Much has been made in the modern evangelical church about the stewardship of finances, and rightfully so. The collective American psyche has been saturated with greed, overspending and a false sense of self-sufficiency. In response, pastors and theologians have preached multi-month sermon series and written innumerable books in an attempt to revive a godly attitude toward finances. While these interventions have spawned newfound, biblically minded fiscal responsibility, perhaps a better catalyst to begin a spiritual revival in America—to renew a right spirit in all of us—is to magnify the infinite importance of our stewardship of time.
Before my Grandma Amy passed away, she used to pepper me with this reminder: One day, we will ALL have to give an account to the Lord for our time. She was obviously paraphrasing Romans 14:10-12, in which Paul reminds us that we will bow before the judgment seat of Christ one day and confess how we lived our lives. Grandma Amy’s thinly veiled message of rebuke was motivated partly by the wisdom she had gained from living a long life pursuing holiness and partly by the reports from my mother detailing my incessant busyness.
Looking back, I wish I would have appreciated those rebukes more, because coming from a Norwegian farmwife in her seventies, those messages were about as emotionally intimate and verbally expressive as it would ever get. And I also wish that I would have possessed the wisdom back then to put my arm around my grandma and tell her that, while she was right to fear God, we didn’t need to be anxious about that day of judgment because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for us; He bore all our sins on the cross, and if we just confess our sin, God will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But I didn’t know that then. I hadn’t yet taken the time to know God and understand what He did for us.
The crazy part is … grandma was right. I was a slave to busyness.
I spent my 20s pursuing everything I could to avoid the void, the calling of God.
On the night I finally answered that call to submit my life to Jesus Christ, Rod Van Solkema, pastor at Crossroads Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, dropped this bomb on me as he preached to a singles group: “For many of you, busyness is the greatest sin in your life.”
I instantaneously felt sick, scared, angry and fearful. It wasn’t that I hadn’t known God because I didn’t have the time for Him. I had stayed as busy as humanly possible so that I wouldn’t have to know Him. I knew, somewhere deep down, that if I spent more time with Him, getting to know Him, I would finally submit my life fully to Him, and that was a frightful thought to me. I knew an integral part of a relationship with God was facing my sins and I didn’t want that, so I busied myself to the point of numbness.Unfortunately, the culture of busyness was being celebrated in both secular and church cultures, and I had gladly joined the fray.
Leaving the church that evening under the weight of Rod’s words, I knew I needed to make drastic, life-altering changes, the first of which was finally submitting my life to Jesus. That decision, in the moment, was surprisingly easy. Over the next twelve years, I found submitting my time to Him much more difficult.
Most often, our struggles with time revolve around how much we are doing and what we are doing.
A first step to improve your stewardship of time is to bathe this concept in prayer.
Sit still and pray that the Holy Spirit would place in your mind what He wants you to do with this spiritual discipline. If we fail to submit this process to Him, we are merely practicing the art of efficient living and promoting ourselves instead of glorifying God.
The next step is to conduct a time-investment self-evaluation, tracking your time usage in 30-minute intervals for two weeks.
The first time I conducted a time-usage evaluation, I was shocked to see how little time I spent pursuing, serving and loving God. It gave me great clarity about what I value most in my life, and at that time, it was me.
If you choose to conduct the time-investment analysis on yourself, it may reveal what or who you are worshiping, just as people say looking at your checking account or credit card bill reveals your heart for finances. For me, I was spending an inordinate amount of time on myself. I desperately needed to relearn how to value my time.
Do you steward your time?
As I moved through that process, I began with the thought that, if I could use the time I have more efficiently, I could glorify God more with my life.
But I was convicted that I was only reconfiguring how I invested my leftover time instead of actually creating time by reprioritizing my life goals. That revelation helped me create more time to build my relationship with the Lord, serve Him and love others.
As a friend posted recently on Facebook, “Love God. Love people.” Simple. Now we just need to invest our time as if we wanted that poignant Facebook post, the iGeneration’s version of Matthew 22:37-39, to define our lives.
(In subsequent articles, Bradley Anderson plans to explain Scripture that supports the Stewardship of Time project previewed in this article: Article #2 Submitting your Time to God, Article #3 Evaluating Your Utilization of Time, Article #4 Re-learning How to Value Your Time, Article # 5 Creating and Investing Time to Love God and People.)