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The year that has ended, the year of COVID, has been interesting in its impact. On the one hand it kept us apart with its lockdowns, its social distancing, its quarantines and self-isolation. And we have not liked that. But on the other hand, it removed some of the inequality that separates ‘developed’ nations from ‘developing’ nations. All of us were under the threat of this pandemic.

For those in ‘developing’ nations, COVID was just one more factor added to lives that were already filled with suffering – displacement, food shortages, military threats, poor health services, and the like. For some, life was already so full of suffering that the presence of COVID made little difference. Sickness and death are always knocking at the door. These people already knew that life was fragile and unpredictable.

For those in ‘developed’ nations, COVID caught us unawares. We were not prepared for the way it disrupted our lives and curtailed our freedoms. We were not used to feeling threatened: the threat of highly contagious, potentially fatal virus, or the threat of the economic fallout of large scale lockdowns. Simply put, we were not used to being at the mercy of an unknown and uncontrollable enemy. The ease and the certainty that had previously characterised our lives were ripped away from us. Our ‘future’ became uncertain. We have been reminded that life is fragile and unpredictable.

Added to this, we were all affected by human selfishness, carelessness and thoughtlessness. The conspiracy theories that circulate, the inane arrogance of some in positions of authority, the so-called ‘exercise of Christian freedom’ – all of these have contributed to the on-going impact of COVID.

And here the Christian needs to remember that the world we live in is a lost and broken world. The high expectations of secular humanism are continually voided by current events. The utopia of present health and wealth promised by some Christian teachers and so-called prophets and apostles repeatedly fails to eventuate.

Evil and darkness and deception dominate. There is good reason for unbelief, despair, bondage, fear and dread as we face a new year, as we face a new day, even as we face the next moment. As Paul says ‘the days are evil’ [Ephesians 5:16].

As we enter 2021 the big question is ‘What are we going to do with it? What are we going to do with this moment, this day, this new year that God has granted to us?’ Because, at every moment of our lives, a new opportunity, a new potential, a new responsibility, a new gift stand before us.

Are we going to use this time for good, or for evil?
Are we going to allow the darkness to dominate it, or the light?
Are we going to allow God’s truth to determine our feelings and perceptions, or Satan’s lies?

Will we fill this day with faith, or with unbelief?
Will we colour it with hope, or with despair?
Will we load it with forgiveness or revenge?
Will we live in it with freedom, or in bondage?

Are we stepping into this year with joy and peace, or with fear and dread?

Because there is something else Paul says: ‘Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil’ (verses 15, 16). The KJV is more accurate - ‘redeeming the time’. The verb is exagorazo. It means to buy out, to buy back, to ransom.

The days are evil. But here is the challenge, no, the command of God for us as we face the new year: that we should be redeeming every moment from the evil and the darkness and the deception that dominate it.

What does this mean, this ‘buying back the time’?

The fact that we have to ‘buy’ it back means that it will cost us, it will not necessarily be easy. Such is always the case with redemption. (Are we not redeemed with ‘the precious blood of Christ’? [1Peter 1:19]. With great determination he deliberately came and died to redeem us.)

Now we who have been redeemed at great cost are commanded to ‘redeem the time’ – with similar decision and determination to set this moment where we are, this hour where we are, this year where we are, free from the evil, the darkness and the deception, and from the despair that accompanies them.

Wherever we are we will do good, not evil.
Wherever we are we will shine God’s light, not the darkness.
Wherever we are we will believe and speak God’s truth, not the deceptions of the evil one.
Wherever we are we will live with faith, not unbelief.
Wherever we are we will live with sure and certain hope in God, not despair.
Wherever we are we will live in God’s forgiveness, not in guilt and condemnation.
Wherever we are we will forgive, not seek retribution.
Wherever we are we will live in freedom as God’s child, not as slaves of sin and Satan.
Wherever we are we will live with joy and peace, not in fear and dread of God’s judgment.

So that this moment, this day, this year in which we personally live, will glorify God, not the evil one, regardless of COVID, and whatever else 2021 might bring.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2021