2002-03-01 - It's about Time
It's that commodity of which we all have the same amount. Whether we are young or old, fat or thin, rich or poor, we all have 24 hours in a day, though we often wish we had more! But how are we using this precious, non-renewable gift from God? We may think we have our priorities in the right place, but how we spend our time says a lot about what is in our heart, what is driving us.
Think about a "normal" day. There are of course some non-negotiables. Unless we are retired, we have to work -- whether it's for pay or not, in or outside the home. We have to eat, brush our teeth, etc. But some of our time is free for us to choose how to spend it. What does the Word have to say about time? Jesus put it in perspective when He said:
Mat 6:31-33 (NRSV) Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?" or "What will we drink?" or "What will we wear?" For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Vine's dictionary defines "striving" or "seeking" in this verse as "covetously yearning for." Does the way you spend your time reflect a yearning for God's Kingdom, or for something else? Think of your time use in terms of a checkbook register. What does your time usage show you are yearning after? How much time are you deducting for relationships with family or friends? Does your time with them reflect accurately their importance to you? How much time is spent serving in your local church, using the abilities God has given you? He didn't give them to us, in order for them to lie dormant! And these expenditures can reap the interest of closer relationships and fulfilling service of God.
Too often, we squander this valuable resource of time. Two common time- wasters which I myself am sometimes guilty of, are worry and lack of organization. I wouldn't want to see a tabulation of the time I have let slip through my fingers, worrying about things! And of course worry itself is a sin; Jesus instructs us to avoid it. However, that is much easier said than done. When we find ourselves worrying, we need to pray then and there about that matter.
1 Pet 5:7 (NRSV) Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
We should ask God to help us leave it with Him and to focus our time, thought and energies where He wants us to focus them. I'm sure you have all heard the statistic -- something like 90% of what we worry about never happens anyway! And as Christ pointed out, our worrying can't change a thing. What a time-waster!
Another time-dissipator is simply a lack of organization. If we take the time to become and stay organized, we usually save time in the long run, whether it's time spent looking for lost car keys, birthday dates, books or whatever. I have found that trying to be more organized helps me save time, whether it's in teaching Sunday school, preparing for that teaching, studying for classes, in volunteer activities or cleaning up.
One habit I have -- but which I admit I can be guilty of taking too far -- is when possible, do two things at once. For example, I always have something to read in the car, in case of traffic jams, for stoplights etc. The same goes for waiting in doctors' offices etc. Instead of sitting there fretting over what we could be doing, we could take along mail we need to catch up on, or spend that time praying for those in the waiting room around us or those on our daily prayer lists.
But sometimes our perspective is skewed, and what we consider frustrating wastes of time -- interruptions -- are actually prime times of ministry if we are open to that. We need to ask God to help us see interruptions through His eyes. And it can be wise to simply leave a little time each day free for those pretty inevitable interruptions, because if we don't, we may pay for it by falling behind.
I also feel the need to remind us that time we spend being replenished is NOT wasted time. As my fellow writer David has reminded me at times, even Jesus took breaks. That type of time actually renders us better stewards of God's gifts to us. Our ministry won't be as fruitful if we are burnt out ourselves. It's all a matter of balance.
I hope and pray you will join me in trying to make the best use of the valuable gift of time that God gives us.