The transition from December to January catches me off guard every year. December prioritizes family gatherings, travel, downtime, and food. January prioritizes goal setting, planning, work and weight loss. In the first few days of January we hear people say, “It’s good to get back to some routine.” “I’m tired of sitting around and the kids are going stir crazy.” “I’m looking forward to getting this next year started.”
We focus at the beginning of the year on what we need to get started. As we plan for the organizational needs of the church, our tendency is to add more, plan more, and schedule more rather than make the most of what we have already committed. January is the perfect time of year to pause and ask, “What are we doing? What’s working? What’s not working?” Every ministry and program of the church requires an investment of time. Stewardship is more than financial responsibility. We must also steward our time and energy. Let’s consider our time and use it wisely.
- W. Tozer once wrote, “Time is a resource that is nonrenewable and nontransferable. You cannot store it, slow it up, hold it up, divide it up, or give it up. You can’t hoard it up or save it for a rainy day—when it’s lost it is unrecoverable. When you kill time, remember that it has no resurrection.”
God wants us to pursue ministry and enjoy a life in which time is not the enemy. We say things like “I wish I could have more time,” “Sorry, but we’re out of time,” “Where has the time gone?” and “Time sure flies.” We like to max out our lives and make the most of every minute and opportunity. In error, we squeeze out the margin to get the most out of life. We run too fast. We do too much. Hurry kills the soul and the family.
Time is an investment. Investing is all about saving rather than spending. How we use our time today affects how well tomorrow will go. Billy Graham, in a message on time, said, “More than seventy-five years ago Henry Luce wanted a name, in just one word, for a weekly newsmagazine that would describe the passing events of the day. He chose the word ‘time’. The Bible says, ‘The days of our lives are seventy years’ (Psalm 90:10, NKJV). Time is a mystery. We sense its passing in our consciousness. We measure its progress with delicately adjusted instruments. We mark its flight and read the record it leaves behind.” He went on to say, “To the Christian, time has a moral significance and a spiritual meaning. . . . What are we doing with it? Are we frittering it away, letting it slip through our fingers, squandering it in wanton waste? Or are we treasuring it, using it to maximum advantage, filling every minute with sixty seconds’ worth of service to God?”
The Bible never uses the term “time management.” Instead, it speaks of “redeeming” the time. Pacing ourselves, rather than controlling time. Paul writes, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NKJV).
The most important thing to know about time is that it is limited. Armed with that truth, the most important question you and I must begin asking is “What am I going to say no to?” Delayed gratification is saying no to something now in the hopes of something better later.
Many will start dieting this month in an attempt to get physically healthy. Pastors are prone to saying yes to everyone and every need. Your emotional and spiritual health begins by trimming your calendar, saying no to members who have excessive emotional reliance on you and saying yes to activities and disciplines that will keep you full of life. Leave room in your schedule for God to work in your soul. Warning: Once you start maintaining a healthy soul, those with unhealthy souls will begin to resent you and demand more from you. Be on guard from those who seek to drain you. Jesus is your source of life, not your congregation!
In Part 2 of Guarding Your Schedule (and Soul) in the New Year, we’ll look at some practical ways to maintain margin and rhythm and plan a calendar that leaves plenty of room for emotional and spiritual health. Your longevity in ministry depends on it!