We have more time-saving technologies than ever before, but how many of us feel as though we have enough time in life?
Most people feel a sense of unease about their lives and their schedules: almost all of us are just too busy. We wish there were more hours in a day. People know they need to spend their time better, but often feel as though they are trapped in their current patterns. Work, school, family, friends, community, and entertainment: all of these, and more, seem to make constant demands on our time.
If we would serve the Lord Jesus and find life in Him, we must undergo a fundamental shift in how we approach our lives in terms of our perspective and our priorities. In so doing we might discover a more healthy, balanced, and fulfilling way to live.
So much of modern life is founded upon the illusion of control: we look at time as “ours,” expect to live a long, full life, and make decisions accordingly. Yet, according to what God has made known in Scripture, life is a gift, one which we have not deserved or merited (Acts 17:25, 1 Timothy 6:13). Today far too many imagine themselves to be young and to have all kinds of time do to whatever they wish, and yet according to James the brother of Jesus, humans are like a mist: here one day, gone the next; we are not even guaranteed the next breath (James 4:13-16). Christians are called upon to redeem the time, for the days are evil: full of vexation, suffering, difficulty, and ultimately death (Ephesians 5:16). We cannot view time as a resource to be plundered and from which to extract value; life is a gift, and we hold it in trust from God, who will demand an accounting (Romans 14:10-12).
Our perspective about time will shape how we decide to spend our time. If you were able to know for certain that today would be the last day of your life, how would that change your intended schedule for the day? What if you knew for certain that your life would last for another month? Another year? Another five years? If people have reason to believe their lives will end shortly, they will generally make sure to spend the time they have left with family members, to make sure the people who meant something in their lives receive validation and encouragement, and to dedicate themselves to finishing up whatever other projects may give their lives meaning. They also tend to seek reconciliation with their Creator.
But what if you were able to know for certain that you would not die for another twenty-five, fifty, or even seventy-five years? You probably would not interrupt your current life plan; if anything, you might be tempted to put off reconciliation with your Creator or some of the more difficult conversations and practices in life. Thus God has good reason to keep the length of a man’s life hidden from him, for that knowledge will not do him much good, and can do great harm. God encourages all people to live for the moment, not dependent on an imagined future for happiness, always prepared to depart from this world (Matthew 25:1-13, James 4:13-16). Christians should therefore always appreciate life as a gift from God, never take it for granted, and live each day prepared and in relationship with God so that whether we continue to live or if our lives end, all will be well.
While we do not have control over the length of our lives, and ought to reckon life as a gift from God, not something we own or control, we are nevertheless responsible for how we use the time God has given us (Ephesians 5:16). How we spend our time demonstrates our priorities.
Christians tend to know how they should prioritize their lives: they should put God and His Kingdom first, as Jesus declared in Matthew 6:25-34. They then ought to prioritize their family, their friends, their employment, their community, and others in various ways. They ought to have some regard for their own health and care, but should not be primarily living for themselves (Philippians 2:1-4, Ephesians 5:29). But would we be able to see these priorities manifest in how Christians spend their time?
Christians are busy people, just like everyone else. It is not inherently sinful to be busy; the question depends on what is making us busy. We must remember that “I am too busy” really always means “I have made other priorities.” This, also, is not inherently a bad thing, as long as we are pursuing the right priorities!
So many times Christians are tempted to make everything about good versus evil, right versus wrong, righteousness versus sin. Those contrasts exist, and we must stand firm in God’s truth, resisting the evil, and clinging to the good (Romans 12:9, Galatians 5:17-24, etc.). Nevertheless, just because something is good does not mean it always ought to be prioritized. As we have seen in Matthew 6:25-34, and can see in Matthew 23:23 and other passages, there are lesser goods and greater goods.
Sometimes Christians are tempted to spend their times on the sinful pleasures of the world; we must resist this temptation at all costs (1 Corinthians 10:13). Yet in a lot of circumstances Christians are sorely tempted to spend their time on the lesser goods and miss out on the greater goods. We choose self-care over making that phone call or spending time with friends. We spend a bit more time studying for school subjects and have little to none left over for the Scriptures. We feel we have to spend so many more hours at work, and have no extra time to serve others. We are exhausted and sleep in on Sunday morning and miss the assembling of the saints. And, if we are honest with ourselves, most all of us have spent far too many moments scrolling through social media on our phone while we have missed out on interaction with and service for our fellow people.
The world has little desire to help you prioritize your life well; they have every incentive to distract you and maintain your attention for as long as possible, be it at work, in school, or in entertainment. We will only maintain proper priorities if we resist the ways of the world and work to actively prioritize God, His work, His people, and the people in our lives. Yet again we ask: what if your life ended today or tomorrow? How would you feel you had spent the time God has given you? What would you change about your life? At some point, your life will end today or tomorrow, and you will stand before your God! May we all look at life as a gift from God, and seek to spend our time most effectively glorifying Him by maintaining a healthy perspective in life and actively prioritizing what God would have us prioritize if we would share in life!
Ethan R. Longhenry