they are not our wives. God tells us to love them like Christ loved the church and that it is one of the gravest sins not to take care of those in our family (1 Tim. 5:8).

So, what does it mean? It means that we should view all relationships in this life as temporary. They are not our ultimate fulfillment, and relationships change. We cannot make even our best relationships the foundation for our well-being.

2. “Those who mourn, as if they did not . . .” Again, this could seem rather strange. If you have grief, be like someone who doesn’t. Snap out of it! This is not what it means. The Bible recognizes that there are times of grief. However, we should not let those things we grieve over take hold of our hearts at the deepest level. We should not mourn as those who have no hope. This is evident from the next application.

3. “Those who are happy, as if they were not . . .” We should not try to find our ultimate joy in the situations we experience in this world. We should not think “we have arrived” in this life. If things are going well, don’t get too wrapped up in it. These things change. The good times don’t last forever. They are not the place where our souls can ultimately rest.

4. “Those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep . . .” We often think that if we could only have this or that, we would be happy. Possessions do not last.

This was powerfully impressed upon me as I stayed in a condo in the month of January during my sabbatical. I made that condo my own to a degree. It got familiar. However, I knew the end of the month was coming. It would soon be mine no longer. Truly, all of our possessions are things we use for a time or rent for a time and then pass them on to others.

5. “Those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.” This is similar to the last one, but we can apply it more broadly. If we are involved with the world, we should never let it take over all that we are. We should always hold our heart back to a degree. We shouldn’t make our businesses, our studies, our hobbies, our food, or anything else our foundation.

How do we know when any of these things have taken place? We can know when these things keep us from loving God and others well, when they keep us from important duties, or when they keep us from moving forward in our lives. Whenever these things happen, it’s worth considering whether these things have taken over our hearts too much.

Holding Tightly to What Does Last

That doesn’t mean that everything changes. There are some things that do not change no matter what happens, and this provides us with a foundation to live our lives. We need to hold loosely to the things that are temporary but hold tightly to the things that are not.

1. God is for us. “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 1:30-31). Because of what Jesus has done, we have a relationship with God where our sins are forgiven, and He is for us. That doesn’t change, no matter how tough things may get.

2. God is with us. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). People come in and out of our lives, but God will always be there for us and within us.

3. Our future is bright. There is a time coming when the time will no longer be short and the form of the world will not be passing away. “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?'” (1 Cor. 15:55-56). What a great hope we have!


With recent events, We have been given a powerful reminder of a basic fact of life: the time is short and the present form of the world is passing away.

This does not mean we have to be rootless. A foundation is available. God invites you into a relationship with Himself through Jesus Christ where you can be forgiven of everything wrong you have done and given a new hope and new life. That’s what God offers as an unchangeable foundation. It means He’ll be for you, He’ll be with you, and He’ll give you a bright future.

If you have that relationship, then you don’t need to think of yourself without resources. Cling tightly to Christ! Hold everything else loosely! It will be a foundation for you in all the changes of this temporary world. It will give you the strength for today, and it will fill you with hope as you look to the future. It will give us stability in the midst of an unstable world.


2 Replies to “The Time Is Short”

  1. I like that, Charles. As our common friend says, the cliff notes of the cliff notes!

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