By Ron Clarkson. (Used with permission. More of Clarkson’s sermons can be found on in the Internet at sermonsearch.com)
Summary: A time bandit is any controllable activity that hinders our efforts to accomplish a task.
Working, O Christ, With Thee (Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #582)
A man went to see his doctor to get results from his medical tests. The doctor said, I have some bad news and some good news. Which do you want to hear first?
I’d like to hear the good news first, the patient replied.
The good news, exclaimed the physician, is that you have only twenty-four hours to live.
The man was flabbergasted. Only 24 hours! I can’t possibly get all of my affairs in order in 24 hours! I can’t believe this. WHAT COULD BE WORSE? He asked, What is the bad news?
The doctor embarrassingly responded, The bad news is I was supposed to tell you yesterday, but I forgot.
We all feel like we are running out of time, and are continually trying to figure out how we can get more. Unfortunately, time is a fixed commodity. Everyone has the same amount—60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. The difference is in the way we use time. Time is the passing of life, and it passes at a consistent rate for everyone.
(Read Pr 6:6-11). There are other robbers that can creep in and pilfer one’s life. These robbers I refer to as time bandits. A time bandit is any controllable activity that hinders our efforts to accomplish a task. Notice I said controllable. There are some uncontrollable events, but much of what we think to be uncontrollable is really just poor time management habits. What are some time bandits in life?
Poor planning or scheduling. Emphasis on day-to-day activities almost always upstages planning. And putting out today’s fires takes priority over planning for the future. Ironically, fire fighting interferes with fire prevention. This often leads to crisis management—the tyranny of the urgent. The urgent is not always most important. The tyranny of the urgent lies in the distortion of priorities, adorning minor projects with major status. Often we become a slave to the tyranny of the urgent, and yet others seem to thrive on it. Some receive gratification in overcoming crises, so people create a crisis by procrastinating, allowing or possibly even planning a crisis.
The phone. The need to control phone time by screening calls is essential. The telephone can be an effective tool for time management, or can steal away valuable time.
Junk mail. Stephanie Winston, author of Getting Organized recommends applying the TRAF system. T: Trash it, R: Refer it, A: Act on it, F: File it.
Over commitment. Supermom, chauffeur, coach, tutor, maid, Sabbath school teacher, and church slave have forgotten the first word they and their children ever learned to say—NO!
Interruptions/Drop-ins. I read a book this week that suggests you should leave your coat hanging by the door so if someone drops by your home you can look through the peephole, see who it is, then put your coat on and act as if you’re just leaving!
Television. A recent Nielsen survey reported that in the United States children under six watch 27 hours of television a week, women over 55 watch 36 hours per week, and a high school graduate has spent 50 percent more time in front of the TV than in the classroom. All of us need to closely monitor our viewing habits, making sure the tube is not replacing another priority in our life. How can we eliminate time bandits? One step to eliminate them is revealed in the next scripture reading.
An important principle in time-management appears in this account. Martha was a hard worker. She was busy serving Jesus, while her sister chose to learn from Him. Martha was angry and complained to Jesus. She was caught by busyness. There is a great difference between activity and accomplishment. People tend to get caught in an activity trap. They get involved in a variety of tasks that do not contribute to their predetermined goal or objective.
We learn several time-management principles from this story. First, Martha was so busy she overlooked the important opportunity to learn from Jesus. People get caught up in the fury of action and assume they are accomplishing something worthwhile. Secondly, Martha was unaware that she had lost sight of the goal. She was distracted by her many duties. When we lose sight of the goal, we lose our proper focus. Then we begin to focus on activity, and that becomes our goal.
Thirdly, Martha criticized her sister because she wasn’t busy. People caught up in busyness deceive themselves into thinking they are producing more than others because they are busier. Fourthly, Jesus pointed out that Martha’s pace was creating stress within her. This is an end result of busyness—stress and tension!
The second step in eliminating time bandits involves incorporating interruption time into your schedule. We need to learn to anticipate emergencies and interruptions in advance. There are scores of unavoidable emergencies that occur. For me, they always come on Friday. On Friday I simply don’t take calls. It is my day for writing my sermon. But almost without exception, there is an unavoidable emergency. Perhaps someone becomes critically ill or dies. The great thing about scheduling interruptions is, if the interruption doesn’t occur, you have additional time to devote to your prioritized task (Read Ep 5:15-16).
In order to make the best use of time, we need a system to help us identify time bandits. Therefore, we need to monitor our personal calendars. This is one of the most obvious, yet frequently neglected tools of time management—maintaining an organized personal activity schedule. Sometimes we dislike making a daily schedule because we don’t want to be answerable to it. But monitoring our daily calendar helps to keep us accountable. Time bandits frequently disguise as legitimate activities. Therefore it is extremely important to record everything you do and compare it to your plan of action. Then make sure your actions are consistent with your priorities, or enforce your priorities (Read Mk 1:32-38).
Learning to set priorities and keeping them is one of the most important, but difficult aspects of eliminating time bandits. Someone has said that when you’re up to your neck in alligators it doesn’t help much to be reminded that your priority was to drain the swamp. Jesus had constant demands on his time. Needy people were everywhere. But in order to do what the Father directed, he had to decline some activities. In this passage Jesus worked overtime healing people and casting out demons. The next morning he got up before daylight and went out to pray. The disciples came around and said,
Everyone is looking for you. Boy, were they impressed yesterday! But Jesus said, We need to go somewhere else. There is another place I need to be. He never lost sight of his priorities. When demands threatened to interfere with His Father’s will, he quickly said, No. Obviously there were still unmet needs back in the city, but Jesus had to stay by the important task at hand—his first priority.
There are many good activities that can capture our time. It is not always a choice between good and bad. These are the easy choices. We often need to choose between what is better and best. Like Jesus, we need to enforce the priorities in our lives and do foremost what God has called us to do.
What time bandits are putting your life out of balance? Maybe your work is suffering, and as a result your job performance is less than admirable. God stresses the importance of working hard, with honesty and integrity. A recent study reported in Newsweek stated that the average employee robs his employer of some four hours per week, costing 9.5 billion dollars overall. Maybe your church life is suffering. You might be over committed and may not be enjoying the pleasure and privilege of working for Christ. Or maybe you have been sitting back, saying someone else should get involved.
No one recognized the value of using time wisely more than Jesus. He knew he only had three years to train a handful of men, and in the end, He accomplished the task. That training climaxed with Jesus’ ultimate act of service—the ultimate act of love—his death. Not just for the disciples or the Jerusalem community, but for each one of us.
Is your life in balance? Maybe you’re missing the all-important ingredient of having a well-balanced life, a totally fulfilled life that has blessed meaning and purpose. This life is the only one worth living—a new life in Christ. Our heavenly Father offers it to you. Take it. Accept it. Trust Him. God is in the business of changing lives.