Time is a precious gift to us, and it is constantly slipping away. So it is all-important that we invest our time well.
St. Jerome was the translator of the Latin Vulgate, which served as the official Catholic Scriptures for more than 1,500 years and is widely considered to be the most important translation of the entire Bible in history.
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was constructed on top of a series of tunnels and caves where Jerome had lived and worked on the translation for over thirty years. The statue of Jerome shows a human skull chained to his left ankle. According to tradition, Jerome chained the skull to his leg to constantly remind himself of the brevity of life. His life verse was Psalm 90:12:
“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”
His focus enabled him to make a massive impact on the world for the Kingdom of God.
In our day, it is perhaps more difficult than ever to maintain such focus. From New Delhi to Beijing, from Lagos to São Paulo, from London to New York, increasing urbanization and the integration of new technology into people’s lives have led to a new sense of busyness and poverty—the poverty of time.
As I seek to disciple others and equip them to make disciples, over and over I hear objections related to the lack of time.
Why? Every day still has twenty-four hours. Longer life expectancies and the development of many time-saving technologies should yield a sense of having more time rather than less. What has changed?
Jesus modeled a focused life. He repeatedly said only what He heard from the Father and did only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19; 8:28; 12:49–50; 14:10). In living this way, He fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 11 about the righteous reign of the Branch: “He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear” (Isaiah 11:3). He lived a life based on God’s will rather than visible circumstances.
We might be tempted to think that this sort of living is inaccessible to us, but Jesus said in John 16:13-14 that the Holy Spirit would enable His followers to experience this same mode of existence.
Let’s look more closely. Jesus said,
“I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (John 8:28b).
“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49).
Jesus indicated that He not only said and did everything the Father told Him, but also that He didn’t do or say anything else. In John 17:4, Jesus made this astonishing statement: “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” Jesus knew what the Father wanted Him to do; and He did it—and nothing more.
In the Theopraxic life, there is no room for anything outside of what the Lord is guiding us to. Everything we do or say or fail to do or say is either under God’s direction or outside His design for us. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul speaks of the good works that God has prepared for each of us to walk in. Since we have limited time, energy, and resources, every moment I spend outside of the works God has prepared for me to do is taking time away from what He intended for me.
We feel too busy because there simply is not enough time to do “both/and”—that is, both what the Lord has planned for us and what we want to do.
If we feel we are too busy, this may indicate that instead of limiting ourselves to what God intends, we are also seeking to do some activities that we want to do, outside the Lord’s leading. As a result, we don’t have enough time to do both. Similarly, if we say what we want to say rather than restricting ourselves to saying what the Lord is saying, we add to the noise around us but fail to achieve the purposes that God intends for us.
For some, these extraneous activities are bad things, sinful things. For others, they are neutral, but outside of God’s leading. A common example is screen time: television, Web surfing, YouTube, Facebook, or computer games. For still others, the extraneous activities are good and noble distractions, like volunteering for a good cause or exercising.
It becomes a distraction, however, if it isn’t something the Lord has asked you to do but something you have chosen because you wanted to do it.
There simply isn’t enough time to do what the Lord has planned for us as well as what we want to do.
If we do what the Lord desires in addition to what we desire, there definitely won’t be enough time, energy, or resources. This is a matter of stewardship. We need to be more in tune with the Spirit in order to fully utilize the twenty-four hours we are given each day. We need to be constantly attentive to the Lord’s intentions and desires to achieve His purposes in our activities and in our communications with others.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:10–15).
There will be eternal consequences for how we invest our time. Our daily patterns of speech and actions compose a body of work that God will evaluate on the day of judgment. It will not impact our salvation, which is secure, but it will determine our level of reward. Thus, being in tune with the Holy Spirit is important both for this life and for eternity.
Although we are never “off duty” in terms of not being on call for the Lord’s work, the Creator has designed us to need rest and recreation.
He knows what we need better than we do. He will frequently direct us to these activities—or to lack of activity. He made us to enjoy Him and His creation. Even in the Old Testament law, God ensured times of rest and celebration through the Sabbaths and various feasts. Our Father is loving. He delights in seeing us enjoy life.
What if we don’t have confidence that we are hearing from the Lord about the use of our time? Then we simply use our best judgment. He understands where we are in terms of our ability to hear Him.
As long as we are seeking to hear from Him in order to follow, He won’t fault us for our uncertainty. The simple awareness that He cares about how we invest our time is helpful for us to continue to grow in maturity.
(Excerpted from Curtis Sergeant, The Only One: Living Fully In, By, and For God. For more from Curtis, check out obeygc2.com.)