This article on time management is a week overdue, so clearly I have room for improvement in this area. I am well aware of the fact that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but I often find myself asking, “Where does the time go?” Many people much smarter than me have written countless books on time management, and how to schedule every minute of your life for optimal success. You’re welcome to read them, but if you are like me, then you probably don’t have time. If you have time for a few paragraphs that can reorient your view on time, then keep reading.
Steward Time for God’s Glory
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” We need to look to the Lord for wisdom on how we are to live. Framing our tasks in light of eternity helps provide the proper perspective on how to spend our time. Simply stated, we find time for things that matter. Time is a gift, and it should be treated as such. Jere Phillips wrote, “Managing time is really managing oneself.” (1) To get our lives in order, we have to get our time in order.
The verse before Psalm 90:12 reads, “If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.” Translation: we act differently when we remember the One with whom we are dealing. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so it is only when our heart is submitted to God that we will know what to do with our time God’s time. Stewardship is about realizing who the owner is. God sets the priorities, and it is our job to follow his guidance. So, why do we get it wrong?
Recognize How Bad We Are at Time Management
William Willimon noted, “Church people, particularly pastors, are poor managers of time.” (2) Perhaps paradoxically, pastors may find themselves overcommitted or waiting in a reactive mode. Maybe we have imbibed the hustle and bustle of our culture. Maybe we can’t say “no” for fear of disappointing others. Or, maybe we just forget what is most important in life. Alexander Maclaren said,
“I thank God that I was stuck down in a quiet little obscure place to begin my ministry; for what spoils half of you young fellows is that you get pitchforked into prominent positions at once, and then fritter yourselves away in all manner of little engagements that you call duties, going to this tea-meeting, that anniversary, that other breakfast celebration, instead of stopping at home and reading your Bible and getting near to God. I thank God for the early days of struggle and obscurity.”
A significant part of the problem is that we have a tendency to “fritter ourselves away” on things that don’t matter.
The next time you are worked up about something and wondering if you will have time to fit it in your schedule, ask yourself a few questions. Will this matter in three months? Will this matter in five years? Will this matter in eternity? Framing tasks with the perspective of their eternal significance reveals how much temporal matters govern our days. Join Moses the Psalmist in submitting your time to God and asking Him to give you wisdom.
You will give an account of how you spend your time. You will give an account for the people to whom you minister and the sermons you preach. The lesson I am learning in regards to stewardship is: Take responsibility for the time you are given. Determine what is important, fulfill your obligations, and be flexible when possible. Schedule blocks of time for essential tasks like sermon preparation. Guard the essential from the urgent. Learn to distinguish between the two. I was talking with one of my friends about this recently, and he said it better than I can: “There’s dust on my fan, and there’s dishes in my sink, but my soul is good.”
(1) Phillips, Pastoral Ministry for the Next Generation, 241.
(2) Willimon, Clergy and Laity Burnout, 45.
(3) Maclaren, Similes and Figures from Alexander Maclaren, 12.
Andrew works as the Caskey Center Coordinator, and he is also pursuing a PHD in Biblical Exposition. He enjoys learning about imagery in preaching, preaching to a contemporary audience, and the wisdom literature.