Discerning the times: chronos vs. kairos

I believe there is benefit in pausing at the beginning of every year to reflect upon the direction our lives, marriages, jobs, and ministries are taking. Time is limited and the demands upon our schedules can often be vast.

There are two common Greek words that are often translated as “time” in our English Bibles.  One is chronos and the other kairos. They have very different meanings.  And you might not pick up on this in your English translation.

In our fast-paced world we are very familiar with chronos. This relates to the actual hours and minutes that fly by us each day.  We often are found to have “run out of time.”   There seems too little time to do all the things we are committed to accomplishing.  Chronos is a lot like currency and is more or less impersonal.  It can be spent, saved, and sadly wasted, but it has little meaning apart from what it is connected to. Here is an example of chronos:

When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” (John 5:6)

The more chronos we spend stuck in a certain pattern of life and behavior, the harder it is to break out of the habits that have been formed.  We can end up simply repeating yesterday and missing out on the opportunities at hand presently.  The text above refers to a man who had been crippled for 38 years.  That’s a lot of chronos spent in one position.  Muscles have atrophied.  Expectations have been downgraded.  Mindsets have become ingrained.

But kairos is a different sort of word.  It has a more strategic sense.  Rather than the actual ticks of the clock, it refers more to timely opportunities that arise.  Kairos could be translated as “appropriate season.” We see an example of kairos here:

for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. (John 5:4)

I have never known what to do with this story of the Pool of Bethesda.  Was it simply superstition or were people actually healed there?  I’m not sure what the writer intended to convey.  But it is clear that the purported healings didn’t occur at routine times or intervals.  Instead they came at “certain seasons”.  The season could be discerned when there was a peculiar “stirring up of the water.”  I love this!

The water did not bring healing because it was magical.  It brought healing when it was connected to the proper kairos.  The same can be true in our lives.  Our lives can cooperate with God in bringing real healing and fruitfulness into our world…if we can discern the kairos and not be slaves to chronos.

It is wise to have a personal calendar and to intentionally place the most important things on the calendar before things of lesser importance fill up the spots! (Click here to go to my blog series called, Time Matters. It’s a different subject than this post, but still very important.) But even when we are intentionally scheduling by priorities, we need to be sensitive to our Lord’s kairos seasons.

Are you willing to drop what you are doing if you suddenly see the water stirring this year? What if God wants to do something that you didn’t plan for?  I pray that we will all be wide-open to special opportunities the Lord may place before us this year.

A fresh season of prayer may be just around the corner; or an increased illumination in the Scriptures; 0r of influencing people.  It could be an opportunity in your business or ministry, that is God-sent and if recognized could take you to a new level. It could be God moving you to be more generous with your resources. It could be a new approach to your parenting that will profoundly bless your children.

Let us pray and ask God to lead us…and then be ready to not only recognize the stirring of the waters, but to adjust our chronos to embrace it!

3 thoughts on “Discerning the times: chronos vs. kairos

  1. bgoude says:

    Thank you so much. I have been laboring over the chronos and kairos for a month now and the implications of them. I don’t know you but I pray you are firmly rooted and grounded in the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you and God bless. In Christ.

  2. Daniel Alvarado says:

    Great word! Knew about this already but you made it even more clear for me. I’m a youth leader at my church and I know its time to get out of our chronos and get into the kairos as a church! God bless brother and may He continue to use you greatly.

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