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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Weekly, 2003-12-28

Text: Psalm 90:12

As the present year draws to a close we are reminded once again of the relentless procession of time. Whether we like it or not, we are being carried onward through the years of our life, until we finally reach the end of it. As the years come and go, there comes a day when our time in this world will be no more. Our years will have passed away for ever, and we will never ever see them again. 

So what should we do? Psalm 90:12 says "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." To number your days is to keep careful watch over your time with the same kind of care and attention that you would give to budgeting and balancing your accounts, making sure there are always enough funds to make payments for the housing loan, the utilities, telephone bill, daily provisions, medicine and transport. The more limited your income is, the more you would want to ensure that you are making the best use of it.

'Numbering our days' is simply applying that same kind of discipline, but now with time instead of money. It means optimising the limited time you have left, planning your activities carefully and deciding what activities deserve more time and what deserve less. It also means trying to save time whenever possible, so that no hour is ever wasted. As the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15,16, you should "walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." 

If you do not keep careful track of where your time is spent, you will find it difficult to accomplish everything that you need to do. You will always be complaining that you do not have enough time. Perhaps there have been times when the twenty four hours of the day do not seem to be enough for you and you wished that you had a thirty-six hour day or an eight-day week. But the problem is often not a lack of time, but poor time management. If you find yourself unable to fulfill your responsibilities because of what seems to be a shortage of time, it probably means that you are not managing your time well. Let us consider now how we can number our days. 

Important Presuppositions

1. Your purpose in spending any time you have must always be to glorify God. 1 Corinthians 6:20 "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God�s." 1 Corinthians 10:31 "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

2. Since God has a plan for the life you have committed to Him, He has allotted all the time that is necessary for you to fulfill all that He expects you to do according to His plan. Psalm 31:15 - "My times are in Thy hand " The Lord is like a wise employer who tells his workers: "Here is the work you are to do, and here are the sufficient resources you will need to do it."

We see this principle at work in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ when He was on earth. Within the three years of ministry He had, He fulfilled everything that He came to do - to preach the kingdom of God, train the twelve disciples and to make atonement for sin by His death on the cross. The Gospel accounts show that Christ was always concerned about doing the right thing at the right time. For example, early in His ministry when His own half-brothers suggested that He should go to Judea and make Himself known to the world by doing miracles there, He replied, "My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready." (John 7:6) We must train our minds to think that there will always be sufficient time for us to do all that we have to do. 

3. If the 24 hours of each day or the 168 hours of each week seem to be inadequate for you, then this may be due to one of two causes: (a) You have missed the will of God for your life, and you are doing something He never intended you to do, or (b) You are doing things inefficiently - not the way that God wants you to do them. 

We see an example of the first cause in Mary and Martha "Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42)

Many of us are perhaps more like Martha than Mary - cumbered about much serving, and not taking time to think whether what we are doing is really needful or not. We trouble ourselves with things that the Lord does not require nor expect from us. 

An example of the second cause can be found in Moses when he was overwhelmed with judging the people of Israel alone, until he implemented the more efficient method proposed by his father-in-law, Jethro (Exodus 18:13-27).

Practical Steps

Step One: Set Your Priorities

All your activities can be categorized either as basic responsibilities or extra activities. Basic responsibilities are absolutely necessary and must be cared for, in this order:

(a) Fellowship with God. This is the greatest priority of all, because it is the ultimate basis of life, and the reason for our creation and redemption. It is the essence not only of time but of eternity. Matthew 6:33 - "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Colossians 3:1,2 - "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." In this responsibility there is personal fellowship with God, family worship time, and fellowship with other members of God�s family.

Apart from worshipping God on Sunday, you should also spend time each day of the week reading and meditating upon God�s Word, reflecting upon your conduct, and praying - in order to maintain close fellowship with God � this is known as a personal devotion or quiet time. Martin Luther considered the priority of devotion to God the most important element in his daily routine, and believed that if he did not place it first in the day nor spend a sufficient amount of time on it, the rest of his day would be disrupted. How ironic that so many of us hesitate to spend even 15 minutes with the Lord, fearing that we would have too little time for anything else, never realizing that the success of our day depends on our quiet time.

(b) Maintenance of Physical Life. If one does not have physical life, he cannot do anything else. It is essential to take care of the physical by having sufficient meals, exercise and rest. I Corinthians 6:19 "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"

(c) Duty toward Family. 1 Timothy 5:8 - "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." This applies not only to those who work and have family commitments, but also for children - when parents assign them duties to help out in the home.

Contrary to what many people think, the responsibilities that you have in your place of work or study come after all of the above. If you are a worker, you need to fulfill your obligations to your employer. Colossians 3:22 - "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God." If you are a student, you ought to put in good effort in your studies, not so much for good grades or to get into a prestigious institution of higher learning, but to get yourself fully equipped with the knowledge you need to fulfill your God-given vocation in life.

The rest of the activities are to be considered as extra activities. These are things that you should make time for only when they do not prevent you from fulfilling your basic responsibilities. They include the following:

(a) Additional Church Commitments: If you are requested to take on more commitments in church beside your basic commitments of worship, prayer, personal Bible study, fellowship and witnessing, ensure that you count the cost first (Luke 14:28-30). You need to manage your time carefully if you are given responsibilities in church that require constant heavy time commitment, e.g. editing a monthly newsletter, or teaching a Bible class. Do not jump into a ministry that you know you cannot do well, with a good conscience toward God.

(b) Additional Work or School Activities: For example, going for further training or studies to improve your job skills. Include these in your schedule only if they fit. Next in priority are the extras that you may plan for your friends and loved ones, like birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings. These can mean so much in maintaining good personal relationships. 

(c) Personal Recreation. This includes games and hobbies. Choose only those that will be beneficial for improving your mental, social, emotional and physical well-being.

Step Two: Examine for Inefficiency:

After all your activities have been arranged in order of priority, it is time to examine each activity for efficiency. For example, it is more efficient to settle some administrative transactions on-line than to spend much time waiting in a queue. And if you have no choice but to wait in a long queue, use that time to catch up with some profitable reading or thinking.

To be efficient, look for the best and fastest way to accomplish your tasks. For example, spending some time to tidy and organise your environment will eliminate hours spent looking for items. If you have examined each activity for maximum efficiency, but you find that your time is still inadequate, then proceed to the next step.

Step Three: Start at the Bottom and Cut.

Do not cut back on the time that is allotted for basic responsibilities, but on the time allotted for the extra activities (as listed above). Learn to say "NO" to unimportant time-consuming activities without feeling guilty. The hardest person to say 'no' to may be yourself! Many find themselves with too little time because they give in too easily to indulging themselves with extras. 

But if you really believe that God has planned your life and that He has provided all the time resources needed to fulfill your responsibilities then you must be prepared to obey Him in refusing those activities that are not of Him, and working more efficiently in those which are of Him.

Step Four: Implement Time Management Day by Day

Implementing these priorities and principles of time management in your daily life requires some skill, because most people can only concentrate and give undivided attention to one thing at a time. And so we need to make appropriate adjustments to the way we spend our time, according to the changing needs. For example, if you are a student and your exams are coming very close, then you would need to apportion less time to other things in order to give greater priority to studying. And when exams are over, you can then apportion more time for other needful things.

But this skill can be acquired with experience. It is like preparing a meal which includes a few dishes. First you turn your attention to getting the ingredients, thawing the meat, and cutting the vegetables. Then you get the rice washed. After that you turn your attention to preparing one dish, and while that is being cooked in the oven, you prepare something else. At the right time you turn on the rice cooker, etc.

And if you do not want to lose track of all your many responsibilities and tasks, keep a "To Do" list handy at all times. Write everything you need to do in it, and look forward to deleting tasks when they are completed!

Starting well is not good enough. You need to maintain the effort of applying these four steps in a disciplined manner in order to make the best use of your time. How do you maintain this? By reminding yourself from the Word of God that your time is limited and very precious, and that you must use it wisely. The year 2004 will be here soon, and with it, another 365 days of time. How will you use it? "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11