Recently I spoke on the subject of stewarding our time, and my grandson Elijah, 9, was in the audience. A few days later when he and his mother were talking, Elijah told her, “I like to waste time, just not all the time. You know, I’ve been listening to papa and he does have a good point. Wasting time used to be my favorite subject.” I was happy to know Elijah had been listening and had begun to grasp my words. I hope he will always remember them, for if we don’t live in a clockwise way we’ll squander our lives.
The secret of managing time is pondering the irreplaceable value of our minutes. God has proportioned to each of us a limited number of days. The Bible says, “Time is short” (1 Corinthians 7:29). According to James 4:14, we’re each like a morning mist that appears a little while and then vanishes. Job 9:25 says, “My days are swifter than a runner… They skim past like boats of papyrus, like eagles swooping down on their prey.”
If you went to the bank and withdrew a thousand dollars, you’d be distressed if someone robbed you, though with enough effort you could replace the money. But once you lose a thousand minutes or a hundred hours they’re gone forever. You cannot replace them. We can generate more money; sometimes we can even restore lost health or rebuild damaged relationships; but we cannot manufacture any more time. Once a moment is gone, it is never returning.
Jesus said the devil is like a thief who comes to stead, to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10). What does Satan want to steal from us? Among other things, our time. Every moment he can trick us into wasting is a moment we aren’t doing the work God has assigned us. Ephesians 5 says, “Be very careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.”
This doesn’t make us workaholics. Some hours are for sleeping. Some days are Sabbaths. Some moments are for meditating, walking, relaxing, and recharging our batteries. But they are not for wasting. That’s why I hover over my calendar like a chef over a soufflé. I’ve found it helps tremendously to keep a visual roadmap of time—a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual calendar, putting in the scheduled items over which we have no control, inserting the important items in a deliberate way, and letting everything else take up the remainder.
I’ve also learned to use some judicious time in the morning for prayer, Bible study, and planning out my day. It’s like having coffee with the Lord. I sit down at my desk and open my Bible and read it. Then I open my little prayer notebook and pray. Then I open my calendars and my to-do lists. I prayerfully think through my obligations for the day and jot down on a little card the things I’d ideally like to accomplish. This becomes my roadmap for the day.
Not every day goes as planned, of course. Few of them actually do. But I can do more with a plan than without one. And a good personal agenda helps us to minimize interruptions and to take best advantage of the unavoidable ones.
A thoughtfully planned schedule is also the way to protect priceless moments with those people or projects most precious to us. Block in date nights, family times, camping trips, regular meals, getaway weekends, annual vacations, exercise routines, meditation rituals, church work, and reading times with your youngsters at bedtime. Use your calendar as a shield to encircle the most important things of life.
I’ve also learned to make wise use of snippets of time. In John 6, after Jesus had blessed and broken the lad’s lunch by the lake in John 6, He filled five thousand growling stomachs and had lots of leftovers. “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost,” he said (John 6:12-13). Those words represent a spiritual principle — don’t let anything go to waste. We should gather up the small fragments of time that splinter off our main tasks. We can accomplish big things in small pieces. Henry Ford said, “Most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”
John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” wrote other hymns too, often to go along with his sermons. One was on this subject. He said: Time, by moments, steals away, / First the hour, and then the day; / Small the daily loss appears, / Yet it soon amounts to years.
God has proportioned to us a finite number of days, and we don’t know how many are left. Time is short. It’s easy to waste time for the devil has invented a thousand ways to steal it from our grasp. But the Bible tells us to number our days that we may present God with a heart of wisdom. We can do that only when we properly understand the irreplaceable value of our hours and determine to live in a clockwise direction. We prayerfully plan our days and diligently pursue the things we feel God has called us to do. As Psalm 90 says, we ask God to help us to value our days that we may present to Him a heart of wisdom.
Our time and our times are in His hands, and there’s no time to waste.
PS – For more on this subject, check out my book Mastering Life Before It’s Too Late.