The painting of Theodore Roosevelt by John Singer Sargent, which is one of many portraits that hang in the White House, has an unusual story attached to it. For several days the painter had been waiting about the stately mansion, hoping for the chance to see the President and gain his permission to paint his portrait. That chance came unexpectedly one morning as the two met while Roosevelt was descending the stairway. Sargent seized the moment and asked when might there be a convenient time for the president to pose for him. “Now!” replied the president. And there and then, with the president standing at the foot of the stairs with his hand on the newel post, Sargent got to work. What emerged was a portrait which captured the essence of Roosevelt’s personality.
That is a good story and a great lesson! As this story highlights, moments come and go, and life will not wait for us to get our act together. When opportunity knocks, we have to be ready to answer. What President Roosevelt was saying to John Singer Sargent was “here is the time to paint me, seize it, do your best.” It is a wonderful echo of Paul’s words to the Colossians when he tells them to act prudently before the world, and to redeem the time given to them by God (Col. 4:5). To “redeem” means to purchase, it was used for “buying out of the market” and therefore speaks of the need to buy up every opportunity that comes our way. The great apostle wanted the saints in Colosse to make the most of their time on earth by seizing the opportunities around them to do the will and work of God. In the midst of our fleeting lives, we must seize those moments to do the things that will last forever (Eph. 5:15-17; 1 John 2:15-17). The world is passing away, and opportunities to do the will of God are also passing away; therefore, we most grab with two hands those moments in the day that allow us to make the most of our time. Time is slipping through our hands, and so are the opportunities to love God, our neighbors and the church.
Digging a little deeper, Paul is speaking about certain moments within time that must be seized. The Greeks had two words for time. One word was “chronos,” which spoke of the passage of time - the twenty-four hours that make up a day. That is the word from which we get our English word “chronology.” The other word was “kairos” which speaks of appointed time, seasons of time - the quality of a moment apart from its actual length. Kairos is time filled with opportunity, pregnant with possibility, a moment or season that largely determines the outcome of a life. It is a point of time that demands action, a slice of time in which life-altering choices are made. This is the word that Paul uses in telling all Christians to make the most of their time.
Look today for those life altering moments to speak a word for Christ (Col. 4:5-6); to alleviate the suffering of another (Luke 10:29-37); to better understand the will of God (Eph. 5:15-17); or to answer the call of God on your life (Isa. 6:1-6). The ancients used to say that opportunity “had hair in front of his head, but the back of his head was bald.” In other words, we must seize opportunity as we encounter it, before it is gone (Luke 19:42).
Take a moment today to think about making the most of your moments today.