Time Management

Following the mad rush of the holiday shopping season a leading bookstore advertised a clearance of all calendars. Buy one at 75% off and get a second one free – what a bargain. I scanned the counter and one seemed to jump out at me. The caption on the calendar was “It’s all about me, all year long because who else would it be about?” In another part of the bookstore there were two books, the titles of which I found interesting. The first by Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D entitled Generation Me described anyone born from the 1970s through the 1990s. Along with W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D. she co-authored The Narcissism Epidemicwith a subtitle Living in the age of entitlement. It all sounds so familiar but the roots of this philosophy can be traced back to Genesis 3.

The whole idea of a “sense of entitlement” has reached pandemic proportions. It really funnels down to one thing: an attitude that “it’s all about me, what I want, what I deserve, what makes me happy and feel good.” This concept that “it’s owed to me” will influence how I use my free or leisure time.

What is time? It’s the most important unrenewable resource that we have. Once gone, it cannot be reclaimed or relived. How we treat time is vital because it is a stewardship for which each one is accountable. Paul told the Corinthians that, “it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful” (1Cor 4:2). My use of leisure time is a reflection of my values and interests, what’s important to me. With the uncertainty of how many days or years we may have it’s important that we “redeem the time” (Eph 5:16), making the best use of the time available to us.

We tend to compartmentalize our life into three broad categories: secular, spiritual, and social. This really should be a non-starter for the believer. Our life should be seamless and transparent being guided by the overriding principle “for me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21).

Our western culture is geared to maximize leisure time. Flex hours, condensed work week, job sharing, and phased in or early retirement all focus on maximizing our free time. Besides money, it seems to be the one thing society craves most. More time for ourselves: to do what we want, when we want. We generally call it “leisure” or “free time. It’s also called “discretionary” time, those hours or days when one is unencumbered from life’s normal activities or daily responsibilities.

Every day we make choices. Some are inconsequential in that they have no major impact upon our life. But when it comes to free time and how I occupy those hours or days, choices are very important. Regardless of what stage in life we are in, students through to seniors, what activities we engage in, or where we go is vital. There will always be competing and conflicting interests for our time. Finding the right balance will always be a challenge.

Everyone needs a break, a vacation, a change, a time to just relax. Recognizing the need for a change, a rest from the busyness of service, the Lord called His disciples to “come apart and rest awhile.” As they needed a break from the pressures that were associated from constant activity, so we do in our day. That rest, however, was not independent of the Lord, for He went with them (Mark 6:31). That’s an important principle. David expressed it this way: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” (Psa 23:2). The Lord will bring a believer into a place of rest and refreshment, the green pastures and the waters of rest, that is, if we let Him. How different from where we often choose to lay ourselves down. Whatever our leisure activities, spiritual principles should not be relaxed or compromised. We must always remember “we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

The spectrum of available leisure activities with their entertainment and amusement seems endless. Isn’t it true that the world attempts to allure us subtly so that before we know it we are entrapped and entangled in a web from which it is hard to break away? We can’t say as Paul did of Satan “we are not ignorant of his devices” (2Cor 2:11).

Or society is geared towards entertainment and amusement. Has there ever been a day when there has been so much available, in and out of the home, to amuse, entertain or otherwise occupy both our mind and time? It is easy to be caught up and swept away unwittingly by them.

We have all heard questions like, “what’s wrong with it?” and “what’s the harm in it anyway?” With all the options for engaging free time, how should I decide what is right and what is wrong? The Bible, though not a rule book, does provide principles by which we can make decisions to guide our choices. An overriding principle that should influence every aspect of my life is “ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price” (1Cor 6:19-20).

Paul does say though that “all things are lawful” (1Cor 10:23). Doesn’t that give a lot of room for discretion or liberty? In What The Bible Teaches Mr. Hunter says “‘all’ is not meant to be taken in an absolute sense. What God forbids cannot be allowed. Wrong is wrong and sin is sin.” Paul emphasizes that I need to consider the impact that my actions and activities will have upon others as well as myself. One test is, will it edify, build up, or will it detract from my spiritual growth and usefulness? “None of us liveth unto himself” (Rom 14:7).

No one will deny the need to keep or get physically fit since exercise is beneficial to our health. The Scriptures tell us that there is value in exercise for “bodily exercise profiteth a little” (1Tim 4. 8). While bodily exercise is by no means wrong, it only profits up to a point. Godliness goes all the way, in all directions, both in this life and for the life to come. Balance is needed in determining how much time we can afford to give to such activities.

Parents with young children need to spend time playing and enjoying them without feeling guilty. This is not a waste of time as our children can learn valuable lessons through activities with them. As parents we need to be available for our children or eventually we could lose them. If we are too busy for our family, we are busier than God intended. Neglecting family is not an option. Many have paid dearly for doing so.

Unquestionably we benefit greatly by the advances made in technology; in fact we can hardly keep up with the changes. It seems that we are so influenced and controlled by technology that we can’t live without our iphones, ipods, blackberry, cell phones, computers, gaming devices, home theater, and entertainment centers. The computer used wisely can be a tremendous help in both my secular and spiritual life. However the opposite is also true. Where would any of us be today without the computer? Wisdom and care is needed when using the internet. Is there benefit in spending hours on the computer playing games, watching DVD’s, surfing the net, or on chat lines? What about the use of E-mail, text messaging and Facebook? It may be a quick way to communicate with friends but is it being abused by the amount of time spent on it? Tally it up? Is the way I use technology hindering or helping me spiritually? Is it really good use of time? It is honoring to the Lord? Even in the use of technology we need moderation.

Though the question was asked centuries ago, it still resonates today, “Will a man rob God?” (Mal 3:8). Is God being robbed by the total time I spend on the computer, playing sports, with my hobbies, or other activities, or maybe by just plain wasting time? If I have a genuine interest to be a real help in the assembly, in gospel work, to the Lord’s people, sacrifice and commitment will be involved. It will require denying self of legitimate activities so I can spend time alone with the Word of God and in prayer. There are no shortcuts; it is hard work.

Isn’t it strange how we always want to justify ourselves. Haggai’s day was no different than ours. When challenged, everyone made excuses for spending their time on their own things or interests. The people said, “The time is not come … that the Lord’s house should be built” (Hag 1:2). What was the problem? They were neglecting the house of God while comfortably enjoying themselves. When was it ever going to be the right time? In the NT we have a similar issue when the Lord Jesus said to his disciples, “Say not ye there are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest” (John 4: 35). In both cases the focus was wrong. Those in Haggai’s days were told to “consider your ways,” while the disciples were directed to, “lift up your eyes … look on the fields.” Both exhortations are applicable to us today.

How encouraging it is to see believers give up leisure and vacation time to help both in their home assembly as well as farther afield in various types of gospel work, whether it be distribution of texts, tracts and invitations, children’s work, and various other ways. Daily we should be seeking opportunities of how we can use some of our free time for the Lord.

Peter speaks of “the time past of our life.” While it refers to unsaved days it can be applied to our Christian life. There is no point in looking back; we can’t change it but we can learn from it. It is important that we take the past out of the future. But there is the “rest of our time” (1Peter 4:2-3), the moments, the days that remain are ours to seize and make the most of for the Lord. By making right choices we can be “laying up … a good foundation against the time to come” (1Tim 6:19).

Remember Demas? At one time a help and blessing to Paul, Demas let him down when needed most. What happened? Yes, Demas was quite likely in assembly fellowship, but the world got its grip on him because of wrong choices. Love for the world, its ease and passing pleasures resulted in waning spiritual interests. No longer was he available and useful for the Lord. Be on the alert, it can still happen today.

Time – it is a stewardship. How are we using it? For this world or the world to come?