A QUICK QUESTION: WHAT IS TIME?
That question was probably a bit harder to answer than you thought, right? Time is one of those things that is instantly and intuitively understood, yet almost impossible to define. One succinct description of time is “the thing that clocks measure,” which is as good a description as any, but it still doesn’t quite explain WHAT it is. Scientists and philosophers continue to search for an inclusive definition of time, but it continues to elude them. One of the things we can, however, firmly conclude about time is that we have a finite amount of it available to us, and everything we do in our lives is bound within that finite amount of time. Alan Laiken said “Time equals Life. Therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” This quote is even more meaningful from a Christian standpoint, since we are called to be stewards of all the finite resources that God has given to us...including time.
When we are fully surrendered to God and are able to discern His will in these times or opportunities, then we are well on the way towards proper time-stewardship."
A STEWARD OF TIME?
Usually when we hear the word “stewardship,” we immediately think about the stewardship of money and other tangible things. Yet oftentimes, we overlook the importance of proper time management, which is an integral part of stewardship. After all, it takes time to get an education and begin a career, or to build a successful business from scratch. It takes time to earn money, accrue resources and assets, and generate reward. It also takes time to do the Lord’s work, evangelize, serve the church, and fulfill the gospel commission. Yet, quite often when the call goes out for us to work as servants for God in any capacity, one of the most common excuses is “I don’t have enough time to serve!” Is this a valid excuse? Don’t we all have the same gift of 24 hours to work with each day? How can we truly manage to balance our time? How can we achieve both God’s objectives for His church, and our own objectives for further stewardship?
BALANCING MY PRIORITIES
One of the most illuminating Biblical discourses on time is found in Ecclesiasties 3, which begins, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun,” and goes on to list many of those purposes. The key to proper time management is to recognize when these times and purposes present themselves in our lives and to act accordingly, without fear and with confidence. When we are fully surrendered to God and are able to discern His will in these times or opportunities, then we are well on the way towards proper time-stewardship. We will gain a proper balance in time spent for God’s service, and time spent for personal development and fulfilment. There are four things to keep in mind as we become better stewards of time:
We make time for that which is important to us. A rational person will always choose to make time for the thing which she sees to be more important and relevant to her interests. That leads to the question, “Where do our interests lie, and should they lie where they do?” Do we cry, “I don’t have enough time,” because our outside interests are crowding out the time for service to God? It may be sports, it may be social events, it may be our work or our careers, it may be TV programs or videogames, but whatever that thing may be, are we making it more important than God? The question may also be asked of Church work: “Are we making church work more important than God’s work?” I know that Sabbath is often the busiest day of the week for me, so I have to ask myself the question, “Is church work more important than spending time with God Himself?” Where our hearts lie, there our priorities will also lie.
We need to learn where our limits lie, and balance what we can do with the tasks we take on. Many persons have a strong aversion to the word “no.” They agree willingly (or unwillingly) to anything they are asked to do, either because they sincerely believe their name is Superman or Superwoman, or because they don’t want to seem rude and are therefore “unable” to say, “No.” Eventually they take on more than they can manage, they buckle under pressure, and some, or all, of the tasks they took on will remain unfinished, or poorly done. An accomplished time-manager will not only know which tasks are important and which require time, she will also know herself and the maximum workload that she can manage. Moses was one Bible leader who needed help with this matter. His father-in-law, Jethro, came to visit him (Ex. 18). Jethro saw Moses sitting from morning till night as judge for the entire nation of Israel. He pointed out that Moses was on a fast track to burn-out. Jethro suggested that he delegate authority, and give himself more time to focus on the more important matters. Many of us need to follow Jethro’s advice in our management of time, and learn when to say, “No,” when to ask for help, and delegate some of our duties.
WHERE YOUR HEART IS...
“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”
We need to prioritize the tasks we choose to take on. Let’s imagine that it’s 8 am on Sunday morning. I have laundry to wash, and I also have to study for an exam scheduled for Monday. Both tasks are important, both tasks need to be done today, and I have enough time to do both tasks properly. However, I choose to spend 8 hours washing my laundry, and 30 minutes studying for my exam. Would that be a wise decision? Many times, people will devalue the time available for their chosen duties, and spend too much time on things that don’t matter. Fifteen minutes of Bible reading versus 3 hours of “World of Warcraft.” Thirty minutes of worship versus 2 hours of watching “As The World Turns.” A 10-second phone-call home versus a whole afternoon of political debating with friends. Six hours of sleep on a Sabbath morning, instead of attending church. M. Scott Peck said, “Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” When we realize how valuable we are to God, then we will be able to place the same value on the time He has given us, which will drive us to properly use it for Him.
GIVING THE GIFT
God transcends time, so His requests of us are for OUR benefit: Time spent in service to God is not done for Him, since He doesn’t exist in our time-space continuum. Time spent in service to God is its own reward to us. It fulfils us and gives even more meaning to a life which follows the time-stream towards the inescapable points of death, the return of Jesus Christ and eternal life. When we think about the fact that only what we do for Christ will last, that should really nudge our time management up into the re-prioritizing zone. We cannot afford to spend our time on things that take away from God’s leading in our lives.
To answer our question, “What is time?” might be difficult, but at least we know that time is God’s gift to us. As we live in this moment right now, let us pledge, by God’s grace, to be true stewards of the time He has given us.
The Gaither Vocal Band sings: "We have this moment to hold in our hands
And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand
Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come
But we have this moment today!"