It takes discipline and effort to live the ultimate life that God wants us to live. Our lives are really just a series of continuous moments that creates the overall experience we call life. We all have a set number of moments that have been given to us by God. When we run out of moments here on earth, our life is ended and we move into eternity.
Now this is the important part–what we do on earth determines our eternity. So it is extremely important that we guard our time and use it wisely according to what God wants us to do each day. The Bible puts it this way…
Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get.These are desperate times! (The Message)
Another version says it like this…
Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. (Amplified Bible)
Clearly, time is a valuable resource. We need time to accomplish every goal and every dream in our hearts. How sad it would be to do everything that everyone else wants us to do (the boss, the spouse, the kids, the volunteer group, the pastor) and never make time to do what God has asked of us.
Unfortunately, many people live their lives this way and end up feeling angry and guilty. Angry because they know they are allowing other people to control their time and guilty because they know they are not living up to their potential. It’s not that we shouldn’t spend time helping others, but there is a balance. Let’s look at a parable Jesus told about the kingdom of God that illustrates this point further…
Matthew 25: 1-14 (The Story of the Virgins)
- “God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep. “In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bridegroom’s here! Go out and greet him!’
- “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’
- “They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’
- “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.
- “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed upand knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’
- “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’
- “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.
An Interesting Interpretation
Although theologians and scholars have different views about the meaning of this parable regarding the return of Jesus, there are some general principles we can take from the text as it relates to how we use our resources.
In the parable all of the virgins were looking forward to the return of the bridegroom. As Christians we are all looking forward to the return of Christ. The difference in the two groups was how they handled their responsibilities (lamps=vision) and their resources (oil=time/energy). When the virgins who were unprepared (they did not have enough oil for their lamps) at the bridegroom’s arrival asked the prepared virgins for their oil, their answer was “No!” This answer is surprising because we are taught that we should help one another, and we should; but, not at the expense of neglecting our own responsibilities (vision).
In other words, as Christians we all are given responsibilities that we are supposed to fulfill and it takes time and energy to complete them. If we give away all of our time and energy to help others with their vision, we may not have enough left to do what God called us to do. That’s why the five wise virgins said no. It’s not that they weren’t concerned about the other virgins; they were just more concerned about handling their vision (lamp) responsibly.
Sometimes as wise virgins (people consecrated for a purpose), we must say no to protect the call of God on our lives. This doesn’t mean we should not use tact and sensitivity when others make requests we cannot meet. The wise virgins just didn’t say “No!” and leave it at that. They said no, but also offered advice on how the problem could be solved. If we have to turn down requests for assistance we can still be kind by referring people to other sources of help.
It can be heart wrenching when you are trying to figure out how to best use your time–especially, if you are the type of person who wants to help everyone. Imagine those ten virgins must have all been friends. It probably wasn’t easy saying no.
That’s why seeking the Lord is the first step in determining our priorities. He knows exactly what we are supposed to be doing and when we should do it. What’s important for one person to do may be busy work or a waste of time for another. Our priorities should be based on the will of God for our lives, not someone else’s.
Also, keep in mind that there will be seasons of service in our lives. In some seasons, we may be called to put our dream on the back burner while we whole-heartedly sow seeds of service into a person or organization to help them fulfill theirs. In another season God may call us to dedicate most of our time and energy into developing a business or ministry or raising our family, while only sowing financial seeds or doing minimal volunteer work to help others. Our priorities will change depending on the season we’re in.
Spending time in prayer and yielding ourselves to the leadership of the Holy Spirit is the key to having peace about how we use our time. Learn not to make promises too quickly. Some tips for handling requests are as follows:
- Think about each request and consider your priorities and schedule before making a commitment.
- Don’t give an immediate response. Ask for time to consider the request.
- Respond based on what would please God, not merely on what the other person wants to hear.
- Realize that your self worth is not based on what you do for others it is based on who you are in Christ.
After we have identified our priorities according to the will of God, we will know when to say “No” and more importantly when to say “Yes.”
Take the Attitude Tune-Up – Ask yourself the following questions and write down your responses. Journaling/writing is a great way to get to the bottom of your true feelings and document your progress.
- Pray and ask God to tell you what things should be priorities in your life. Write the top two or three down.
- Now, generally determine how much time you are dedicating to those priorities. Tip: Successful pastor, author and speaker John Maxwell recommends that we should spend 80% of our time towards our strengths (priorities) and only 20% towards our weaknesses (non-priorities )
- Adjust your schedule based on your priorities. Tip: Spending time with God, spending time with your family, spending time to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and spending time to pursue your aspirations should all be on your schedule somewhere. Once you have written those priorities in, now you know how much time you have to dedicate to other things–this makes saying “NO” easier. Remember, if you do what God tells you to do, then everyone else will be satisfied too (spouse, boss, pastor, children, friends, etc.)
- Now that you have aligned your schedule according to your priorities, you may have also identified some activities you need to phase out of your life. If you have made commitments that are not in line with your priorities you will have to gradually work your way out of them. Set a time on your schedule where you will speak with the parties involved to let them know that you cannot keep the original commitment. Determine what you can do and communicate that clearly. If you need to quit altogether, give enough notice so that they can find someone else to handle the tasks that were assigned to you.