The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
January 1, 2023
New Year’s prompts thoughts about the passage of time and making the most of the moments we have.
Our life is made up of a string of moments. How well we live our life depends on how well we use our string. Our stewardship of it makes or breaks our life.
We are tempted to blame others for any moments wasted, but folks can waste them only if we let them. Our moments belong to us; it’s up to us to manage them.
Because our moments are ours in the same sense that our money is ours, it would be as foolish to allow others to spend all our time as it would be to allow them to spend all our money. It is our responsibility to determine how our time is spent. We have been given the freedom to decide how much time we allot to serving others and how much we allot to taking care of ourselves.
Of course, those of us who follow Jesus aim to let the Lord manage every moment we have. For we see our time, not as our own, but as God’s; and thus something we mean to employ in fulfillment of His good will, both when that means making sacrifices to help others in need and when it means making sure our essential needs are met when no one else can or will do that job.
If we want Jesus to manage all our moments, we must manage our moments correctly and faithfully. We must, for example, make time for the One who made all time by remaining steadfast in prayer and attending church. We must put in the time listening to God to hear how He wants us to use our moments. Thus, it’s a mistake when we let some time crunch interrupt our praying. We do better to let our praying interrupt the time crunches of this hectic, heedless world.
In his book, An Unhurried Life, Alan Fadling tells a parable about a king who had two servants. One of them, out of concern to please the king, rose early each day to get a jumpstart on all the things he believed the king wanted him to do. To maximize his productivity for the king, he didn’t bother to consult with him as to his wishes; but, presuming to know them, he ran from one project to another, from early morning until late at night.
The other servant was just as concerned to please the king, and rose just as early. Only she took the first few moments at the start of each day to go to the king, ask him about his agenda for the day, and find out what specific tasks he was assigning her in particular. Only then did she throw herself into her work.
The busy servant may have gotten more done before the inquiring servant even begun; but which one fulfilled the king’s wishes and pleased him the most?
God-pleasing productivity is not about getting as much done for God as we can manage. It is first and foremost listening to Him to hear what He wishes from us. And, since none of us has more than 24 hours a day, and since giving time to any one thing has to involve not giving that time to some other things, we are wise to let God guide us each day in the formation of both a to-do list and a not-to-do list. Since we cannot do it all, we must prioritize, and that has to consist of letting go of some things as much as taking on some things.
To make the most of our time then is not necessarily to do a lot of things. It’s just doing what things God has given us to do and making everything else optional.
We come to know what God’s given us to do by listening to God. For we dare not trust ourselves to guess His wishes, for they often surprise us. He may surprise us by assigning us to do something we’ve long put out of mind such as making amends with someone we dislike or denying ourselves some self-indulgence – say, in eating or in shopping – so as to have more to give to help the needy. Or He may surprise us by assigning us to enjoy some innocent, restful, seemingly frivolous escapism such as watching some empty-headed TV or reading some fluffy fiction.
Making the most of our time is not increasing the quantity of what we do but increasing the quality of what we do – with quality determined by God’s involvement in it. Quantity is measured by numbers; quality, by the depth of the relational interaction between us and the God who wants more than anything for us to be close. In other words, quantity involves what we do for God; quality, what we do with God.
Of course, we don’t stand much chance of having much quality time if we don’t put in a quantity of time.
While praying during his morning devotions, Bill became aware he was not spending enough time with his two young daughters. So he approached them and apologized. He then added, “Of course, what matters most is the quality of time we spend together rather than the quantity.” Kristen, 6, and Madison, 4, didn’t quite get the distinction. So Bill tried again: “Quantity means how much time we spend together and quality means how good the time we spend together. Which would you rather have?” Not missing a beat, Kristen blurted out, “Quality time. And lots of it!”
I actually think that expresses God’s heart as well. He so loves us He wants quality time with us, and lots of it. Moreover, He sees that, if we don’t put in a sufficient quantity of time praying, reading the word and talking things over with others, we may not be prepared to make the most of the chance for quality time with Him when it arises – especially when we can’t predict when it will.
May we make the most of 2023’s grace-filled moments by preparing ourselves for them whenever they come, as we faithfully put in the time – in our prayer closet, at our church and in our fields of service.