The Deep Well with Erin Davis Podcast

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Time Is Short

Erin Davis: Portia, do you have any fantasies, dreams, ideas about what your funeral is to be like?

Portia Collins: I don’t know if I would call it fantasies.

Erin: Yes, that’s maybe not the right word.

Portia: You know, first of all, I always think about the musical selections.

Erin: Yes.

Portia: There’s this song called “Total Praise.” It’s a really beautiful choir song with all the harmonies. I would love to have this huge choir sing. Music in church has been integral in my life. My mama was my church’s organist and my grandmama was the pianist, so I would just love to have all the people that I’ve sung in the choir with come and sing me on into glory!

Erin: I love that picture. I can picture it! A singing funeral.

Portia: Yes.

Welcome to The Deep Well with Erin Davis, a podcast from Revive Our Hearts. I’m Portia Collins.

Have you thought about your funeral? Join Erin as she talks about the brevity of life. It’s part of our current series, “In a Little While.” Here’s Erin Davis.

Erin: I have a fantasy about my funeral. I know that’s probably odd, but here’s how it goes: When people arrive to mourn my death, I hope they’re sad, but not devastated. I hope they dot their eyes but that they don’t wail. I hope when they say, “She’s in a better place,” they mean it, because I will be. I will finally be home with the Savior I long to see face to face.

But then I have this thought that, along with their funeral programs, I hope that someone hands each mourner a small flashlight. They’re red and white plastic in my mind’s eye, but you can imagine them any way you’d like. Then I picture this moment, after all the funny stories have been told about my life (like that time that I threw up at Graceland and that other time when I almost got arrested at a New Kids on the Block concert), I hope someone shares the gospel. Then I hope that the room goes dark. Someone says, “If Erin prayed with you to receive Jesus as your Savior for the very first time, turn your light on.” Click. Click. Click. Click. My boys’ flashlights would turn on. So would some friends I knew when I served in student ministry and some women that I’ve prayed with at events.

Then someone would say, “If Erin inspired you to love Jesus more, turn your light on.” Click, click, click. I hope that the room wouldn’t be dark anymore.

Finally, I can picture someone saying, “If Erin’s example made you love your Bible more, treasure it more deeply, read it more often, turn your light on.” I hope with my whole heart that every light would turn on; that somehow there would be a beacon of light so bright that I could see it from my new home in glory, and that I could know I did what Jesus told me to. I lived as a bearer of the light.

That picture of flashlights turning on is really why The Deep Well exists. We’re here to flip the switch in your heart and in your mind and in your life about the Bible. I want you to fall in love with your Bible. It’s not so that you can think I’m a great Bible teacher; honestly, I don’t care if you even remember my name. But in the pages of the Bible there is life, there is hope, there is Jesus.

In this season, we’re tracing the phrase “in a little while” through our Bibles. We’re looking for insights about God and time. Guess what? Jesus said “in a little while.” In this episode, we’re going to park in John 12, and we’re going to hear those words, “in a little while,” as they came straight out of the mouth of Jesus. Let me read them to you. We find them in John 12:35–36.

So Jesus said to them, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

Did you hear it? Jesus said in verse 35, “The light is among you for a little while longer.” Often when we find that phrase, “in a little while,” in our Bibles it isn’t literal, at least not to us. It’s a way that God describes time that stretches us beyond our twenty-four-hour day and our 365-day year. That is one thing Scripture teaches us about time, that for us time is a twelve-inch ruler—straight and predictable. But for God it’s a little bit more like a rubberband. 

Listen to Psalm 90:4: 

For in Your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that passes by, like a few hours of the night. (CSB)

The psalmist was telling us that to God, a thousand years goes by in the amount of time that it might take you or I to watch a movie. A century is as close to God’s mind as what we had for lunch yesterday is to us. That’s hard to understand, it’s hard to wrap our brains around, but we see that in Scripture, that what time means to us it doesn’t necessarily always mean to God.

It’s not that God doesn’t measure time like we do. I want you to remember that God created time. We see that in Genesis 1. God created the twenty-four-hour day. But, according to Scripture, it seems that God’s relationship to time is different than ours. Of course it is! He is God and we are not.

It wasn’t just the psalmist who wrote about that. Second Peter 3:8 says this: “Dear friends, don’t overlook this one fact.” That makes me want to pay attention to what’s coming next. What comes next is, “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.” I don’t know exactly what that means, but it seems to be a fact, Jack: Time is different to God.

When God told the Israelites in Haggai that He was going to rebuild the temple in a little while, like we talked about in episode 1, it is a little while to Him, even if it’s generations to us. But here in John 12, when Jesus said, “The light is among you for a little while,” it was a little while, by human standards, too.

If you’re following along in your Bible—and I always hope you’re following along in your Bible—you’re there at John 12:35. Just go backwards a little ways, a few verses, and see what’s going on. Go to John 12:12, and you’ll get a better sense of the timeline here.

What was going on was that the triumphal entry had just happened. Jesus said, “The light is among you for a little while longer” on Palm Sunday, right after He was brought into Jerusalem on a donkey. Within five days of Him saying these words, “The light is among you for a little while longer,” the Light of the world would be crucified, and His body would be placed in a dark tomb. Truly, the Light that Jesus was talking about—Himself—was only going to remain on earth in His human body for a little while longer. What He was telling these people who were gathered around Him at this moment was, “My time here is short.”

We could look at that and we could think, “That’s just a timeline reference. It’s a simple fact that Jesus was not going to walk the earth as a man very much longer,” and that’s true. But I think there’s gold in them thar hills, and that we should keep digging.

In fact, let’s go back to the beginning of John 12. At the beginning of John 12 we find two mini-dramas within the larger drama of Christ moving towards His death. Let me read John 12:1–3.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of perfume.

What a sweet story. Again, we see the human timeline meticulously recorded in Scripture. We know from this verse it was six days before the Passover, and Mary, who is a woman whose brother, Lazarus, had been raised from the dead by Jesus. She poured out a gift: expensive perfume. She poured it out over Him as an expression of her gratitude. I want you to hold that picture of Mary giving Jesus her best in your mind. 

Pick it up at verse 4, and we get another little story inside the big story. 

But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (he who was about to betray him) said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, "Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you will always have with you, but you do not always have me." (vv. 4–8)

There’s plenty we could talk about here—Judas, mostly. But let’s zero in on the time reference. Did you hear it in verse 8? “For the poor you will always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Then, hours later, after he said the poor are always going to be with them, he said, “The light isn’t going to be with you for much longer.” There’s contrast there. Two realities about time.

Now, the needs of the poor are on a seemingly endless trajectory, as are the needs of the sick and the needs of sinners. Truly, human need seems to go on and on and on and on forever, doesn’t it? We try to fix it with programs and with giving to certain things and changing certain things, and there are still massive amounts of human need.

It’s true, we make medical advances, we make economic advances, we make advances in sanitation, and those things improve life. But what I want you to do next Sunday in your church is listen as the list of prayer needs is being read from the pulpit, or maybe at your church they’re spelled out in the church bulletin. 

Jesus was right. Truly, the poor we will always have with us. Truly, the downtrodden we will always have with us, and the heartbroken we will always have with us, and the devastated and the depressed and the distressed we will always have with us, and the sick and the sad we will always have with us. Again, this phrase “in a little while” and the verses surround it—we get one lens through which we can view the timeline of humanity. Is it just one long string of misfortunes?

If Jesus knew that there would always be poverty on the earth and that there would always be human suffering, why did He leave? Why did He ascend back into heaven, as we’ll find Him doing not very many chapters from now? Was He turning a blind eye? Was He being dismissive? Was He doing what I do when I see beggars at the four-way stop in my town? I lock the door, and I look out the other window. Is that what Jesus was doing here? Was He saying, “The poor you will always have with you, but you’re just going to have me for a little while longer”?

Well, Jesus didn’t come to give money to the materially poor, He came to give life to the spiritually poor, and He didn’t need more time to accomplish that. He told us Himself in Luke 19:10 that the reason He came was to seek and save the lost, and He was here in Luke 12. He’s moving towards that mission. He came to earth, took on flesh to accomplish that mission, to seek and save the lost, and he didn’t need one second longer to accomplish it.

As I’ve been studying “in a little while” in Scripture, that’s one thing I’ve realized. It’s one thing I can know, you can know about God and time. He’s not going to make something last longer than it needs to, and He will not cut it short. He takes exactly as long as He needs to to accomplish His purposes.

In the Old Testament, it was Job who endured suffering much longer than any of us ever would want to. It was Job who prayed, “I know that You can do all things, and no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” God’s plans cannot be thwarted and God’s timing cannot be thwarted.

Can you imagine the devastation if we could change the timing of God, if we could get Him to accelerate His plans for our whims or to slow them down because we wanted Him to? There’s not a person still walking the earth who would have chosen the timeline that Jesus did. His mama and His disciples were always trying to get Him to act sooner, to hurry up; and the Pharisees were always trying to slow Him down. Jesus walked the earth as long as He needed to to accomplish His mission, and then He ascended to the right hand of the Father.

If we trust the heart of God, we can trust the timing of God, because we’re just like people in His day—we want Him to move faster, or we want Him to move slower. But when we open our Bibles, we see that God will take exactly as much time or as little time as He needs to to accomplish His mission in our lives.

What about the poor? What about the lost? What about the sick? Truly, the need we have is always with us. But Jesus told us what to do.

Let’s go back to where we started, John 12:35–36. 

Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light for just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light so that you may become children of light." When He finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. 

You know what only lasts a little while? Our lives. If we’re lucky, we get eight or nine decades, which means I am at least halfway through. I’m closer to that funeral with the red flashlights than I am away from it. Eight or nine decades—if we’re lucky—to have an impact on the world for Christ. If we look at the big picture of time and the even bigger picture of eternity, it’s only a little while to make a difference.

What Jesus said about Himself here in John 12 we could say about ourselves if we choose to look the realities of time in the eye. The light that Christ has given me to shine, the light that Christ has given you to shine, it’s only going to be here for a little while. There’s urgency there.

That’s one thing the phrase “in a little while” that we find scribbled throughout our Bibles has done for me. It reminds me, “I need to get busy,” living as a child of the light, living for Jesus, telling people about Jesus, serving people in Jesus’s name; because I’m only here for a little while.

I could look at my children, I could look at the people in my church, I could look at my friends and just say Jesus’s words, “I’m only going to be among you for a little while longer.” Then, the second He decides that I’ve accomplished whatever His purposes are for me, I’ll be with Him, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” Scripture says. While my worship and my adoration of Jesus is going to go on and on and on and on, my chance to make a difference for the Kingdom of God will be over.

I want you to go back to that snapshot of Mary that I told you to hold in your mind. Remember, she poured out her expensive perfume. People watched her, and they laughed at her. They thought she should have used her time and energy and resources differently. But I look at that and I think, Mary had attended the funeral of her brother. Mary understood the weight of the words “in a little while,” and she was going to pour out her perfume on the feet of Jesus when she had the opportunity. 

It is a picture of the life I want to live: poured-out, not waiting, not knowing when He’s going to take me, but pouring myself out for Him now. 

Now, Mary didn’t know, even though Jesus had been trying to tell them, but Mary didn’t know that Jesus’s death was less than a week away. But she knew, “I need to make this moment count.” While she had the light, she believed in the light, and she became a daughter of the light. Her life exemplified the words that Jesus would speak later on that same day, and I want my life to exemplify the words that Jesus said that same day. “While you have the light, believe the light, that you may become sons of light.”

This “in a little while” here in John 12 reminds me of the famous poem, “One and Only Life” by C.T. Studd. I’ll close with the most famous line: 

Only one life, ’twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last. 

In other words, live for Jesus. You only get a little while.

Erin Unscripted

Portia: You know, Erin, when you were talking about your funeral and all of those flashlights, it really made me want to sing.

Erin: Well, do it! I love it when you sing.

Portia:  

This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine;
This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine . . .

Erin: So good! I wish I could sing like you, Portia. I actually wanted to sing that while I was teaching, but I’m not as good of a singer as you are. But that little song pretty much sums up a really important truth, which is: God has given us light to shine for a little while, and we’re going to choose if we let it shine or not.

Portia: You know, we always do Erin Unscripted, and I was just thinking about the concept of “in a little while.” Could you tell the woman listening how this concept should move us to make the best use of our time, while we still have time, in the most God-glorifying way?

Erin: I think just the realization that our lives are short. We know that, we say that to each other, but I don’t think most of us really operate from that idea. We like to keep that thought, that our lives are limited, on the very back burner of our minds. 

We talked in the last episode about back burner versus front burner living. If you really don’t have any concept of your life being short—if life feels long to you—then you’re not going to have that urgency. So “in a little while” means I only have a little while to make a difference, so I can’t put it off until tomorrow. 

There are some things I can put off for tomorrow, but if my opportunity to impact people for Jesus is limited—and it is—then I have to get busy doing it, and today’s the day. Today’s the day to tell somebody about Jesus; today’s the day to live for Jesus; today’s the day to serve in your church. It’s not for a different season, it’s for this season that you’re in.

I’m forty-one, so I’m relatively young. It’s not like I feel the crushing weight of time on me, necessarily, at this stage in my life. But I do realize that the time is short and I need to get busy living for Jesus. That impacts my daily life; it really does.

Portia: Erin, I really love something that you said in your teaching. You said if we can trust the heart of God, we can trust the timing of God. Can you flesh that out a little bit?

Erin: Yes. I think that often we can believe that God has a good plan and that He has good in store for us, but where that breaks down is the when. Why don’t I already have x, y, z? Why hasn’t He answered this prayer yet? Why hasn’t this person changed, or why isn’t this relationship restored? Even if we believe God’s going to do that at some point, we have anxiety or fear or frustration about the when. Trusting God—you either trust Him or you don’t, and if you trust Him that means you have to trust His timing. 

Now, I’m talking about that as if it’s the easiest thing in the world, and it’s not the easiest thing in the world. But God has never let me down. I can think of many examples where I thought the best timing of something was one way, and God’s timing was a different way. In hindsight I can go, “Oh, my timing would have been disastrous!” So, if I trust God, if I trust His plans for my life, then that has to mean I also trust His timing for His plans for my life. I don’t think that we always do that.

Portia: I agree. I know I don’t. Theoretically, I know that God is good and He plans good and He does good towards me, but sometimes I want to get in the nitty-gritty of the application. I want to set parameters for how God operates in my life, and I want to put Him on a timetable. And if it doesn’t match that, then I want to say, “Oh, this is not good. This is bad.”

Erin: I think where I see it most is in my relationships. I want God to do something with a child of mine or in my marriage or in a friendship, and I’m praying and I’m asking Him to change hearts or restore broken fellowship or heal something that needs to be forgiven or where there needs to be grace given. But then, I pray about it and then I want to immediately take action. “I’m just going to pick up the phone and handle it. I’m going to send the text. I’m going to force the conversation.” It does not go well. But if I trust the timing and I’m like, “Lord, I’m asking You to intervene here, and I’m surrendering the timeline I have for it,” He’s come through over and over again.

Again—I’m being redundant, but this has been true—His timing is way better than my timing. When I’ve rushed into something . . . I have prayed about it, so it’s like, “Oh, I’ve prayed about it; now I can act.” But when I pray about it and then trust the timing to Him, things turn out so much better when I surrender the timing of it, too.

Portia: Often when I hear the phrase “in a little while,” especially in the biblical context, it’s honestly a phrase of hope for me, as someone who struggles tremendously with chronic illness. It’s like hearing “in a little while,” just a little bit of time, and one day you’ll be done with this. You won’t have to worry about this. I would love to be able to share some hope with women who are going through hard seasons. It seems like when you hear “chronic illness,” that means for my lifetime this is probably going to be something that I deal with. But on the grand or the eternal scale, it’s just a little while.

Erin: It’s just a little while.

Portia: I want to, if we can, offer some encouragement.

Erin: First I’d say, keep listening, because this phrase “in a little while” builds, and that’s exactly where we’re going to go as we move from here into 1 Peter and then into Revelation. 

But also, it is hopeful. You know, we can endure things if we know that the span between now and physical healing, the span between now and when there’s money in the bank again . . . You know, you’re watching it, and you’re going, “Oh, how am I going to make it to the next payday? But I know when the next payday is, so I’m going to make it.” Whatever it is, if we know there is an end to whatever that struggle is . . . That is what the phrase “a little while” means in Scripture. It means, “This is just a little while.” It’s just a little while, and then God is going to do something totally different.

Take it back to trusting God’s timing. When something hard goes on for a long time, that’s when we question Him. We’re like, “Why didn’t You intervene by now? Why haven’t You fixed this? How long is this going to go on?” Well, it’s going to go on for a little while, whether it seems like that’s true or not. So you can have hope that whatever it is it’s only going to last a little while.

Portia: It’s always a joy to be with you, Erin.

Erin: Aw, I love to be with you.

Portia: I am learning so much talking about this concept, this phrase, “in a little while.” I just want our listeners to hear more of you, so I encourage you to go check out more seasons of The Deep Well. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com/TheDeepWell.

Also, if you’d like to check out Erin’s study, Seven Feasts—and let me just tell you, it’s really good. This is a personal endorsement. I actually endorse the study, and I can tell you that it’s great. I encourage you to go and check it out. You can also find that at ReviveOurHearts.com/TheDeepWell.

So, Erin, tell me, what are we going to hear in the next episode?

Erin: Well, you know that woman that you wanted to give hope to? This episode is for her. We’re heading to 1 Peter. The phrase “in a little while” is found in two places in 1 Peter, both places about suffering.

The Deep Well is a production of Revive Our Hearts, calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Teacher

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

About the Host

Portia Collins

Portia Collins

Portia Collins is a Christian Bible teacher and writer/blogger who enjoys studying and teaching Scripture.  Portia is the founder of "She Shall Be Called" (SSBC), a women’s ministry centered on helping women understand and embrace true biblical womanhood through solid study of God's Word. To learn more about SSBC, visit www.sheshallbecalled.com.  Portia and her husband, Mikhail, have a daughter and currently live in the Mississippi Delta.