SBC Life Articles

Using Time Wisely

Time Management; Ordering Your Priorities; Making the Most of Your Time; How to Make Your Minutes Count; and Distinguishing the Important from the Urgent. The popularity of subjects like these indicates the struggles we each experience when seeking to use our time wisely. The saying, "I've got places to go, people to see, and things to do!" is descriptive of many in a society, which literally bombards us with claims on our time.

Ironically, though the best instructions anywhere on the wise use of time are available in God's "timeless" book, many dedicated Christians confess to being as pushed and weary as anyone else. They often lament that they "just don't even have time for a quiet time!"

The fifth pillar in our Kingdom Family Commitment states that time is a resource given to each person by God. My use of it, especially in matters related to my family, reflects my esteem for God. One day, I will give an account to Him for how I have spent the time He entrusted to me. As I order my life in concert with His will, I will have sufficient time for personal growth through prayer, for the study of God's Word, and for fulfilling every God-given responsibility related to my family.

A Limited, Non-Renewable Resource

Time is a created, limited, non-renewable resource that has been entrusted to us by God. As such, it demands as much attention to stewardship as everything else entrusted to us (money, opportunities, and abilities). In fact, this is even more true of time than it is of some other resources, such as money. Money, for instance, is actually a renewable resource. Once spent, there are actually methods (such as hard work) by which money can be replaced. Our time, on the other hand, may be extended by careful use (healthy diet, rest, etc.), but once spent it cannot be replaced.

Because time is a created, non-renewable resource entrusted to our care, it is imperative to know just what is involved in the proper stewardship, or "wise use" of it. After all, each of us will one day render an account to God for the manner in which we have "stewarded" our time. Will we have used it wisely? Will God have been honored by the manner in which we spent our time? The key is to find how to get the most benefit and give God the most glory with the time we have. The psalmist addresses this issue with the prayer that God would teach us to number (or count as valuable) our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

Time Must Be "Redeemed"

Remember the statement, "An idle mind is the devil's playground." Time, like everything else in God's created order, fell under the curse of sin when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden. And, like everything else, it must be "redeemed" if it is to bring glory to God and benefit to man. In other words, time has a natural tendency to run toward evil and must be claimed back by the believer on the basis of Christ's atoning work on the cross. You must take deliberate steps to use time wisely. Your adversary already has plans for your time and you must actively redeem or rescue it from him. That is why the apostle, Paul, exhorts us to walk wisely, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).

Time Must Be Ordered According to God's Will

In our efforts to redeem the time, God wants us to be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:17). This is the only possible way for us to conduct ourselves properly, not as a fools, but as wise men instead (Ephesians 5:15). Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us how we can have God-directed paths:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto you own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths (emphasis mine).

As members of God's Kingdom Family the manner in which we use our time should be impacted by our radical devotion to the Lord, a reasonable departure from our own assumptions, as well as a resolute decision to obey God in everything. We are to trust in the Lord with all our heart.

Eric Liddel's trust in the Lord was the subject of the widely acclaimed motion picture Chariots of Fire. It was a trust that led him to depart from a much-publicized competition in the 1924 Olympics, a Sunday running of the 100 meter, a race he was almost certain to win, in order to honor the Lord on His day. That kind of dedication to principle, and the manner in which it guided his use of time, later sustained him on the mission field and then as a prisoner of war. God honored Liddel's departure from the worldly norm far beyond all expectation, and he returned to England, a hero, having won a bronze medal in the 200m and the gold in the 400m.

The prophet Daniel had a significant influence upon at least two worldly regimes in his day — first, the Babylonian, then the Medo-Persian. In both instances, his personal use of time was significantly different than the norms of the society in which he lived. It is interesting that Daniel is the only individual other than Christ (see John 18:2) whose life was plotted against on the basis of the time he devoted prayer. The moment a decree was signed forbidding prayer to anyone other than Darius, Daniel went to his home and prayed three times a day as he always did before (Daniel 6:10). As in the case of his physical diet under Babylonian rule, Daniel was unafraid and unashamed to depart from the cultural norm in order to obey God. Yet he conducted himself with such reason, grace, and trustworthiness that his counsel was often sought out and heeded.

It would be difficult to find someone God has used in a significant fashion who was not also consistent in the matter of daily acknowledging Him, bringing Him into the issues of life, seeking His direction, and acting in concert with it. Martin Luther spoke of having so much to do that he could not think of beginning without spending at least four hours in prayer. Hudson Taylor, mission pioneer and founder of the China Inland Mission (now called the Overseas Missionary Fellowship) spent grueling days in travel. Those traveling with him wrote of seeing the flicker of a candle behind his curtain around two o'clock each morning and knowing he was "having his time with God." David Brainerd's diary tells of nights of prayer in spite of a debilitating illness which took his life at the age of thirty. No wonder it is said that God brought revival among the Native Americans along the eastern seaboard on the wings of Brainerd's prayers. John Hyde of India writes of winning to Christ first one, then two, and ultimately an average of four persons each day, after his mornings spent in prayer.

God has promised that we can have His direction for our paths! In other words, we can redeem the time, using it for our benefit and His glory. It is a matter of acknowledging Him "in all our ways," whether seemingly insignificant or obviously important. Sometimes we have the tendency to think that the things "done to God's glory" must be big, significant, attention grabbing, and life impacting. In reality, God is not so much honored by our doing some great thing as He is in our doing all the things He puts before us in a great way. Thus the importance of practicing the discipline of acknowledging Him, moment by moment.

Sufficient Time

How often have you heard someone lament, "I just don't have enough hours in the day!" or "There is no way I can do all that I must do in the time available." Members of God's Kingdom Family have made an exciting discovery when following God's principles for the wise use of time: As we order our lives in concert with God's will, we have sufficient time for personal growth through prayer, for the study of God's Word, and for fulfilling every God-given responsibility related to our family. This is an awesome prospect!

I have a pastor friend who has an incredible knack for accomplishing a multitude of things without ever seeming pushed, harried, or distressed. Over the years I have carefully observed his life. Like Jesus, he has a remarkable capacity for walking slowly and attentively among His flock. And, like Jesus, it seems that at the close of each day, he has properly dealt with all the issues "heaped on his plate" throughout its course. He has time for his family, time for an appropriate amount of recreational activity, time to relate with others outside the normal traffic pattern of his life. According to him, there is always time for those important things if a man will take time for that which is most important…the practice of consistent, early devotion. It is during this time, he relates, that God brings order and discipline to a life that would cause the average person to panic.

My friend relates that he suffers occasional "crashes" when everything seems out of control. But these occur, according to him, when for some reason or other, he has been less than attentive to the Lord in his early morning devotions. He views these periodic moments when life seems to fall down around his ears as God's "calls to worship," and he seeks to quickly return to the practice that has sustained him through the years.

Several years ago our church received a request from a lady who lived in a remote town in a Western state. She had heard our radio broadcast and wondered if we would send tapes which she could play while she and her family were having breakfast together each morning. "My husband and children are not believers," she wrote, "so anything you could send me would be of great help." The request was processed, and we began sending her the tapes she requested.

Some time later, I drove into the church parking lot early one Sunday morning just behind another car with an out-of-state license. As a husband and wife got out of the car, I introduced myself to them and asked where they were from. When they told me, I commented that interestingly we had been sending some tapes to a lady in the same area. Then, in my typical foot-in-mouth fashion, I said, "She's got a husband who is as lost as a goose in a snow storm!"

"Yep, I know," replied the man, "I'm him, and that's her!" I gulped and did my well-practiced shuck-and-jive routine. "Aw, don't worry, preacher," he continued. "I was out on a cattle-buying trip and began thinking about those tapes we've been listening to every morning. I called my wife, asked her to catch a plane, and meet me here. Now, can you tell me how to get saved?"

God has incredible blessings in store for those who are committed to using their time wisely! You will one day give an account to Him for how you have spent this non-renewable resource entrusted to your care. By the manner in which you use it, you can bring glory and honor to your Lord. In the meantime, just like the couple above, through the wise use of it you will have time for your own personal growth and for fulfilling every responsibility God has assigned you, including those in your own Kingdom Family!

Adapted from Tom Elliff's, Unbreakable: The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family, Broadman &Holman, 2003. A further study of the Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family can be found in the newly released seven-week Bible study, Come Home to the Heart of God, LifeWay Press, 2003. Information regarding future Kingdom Family Conferences can be found at LifeWay.com.

Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family

Honoring God's Authority
(Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 5:21; 6:1-4)

Respecting Human Life
(Ex. 20:13; Psa. 139:13-16; Prov. 16:31)

Exercising Moral Purity
(Ex. 20:14; Job 31:1; Matt. 5:27-30; 1 Cor. 6:18-19)

Serving My Church
(Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:11-16; 5:25; Heb. 10:25)

Using Time Wisely
(Deut. 6:6-7; Psa. 90:12; Luke 18:16; Eph. 5:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Practicing Biblical Stewardship
(Gen. 1:28; Prov. 3:9-10; Mal. 3:8-11; Luke 6:38; 12:48; 1 Cor. 4:2, 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:7)

Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ
(Matt. 28:19-20; John 4:38-39; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16; Rev. 22:17)

    About the Author

  • Tom Elliff