@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I have a problem. There never seems to be enough time. When I was younger, I thought activities, school, and homework demanded so much of my time. Then as I progressed through undergrad and into post-graduate work, I began to feel even more and more pressures and demands. Assignments only got tougher and the books only got longer. Into marriage, I began to realize that my time wasn't my own and I had a spouse who now depended on me.
Today, my wife and I will often reflect on how we even thought those times were stressful. With a toddler and another one on the way, we often wonder if there will ever be a day without something to do or somewhere to be.
I have come to realize that as we get older, life doesn't get easier. Time doesn't become more abundant. In fact, we have the same 24 hours in a day that we had before. Chances are, we fill that time with even more things. So here's the thing. We can't manage time, but we can prioritize it.
In Proverbs 3:27-28, the author states,
"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it
when it’s in your power to help them.
If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say,
“Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.”
If our neighbor came to us today, would we have the time available to help them? Or are we so busy that we would have to tell them to "come back tomorrow, and then I'll help you."
So how do we go from having no time to having an abundance of time? We have to begin to live out this simple point:
Stop making time. Start giving it.
Paul writes in Colossians, "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of your time" (Colossians 4:5 ESV).
Here are three steps to help us begin to make that possible.
1. discover your rhythm.
The world was created by God in a rhythm. Genesis (the book on creation) even has a cadence to it. God creates, the sun rises, and the sun sets each day. I love how C.S. Lewis paints the picture of creation in his Narnia series. In The Magician's Nephew, Lewis enters into the creation of Narnia (a picture of the creation of our world). When Digory and Polly stumble into Narnia through a lamppost, they stumble into a world of nothingness. No light. No sound. No stars. No sun. Nothing.
Then they heard the beautiful sound of singing. Stars were sung into being. They realized the source of it all.
"The lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle rippling music. And as he walked and sang the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave." Later Lewis continues, "All this time the Lion’s song, and his stately prowl, to and fro, backwards and forwards, was going on. What was rather alarming was that at each turn he came a little nearer. Polly was finding the song more and more interesting because she thought she was beginning to see the connection between the music and the things that were happening."*
I love the connection between God's speaking the world into existence and singing. It is full of beauty, perfection, and harmony. It captures the heart. In fact, we are told in the book of Zephaniah,
"For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs" (Zepheniah 3:17 NLT).
When a song is out of rhythm, it becomes easily noticable. Even to people without much of a musical ear.
In the same way, when our life gets out of rhythm, the people around us know. They sense it. Our life is not as beautiful as it could be.
Ecclesiastes 1:5-7 says, "The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea."
We are taught this in science class when we are young, but it carries over into our lives as we grow older.
Just as all of creation has a rhythm to it, so too should our lives. God has given to every person a 24-hour day. He has given us seasons. He had given us morning and night. Why? Because He has gifted us with a natural rhythm to follow.
Yet, we so often try to cram everything in. We pull all-nighters, sacrifice sleep, and live out of rhythm. At first we may get away with a shortcut here and there, but eventually our life song will sound bad. It will be all out of rhythm.
So what is your rhythm? When are you at your best? When are you at your worst? Plan around such rhythm.
Do what is most important when you are at your best. Do what is less important when you are at your worst. Make time for rest.
Just as all of creation has a rhythm to it, so too should our lives.
2. dictate your schedule.
Often, other people will knock us out of rhythm.
According to a New York Times article, "A typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption, while it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption."**
When someone emails you, calls you, or stops into your office, they are putting their agenda on yours. They are asking you to drop what you are doing to help them. While we need to have time available to help our neighbor—our main goal—we must understand that if we cannot get our own work done, then how can we ever be able to help someone else?
Carey Nieuwhof, a pastor of Connexus Church in Canada, says this,
No one will ever ask you to complete your top priorities; they're only going to ask you to complete theirs." -Carey Nieuwhof
While we should have time to help our neighbors, it is still okay to dictate your schedule and your priorities (when they are the right priorities). Jesus did.
Luke shows us how after Jesus healed a man with leprosy, more and more people began coming to him. Here's what he wrote,
"But now even more report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities." (Luke 5:15 ESV)
Could you imagine doing something to cause great crowds to gather!? This would definitely bring excitement and joy. Most likely it would encourage us to heal even more people, to keep attending to their agendas. However, Jesus did something revolutionary. He put his agenda first.
"But he [Jesus] would withdraw to desolate places and pray." (Luke 5:16 ESV)
Jesus put what was most important first. Not healing others, but spending time in prayer. He dictated his schedule. It's time for us to start doing the same. Because here's the thing: if we are always attending to the agendas of others, then we are no good to ourselves and those around us. We will serve out of a place of emptiness rather than from a place of abundance.
3. do more than you thought possible.
In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport states, "Three to four hours a day, five days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, it turns out, can produce a lot of valuable output." He goes on to explain a life at home without a computer or the constant distraction of emails, even to say, "This ability to fully disconnect . . . allows me to be present with my wife and two sons in the evenings, and read a surprising number of books for a busy father of two."***
When we commit to managing our time well, we are able to accomplish more than we ever thought imaginable.
In the Gospel of Mark, we see this lived out and practiced in a beautiful way through the story of how Jesus and his disciples fed over 5,000 people. It begins with the apostles returning after being out working. Jesus says to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile" (Mark 6:31 ESV).
It is out of a place of rest that they begin to do the next big task. Before bread is broken and fish are multiplied, the followers of Jesus find time to rest. We may need this in our lives. Instead of jumping from task to task, what if we took some time for rest? What if we first began in the desolate, quiet place?
Once the disciples' boat hits the shore, the crowd that had been following them is now there waiting. When we are able to bring something of value to others, they are likely willing to wait a little bit. Now this doesn't mean saying, "I'll be back tomorrow, maybe." Instead, it means, "Let me finish this one thing up (get your priorities done) and then I will be over to help."
From there, Jesus and his disciples are able to minister to the people. They care for them. The people tell of what was done. Then Jesus and his disciples do the rhythm all over again. "Immediately, he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side . . . And after he had taken leave of them, he [Jesus] went up on the mountain to pray" (Mark 6:45-46 ESV).
So how do we get to a place where we are able to stop making time and start giving it? We follow the example of Jesus.
Discover your rhythm. Dictate your schedule. Do more than you thought possible.
|| challenge ||
Begin to establish a healthy rhythm. Prioritize what is most important, and do that when you are at your best.
What can you say NO to, so that you can say YES to what's most essential?