The Importance of Time Management in the Christian Life

Based on, The Preciousness Of Time And The Importance Of Redeeming It, by Jonathan Edwards, Dated December, 1734

Time management is an important topic in our day and age, especially for Christians.  Recently I read a sermon by Jonathan Edwards–one of the best time managers the church has ever seen–on this issue and I was left with a lot to think about.  Today I am posting some of my thoughts on this issues, and on the sermon delivered by Edwards.  The Bible gives us a lot to think about on this topic, and Edwards brings this out in a typically Edwardsian fashion.

Intro:

Ephesians 5:16: “…make the best use of time, because the days are evil.”

Jonathan Edwards: “Upon time we should set a high value, and be exceeding careful that it be not lost; and we are therefore exhorted to exercise wisdom and circumspection, in order that we may redeem it. And hence it appears, that time is exceedingly precious.”

I. Why Is Time Precious?

1. How we use our time has eternal and temporal consequences.

Scripture: Mt 6:19-21; 2 Thess 3:10

Edwards: Hence it is that time is so exceedingly precious, because by it we have opportunity of escaping everlasting misery, and of obtaining everlasting blessedness and glory.

2. Time is very short.

Scripture: Job 9:25-26; James 4:14

Edwards: Time is so short, and the work which we have to do in it is so great, that we have none of it to spare. The work which we have to do to prepare for eternity, must be done in time, or it never can be done….

3. We don’t know when we will run out of time.

Scripture: Prov 27:1

Edwards: We are every day uncertain whether that day will not be the last, or whether we are to have the whole day.

4. We cannot get time back.

Illustration: Just think of how quickly your children have grown up.

Edwards: If a man should lose the whole of his worldly substance, and become a bankrupt, it is possible that his loss may be made up. He may have another estate as good. But when the time of life is gone, it is impossible that we should ever obtain another such time. All opportunity of obtaining eternal welfare is utterly and everlastingly gone.

II. How do we waste our time?

1. We waste our time with idleness.

Scripture: Prov 19:15; Prov 23:21; Prov 14:23; Prov 18:9; Eph 4:28

Edwards: … if it were as common a thing for them to throw away their money, as it is for them to throw away their time, we should think them beside themselves, and not in the possession of their right minds. Yet time is a thousand times more precious than money; and when it is gone, cannot be purchased for money, cannot be redeemed by silver or gold.

2. We waste our time with wickedness

Scripture: Isa 55:7

Edwards: …they are reproved by this doctrine who spend their time in wickedness, who do not merely spend their time in doing nothing to any good

purpose, but spend it to ill purposes. Such do not only lose their time, but they do worse; with it they hurt both themselves and others.

3. We waste our time by pursuing worldly goals at the expense of our souls

Scripture: Mt 6:19-21

Edwards: They, therefore, whose time is taken up in caring and laboring for the world only, in inquiring what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed; in contriving to lay up for themselves treasure upon earth, how to enrich themselves, how to make themselves great in the world, or how to live in comfortable and pleasant circumstances, while here; who busy their minds and employ their strength in these things only, and the stream of whose affections is directed towards these things; they lose their precious time.

III. Reasons to manage our time better

1. You are accountable to God for your time.

Scripture: Mt 12:36

Edwards: Time is a talent given us by God; he hath set us our day; and it is not for nothing. Our day was appointed for some work; therefore he will, at the day’s end, call us to an account. We must give account to him of the improvement of all our time.

2. You have already lost time.

Illustration: If you are losing money with an investment strategy you change strategies.

Edwards: The devil makes fools of them; for when they are young, he tells them, there is time enough hereafter, there is no need of being in haste, it will be better seeking salvation hereafter; and then they believe him. Afterwards, when their youth is past, he tells them, that now they have lost so much, and the best of their time, that it is not worth their while to attempt to do anything; and now they believe him too.

3. In you later years you don’t want to regret the time you wasted.

Illustration: Youth shouldn’t be wasted on the young

Edwards: What a sense of its preciousness have poor sinners sometimes, when they are on their deathbeds! Such have cried out, O, a thousand worlds for an inch of time! Then time appears to them indeed precious.

4. You don’t want to spend eternity regretting how you spent your time.

Scripture: Luke 16:19-31 (The Rich Man and Lazarus)

Edwards: Though they were very lavish of their time while they lived, and set no great value upon it; yet how have they changed their judgments! How would they value the opportunity which you have, if they might but have it granted to them! What would they not give for one of your days, under the means of grace! — So will you, first or last, be convinced. But if you be not convinced except in the manner in which they are, it will be too late.

IV. Ways to better manage your time

1. Don’t wait to get started

Scripture: Ps 119:60

Edwards: If you delay and put off its improvement, still more time will be lost; and it will be an evidence that you are not sensible of its preciousness.

2. Make times of worship and service a priority

Scripture: Isa 55:6

Edwards: …improve those parts of time which are most precious. Though all time is very precious, yet some parts are more precious than others; as, particularly, holy time is more precious than common time. Such time is of great advantage for our everlasting welfare. Therefore, above all, improve your Sabbaths, and especially the time of public worship, which is the most precious part. Lose it not either in sleep, or in carelessness, inattention, and wandering imaginations.

3. Use your leisure time for spiritual & physical refreshment

Scripture: Luke 4:4

Edwards: When we are most free from cares for the body, and business of an outward nature, a happy opportunity for the soul is afforded. Therefore spend not such opportunities unprofitably, nor in such a manner that you will not be able to give a good account thereof to God.

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BP Sports Article

This week I have a new article up for Baptist Press Sports (bpsports.net).  The article is titledRunning with Endurance”.

Here is an excerpt:

The lengths to which serious runners will go to remove anything that slows them down serves as a good reminder for Christians that we must lay aside anything that might hinder our growth in Christ. As Hebrews 12:1 puts it, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

You read the whole thing HERE.

A Dependent Church – Acts 4:23-35 (conclusion)

VI. A Dependent Church Trusts God with the Results (vv. 31, & 33)

We have seen five traits of a dependent church: 1) a dependent church prays; 2) a dependent church finds comfort in the sovereignty of god; 3) a dependent church boldly proclaims the God’s word; 4) a dependent church is unified; 5) a dependent church gives generously.  There is one more trait in the passage that I want to go back and look at.  Namely that a dependent church trusts God with the results.  Now I know I said earlier that the trust is synonym for dependence so this point is rather redundant.  But still I think that there is a helpful reminder here for us.  Look back at v. 31.  Here God answers the prayer of the people and look what happens, the began to preach boldly.  When the people prayed asking God for boldness they had no idea how He would answer that prayer, but they trusted Him.  Additionally, when they continued to speak the word with boldness they had no idea what would happen to them.  They didn’t know if a single person would accept their message, or even if the Sanhedrin would allow them to live.  But that didn’t stop them because they did not concern themselves with the results.  They were being faithful to what God called them to do, and they trusted Him to accomplish whatever results He intended to accomplish.

Now look at v. 33.  Here again we find the apostles testifying to reality of the resurrection of Christ.  But here Luke adds that they were doing so with great power.  I think that we can safely presume that this meant that they were experiencing great results.  I say this because the first time Peter preached 3,000 people were saved, and the second time he preached 5,000 people were saved.  One can only assume that when Luke says that they were preaching about the resurrection with great power that great numbers of people continued to believe.  However, I want you to notice why this was happening.  It was not because Peter knew his demographics well.  Or because the apostles had a great 10 year plan.  It was because “abundant grace was upon them all.”  In other words, as they were being faithful to their task the Lord took care of the results.

I want to be clear on this point.  I am not saying that God will provide thousands of converts to every preacher that faithfully depends upon him.  This is simply not how it works.  In fact, many of the prophets saw very few, if any people, respond to their message.  My point is simply that we must depend upon God for the results.  take this church for example.  Whether God fills up this building and we need eight services, or He keeps us where we are at our responsibility remains the same.  We cannot change the results, we can only dependently trust God with results.  This means that we don’t worry.  We are not anxious.  Instead, we trust in what God is doing.

Sometimes this is hard for us.  We worry about the results.  Rather than faithfully serve God we would rather manipulate the results.  This, however, reveals a heart that is dependent upon self rather than God.

Conclusion:

I this passage we have seen what a dependent church looks like.  Specifically, we saw 6 traits of a dependent:

  1. A Dependent Church God prays. (v. 24)
  2. A Dependent Church finds comfort in God’s sovereignty (vv. 25-28)
  3. A Dependent Church boldly proclaims His word. (vv. 29-30)
  4. A Dependent Church is unified. (v. 32a)
  5. A Dependent Church gives generously (vv. 32b, & 34-35)
  6. A Dependent Church trusts God with the results.  (vv. 31, & 33)

My prayer for our churches is that these traits would become prominent marks of everyday life around.  But the only that is going to happen if each of us individually seeks to live out these traits in our own lives.  So my challenge for all of us is that we would dependently look to God as our source of help in all circumstances.  That we would have a heart attitude that trusts God more than self.

A Dependent Church – Acts 4:23-35 (pt. 6)

V. A Dependent Church Gives Generously (vv. 32b, & 34-35)

We have seen four traits of a dependent church: 1) a dependent church prays; 2) a dependent church finds comfort in the sovereignty of god; 3) a dependent church boldly proclaims the God’s word; 4) a dependent church is unified.  Now in vv. 32-36 we will see that a dependent church gives generously.  Here Luke further describes the church by saying,

and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

To understand this passage we need to go back and remind ourselves a little bit about the situation that these people were in.  The church was filled with new coverts from every stripe of life.  Many of these people were very poor, and with the Jewish community persecuting them it would be hard to earn any extra money in the market place.  Additionally, many of the new converts were in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast, but when they repented and accepted Christ they extended their stay so that they could learn more about their new found faith.  This meant that there were a lot of people in financial need.  But look at how the church responded to this need.  No one held onto their own personal property.  Everything they had they made it available for service to Christ.  They understood that God was the one who gave it to them, and so they had no problem giving it back to God for the good of His church.  Because of this generosity Luke tells us that there was not a needy person among them.  This does not mean that everyone lived in the lap of luxury, or even that everyone was in the same tax bracket.  It simply means that everyone had their basic needs provided for.  Verse 34 tells us specifically that this was because some of the more well off believers were able to sell of land and give it to the apostle to be disbursed among the church. Thankfully the Lord saw fit to save some individuals who were in a more stable financial situation.

By the way, I want to set the record straight.  This passage is not teaching some kind of Christian communism.  As Calvin notes, “…he meaneth not that the faithful sold all that they had, but only so much as need required.” (Calvin, 192)  People still retained their possession, however they were willing to generously give up their possession when the needs of others required it. Kent Hughes further explains it, “If we focus on what seems to be the impracticality of this, or upon the seeming communism, we miss the point. Communism says practically, ‘What is yours is everyone’s. ‘Christianity says, ‘What is mine is yours.'”[1]

This kind of generosity can only come out of a heart that understand that God is the one who provides us with the material blessing that we have.  Or to put it another way, generosity comes from a dependent heart.  If we are depending upon God to provide for our needs then we will not fret giving away something the belongs to us.  The problem is that we very rarely view our money as a gift from God.  In fact, often times we depend upon our money rather than upon God.  We keep checking our bank accounts and as long as we have so much money we feel safe.  Or, we depend upon money to purchase the things that we think will satisfy our desires.  Either way we are depending upon our money, and when we do this it will be impossible to give generously.

What we must do instead is depend upon God to supply us with our needs, and then wisely use the resources that He has provided for us to serve Him.  Remember, whatever God has given you belongs to Him and He expects you to be a good steward of it.  He expects you to generously help your brother or sister in need.  And He expects you to regularly give to your church.  If you are depending on God then you will easily be able to do these things because you are not depending on you money.  The believers in Acts 4 were able to do this even though they were facing the kind of persecution that was eventually going to affect them economically, and they were able to do this because they were depending upon God.


[1] R. Kent Hughes, Acts : The Church Afire, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996), 71.

A Dependent Church – Acts 4:23-35 (pt. 5)

IV. A Dependent Church is Unified (v. 32a)

So far we have seen three traits of a dependent church: 1) a dependent church prays, 2) a dependent church finds comfort in the Sovereignty of God, 3) a dependent church boldly proclaims God’s word.  In the v. 32 we will see that the fourth trait of a dependent church is that a dependent church is unified.  In this verse Luke is done recording the prayer, and now he begins to describe the church.  The first thing that he says about this group of believers is that “the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”  With this we learn that they were not only united in their prayer, but they were also united in heart and soul.  Or to put it another way, they were unified.

The terms heart and soul together simply indicate that they were unified in the entire being.  There was no part of them that was not unified with the rest of the church.  When I think of this it is quite amazing to me, and leaves me with several questions.  For instance, what does this kind of unity look like?  In response to this question Kent Hughes put it better that I can when he said that

This does not mean these believers saw everything eye to eye. It is wrong to suppose, as sadly some do, that when believers dwell in unity they will carry the same Bible, read the same books, promote the same styles, educate their children the same way, have the same likes and dislikes—that they will become Christian clones. The fact is, the insistence that others be just like us is one of the most disunifying mind-sets a church can have because it instills a judgmental inflexibility that hurls people away from the church with lethal force. One of the wonders of Christ is that he honors our individuality while bringing us into unity.[1]

As we pursue unity in our own church Hughes’ quote is very helpful.  We should not be looking for conformity to one another’s preferences.  Instead, we should accept the different ways that God has gifted each one of us, and seek to use those gifts together to serve Christ.  This is the essence of unity.  Unity is a group of individual who have been joined together through the work of Christ, and who are willing to set aside personal preferences in order to better serve Christ. The bible tells us that when the church is unified in this way there will be amazing results.  In fact, when Jesus was praying just before his crucifixion He made this request of the Father:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. (John 17:20-21)

Here we see that the unity of the church is a testimony to the world that Jesus was sent by God as the Savior.

Another question that arises in my mind as I contemplate the unity of this early church is: where does this kind of unity come from?  I ask this in my mind because this kind of unity is difficult for me to pursue.  I don’t want to surrender my own preferences.  I would rather have everyone just do it my way, so this kind of unity is not going to come from within me.  In fact, this kind of unity is not going to come from within any one of us, it comes only from God.  This is why Ephesians 4:2-3 says “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Notice the it says that we need to preserve the unity, not create it!  This is because God has already provided it for us through the work of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. REMEMBER, Unity is a group of individual who have been joined together through the work of Christ, and who are willing to set aside personal preferences in order to better serve Christ. You see, Christ died so that we could be forgiven of our sins and become a part of His spiritual body.  Additionally the Spirit has given each one of us individual gifts so that together we can effectively serve Christ.  This means that our unity come from God.  Or to put it another way, we must depend upon God for our unity.  When we are jealous of another persons gifts we are really failing to depend upon the God who gave the gifts.  When we refuse to humbly forego our own rights for the good of our brother we are really selfishly pursuing our own good rather than depending upon God to work all things together for our God.  I think you get the point.  Dependence upon God will result in unity.  This was certainly the case with this group of believers in Acts 4.  They were so busy depending upon God that they didn’t have time for disunity.  They were busy praying, preaching, and as we will see in a minute providing for one another.  They didn’t have time for disunity.  Rather, their dependence resulted in unity.


[1] R. Kent Hughes, Acts : The Church Afire, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996), 69.

A Dependent Church – Acts 4:23-35 (pt. 4)

III. A Dependent Church Boldly Proclaims God’s Word (vv. 29-30)

Thus far we have seen that a dependent church, first of all, prays, and, secondly, finds comfort in the Sovereignty of God.  Now, as we turn our attention to vv. 29-30 we are going to see that the third trait of a dependent church is that a dependent church boldly proclaims God’s word.  Up to this point the prayer has been focused on God’s sovereign work in the past, but in these verses the people finally bring their request about the current situation before the Lord.  The idea is that since God has been sovereignly working in the past He is able to help with the current situation.

Here is the request that they make: “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence.”  If I am being honest with you this is not the request that I would have made.  My prayer would have been a lot like the prayer of John and James in Luke 9 when they were ready to call down fire on the Samaritans for not believing in Jesus.  It probable would have gone something like, “And now Lord take note of their threats and smote them down.  Let fleas infest their armpits if they arrest another one of the brothers!”  Needless to say, the prayer offered on this day was far more dependent–and mature–than my prayer request would have been.

Notice that the people do not pray for their enemies to be crushed, or for God to take notice of the threats and punish them.  The people knew that in God’s timing these things would be sorted out by the ultimate and perfect judge.  Their concern was not for personal and immediate vindication.  Their concern was that these threats would distract them from their task, and thus their plea was that God would allow them the courage to continue to preach with boldness.

It is interesting that church refers to themselves as “bond-servants.”  Really the word here means slaves (δούλοις).  This is interesting because it would have been unheard of for a slave to publically speak boldly.  That is, unless he had been commanded to by His master.  Which is exactly the case with the church.  This church recognized that they were slaves who had been left with a task, to spread the good news about Jesus.  Before Jesus ascended back into heaven he made it clear that it was the church’s task to proclaim the Word of God to the entire world.  They knew that they had received the command from Him, and they were dependent upon Him to obey that command.  This is why they requested boldness from God instead of safety.  They knew that the Sanhedrin was most likely going to follow through on their threats, and they were afraid of being afraid.  Like FDR they felt that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” They did not want their fear to keep them from obeying their master.

This church’s passionate desire was to align themselves with the work that God was doing.  This is why v. 30 adds, “while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”  Here the people are not asking for God to do these signs.  They are simply recognizing the special works that God is already doing.  You see, during this time in church history there were many miracles done by the apostles to authenticate the new message that they were proclaiming.  We do not need these miracles today because we have the entire New Testament to authenticate our message.  But you can imagine how helpful these signs must have been for the first generation of Christians who did not have the New Testament.  The miracles proved that there was power in the message, the church did not want to squander this kind of opportunity because they were afraid of the Sanhedrin.  They knew that God was already doing a special work, and they could participate in that work by boldly proclaiming God’s word.

In v. 31 we see how God answered this prayer.  Luke tells us that, “when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”  We will look at this verse a little more closely in a minute, but suffice it to say that God provided them with all the boldness that they needed.  In v. 29 the church had asked for courage, and here God provides them with a fresh endowment of the Spirit accompanied by a visible sign of that endowment in order to provide them courage.  We should not expect this same kind of visible sign, however, as the church we do retain the power of the Holy Spirit.  The reason that we no longer need a visible sign is because we have the bible to remind us of the Spirit’s ministry in our lives, and thereby encourage us to boldly proclaim the Word.

At this point I hope that you see just how important it is for the church to boldly proclaim God’s word, but you may still be wondering how is it dependent to boldly proclaim the word of God?  In this respect there are really several ways in which it is a sign of dependence to boldly proclaim God’s word:

  • There are always consequences to proclaiming God’s word.  In the early church’s case those consequences were quite severe.  In our case the consequences are probably less severe, but nonetheless real.  When we proclaim God’s word we know that it will create controversy and we will have to deal with the consequences.  However, we know the benefits of proclaiming God’s word outweigh the negative consequences because we are depending on God.
  • Proclaiming God’s word is also a sign of dependence because it is obedient.  As this early church understood, by proclaiming God’s word we are submitting to the command of our master.
  • Finally, proclaiming God’s word is also a sign of dependence because when we do so we are depending on God’s methods. God have given us his word and we do not need to improve on it (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).  We simply need to proclaim it.  It is the power of God unto salvation and we should not be ashamed of it (Romans 1:16).

If we depend on God then we are going to use His word to do His work.  We won’t be concerned with the consequences because we can trust God with that.  We won’t be concerned with personal vindication because we are focused on the mission of our Master.  And we won’t be concerned with inventing new methods because we are using the instrument that Jesus left for us.