We frequently lament about the lack of time and the frantic pace of life in Nigeria. This is true for most people: for those working, we spend long hours in the office; for the married ones, our family obligations seem to multiply; for students, we are loaded with assignments, tuition and extra curricular activities; for Church leaders, we are stretched thin with many commitments; and, even for housewives, we are often inundated with endless household chores and responsibilities to our spouses and children. In fact, we often gripe about being too busy and this “busyness” has also become a convenient and acceptable excuse for failing in our spiritual duties. At times, we feel frustrated at having too much to do, guilt at not giving enough time to God or our family and we feel pressured when we are unable to accomplish all the things we would like or need to do. This sometimes can lead to an unhealthy level of tension, fatigue and even emotional burnout. And we often ask God for more time when we really should ask God for wisdom and discipline to use our time wisely.
We must approach this subject on how to use our time wisely from the biblical perspective or we will fall into human errors. Psalm 90:12 is a prayer of the psalmist to God to “teach” or “instruct” him on how to live his life wisely in the light of eternity. Moses, who was learned in all the sciences of Egypt and lived for 120 years, recognized that his own wisdom was insufficient and he desired only to learn from God who is all-wise. Let us be likewise in the pursuit of wisdom in the use of our time, to understand it from God’s perspective. Ephesians 5:15-17 gives us 3 biblical principles for the prudent use of our time.
1. Walking Circumspectly on Earth (Eph 5:15)
As children of light, we need to walk “circumspectly” or literally, “carefully”, and not as fools but as wise. Unlike a fool who walks carelessly, we must realize that our time on earth is limited and is in God’s hand. Jesus condemns those who, like the rich fool, fail to realize this (Lk 12:20-21). What is the use of all our wealth and possessions if our life is to end tonight? A wise person is endued with wisdom from above, walks circumspectly and realizes that his time on earth is limited and that he must make the most of it. The psalmist acknowledges the frailty of man and brevity of life in contrast to God who is eternal (Ps 90:2-3). And we have 2 recent and tragic reminders in the Asia Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina disasters (cf Ps 90:5). How short and transitory life is. There is a time limit to our life on earth and that time is in the hand of God.
Life is short (Jas 4:14), for we succumb to sicknesses, accidents and sudden deaths, etc. We live in a world where all things are unpredictable, temporal and passing away. While we celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and year-end festivities, they remind us that our days are numbered and closer to the end. What is 70-80 years when measured according to God’s timescale? 70 years is but a little while to look back on. Some wish to live long, yet old age may not be a blessing if we are plagued with crippling bodily infirmities. Life is like a tale that is told (Ps 90:9) and the speedy passing away of time is inevitable; it can be especially painful for the rich and famous. The longest span of any human life (Methuselah lived 969 years) is but a day to God. We need to know that what we have – riches, possessions, status, accomplishments, etc – are only for a time. We cannot keep them (Job 1:21) and we are foolish if we do not realize this and live for these earthly treasures.
How shall we apply our hearts unto wisdom, to live in a manner befitting the wise? It is when we use this life as the preparation for life eternal, ie. we must live our lives and use our time in the light of eternity. Everything here is passing away, but we are looking forward to a place that is heavenly and eternal. This is why we must not get settled down here as if this is our home. We cannot simply live for this world; we must sow seeds that will bring forth eternal fruits (Gal 6:8). Our politicians shared with us the government’s plan to remake and transform Nigeria into a world-class, vibrant and global city. We will see a new downtown, exciting roads, Uninterrupted power electricity,Free Education etc; all of which would make us proud and, hopefully, we would call Nigeria our HOME. Many Nigerians were excited and inspired by such bold and exciting prospects, and we thank God for such a prosperous and peaceful city that we live in. But we must remember that this world will not last forever and this world is not our home. We are “strangers and pilgrims” passing through Nigeria to our eternal destination and, therefore, we must set our affections on things above. The biblical injunction is to number our days so that we learn to use time responsibly. Are we living for time or eternity? Life is too short to be careless and indifferent to spiritual things. We must be awakened to the brevity of life and it is to God we have to answer with our time (cf Mk 8:36).
2. Understanding the Will of God (Eph 5:17)
Secondly, godly wisdom in the use of our time is to discern the Lord’s will for us. We must see time in terms of God’s purpose for us. Time problems occur when we try to do more than God’s will for our own lives and take on too many commitments. This principle should be a red flag in our minds whenever we find ourselves overwhelmed and unable to accomplish all that we are charged with doing. Have we become too busy for God? Wise time management is a measure of knowing God’s will (Eccl 3:1). Jesus would never need a pager, or a mobile or a watch; He always found time to do what was important because He was focused on doing the will of His Father (Jn 4:34). Time management provides a way of walking carefully before God and of proving His perfect will. Ignorance of God�s will is evidence of folly while an acquaintance with the will of God, and a care to comply with it speaks of true wisdom.
We will always have enough time to do God’s will. God makes sure of that. Our time on earth has a purpose. What is God’s will for us? The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. If we see time in terms of God’s purpose for us, we will realize that time is a divine gift. Time is not a human invention and it is not under human control. Too often we act as if time were a commodity at our disposal rather than a daily gift from God. The high value we place on busyness is actually an indication of how we have misused God’s gift. Our view of time is usually shaped by the world: it is a commodity. We often talk about “spending,” “investing,” and “buying” time, or, “time is money”; words that are all drawn from the world of commerce. Time is not a commodity for us to exploit but a precious gift from God to be used and multiplied wisely. We are stewards of the time God has given to us on earth and we have to give an account to Him for the use of our time. The key is assuming responsibility for our use of time. Choose to take charge of our time to the best of our abilities. If we don’t manage our time, somebody or something else will.
3. Redeeming our Time (Eph 5:16)
Finally, a wise walk requires that we are making the most of our time “redeeming the time”, or literally, “buying the opportunities”. The Bible challenges us to redeem the time or to make the most of the time God has given us. We must see time as opportunities, availing ourselves of whatever opportunities that come our way to do good in the midst of predominantly sinful and evil times. Christians are particularly susceptible to the devil when it comes to the use of time. If Satan can fool us into making bad use of our time, he is being successful in minimizing our effectiveness for the Lord and His Church. Opportunities are passing by. We either use it or lose it (like spilled milk)! Here are some practical steps we must take note of :-
Be disciplined in our use of time. There are 24 hours in the day for everyone. We cannot influence time – we cannot slow it down, speed it up, add to it or diminish it. The difference is in how we use our time. Time is a gift, not a couch as someone said.
Be organized and plan our schedule. All time management begins with planning. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Ask the Lord to show us how to set our schedule in any given day, week, and year to allow for a good balance of work and rest, time with God and family time. Set godly priorities and adhere to them.
Keep our lives simple and focused on God. Don’t live messy, complicated lives and over-commit to the point of being ineffective. Managing our time means managing our lives! Ask God to help us remove the clutter from our lives – unimportant activities and obligations. Keep a good routine as it helps to bring things under control.
Keep our focus and constantly review our use of time. Ask ourselves: Did we make good use of our time? Did we procrastinate? Did we make progress toward the accomplishment of our God-given goals?
We must also learn to set our priorities right. To redeem our time wisely requires discernment and giving priority to constructive rather than wasteful activities. We are often besieged by 1001 things to do and they all need to be done right away. When we have too many tasks and people competing for our time, we often end up adopting a “999” mentality where we attend to everything that is urgent and forget what is really important. This is when we lose our focus and set wrong priorities. We can never accomplish everything we want in life and we need to choose and prioritize. And the ability to establish godly priorities comes with spending much time with God and discerning His will.
Priorities represent the things that we give our time and attention to. In turn, our priorities shape our lives and character, and having the right priorities is instrumental in our spiritual growth (cf. Mary vs Martha in Lk 10:41-42). Time is lost on the smaller things first. It is said that we lose minutes before we lose hours, days before we lose weeks. Often, time is lost in the gaps between activities doing unproductive things. We must learn to live by godly priorities as it is said, THE MAIN THING IS TO KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING! What is the main thing in our lives? If we want to make wise use of time, we have got to know what is most important and then give it all that we’ve got.
Let us ask God to help us allot our days wisely, in the light of eternity. Time is precious and limited; our life on earth is short. Let us use the time and opportunities that God has bestowed to us wisely for His glory (Eccl 12:1). Our time here on earth is in His hand.
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