Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Make the Most of Your Time

Consciousness of time jumped dramatically in the eighth century when Pope Paul I gave the Frankish King Pepin the Short a water clock that operated an alarm. The clock, which was created to help us control our time, now seems to control our lives.

Many of us today wonder, how do we take control of our time, instead of allowing time to control us?

Time, like money, must be budgeted, or it will slip between your fingers. 

Jesus and Time

It’s helpful to remember that the Lord Himself was under constant pressures of time while He walked this earth. Jesus’ friends and enemies alike (for different reasons) were always pursuing Him. His time was always in demand.

And yet, reading the Gospels, one doesn’t get the feeling that Jesus was ever hurried. He managed to have adequate amounts of time alone with the Father for prayer and meditation, and He spent adequate time with His disciples and others. He also often rested.

What was His secret? I think there are three keys to Jesus’ amazing use of time:

  1. Jesus clearly understood His own mission. He measured the use of His time against that mission. Not one of His actions was extraneous or unnecessary.
  2. Jesus understood His own limits in a human body. He spent 30 years in relative obscurity and privacy preparing for three years of important activity. He knew that time must be properly budgeted for the gathering of inner strength and resolve in order to compensate for one’s weaknesses when spiritual warfare begins. Private moments with the Father were fixed line items in Jesus’ time budget.
  3. Jesus set time aside for training the Twelve. He knew His priorities. He knew which men would perpetuate His mission long after He ascended into heaven. Because of this eternal perspective, it was never difficult for Jesus to say a firm no to invitations and demands that might have looked good or acceptable to us.

Driving all three of these keys was Jesus’ unwavering commitment to seeking and pleasing His Father’s will above all else. It’s a commitment you and I need to make, too, if we’re to spend our brief earthly pilgrimages well.

Thus, a first step in making sure time doesn’t control you is to prioritize according to God’s standards rather than the world’s—based on what He says important instead of what other people say is important. We gain (and realign ourselves with) that eternal perspective during times of repentance and rest (Isaiah 30:15), intentionally cultivating a relationship with the Lord.

Sealing Time Leaks and Seizing Opportunities

If we want to make the most of our time on earth as Jesus did, we also must begin to seal the “time leaks” and allocate our productive hours in light of our capabilities, our limits, and our priorities. Here are three suggestions to get you started:1

  1. Find your own rhythms. There are certain tasks you accomplish best at certain times and under certain conditions. You need to discover the best times for solitude, for study, and for people. It is wise to keep a standard bedtime, which will help maximize the daily rhythm. There are also weekly and annual rhythms (summer vs. winter). Budgeting time according to your personal rhythms, you can avoid spasmodic exertions, excessive stress, and emotional debt.
  2. Set clear criteria. When requests and invitations come to you, how do you decide which to accept and which to turn down? You will need to say “no” to some of the good things you want to do in order to say “yes” to the best things. I recommend in Life in the Presence of God setting clear criteria for choosing which things to do and which not to do; run every incoming opportunity through these criteria. We often find it hard to say “no” because of a desire to gain others’ approval or out of a sense of self-importance. But it is wrong for us to continually live in a state of owing debts of time to others—of being obligated for more time than we have to give. Developing predetermined criteria, and committing yourself to them (it helps to share them with a spouse or close friend), can head off giving in to the temptation to make a decision with the wrong motivation.
  3. Budget your time in advance. Plan ahead. Weeks in advance, first-tier priorities should be scheduled in your calendar: spiritual disciplines, mental disciplines, sabbath rest, family commitments. Second-tier priorities should include the main work to which you’re committed (if you work outside the home). This way, the legitimate demands of other people will flow around the top priorities and available slots, rather than the other way around.

Enough Time

None of us has all the time in the world. Each of us is somewhere on the timeline of a comparatively short sojourn on this planet. At the same time, we have each been given all the time we need to accomplish what God desires for us.

May you use the time and opportunities He’s given you wisely and well (Ephesians 5:16), always putting His kingdom purposes first.

Copyright © 2019 Ken Boa, used with permission.

1 I’m indebted to Gordon MacDonald and his book Ordering Your Private World for influencing this list. Check out my article “Viewing Time God’s Way,” in which I outline his helpful “laws of unseized time.”

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