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“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3 CEB)
Time. Our lives are shaped by it, wrapped around it, dictated by it. The world operates on it and schedules are formed on it. Time is measured by numbers on a clock. It’s marked in boxes on a thing we call a calendar. We record time when we punch into our jobs, we structure our music with it, and we even call our meeting records “minutes.”
What’s more, churches become institutions of time. Rev. John Wesley believed that because time was short, every moment in time needed to be occupied with holy work and that one should not trifle away time. As a pastor, I always try to be a “good steward of time” during our worship services and, no doubt, many pastors are quickly told whether or not they are starting and/or ending worship too late.
Beyond the physical function of time in the church institution, time is also laden in our theology and in the Bible itself. “In the Beginning” (Genesis 1), “a season” or a time “for everything under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 3), “making the most of your time” (Ephesians 5:16), “I am the beginning and the end” (Revelation 1:8), and others all signify the importance of time for humanity.
Yet, I believe that time can also become our proverbial golden calf, a false idol in our lives. Time is too often used in a way that enables us to be busy, preoccupied, scurrying, workers of the tediously mundane. Let me repeat that again. Time is too often used in a way that enables us to be busy, preoccupied, scurrying, workers of the tediously mundane. In other words, we fill up time rather than purposefully manage and utilize it for the glory of God.
As a pastor, I don’t have to work hard at being busy and being busy keeps me working hard, no doubt. There is more to be done daily in the life of the church than any one pastor or person could possibly accomplish. My time, as is the case with all servant leaders, is spent filled with the busy-ness of the church. Also, on top of being a pastor, I serve on a couple of committees and I am active in the life of the church beyond the local congregation I serve. To add to that, I am a son, a husband, a father, and a friend; therefore, I have important and vital relationships that I need to maintain and be actively engaged in.
These realities are not just realities for pastors alone, but for all people. You, no doubt, are a busy person with much to do and vitally important relationships to maintain and be actively engaged in. You, if you are a Christian who is actively engaged in a local congregation somewhere, are incredibly busy doing the work in the life of the church.
Here’s the potential pitfall to all that I have written above. God does not call us to be “busy”, nor does God deem our busy-ness to be the best use of our time. Yes, God calls us to serve the church and to be the body of Christ. Yes, God calls us to bring the Gospel message to all people. Yes, God calls us to diligently bring hope, healing and wholeness to people sorely in need of it. But a lot of the work we do, if we are completely honest, does not answer that call as much as it fills up our time.
The challenge for all of us as human beings, as children of God, is the following: To not “trifle our time away” with the mundane work that keeps us from answering God’s call. Every moment is a sacred moment and should be kept holy. We should work diligently, but we should also use mundane work as an excuse as to why we don’t have the time to do the things God has called us to. What’s more, God has called us set time apart to rest, to be renewed, and to be recharged (aka Sabbath). Remember, we should never trifle with time but should glorify God with our use of the time we have by working diligently, serving efficiently, and resting religiously.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Be diligent. Never be unemployed a moment. Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time; neither spend more time at any place than is strictly necessary.” – John Wesley, from Wesley’s Twelve Rules of a Helper
Lord, help me to steer clear of trifling the time you have given me. Amen.