Recently, I said to our pastoral staff that this summer has seemed so incredibly busy with weddings, funerals, retreats, meetings, trips, counseling and follow-up that I have only ridden my Harley one time! The summer is supposed to be a little slower-paced. What am I doing wrong? Why don’t I have more “free time?” Which brought to my mind an article I had come across earlier titled, “If You Are 35, You Only Have 500 Days To Live.” (The article really bothered me because I am well over 35!) The article contends that when you subtract the time you spend sleeping, working, grooming, eating, traveling, and participating in other time-stealers, you have only 500 days to spend as you wish if you live another 36 years! That is a scary and probably discouraging thought, isn’t it?
This illustration underscores a truth. If you are going to be effective with your life, you must learn to manage your time. Time management is really self-management. Ecclesiastes 8:6 says, “There is a time and procedure for everything, which produces great stress upon a man.” The problem is not the clock or calendar but our use of what we have. To get angry at the clock is like getting angry at the bathroom scales; both are simply a means of measurement. All of us, who are conscientious and responsible, have asked, “How do I balance all that I have to do at work, at home, and in my Christian walk?” I have developed a new understanding and appreciation for Ephesians 5:15-17, which speaks to us about the essence of our time. I believe this passage becomes even more relevant as we see the candles multiply on our birthday cakes and as we think about all we would like to do. I am challenged by this passage to develop three consistent habits.
I Must Analyze My Stewardship of Time (Eph. 5:15)
There are many ways to paraphrase this verse. One is, “I must be careful of how I live.” Which includes paying close attention to my schedule. I must give some serious consideration to what I do with my time. We must not be foolish but wise. This verse is telling us to analyze the use of our time. Have you ever wondered, Where did all my time go? We don’t all have the same amount of talent, money, or opportunities; but at least on the short-term, we all have the same amount of time. That being true, why do some people get more accomplished with theirs?
In order to save or redeem time, you should first know where you are spending it. Keep a time log. Record how you spend your minutes and hours. This exercise will not only enlighten but also motivate you! A log will show you where you are “leaking” valuable time, like a hole in your gas tank. Tracking is why Weight Watchers works so well; it is the same thing a budget does with your money. God says if you are not careful with your time, you will end up wasting it, just like the lost people around you! The old ditty is true:
Just a tiny little minute, only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it didn’t choose it.
I will suffer if I lose it; give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.
The second principle in this passage builds upon the first.
I Must Utilize My Discretionary Time (Eph. 5:16)
We must make the most of every opportunity. Paul challenges us to be alert to all possibilities that come our way. The Latin phrase carpe diem or “seize the day” accurately captures this verse. The word “redeem” means “to buy up, to purchase”; or maybe we would say, “Invest wisely.” The word “time” in our English Bible is not “chronos,” measurable in hours or minutes, but the Greek word “kairos,” which is better translated “opportunities” or “possibilities.” So the Bible is telling us to be “opportunity managers.”
In the ancient world, at many ports a ship would have to wait for high tide before it could come into safe harbor. The Latin term for this situation was ob portu; a ship was “towards the port,” waiting for the right moment. Believers must do in the spiritual realm what the captain and crew had to accomplish in the nautical world—be ready and then seize the opportunity!
There are two ways to utilize this present time: First, stop procrastinating—do it now. What if someone deposited $86,400 in your bank account every morning with the understanding that any money left over at the end of the day would be lost? Would you try to spend the money or let it go to waste? I think we would get very good at knowing how to spend that money each day! Every day, God give each of us 86,400 seconds. That means you need to work on that advanced degree. You need to take lessons on that musical instrument. You need to start that ministry you have talked about for years. You need to read through the Bible this year. Stop telling yourself you will do it later!
Second, start eliminating—quit the unnecessary. Get rid of the time-wasters in your life. First Corinthians 10:23 says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient [constructive].” Many things in life are not necessarily wrong; they just aren’t necessary. Unquestionably, the biggest time-waster in our society is TV. We all need occasional diversions, but how we use our discretionary time defines who we are and what we become! Here are some practical suggestions to help you get the most out of your time: Standardize your weekly schedule. For me as a pastor, I have the goal of dividing my time into three equal categories as preacher, shepherd, and manager. Use a calendar and filing system to organize yourself and the information you take in. Set long-term goals and relate your work to it. Delegate responsibilities and tasks to others. Learn to say no to trivial matters. Always carry a book, a CD, or scripture verse cards with you wherever you go.
I Must Prioritize My Spiritual Time (Eph. 5:17)
The final related thought the Holy Spirit leaves for us is this: “Do not live aimlessly but discover what God wants you to do.” We cannot talk about time management without talking about knowing what God wants us to do. The key to a productive life is being in the will of God. The biggest time-waster in the world is being out of God’s will because you are wasting your life. You have just enough time to do God’s will. He would not have a plan for your life and then not give you enough time to do it. If you don’t believe you have enough time to do God’s will, it could mean one of the following:
- You are doing something God never intended you to do.
- You are not doing something God intends you to do.
- You are doing the right thing but in the wrong way.
We know the will of God only as we know His Word: First Timothy 2:3,4 says, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth.” First Thessalonians 4:3 says, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” Romans 12:1,2 says, “I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies. . . . what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Satan’s most effective lie is not “there is no heaven or hell” but “there is no hurry.” If you do not prioritize and make God’s Word and God’s work a vital part of your schedule, you will never do His will. Lesser things will always become the enemy of the best thing. After you have been in eternity for 10,000 years, what difference will a lot of the things you are clamoring after mean then? But you will be glad you prayed and witnessed to the lost. You will be thrilled that you discipled that new convert or taught God’s Word to a Sunday school class. You will be amazed at how God rewarded the dollars you gave to His work. You will be eternally grateful that you discovered and did the will of God with your life!
Sadly, for many Christians worship and service are not high priorities but matters of convenience. If they feel tired, if they have family or friends in town, if their favorite team is playing, or if the weather is bad, ministry takes a backseat. I have no desire to force this passage to say something it does not, but I believe it could accurately be summarized this way: Be wise in an evil society, seize every spiritual opportunity, live out God’s will passionately!Les Heinze has served as senior pastor of Red Rocks Baptist Church (formerly known as South Sheridan Baptist Church) in Lakewood, Colorado, since 1990. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Bible and a master’s degree in Pastoral Studies from Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC). He also received the Doctor of Sacred Ministries degree from Northland Baptist Bible College (Dunbar, WI). God has blessed him and his wife, Starry, with three children.