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!