top of page

Time Is A Terrible Taskmaster

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

by Dave Miller

When the heart of the Father becomes your heart, trusting His timing is often the hardest part. The moments the Son demonstrated trust in the Father’s timing often are the most challenging stories in the Gospels. Especially to those who long to see the will of the Father completed among the nations.

Here are just a few examples from the Gospel according to Matthew:


Persecutions - Matthew 10:16-20

“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. Beware of them, because they will hand you over to local courts and flog you in their synagogues. You will even be brought before governors and kings because of me, to bear witness to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you are to speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, because it isn’t you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.


The Parable of the Vineyard Workers - Matthew 20:9-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.

After agreeing with the workers on one denarius, he sent them into his vineyard for the day. When he went out about nine in the morning, he saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into my vineyard, and I’ll give you whatever is right.’ So off they went. About noon and about three, he went out again and did the same thing. Then about five he went and found others standing around and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing? ’

“ ‘Because no one hired us,’ they said to him.

“ ‘You also go into my vineyard,’ he told them. When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay, starting with the last and ending with the first.’

“When those who were hired about five came, they each received one denarius. So when the first ones came, they assumed they would get more, but they also received a denarius each. When they received it, they began to complain to the landowner: ‘These last men put in one hour, and you made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day’s work and the burning heat.’

“He replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Are you jealous because I’m generous? ’

“So the last will be first, and the first last.”


No One Knows the Hour - Matthew 24:36-44

“Now concerning that day and hour no one knows ​— ​neither the angels of heaven nor the Son ​— ​except the Father alone. As the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark. They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away. This is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding grain with a hand mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. But know this: If the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming, he would have stayed alert and not let his house be broken into. 44 This is why you are also to be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.


The Parable of the Ten Virgins - Matthew 25:1-13

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.

Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take oil with them; 4 but the wise ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps. 5 When the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’

“Then all the virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

“The wise ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell oil, and buy some for yourselves.’

“When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. 11 Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us! ’

“He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you! ’

“Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.


The Parable of the Talents - Matthew 25:14-30

“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey. He called his own servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent, depending on each one’s ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more. In the same way the man with two earned two more. But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I’ve earned five more talents.’

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’

“The man with two talents also approached. He said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I’ve earned two more talents.’

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’

“The man who had received one talent also approached and said, ‘Master, I know you. You’re a harsh man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

“His master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy servant! If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and I would have received my money back with interest when I returned.

“ ‘So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. And throw this good-for-nothing servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’


The Garden - Matthew 26:36-45

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he told the disciples,“Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. He said to them,“I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.” Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed,“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter,“So, couldn’t you stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, a second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And he came again and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open.

After leaving them, he went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then he came to the disciples and said to them,“Are you still sleeping and resting? See, the time is near.


Time is a terrible taskmaster but the yoke of Sovereignty is light. Jesus clearly knows that time is short. He also clearly knows that time is uncontrollable. His teaching and pattern is to respond in faithfulness and trust. If we don’t know the time, then planning is not the point, faithful preparation through relationship is. As Nathan Elliot observed, “Jesus didn’t set goals according to time. He set processes in place to produce a certain outcome. He lived a simple and consistent lifestyle of abiding, going, sowing, training, gathering, equipping, and empowering.“

Time as taskmaster breeds regret, but Sovereignty inspires hope. Time creates anxiety and an inevitable sense of personal failure, while Sovereignty expands faith and builds thanksgiving and worship among a community of expanding faith. Time eventually spurs competition and blame. Sovereignty celebrates partnership and multiplies empowered disciples. Time, nor the Sovereignty of our God, can be controlled. For some reason, at times, we are under the illusion that deadlines can somehow get us ahead of time. When we require of ourselves deadlines for uncontrollables, we make poor decisions based upon human requirements. For if our Lord wanted deadlines, He would have given them, but instead went out of His way to demonstrate they are irrelevant.

God has been steady, committed, and right on time with His plan for all of eternity. His faithfulness to His task supersedes our greatest passion and commitment, but it does not negate them. Those passions and commitments become contributions to the sentergy of His faithful people for all of time. Those obedient passions and commitments join the hall of faith we read about in Hebrews. The issue is not how I convince everyone else to be faithful, but rather, that I am faithful and empower others to be and do the same.

The longer I focus on the pace, the more I train myself to walk by sight, not by faith. We would do well to pay attention that Jesus never used a specific time to motivate, but instead used the guarantee of His presence and of His return as the drive for faithfulness. Precisely because faithfulness is what he requires of us. Completion of His Great Commission is what He requires of Himself. We can be assured, as Jesus was assured, that the will of the Father will be accomplished. Jesus finalized that when he walked out of the grave. The pace of the Great Commission, from His church’s faithful contributions, is squarely in the hand of our Sovereign God and He is always good, always right, and always on time. So whatever contribution(s) you can make, make them. They matter. The Commission has never been what I will accomplish, it has alway been what we will accomplish. All of us. Those who have gone before, are going now, and will go in the future.

There is no doubt that deadlines have motivated many students, employees, and disciples towards faithfulness. But let us not replace the core expectation of our Lord, faithfulness to His commands, with artificial deadlines, and assume that the resulting activity carries the same accolade of well done good and faithful servant when the hour of our Lord’s return does arrive. So, when He returns, and He will, may Jesus find us all with both hands to the plow, working at the pace of His Sovereign direction in the power of His Spirit with all that we’ve got.

Until there’s #NoPlaceLeft


bottom of page