Making Time: Learning to Invest This Precious Gift From God

TIME has been on my mind a lot lately.  As I near the end of another year, I’m analyzing what has gone well and what hasn’t gone quite as well (notice the gracious way in which I didn’t say those things bombed?)  One thing that I haven’t done so well on is managing time.  I can think back to many opportunities missed and time that I let get away from me.

On Sunday, I preached a message called “Making Time,” in which I looked at some of the characteristics of time and then what Scripture says about it.  Three important things for us to remember about time is that it is a gift, it is limited and it is progressive.  It is the only gift that God gives that we can’t receive again.  Once time is gone, it is simply gone.  It can’t be saved, paused or rewound.  It moves forward without mercy.  So the only thing we can do is manage the time we’ve been given.  The problem is that most of us have done a really bad job at this. We’ve spent so much of our lives killing time, we should probably be convicted of murder!

Look, I know that it’s virtually impossible to make every minute productive.  Frankly, I’m not saying that we should.  We’re not made to “produce” 24/7.  God built in rest and has made us to enjoy free time, having fun and re-energizing our lives.  I do, however, think that it is possible…and proper…to work towards making every moment, even free time, meaningful.  That’s the idea behind 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  This clearly says that everything is to be sanctified before God, taking all aspects of life, even the simple and mundane, seriously regarding the time that is dedicated to it.

So, what else does the Bible say about how we spend our time?

First, it communicates that we need to approach how we manage our time with humility.  Look at what James says about it:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Since time is a gift that we’ve done nothing to receive, we need to humbly consider how we are going to use what we’ve been given.  We need to realize that we are mortal and, as mortals, vulnerable.  We are not, in any way, promised tomorrow, so we do well to make the most of today, grateful to God for the “then” and the “now,” without assuming the “later.”

That leads to a second thing the Bible tells us to consider in managing our time:  We must take stock of our time using the gift of wisdom (James 1:5).  This means that we need to think about how we are spending our time and what we’re using it on. Here’s how Paul put it to the Ephesians:

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Ephesians 5:15-17

Are we using our time in accordance with our calling?  If you do not understand what God wants you to, specifically, do with your time, you will fill it up with things that waste time; things that don’t honor God or bring satisfaction or purpose to your life.

The remedy, then, once we understand where our time is going, is to invest it.  Once we take stock in our time, we can find the culprits that steal our time and re-claim or redeem it.  As we eliminate those things, we see margin being built into our lives–precious free time that can then be used for those things that are of the most value–things like family and friends, church, work and rest.

It is often very hard, but if we’re going to be healthy individuals, we have to find the balance between work and rest, the extreme of either bringing us to a state of imbalance, leaving us either workaholics or slugs!

 

Saving Daylight, Part 3: Rest

ImageI want to finish this week of posts about “Saving Daylight” with some thoughts on rest.  Friday is my day off; my day of rest.  It’s the day that I have that I can get away from work, unplug “completely” and spend some time re-charging my batteries.  So, as I write this, I’m kicked back with a cup of my home-roasted coffee, enjoying the sunshine and listening to chirping birds, welcoming in the springtime weather.

Now, I said “completely” in that way because there are times when situations arise that require my action or presence.  That’s part of my job and is expected.  Nevertheless, this is generally a day I protect fiercely.

What about you?  Do you have time that is just YOURS?  I wholeheartedly believe that if you are going to be the best you can be at what you do, you must master rest.

I didn’t always believe that.  There was a time when I didn’t need rest.  OK, there was a time when I didn’t know I needed rest.  I could go 24…alright, maybe 21/7.  Rest was highly over-rated.  That all came to a screeching halt when I ended up in the CCU of a hospital with stressed-induced atrial fibrillation.  After that, I learned to build rest or “sabbath-time” into my life.  I practiced stress-management that kept me from getting to “that place” again.

Stress is like carbon monoxide: it’s deadly and odorless.  You don’t always see it coming because it doesn’t always manifest itself in ways that you can detect until it’s too late.  You don’t always get headaches or visible fatigue.  Sometimes you do but you’re just too busy to notice them!  So what do you do?

Build in TIME

Point number 6 in Part 1 of this little series was the importance of finding and maintaining balance.  That doesn’t happen unless you value rest.  There must be down-time to help you set aside the busy-ness of life and evaluate where you are…and maybe WHO you are!  The biggest excuse I hear for not doing this is a lack of time.  It didn’t take me long to realize spending three days in a hospital was a great waste of my time.  If I can build in time of rest in order to prevent that kind of a waste of time, I’ll do it.  More importantly, if resting can make me a better person while I’m doing all the necessary things in my life, I’ll do it.  The question is, “How?”

Yearly, weekly and daily

Most people get a week or two off each year for vacation.  Take it!  I’m amazed at how many people I talk to who haven’t taken advantage of their vacation time, sometimes in years!

Yearly, we need to take at least a few days away for a sort of sabbatical, giving the mind a chance to completely re-energize and re-focus.  Even if you can’t afford to travel somewhere, take a stay-cation and at least unplug for a while.  The world really will continue to turn and you will be better in your world for it.

Now, some use their vacation time for mission trips.  Am I saying you shouldn’t do that?  Absolutely not!  What I’m saying is you need time away from what you normally do.  There may be no better way for you to re-charge than to change up the pace of what you are doing and spend a week serving people who desperately need it.  I think that’s great and can be exactly what you need.  I would go further and recommend, if it’s possible, to include the entire family.

ImageSecondly, we need weekly time off.  It’s the way you were designed.  Scripture tells us that God created the world in six days and that on the seventh day He rested.  Here’s a news flash for you: God didn’t need it.  He doesn’t get tired.  He rested in order to lead by example; to demonstrate to us something that He values.  He built us with that need.  Work hard during your week, but take a day of sabbath time to re-charge.  For some, like me, that can’t be Sunday.  I am not a legal Sabbatarian, as some are.  I believe we have been freed from the requirements of the Law with its limitations, but very much embrace the principle of what God was teaching us: Our bodies are not designed to work for seven days…REST!

Finally, we need daily rest.  Not only do we need enough sleep (which is probably my Achilles heel!), but we also need breaks during the day.  Sometimes, it’s too easy to get into the groove and work from morning until night without thinking about it.  Take a breather.

Start in the morning.  Build in time to sit quietly, to reflect on Scripture and to pray.  Ask the Spirit to empower you throughout the day and make you as productive as you can be in a way that honors Christ.  Psalm 46:10 instructs us to “Be still and know that I am God.”  I think that’s another reason God told us to build in rest.  How often I fail to reflect on or “remember” that He is God when I get so busy.

I believe it’s also important to stop for 10 or 15 minutes every few hours to completely change channels.  Take a walk or put the legs up and take a power nap. If you’ve got time, spend it on a hobby or, if you don’t have time, visit some of your favorite websites about your hobby.  I will often do that because it’s a way for me to “engage” in those things that bring me relaxation when I have more time.

Don’t waste your rest

ImageThere are times when we really do need to just “veg”.  However, I want to wrap this up by encouraging you not to waste your rest.  Your time, even your rest time, is still valuable.  Find some things that give you rest while still serve a productive role in your overall development.  Read a good book, play a sport, play with your kids (which time with your family should be a priority anyway) or go for a run.  Try to make the time you spend in front of the tube a very minimum.  We all enjoy it from time to time, but we have to remember, we will never get that time back.  So, ask whether or not that is something worth giving away your valuable time to.

Whatever you do, rest is a valuable part of it.  Saving daylight is not about burning the midnight oil, but about redeeming our limited time, living intentionally and saving us from burnout.

Healthy Balance

I had a good run tonight with Karen and Shelby (our only surviving dog).  I am so thankful I have finally been able to obtain a measure of balance in my life. For so long, I tended to focus on one area of my life, largely to the detriment of another…usually, my physical condition.  I would excuse myself because I always tended to be skinny growing up and I (erroneously) equated the lack of excessive fat with good health.  Now, having lost the fluff I gained from carrying that attitude into my thirties and beyond, I feel as though I’m running on at least most of my cylinders…and on the eve of my 43rd birthday, that’s saying something. 🙂

I’m realizing what a great gift health is (physical, mental, spiritual and emotional). None of it is guaranteed, none of it is a birthright and none of it is automatic. There is nothing I or anyone else did to have it (many don’t), and it could be taken away at any moment (it frequently is).  So, we are living in a way that is both wise and thankful when we take care of ourselves to the best of our ability while we can and, in the process, make sure that we’re giving God all the glory so that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do (exercise, sleep, think, dream, feel, hope, hurt, laugh), we do it all to the glory of God.

That’s the wisdom of a 42 year-old. Tomorrow it gets even better! 😉

Do The Big Rocks First: Some Great Time-Management Advice

I saw this on Michael Hyatt’s blog and wanted to share it with you.  The video is a little dated and it’s a simple concept, but one I too often miss. It’s a great illustration of how important prioritizing life is and (along with checking out Michael’s blog) is well worth your time.

Balance

This year for me is all about balance.  I’m trying very hard to seek “moderation in all things” and imbalance in none.  That’s a huge challenge for me!  So far, though, I’m eating right, working out regularly, finding consistency in Scripture reading, and working towards balance between work, family and personal time.  That last one may be the most difficult challenge for me thus far…not sure why.

The cool thing is that I’m enjoying life this year more than ever.  Living life intentionally makes all the difference in the world.  Actually, intentional living (based on 1 Corinthians 10:31) is when real living happens.  Is this easy?  No, not really, but I am committed.  Hopefully, if and when I waiver, some of my loving friends will gently help me get back on track! 🙂  So, how are you doing this year?  What is your area of biggest challenge regarding balance?

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