THE HABIT OF STEWARDSHIP-TIME
Think for a moment: What events have produced the most stress in your life last week? Have they involved the feeling of being overloaded with responsibilities at home, work, school, church, or all of the above? How about stress related to paying bills? Running late for an appointment? Going with too little sleep? Juggling your finances? Waiting in a traffic jam on the highway or a runway? Facing unexpected car repair expenses? Running short of cash before payday?
Each one of these anxiety producers, like so many other daily issues, relate to either time or money. The clock and the dollar are such substantial factors in so many parts of life that we need to consider their role in any serious discussion of godly living.
We will look at the stewardship of our time this week and at stewardship of our finances next time.
The Disciplined Use of Time
As we have discussed already, godliness is the result of a biblically disciplined spiritual life. But at the heart of a disciplined spiritual life is the disciplined use of time.
To be like Jesus, we must see the use of our time as a spiritual discipline. Having so perfectly ordered His moments and His days, Jesus was able to pray to the Father at the end of His life, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do” (John 17:4). As with Jesus, God gives us both the gift of time and work to do during that time. The more we grow to be like Jesus, the more we understand why the disciplined use of the time God gives is so important.
So, here are ten biblical reasons to use time wisely:
1. Use time wisely because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Paul exhorts the Ephesians to ‘make the best use of time because the days are evil.’ This curious phrase may have been prompted by persecution or opposition that the Ephesian believers may have been facing (Acts 19:23-20:1). But even without the persecution known by believers of Paul’s day, the world we live in makes it difficult to use time wisely, especially for the purpose of godliness and biblical spirituality.
Our days are days of active evil. Great time-thieves act as servants of the world, the flesh, and the devil. They may range in form from high-tech, socially acceptable preoccupations to simple, idle talk or uncontrolled thoughts. But the natural course of our minds, our bodies, our world and our days leads toward evil, not Christlikeness.
The use of time is important because time is the stuff of which days are made. If we do not discipline our use of time for the purpose of godliness in these evil days, these evil days will keep us from becoming godly.
2. The wise use of time is preparation for eternity.
You must prepare for eternity in time. That statement can be taken in two different ways. One means that during time (in this life) you must prepare for eternity because there will be no second chance once this life is over. Regardless of when or how death occurs, there is a specific day on the calendar when all my preparation for eternity will indeed be over. And since that day could be any day, I need to use my time wisely because it’s all the time I have to prepare for where I will endlessly live beyond the grave.
The second meaning of the phrase “You must prepare for eternity in time,” is that you must prepare for eternity before it is too late. 2 Corinthians 6:2 is the spiritual alert that must be sounded at this point. “Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Right now is the right time to prepare for where you will spend eternity. If that is an uncertain or unsettled matter for you, take the time to settle it now. You have no guarantee of any more time than this moment to prepare for eternity.
3. Time is short.
The more scarce an item is, the more value is assigned to it. Gold and diamonds would be worthless if you could pick them up like gravel along the roadway. In just the same way, time would not be so precious if we never died. But since we never live more than one breath away from eternity, the way we use our time has eternal significance.
Even though many years of life may remain for you, the fact remains, “You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Even the very longest life is short in comparison to eternity. You can probably remember a happy or tragic event from your childhood or teenage years as vividly as if it happened yesterday. The reason you can is that it simply hasn’t been that long ago. When you think that a decade as only 120 months, a great chunk of time suddenly seems much shorter.
So, regardless of how much time remains for you to develop more Christlikeness, it really isn’t much. Use it well.
4. Time is passing.
Not only is time short, but what does remain is passing. Time is not like a bag of ice in the freezer, from which you can take a little now and again as you need it and save the rest for later. Instead, time is really like the sand in an hourglass – what’s left is continuously slipping away. John put it very plainly: “The world is passing away along with its desires” (1 John 2:17). Passing along with the world is our time in it.
As a child, time seemed to drag on. Now I find myself saying what I remember my parents saying: “I can’t believe another year is over! Where has the time gone?” It seems that the closer we get to the end, the faster it comes. If I don’t discipline myself for the purpose of godliness now, it won’t be any easier later.
5. The remaining time is uncertain.
Not only is time short and passing, but we don’t even know how short it actually is nor how long before it does all pass away. That’s why the wisdom of Proverbs 27:1 tells us, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Thousands have died and gone into eternity today, including many much younger than you, who just hours ago had no idea that today was their last day. Had they known that, their use of time would have become far more important to them.
Neither youth nor strength, stardom nor stature obligates God to give us one more hour of time. Regardless of how long we want to live or expect to live, our time is in His hands (Psalm 31:15).
Obviously, we must make some types of plans as though many more years do remain for us. But a proper recognition of reality calls us to use our time for the purpose of godliness as though it were uncertain we would live tomorrow for that is a very certain uncertainty.
6. Lost time cannot be regained.
Many things can be lost and then regained. Many men and women have declared bankruptcy only to amass an even greater fortune later. Time is different. Once it is gone, it is gone forever and can never be regained.
God offers you this present time to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. Jesus said in John 9:4, “We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” The time for godly living is now while it is day. For each of us, night is coming and none of us can stop or slow the approach of that night. Despite how we may have squandered time in the past, the will of God for you is found in the words of Paul: “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Through the work of Jesus to repentant believers, God will forgive every second of misused time. And it pleases Him for you to discipline the balance of your time for the purpose of godliness.
7. You are accountable to God for your time.
There is hardly a more sobering statement in the Bible than Romans 14:12: “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” The words ‘each of us’ applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. And, even though believers will be saved by grace and not by works, once in heaven our reward there will be based on the basis of our works. The Lord will cause each one’s work to be ‘shown for what it really is,’ and for each, it will be either that he will receive a reward or he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Not only will we be held accountable for our use of time, but our eternal reward will be directly related to it.
Hebrews 5:12 shows us something of how God will hold us accountable at the Judgement for our use of time in disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness. In these verses, God criticizes these Jewish Christians for failing to use their time in a way that develops spiritual maturity: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” If, as here, God holds believers still on earth responsible for not disciplining their time for Christlikeness, He will surely do at the Judgement in heaven.
Deciding to discipline yourself to use your time for the purpose of godliness is not a matter for delay or deliberation. Each hour that passes is another for which you will give an account.
8. Time is so easily lost.
Apart from the fool, there is no other character in the book of Proverbs that draws the scorn of Scripture like the slothful sluggard. The reason? His lazy and wasteful use of time. The sluggard never has time for the things that really matter, especially things that require discipline. And before he realizes it, his time and opportunities expire. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 24:33-34). Notice that it’s just a ‘little’ sleep, a ‘little’ slumber, a ‘little’ folding of the hands that brought the ruin of lost time and opportunity. It’s so easy to lose so much, just a little at a time. You don’t have to do anything at all to lost time.
9. We value time at death.
Just as the person without money values it most when it’s gone, so do we at death value time most when it is gone.
Most pursue a course of life based more on pleasure than on the joy found in the way of God’s disciplines. God warns them through His Word of the regrets that will cut their hearts when their time runs out. “At the end of your life you groan when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.” (Proverbs 5:11-13). If, like this man, you suddenly understood you had no more time, would you also regret how you’ve spent your time in the past and present? The way you have used your time can instead provide great comfort to you in your last hour. Won’t you be glad then for every moment you spent reading Scripture, praying, worshipping, evangelizing, serving, fasting, and so on for the purpose of becoming like the One before whom you are about to stand in judgement?
Why not do something about it while you still have time?
10. Time’s value in eternity.
It is doubtful that in heaven we experience regret, but if we did it would be for not using our earthly time more for the glory of God and for growth in His grace. Hell, on the other hand, will howl forever with agonizing laments over time so foolishly squandered.
Let us learn the true value of time by encountering the truth and discipline our time for the purpose of godliness. After all, if you have given your life to Christ, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). “Your” life and “your” time belong to God now. The best and most joy-filled way to spend them is to use them the way God wants.
So how are you doing with your time? We will all have some room for improvement. What can you do this week to make better use of your time for the purpose of becoming more Christ-like? Let us know in the comments. We would love to pray with you about this most important matter.
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