Wise time-management principles can help you fulfill all your physical and spiritual responsibilities.
Ten years ago, Geoff and Karen became baptized members of God's one true Church. Thrilled to be freed from many time-consuming but false traditions of this world, they settled into a diligent and enthusiastic study of God's Word and God's way of life. They breathed sighs of relief when sunset marked the beginning of God's weekly day of rest. The Sabbath rejuvenated them physically and spiritually, and they felt refreshed and ready to begin a new week. But as the years passed, other activities crowded in on them. During the week and almost every Friday evening they were either entertaining others or being invited out. The Sabbath used to be a distinct day of rest. Now sunset seemed to signal tiresome hours of entertaining. Time for quiet reflection and worship was lost to the needs of hospitality. Then there was the weekly Bible study conducted by the Church. It involved rushing home from work, gulping down a meal, a frustrating drive through city traffic, a battle with falling asleep during the study — and even more tiredness at work the next day. Then Geoff joined the Church speaking club. Another rush home from work, another hastily consumed meal and impatient words with the family. The little time for prayer was being squeezed out by activities. Personal study became little more than just reading Church literature — when there was time. Then Geoff was invited to a Church leadership training class, and soon he was assisting the deacons. Now there was even less time with his family, as he was too busy serving others. The little free time he did have on the Sabbath diminished even further. And almost every Sunday was spent at youth activities, church socials, service projects or fund raising. Geoff's and Karen's health deteriorated. Their children seemed emotionally disturbed and their marriage lurched perilously close to shipwreck. Yet all this seemed in the best interests of serving others. Wasn't it? They simply did not have the time anymore to do all the things that crowded in on them. Where do you find the time to be a growing Christian? Is there some great secret you haven't yet discovered? How can you find time for quality prayer, absorbing Bible study and meaningful time for your marriage and family, and to be truly refreshed on God's Sabbath?
The key to time management
The Bible holds the key to using time. Christians are admonished by the apostle Paul to use time wisely, "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). Christian growth occurs during a time span. And every person has as much time as the next, whether paper boy or prime minister, farmer or executive, housewife or teacher. But how differently people use their 24 hours every day! Proper management of time depends on proper management of yourself. You either use time profitably or you let it pass you by. You control what happens. And time let go is irretrievable. Have you observed how quickly time passes when you are absorbed in something and how slowly it drags when you are bored? If you do not want to do something, you will find a dozen reasons for not doing so. Yet if you really want to do something, nothing stops you. As Christians, we are given biblical priorities, and our time must be carved out to fulfill that calling. When there is a conflict of interest, something must go. A Christian will either live genuinely by what God requires or live superficially, doing a little bit of everything but not enough of anything. And God is not amused by religious lip service. To be quality Christians, we need to maintain three priorities above all other personal needs and desires. Let's look at these three areas.
Time with God
In this modern age, how can you consistently make time for God? Simple. You decide to. You make a commitment that God comes first in your daily allocation of 24 hours. Jesus Christ promises that if you seek God first, then the physical needs of this life will be supplied (Matthew 6:33). In most cases it's best to decide that your first use of the day is with your Father in heaven. Begin the day with prayer. Otherwise you become quickly preoccupied with daily routine. You wash, get dressed, eat breakfast and then exclaim: "Oh, look at the time — I must rush!" After work you come home and have a meal, do some chores, try to relax, then it's bedtime and again you say, "Oh, no, I haven't prayed yet." This is giving God the leftovers of your day. Give Him the first part! You will feel better and have freer use of the rest of the hours for yourself. What about Bible study? Decide that time must be set aside. First thing in the morning is ideal and some study can work as an aid to prayer. Further study can be done later when more convenient. In a rushed schedule try these suggestions: If you commute on a train or bus, use travel time to read Church literature. If you drive your own car, take advantage of cassette tape readings from the Bible. Another idea is to write out key scriptures on small cards, then practice committing them to memory. Carry them with you for free moments. Housewives, too, can keep scripture cards close by when washing dishes and ironing or close to their main work area. You can also listen to cassette tape readings of the Bible as you clean house. Busy mothers with preschool children often find their time is taken up with picking up after little ones. If your children tire you out and consume your free time, then decide to change the situation. One helpful method is to sit small children down on a rug with some books or toys and command that they stay there quietly. Discipline them lovingly but firmly for leaving the rug, until they follow your instruction. When they can stay in one place and play quietly for a while, you have some time to study, pray or use as you choose. It can be done!
Time with family
What if your mate or family do not share your interest in God's Word? Remember that Christians are called to peace in the home and to be good examples. Avoid shutting yourself off in a room to study if other family members feel you are neglecting them. When they wish you to spend time with them, be available. Husbands and wives are sensitive about neglect caused by an unbalanced example. Study privately. Find acceptable ways and moments to do it so that your conduct is exemplary before those who do not yet believe God's way. One of the restored truths of this end-time work of God is the nurturing of the family. And extreme preoccupation with careers, entertaining, service to others and social clubs will not be acceptable excuses before God for having neglected your vital family responsibilities. Paul wrote, "If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Timothy 5:8). What does provide for them mean? Much more than just providing financially, "providing" also means caring for emotional and physical needs. It is giving your time. Where does your family rate in these priorities?
Time for yourself
All humans need to slow down, rest and recuperate sometime. If you are a workaholic or an inveterate socialite and entertainer, evaluate whether all such pursuits are spiritually helping your relationship with God, your mate, your family or yourself. Time is needed for quiet reflection and meditation. You must make and take personal time to be a Christian.
Questions to ask
If you find that you just don't have enough time, then ask yourself these questions: What are you doing now that really doesn't need doing? Eliminate the unnecessary. What are you doing that could be done just as well by someone else? Learn to delegate. What are you doing that wastes your time or the time of others? Have you observed that often what you postpone you abandon anyway? Whatever your difficulties with time management, God must come first. If He doesn't, then you really aren't serious about being a true Christian. Take time for prayer — it is the source of godly power. Take time for Bible study — it gains the mind of God. Take time for family — each day is too short to let it pass without sharing with those closest to you. Take time to laugh — it lightens life's burdens. Take time to read — it's a gold mine of wisdom and experience. Take time to reflect — it unclutters the mind. And above all else, take time for God — it is life's only lasting investment! What will you do with your next 24 hours?