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More than occasionally, when my wife asks me if she can get me anything, I tell her "The only thing I need is a few extra hours." It seems like there is just not enough time in the day to do what I need- or want- to do. When my kids are in bed and I am down in my office working, I find myself regretting not spending enough time with them. And as a lawyer, I often hear laments like "If I only had more time to pay these bills I wouldn't have to go bankrupt" or "If I had spent more time with my family instead of working my wife wouldn't be filing for a divorce." But is the problem really a lack of time (and here I am speaking to myself) or is it how we use our time? Is organization, or lack thereof, the problem? For some, it is a matter of not being organized. It takes a disorganized person an inordinate amount of time just to get started, when by taking a few minutes now and then to get organized, they could save hours in their tasks. For some, it is a matter of being too organized- then trying to cram a lot of extra work into those same, overtime hours.
Is commitment the problem? Some people, especially Christians involved in the work of their church, feel they can't say "no" when asked to do something, or they feel they have to do the task that seems to be going unfinished. PTA, Little League, Scouts and the like only add to the burden for parents- especially those of young school age children. Everybody wants a worker and the workers are the ones who can't say "no!" Is procrastination the problem? Are you constantly facing deadlines, not finishing things until your back is against the wall? Some people wait until they have to do something, always juggling tasks while trying to figure out what the most important one is. Is society the problem? Yes, we do live in a society (especially those who live on either coast of the U.S.) that places great demands on our time. Commute an hour to work, stretch an eight hour day to ten, commute an hour home (barring an accident on the highway), long lines shopping, etc., etc.- and everyone rushing around to do it!
Yes, these are all factors in our time crunch- but they are, at most, symptoms. Life is full of many demands. But if you're too busy to take time to listen to your wife, you're too busy! And if you're too busy to take your kids out for an ice cream cone, you're too busy! If you're too busy to read a good book, or take a few days vacation to get away from everything, you're too busy! And, most important of all, if you're too busy to take time with God, one on one, you are too busy!
As you may have guessed, being too busy is as much or more a matter of establishing the right priorities as anything else. If we establish priorities honoring to God, our families, work, finances and everything else will fall into line. If we keep God first, time is not a problem, because God is the Creator of all, including time! "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day,' and the darkness he called 'night.' And there was evening, and there was morning- the first day" (Genesis 1:3, NIV).
Consider what David wrote in Psalm 31- "But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me" (Psalm 31:14-15, NIV). It says "deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me." Creditors, bosses, the head usher, the Little League coach, the PTA president- not necessarily enemies, but they pursue you. AND your time!
Like anything else, when you are looking for a model of how to use your time effectively, there is no better place to turn to than the Handbook of Life- The Bible! And while circumstances may have changed dramatically since the days in which the Bible was written, man and his nature have not!
If we were to examine the New Testament, especially Paul's letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, we would see that certain areas of life are mentioned over and over again. Through Paul's writings, we will look at how we should prioritize our lives to enable us to balance all the demands made on our time and still bring honor and glory to God!
First of all, our spiritual life must be in order. Ephesians 6:10-20 talks about putting on the armor of God, preparing to do spiritual battle in the world. "Put on the full armor of God" Paul writes "so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes" (Ephesians 6:11, NIV). In Colossians 3, Paul expounds on how to live a holy life. "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things," Paul begins in Colossians 3:2 (NIV).
Paul then proceeds in Colossians 3 to list a number of imperatives for how to live a holy and righteous life. If our personal life is not in order, how can we deal with anything else that we come across? "So I tell you this," Paul wrote in Ephesians, "that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking" (Ephesians 4:17, NIV). "Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." (Ephesians 5:15, NIV) Next in importance is our relationship to those with whom we are most intimate-our family life. In Colossians 3:18-21, Paul sums up rules for relationships between family members. In Ephesians 5:22-6:4, he expounds on the same rules in greater detail. (Remember, if you see it once in Scripture, read carefully. If you see it twice, take note!!)
We probably spend no greater percentage of our time (outside of sleeping) at work. Not just at our "job" (i.e. where we earn a living), but in a work relationship. Yes, Paul even addressed our work life in both books. I especially like the passage in Ephesians 6 where Paul details the spiritual imperatives and benefits for both workers and bosses!
Two other areas of relationships are important- our church life, or relationship with other Christians, which Paul addresses in Ephesians 4:1-16, and our community life, or relationship with "outsiders," which Paul addresses briefly in Colossians 4:5-6.
But you thought this article was going to teach you valuable lessons about time management, right? It did- if you missed it, read it again! If we keep our priorities straight-spiritual life, personal life, family, work, church, and community, in that order-- and live and devote ourselves to maintaining those priorities, our time management "problems" will disappear, and those "tough decisions" about what to do and when will fall by the wayside!
First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume III, Part 10, October 1995 (Part I), Volume III, Part 11, November 1995 (Part II).
Copyright 1999 David M. Hnath. All Rights Reserved.
The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.
Quotes are from the New International Version of The Holy Bible. New International Version and NIV are registered trademarks of the International Bible Society.
Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.
Click here for Dave Hnath's e-mail address.
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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.