Godliness is the result of a disciplined spiritual life. But at the heart of a disciplined spiritual life is the Discipline of time.
If we are going to be like Jesus, we must see the use of our time as a Spiritual Discipline. Having so perfectly ordered His moments and His days, at the end of His earthly life Jesus was able to pray to the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). As with Jesus, God gives us both the gift of time and work to do during that time. The more we are like Jesus, the more we will understand why the disciplined use of the time God gives us is so important. Here are ten biblical reasons (many of which were made clear to me in the reading of Jonathan Edwards’s sermon on “The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It”).
Use Time Wisely “Because the Days Are Evil”
To use time wisely “because the days are evil” is a curious phrase embedded in the inspired language of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:15–16: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (NASB). Paul may have exhorted the Christians at Ephesus to make the most of their time because he and/or the Ephesians were experiencing persecution or opposition (such as in Acts 19:23–20:1). In any event, we need to use every moment with wisdom “because the days are evil” still.
Even without the kind of persecution or opposition known by the Christians of Paul’s day, the world we live in is not conducive to using time wisely, especially for purposes of spirituality and Godliness. In fact, our days are days of active evil. There are great thieves of time that are the minions of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. They may range in form from high-tech, socially acceptable preoccupations to simple, idle talk or ungoverned thoughts. But the natural course of our minds, our bodies, our world, and our days leads us toward evil, not toward Christlikeness.
Thoughts must be disciplined, otherwise, like water, they tend to flow downhill or stand stagnant. That’s why in Colossians 3:2 we’re commanded, “Set your minds on the things above.” Without this conscious, active, disciplined setting of the direction of our thoughts, they will be unproductive at best, evil at worst. Our bodies are inclined to ease, pleasure, gluttony, and sloth. Unless we practice self-control, our bodies will tend to serve evil more than God. We must carefully discipline ourselves in how we “walk” in this world, else we will conform more to its ways rather than to the ways of Christ. Finally, our days are days of active evil because every temptation and evil force are active in them. The use of time is important because time is the stuff of which days are made. If we do not discipline our use of time for the purpose of Godliness in these evil days, these evil days will keep us from becoming Godly.
Wise Use of Time Is the Preparation for Eternity
You must prepare for eternity in time. That statement can be taken two ways, both of which are true. It means that during time (that is, in this life) you must prepare for eternity, for there will be no second chance to prepare once you have crossed eternity’s timeless threshold.
I recently had an unforgettable dream that soberly reminded me of this reality. (I place no great weight or prophetic value on the dream; I mention it only because it illustrates my point.) Along with some other Christians, I was in a place of persecution. After a trial we were escorted to a room where our persecutors were putting each believer to death by lethal injection. While waiting my turn I was overcome by the awareness that in moments I was about to enter eternity, and all my preparation for that event was now done. I dropped to my knees and began to pray my last prayers of this life, committing my spirit to the Lord Jesus Christ. At this point in the dream I snapped awake with the adrenaline rush of a man about to be executed. My first conscious thought after realizing it was but a dream was that one day it would not be a dream. There is a specific day on the calendar when all my preparation for eternity will be over. And since that day could be any day, I should use my time wisely, for it is all the time I have to prepare for where I will endlessly be beyond the grave.
Do you realize that whether you experience unending joy or eternal agony depends on what happens in moments of your life just like this one? What, then, is more precious than time? For as a small rudder determines the direction of a great ocean liner, so that which is done in time influences eternity.
That leads to the other meaning of preparing for eternity in time—that is, prepare for it before it is too late. The classic scriptural alert is, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Right now is the right time to prepare for where you will spend eternity. If that is an uncertain or unsettled matter with you, now is the time to settle it. You have no guarantee of any more time to prepare for eternity, nor should you put off responding to the One who made you and who gives you this time. Prepare for eternity by coming in faith to the Eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ. Come to Him in time, and He will bring you to Himself in eternity.
Time Is Short
The more scarce something is, the more valuable it is. Gold and diamonds would be worthless if you could pick them up like pebbles on the side of the road. Time would not be so precious if we never died. But since we are never more than a breath away from eternity, the way we use our time has eternal significance.
But even if you have decades of life remaining, the fact is, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Even the longest life is brief in comparison to eternity. In spite of all the time that’s passed, you probably can remember happy or tragic events of your childhood or teenage years as vividly as if they happened yesterday. The reason is not simply the strength of your memory, but also because it really hasn’t been that long ago. When you think of an entire decade as only 120 months, a great chunk of life suddenly seems short. Even at its longest, life is never long. So regardless how much time you have left to develop more Christlikeness, it isn’t much. Use it well.
Whitney, Donald S. 1991. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
We have just completed a 13-Part Study of Donald Whitney’s classic book, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. It is available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Lesson Subscription Service. It is also available on Amazon
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