As followers of Christ, time is one of our most precious and often wasted resources. We must be diligent to guard and redeem our time, because there are always people and activities that desire to spend it. Oswald Sanders argues that we often have more time than we admit. He points out that if we allot ourselves a generous eight hours of sleep per day, ten hours for work and travel, and three hours for meals, that still leaves over twenty hours a week to fill. What happens to those hours? He argues, “A person’s entire contribution to the kingdom of God may turn on how those hours are used. Certainly those hours determine whether life is commonplace or extraordinary.”
Do you remember thinking someone was just old when he said something like, “The older you get, the faster time goes”? Either I am just old, or age does not really have much to do with it. I think, as we get older, we realize how precious time is, and we begin to understand its value. The Word of God shows the value and swiftness of time. Paul tells us to redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). James reminds us of the uncertainty of time when he exhorts his readers not to make plans without seeking the Lord, and that our lives are but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:13–17). Job certainly recognized the swiftness and frailty of time (Job 9:25, 14:2).
A lot of people have more money and more talent than I do, but nobody has more time. Time is the great equalizer; we all have twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week. Sanders maintains, “Our problem is not too little time but making better use of the time we have. Each of us has as much time as anyone else. The president of the United States has the same twenty-four hours as we. Others may surpass our abilities, influence, or money, but no one has more time.”
A big step in guarding our time, redeeming the time, and creating more efficiency with our time is recognizing what I call “time-stealers.”
Sleep. Of course, I am not saying you should not sleep. But how much sleep do you really need? Are you sleeping more than you should? Are you just lazy?
We have been told we need a solid eight hours of sleep a night, but many people can function just as well on six hours. Get the sleep you need, but get up and start the day. Proverbs speaks much about the dangers of too much sleep. We will spend close to a third of our lives sleeping, but let us not overdo it!
Television. A recent report showed that the average American watches somewhere between four and five hours of movies and TV shows per day! Think about this: the average American watches more than thirty hours of television per week, and more than 1,600 hours per year. Take that one step further over the course of a life-span of seventy years and the average American spends more than thirteen years of his life in front of a TV screen. Is this really “redeeming the time” or the best way to build the Kingdom? We have to avoid legalism, but we need to ask these questions.
Phones/Tablets. The same article shares that the average “screen” time for an American is more than ten hours per day. That means we spend nearly thirty years of our lives consuming media through screens. There is much content available that is edifying and redeeming, but we must guard against unredeemed time and pay attention to how our time is spent.
A few reminders:
- You do not have to respond every time your device makes a noise. Alerts can be muted or even turned off. The world will not end!
- Time spent endlessly scrolling through social media can most likely be used more effectively on some other activity.
- The makers of game apps are good at what they do and desire to get you “hooked” on their game.
- Always avoid unwholesome or questionable content; it can never be redeeming.
Paul writes, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Overscheduling. One final time-stealer that I would like to point out is that many of us just try to do too much! Sanders writes, “Often the pressure a spiritual leader feels comes from assuming tasks that God has not assigned. For such tasks the leader cannot expect God to supply the extra strength required.”
Many men and women overschedule their lives at work, at church, and even in their hobbies. Many families even add stress to their lives by overscheduling their children’s extracurricular activities. There are many good and wholesome activities and even ministries, but God has not called us to participate in all of them. Busyness does not equal godliness; oftentimes it can be the exact opposite.
I submitted this article because I was re-thinking through many of these issues. Guard against these time-stealers; pay attention to where your time is going. We must seek to spend our time in the way that brings the greatest glory to our Father who is in heaven. What would God have us adjust in the use of the time He has allotted to us?
J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2007), 95.
Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 94.
Jaqueline Howard, “Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, and growing,” June 30, 2016, accessed January 5, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/health/americans-screen-time-nielsen/.
Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 97.
 This article was adapted from material found in Tommy Kiker, Everyday Ministry (Fort Worth: Seminary Hill Press, 2018).