Managing Time (Part 2)

So what are the standards against each of us should evaluate how we use our time? I believe they are as follows.

1. Do I have my priorities in order? Fishing or golfing or collecting stamps may be perfectly fine activities, but doing any of them when I am supposed to be working would not go over well with the boss and we all know that. That is why we do not pursue these activities while we are on the clock–at least not as long as we want to stay employed. That is because we know that our hobbies cannot take priority over our work. Why, though, do we sometimes allow our hobbies to take priority over our relationships with our family members or with the Lord? If I spend every Sunday morning fishing instead of going to church I am not going to get fired by God but my priorities are quite skewed. The same would be true, by the way, if I spent every Sunday morning sleeping in. Sleep is important, but not at the expense of my relationship with the Lord–and Scripture makes it clear that being an active member of a church is an important part of that.

2. Am I giving my best to whatever I am doing? If I apply myself fully to my work only when the boss is watching then I am not working as unto the Lord. If I put halfhearted effort into my job, my lawn, my laundry, my relationships or anything else then I must not be surprised when I get halfhearted results. Nor, by the way, should I be surprised if (1) I do not get satisfaction out of what I am doing and (2) I will not be doing it long if the “what I am doing” is paid employment. I worked for a while in a setting in which employees were eligible for bonuses based on their annual performance evaluations. It boggled my mind that some people thought they were entitled to a just for doing exactly what they had been hired to do. If you’re one of these delusional individuals then I need to let you know: “bonus” means extra. Beyond the minimum. More than required. In other words, expect not a bonus for doing only what thou hast been hired to do. If you are not doing the best that you can in whatever it is you are doing then you are not maximizing your time. Notice, by the way, that I did not say “if you are not the best at whatever you are doing.” By definition there can only be one “best.” But each of us can do our best at whatever it is we do.

3. Do I have a realistic understanding of “my” time? When you are not at work, when you’re “off the clock”, your time is yours, right? Well, not really. Not completely anyway. I would suggest that if what you are doing with your time is having a negative impact on what you are doing on your employer’s time then you are shortchanging your employer. If you are busy all weekend doing whatever it is you may doing, and thus you are worn out and sluggish on Monday morning, you’re not giving your best. If you stay up late watching a movie, reading a book, chatting with a friend or doing anything else, and do not get the sleep you need to perform at your peak at work the next day, you’re not giving your best. By the way, if you do any of that on Saturday night and thus can barely keep your eyes open in church Sunday morning, you’re not giving God your best. And if you give all of your energy and effort at work and get home zapped with nothing left to give your family, you’re not giving them you’re best either. In any of these scenarios what you are really saying to your boss, to God or to your spouse is that they are not as important as whatever it is you were doing before that has left you unable to give them your all. In other words, your time is only your time insofar as what you do with that time does not interfere with giving your best when you are on someone else’s time.

4. Am I content? If whatever you are doing, whether it is work, play, relationship or whatever, is causing you to be discontent then you need to do one of two things: do something else or get your heart right. If you hate your job and you’re just putting in your time and collecting a paycheck then you need to find a job that will give you fulfillment or you need to correct whatever is wrong with your heart, your brain or your attitude in order to find that contentment. Sometimes, by the way, doing something else is not even one of the options, leaving only the heart adjustment. When your marriage is not bringing you contentment, quitting it is not an option except in a very, very few specific situations. When effectively, meaningfully, lovingly parenting your children is not bringing you contentment, you need to get your heart right, because you cannot quit being a parent. I would suggest you as well that if you are not content in whatever it is you are doing the answer to at least one of the three questions above will be no. You might answer no to two or even all three of them. Inversely, I would suggest as well that if you can answer yes to questions one, two and three, you will almost certainly answer yes to question four.

There are plenty of other places to find tips about the effective management of your time and I am not really sharing anything new here. For whatever reason I have had multiple conversations within the past week about wise use of time and proper time management, so the subject is on my mind. My hope is that these four principles will be helpful reminders to you if (when) you find yourself struggling with time management. We all have the same number of hours in a day but none of us knows how many days we have. May we each manage our time well and make the most of each and every day.

Live It Out, part 2

Last time I addressed specifically the importance of living out our faith so that people will see demonstrated in us that which we say we believe. Several years ago I explored this idea as it pertains to Christians in the workplace. I had seen, as you no doubt have, an abundance of material in bookstores, online, at conferences and in graduate programs about what it takes to be a good and effective leader. Even within the Christian world, however, I was finding very little about what it means to be a good employee. While we are all called to be leaders (I like to say “if you’re breathing, you’re leading”) we are not all called to serve in formal leadership positions. Nevertheless, we all have responsibilities to do our best within whatever capacity we may serve. As a result of my studies and fleshing out some ideas that had been percolating in my mind I eventually developed a course entitled “UNTO THE LORD: The Roles and Responsibilities of the Christian Worker.” Through that course I (I hope) demonstrated what Christians are called to do no matter where they work or what they do because they are representing Christ. I hope someday to turn the course into a book, but that has not happened yet. I have been pleased to see that a few books related to this idea have emerged in the past few years, so perhaps others, too, are recognizing this often-forgotten area of the Christian life.

R.C. Sproul, Jr. addresses this idea in his “Seek Ye First” column in the September 2014 issue of Tabletalk. His column is titled “The World and All” and in it he points out that Christians are all too often guilty of separating the kingdom of God from the everyday activities of our lives. He explains that when Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world, He was not suggesting that our Christianity is to be limited to what I will call church world. “It is true that Jesus distinguished His kingdom from the kingdoms of this world,” Sproul writes. “The difference, however, is not dimensional or geographic. Rather, the difference is in terms of our weaponry. What sets apart the kingdom of God is that the soldiers of the King do not fight with swords and spears.” In other words, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world only insofar as He was not planning to lead a rebellion against the Roman government (much to the dismay of Judas and others) and He is not calling us to use bullets or bombs to overthrow the United States government. But He is calling us to be about the business of His kingdom every day and in everything that we do.

Sproul goes on to write this…

When we forget the glorious truth that Jesus’ kingdom is everywhere, that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto Him, we end up dividing His realm. We think the real kingdom is where the church is, where it is doing ‘churchy’ things. When we are praying, when we are giving and receiving the sacraments, when we are preaching or hearing sermons, then we have entered into His kingdom. When, however, we are making widgets, buying groceries, or coaching Little League, then we have left the safety of the kingdom and have ventured into the world.

The truth is, of course, that His reign is universal. We do not move into and out of His kingdom so much as we vacillate between recognizing it and failing to recognize it, manifesting it or failing to manifest it. When we leave the church, and enter into that which is para–alongside–the church, we are not crossing some kind of border, entering into Pilate’s realm. Because we are still within the kingdom of our Lord, we are still to be about our Lord’s business. We are to do all that we do as unto Him.

In other words, regardless of where we live or what we do, every believer is called to full-time Christian ministry. We may not work for a Christian company or be paid by a mission board. We may not carry a Bible to work or be employed someplace where meetings start and/or end with prayer. Yet we all are called to do everything we do for God. That means whether we are stitching a wound, filling out tax forms, collecting garbage, mopping a floor, remodeling a house, selling a pair of jeans, fixing or serving food, investing money or answering phones we are just as much within the kingdom of God and called to live out our faith as if we were pastors, Christian school teachers or missionaries. Sproul writes, “The plumber, then, if he serves our Lord, is a parachurch worker. he is most assuredly in ministry. And make no mistake about it: there is a Christian way to do plumbing.”

This is a crucial lesson for all of us to learn. It is one that I strive diligently to communicate to the students at the school where I serve…they do not have to go to a Christian college or work in a church in order to live out their faith. We strive to show our students how biblical principles are connected to and relevant to every area of study, every occupation and every life choice. I am in a setting where I am privileged to have both that opportunity and responsibility. But it is not one that should be unique to me or those of us in Christian education. Every Christian should seek to apply the teachings of Scripture in their every day lives. Every Christian parent should seek to teach their children that the Bible is not just for Sundays, but is relevant and applicable every day and in every setting.

Paul says in I Corinthians 10:31, “…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” He says again, in Colossians 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Whatever you do is all encompassing; it excludes nothing. Wherever you are and whatever you do…live it out.