Eminent Christians of the past used their time scrupulously. They took seriously the admonition of Ephesians 5:15-16: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
When just nineteen years of age, Jonathan Edwards recorded seventy personal “Resolutions” by which he wished and sought to order his life. He prefaced the list with an appropriate, God-dependent statement: “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.”
As might be expected, his first resolution was to do all to the glory of God. Significantly, the very next determination had to do with the proper use of all his time: “Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.”
David Brainerd’s personal Diary and ministry Journal contain dozens of references to his conscientious use of time. Here are a few of those:
“A seasonable steady performance of secret duties in their proper hours, and a careful improvement of all time, filling up every hour with some profitable labour, either of heart, head, or hands, are excellent means of spiritual peace and boldness before God.”
“I find it is impossible to enjoy peace and tranquility of mind without a careful improvement of time. This is really an imitation of God and Christ Jesus: ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,’ says our Lord (John 5:17). But still, if we would be like God, we must see that we fill up our time for Him.”
After a day of traveling on horseback: “Had little freedom in mediation while riding, which was a grief and burden to me. O that I could fill up all my time for God, whether in the house or by the way!”
“O how precious is time; and how it pains me to see it slide away, while I do so very little to any good purpose! O that God would make me more fruitful and spiritual!”
Three weeks before his death from tuberculosis: “… and now, in my illness, while I am full of pain and distress from day to day, all the comfort I have is in being able to do some little char (small piece of work) for God; either by something that I say, or by writing, or some other way.”
The very first Sunday Adoniram Judson began holding public preaching services in Burma (modern Myanmar), he also adopted a set of eight personal “rules” by which to live. The second regulation was, “Never spend a moment in mere idleness.” Seven and a half years later he “re-adopted” those rules and drafted an additional set of “minor rules” (some of which related to the disciplined use of time) to further regulate his conduct.
Less than five months after that, following the sudden, unexpected death of his wife, Ann, from illness, he “revised and re-adopted all the above rules, particularly the second of the first class” (i.e., the one that stated, “Never spend a moment in mere idleness”). He added on that latter occasion, “God grant me grace to keep the above rules, and ever live to his glory, for Jesus Christ’s sake.”
Such examples challenge us to be conscientious stewards of the precious resource of time that God has entrusted to us. Doing so will keep us from wasting countless hours in activities and pursuits of no spiritual and eternal value. Instead, we will seek to invest every hour of life—whether working, studying, serving, spending time with family and friends, or simply recreating and resting—in ways that please God and that show we’re seeking to live all of life for the Lord and to His glory. If we’re wise and disciplined in the use of our time, we will find that we have sufficient time to carry out all the appropriate and necessary activities and responsibilities of life, including actively serving and devotionally pursuing Jesus Christ.
I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on how Christians can and should appropriately use their time for the Lord.
Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie
I’m glad you added, “or simply recreating and resting”. It is possible to swing so far to the other direction so as to come under the tyrannical idol of time management, where every second MUST have a direct redemptive purpose that there is no room for “wasteful” activities such as, oh I don’t know, resting one day in seven.
As one who suffered burnout, I can fully testify that this form of legalism can actually come to be in conflict with kingdom purposes. Now I take appropriate amounts of rest, so that I may be restored, so that I may be useful for Jesus. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2 ESV)
Resting for the glory of God! “So, whether you eat or drink, or [play a video game], do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)
Walk by the Spirit and find that appropriate balance between rest and work.
Thanks, Christopher, for your conscientious service of Christ. I agree that we should have a proper balance between diligent work and necessary rest. We need that balance in order to maintain long-term optimum service for the Lord. But not a few professing Christians routinely invest more time per week in recreation and purely temporal pursuits than in pursuing Christ and serving His kingdom. For every Christian I know who might be in danger of burnout (due to being overly scrupulous about their use of time) I can think of several who need to steward their time more appropriately. May the Lord help all of us to maintain a proper, healthy balance to His glory! (VEC)