Time is the unique and universal element available to each living individual in exactly the same amount. Each day brings a full bank account of 24 hours — and the quality of your life depends directly on how you use those hours as they inexorably pass by. Don't just spend them — invest them.
Time marches on." "Time and tide wait for no man." "Time is of the essence." "Time is money." "A stitch in time saves nine." "There's no time like the present." "Procrastination is the thief of time." "Time passed me by."
Time Never Stands Still
Even during Joshua's long day — when the sun stood still — time continued "for about the space of a whole day." Time is an ever present element that is impossible to grasp and store, ever elusive but ever there. It is the most abundant resource available, inexhaustible, yet constantly rationed in the same frustratingly small amounts. A constant in an ever changing universe. Not something through which you pass, or which passes by you, but an ever present companion with which you live. You can't touch, smell, hear, see or feel time — but you can sense it with your mind. you can't stop it, speed it up or slow it down. you can accept it as a friend or fight it as an enemy — or you can ignore it. Whatever you do with time, as long as you live, you have a fresh supply to invest each day. you can't "save" time, but you can more properly use it so that what future time you have can be thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable. The time to improve the quality of your life is always NOW. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
A Day at a Time
We are all only one heartbeat away from closing out our time bank account. Whatever long-range goals we may have must always be considered in the framework set by the apostle James: "Look here, you people who say, 'Today or tomorrow we are going to such and such a town, stay there a year, and open up a profitable business.' How do you know what is going to happen to morrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog — now you see it; soon it is gone. What you ought to say is, 'If the Lord wants us to, we shall live and do this or that'" (James 4:13-15, The Living Bible). There is nothing wrong with planning for the future. Just be sure you recognize "God willing" must be the setting for those plans. I'm sure you've heard the old saying, "Live every day as if it were your last." That's not from the Bible, but in principle it is biblically confirmed.
God's plan for mankind encompasses 7000 years — too long a span for any one of us to participate throughout. God encourages repentance — which in essence is a thorough recognition on our part that we have spent our past time unwisely, sinfully — so that we can dedicate our new life (still one day at a time) in a manner that will be pleasing to God, and us, and that will bring us to eternal life — when time will not be the limiting factor it now is. So there is no question that God wants us to make long-range plans — eternity is the longest-range plan you can make! The Bible records an important overview of the fantastically successful life of Abraham, the father of the faithful (who lived 175 years!): "And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years" (Gen. 25 :7). Seventy-five "days of years" passed before God made His promises to Abraham. Another 25 long "days of years" passed, replete with trials, before the promised seed, Isaac, was born. Each of the three days Abraham spent taking Isaac to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him must have been a tormenting time. Of Isaac himself the Bible records: "And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years . And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died... being old and full of days..."(Gen. 35:28-29). Moses prayed in Psalm 90, "Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should" (Ps. 90: 12, The Living Bible). The highest mountain is climbed one step at a time, and the longest life is lived one day at a time. "Everything is appropriate in its own time. But though God has planted eternity in the hearts of men, even so, man cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end" (Eccl. 3: 11, The Living Bible). "There is a right time for everything: A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant"; harvest, heal, destroy, cry, laugh, grieve, dance, hug, lose, find, tear, repair, speak up, be quiet, hate, love (verses 1-8). "So I conclude," says Solomon, the wise man, "that, first, there is nothing better for a man than to be happy and to enjoy himself as long as he can [now I can't argue with that, can you?]; and second, that he should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of his labors, for these are gifts from God" (verse 13). I am sure we all agree with these statements of wisdom, which are, after all, not just the sage advice of Solomon, but a major portion of the unbreakable and holy Word of God. The problem we all have as individuals is how to apply in our daily lives the principles observed here. With Christ, nothing is impossible, Paul tells us. Pray for wisdom, we are admonished repeatedly. The beginning of wisdom is the fear (awe) of the Lord, Solomon states more than once — and then he comfortingly tells us, "The wise man will find a time and a way to do what he [God] says" (Eccl. 8:5, The Living Bible).
Start at the Beginning
If only the wise man can achieve his plans, and if wisdom begins with a healthy respect of our awesome God, then it looks like the place for us to start is with the recognition that God's loving guidance of our daily lives is paramount, and that true success without it is impossible. Jesus gave us the key in what is commonly called "the Lord's Prayer." He said, "Pray along these lines: 'Our Father in heaven, we honor your holy name [the fear — awe — of the Lord]. we ask that your kingdom will come now. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven [recognition that there is no true success apart from God's rule and guidance]. Give us our food again today, as usual [or, as the King James Version renders it: "Give us this day our daily bread" — one day at a time], and forgive us our sins [this day, up to now], just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us' " (Matt. 6:9-12). That last part is most precious of all: a clean slate for a new day! Forgiveness for our past sins so that they will not burden today's new life. There are two very important things to notice in this context and application: I) Don't let yesterday's (or any accumulation of yesterdays') sins, mistakes, misspent time, hinder today's new life. All you have to do is repent, ask forgiveness, start fresh, and try again, unburdened, clean, guiltless. (My, wouldn't that solve a lot of hang-ups and complexes most of us insist on carrying around with us every minute of every day!) 2) Don't carry around the impossible burden of a grudge against other people who have done you wrong (or you won't receive the forgiveness you ask for in the first place!). Now, with 24 fresh, new, unspent hours ahead of you, think what you can do! Clean before God, not angry or hateful toward any of your fellow human beings. Now you have some time to invest — and every future minute will become more valuable, even though it won't be any longer or shorter. You don't have to waste time brooding over the past and eat up precious time, which is your life, feeling sorry for yourself. Again, Solomon put it beautifully: "The fool foldeth his hands together [immobilizes his capacity to act], and eateth his own flesh" (Eccl. 4:5).
A Whole New Day!
Now that you've begun, invest a little of that precious now-time planning what to do with the rest of the priceless new day. If you suddenly found yourself with a million dollars to spend (invest), you would probably use a few of those dollars to lay wise plans on how to spend (invest) the rest — or the fool and his money would soon be parted! Planning sounds hard, but it isn't. Remember, it's just one day, one step. you can't do everything at once, but you can take one step in the right direction. Certain investments of daily time are already planned for us just by the way we are made. Sleep is going to require the biggest chunk. (That's why we usually think of the day starting when we wake up.) Don't begrudge sleep; it's a very important investment of your time. But don't waste, spend time sleeping that you don't have to. Edison was purported to need only four hours of sleep — but Einstein required ten! Think about it. How many hours of good sleep do you require? Don't try to copy anyone else. You are unique. You have your own individual sleep needs. Live with them — don't fight them and the rest of the day will go better. Cheat on your sleep, and you cheat yourself. Some people can't sleep because they worry — so, quit worrying and rest assured. Solomon says, "Just being too busy gives you nightmares" (find that one yourself; invest some time reading the Book — no better investment!).
"The sleep of a laboring man is sweet," Solomon says. So, if you want to get the most out of your hours of sleep (however many they need to be), you're going to have to put your hand to some honest work! (Beware the bear on the welfare rolls.) Work is something we all (most anyway) have to do. Too often we consider it "bad." God says it's "good." Take your pick. Now, with God's viewpoint, we can enjoy our work — maybe for the first time in our lives! You have to work anyway, so why waste time fretting over it? You can't lick it, so join it with enthusiasm — it's more fun that way; you get more out of every minute. Besides that, you make money. And everyone needs money. Don't love it, or lust after it, and certainly don't waste time worrying about it — but work, and get some! You can't enjoy your job, you say? Number one, I bet you could if you tried. And number two, if you don't like the one you have, get one you do. Oh, yes you can! But be careful with this. Try number one first! Work and labor, of course, are not confined to the on-the-job, money-earning time we invest. The actual definition of work is "moving an object a distance." Let's face it, just getting out of bed in the first place is work (especially if your sleep-investment didn't pay off!). A little time invested at work around home might well save you more money than an entire workday's time might earn you. Remember, "Procrastination is the thief of time." "Do it NOW" is a good motto — but also remember, "Haste makes waste." That's why planning is important. Use your mind, your wisdom to determine which "it" needs doing "NOW." But at least pick one! Watch out though — because if you go to work with your new attitude on your new day, your boss may think you've flipped your lid, or you're sick, or you're scheming to get something. Don't worry about it though; just grin and bear it! If he makes water, you make like a duck, and let it pour harmlessly off your back. Try it; you'll like it!
Eat, Drink and...
Now, what's so bad about that?! You have to invest some time in eating — why not enjoy it? If you overeat, you won't enjoy it. Just so much time spent, no investment. You are what you eat, so eat better and be better. From what I see of the TV ads, most people must be "wasting" their time, because relief, offered for sale, from stomach, head and bowel aches seems to predominate! Invest some time and find out what kind of foods are best for you. The ones that taste good and are good for you. No wasted time and no suffering time afterward. ENJOY! Drink is okay? That's what the Good Book says! Sorry about that (not really, of course!). If you think "drink" just means water and grape juice, you need to invest more time reading the Book! "Wine makes the heart merry," Solomon says. (God says; remember He put that in His Book.) "Take a little wine for your stomach's sake," Paul advises Timothy — not aspirin bicarbonates, painkillers and tranquilizers (which all cut down on the quality of life), but WINE. Invest some time and pick a good one. But don't over drink, or get drunk. That's a waste of time. It takes too long to get that way; you can't remember how you were when you were that way, and afterwards it takes too long, sick and sorry, to sober up so you can invest some new time properly! Beer is good too. After all, all of the wells in the Old Testament are called "Beer-something-or-other." ("It's the water," you know! — that's a joke, by the way.) Be sure you pick a good one. ENJOY! Believe it or not, God even recommends a little "strong drink" — during His Holy Days, no less! (Deut. 14:26 — read it and weep!) And coupled with that God says: "Rejoice"!
... Be Merry
I heard a man say one time, "This steak tastes so good I'm afraid God is going to find out — and forbid it!" What an opinion of our loving Creator! Did God make a mistake when He made steak? Back to the Book if you think so — invest more time. And who made taste buds anyway? God could have created us so we had to eat skunk-smelling slime to live — if He had been a sadist! But thank God, God is not like many people think He is. He's really nice! We don't see in black and white, like many animals. We see in living color — and we did even before color TV! God is not against fun — He invented it! "ENJOY!" "Be merry!" "Rejoice!" God commands. Our ears are capable of listening to a wide range of sounds, pleasant and unpleasant. You take your pick. Deafen yourself with 140 decibels of sound if you want, but when you can't hear things you'd like to after that, don't blame God. You just spent time, didn't invest it! Touch. That's another goodie. We're so out of touch in this uncomfortable concrete-steel-glass world we've imprisoned ourselves in, we've lost a good deal of the wonderful sense of touch God gave us. Velvet or plastic, take your pick. Hug your children. Touch your wife, your husband. Feel plants, trees, animals — get texture in your life ! ENJOY! Smell! That word usually carries a bad connotation. But it need not. That's just our natural negative bent. (Ever notice how most people refer to traffic signals as "stoplights" without recognizing they are also "go lights"?!) Learn to smell again. Smell fresh air — you may have to invest some time getting there. Smell flowers, food and fawns. Smell the family — if you don't like it, have them invest some time in soap and water! Solomon says, "The eye is never filled with seeing, and the ear is never filled with hearing." He might have added insatiable taste and touch and never filled nostrils. Think about it. That's good news. What if you had a quota on all those senses? After so long, your eyes and ears would be full and you'd be blind and deaf. Your nose would plug up and you'd die! Then, forget the rest. All that above is what we call "recreation." Invest a proper amount of time. ENJOY! Be merry! God commands it!
Invest some time in learning. It's more fun than you think. No, you are never too old to learn! That's a myth. Take some time away from what you waste on TV and invest it in learning. Surely there is something you'd like to know — unless you know it all! Learn to think, for instance. Study, both secular and biblical, makes a good time-investment. Prayer is time well invested. Try it — you'll like it too! Meditate, roll over the day's events in your mind and plan how to invest better tomorrow.