In the last article, The Stewardship of Time, Part 1, we started looking at the stewardship of perhaps the most precious resource God has given us, our time. We saw that our time is limited and uncertain, looking at Ecclesiastes 3:11 and Psalm 39:4-5 among other verses, and we started looking for ways to get started with the discipline of time stewardship.
The start lies in looking at three word, margin, distractions and priorities. Now we finish up this amazing stewardship topic.
As a practicing trial attorney for over 40 years, I learned early that success for my clients very often depended upon the decisions of someone else, either a judge or a jury, or at times, both. I watched other attorneys and judges to see what worked and was always striving to learn from the best how to do the best.
There was one overwhelmingly obvious truth that was as simple as it was easy to solve; you can’t win if you aren’t there. I quickly realized that being on time for depositions, hearings and trials was absolutely essential. I also learned that being early meant you were always on time. My office throughout my career was never closer to the courthouse in Tampa, Florida, than six city blocks. The time to walk it was variable depending upon lights, traffic and weather. That wasn’t the problem. Many times the problem lay with getting through the security line into the Courthouse. That line was, at times, long and slow, sometimes very long and very slow.
The solution was simple – leave early, early enough that getting through security on the slowest day still left me time to stop, cool off (necessary in the hot summer days of Tampa, Florida), unpack my briefcase, and get poised and mentally prepared. The same concept held true but to a higher degree of variability for hearings and trials out of town.
I discovered something. Being early wasn’t stressful, but being late was. Being early left me relaxed, ready and confident that I was fully prepared and could do my best for my client. Getting there “just in the nick of time” left me mentally on the edge and not as relaxed and poised as I believed was beneficial.
That idea of time margin reaches into every area of life, including financial margin, calorie margin in a diet, and more, but since this article is about time, we’ll limit discussion to time. For a fuller discussion of margin with a strong viewpoint, read Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson.
As the office head of litigation in Tampa, I also had a saying that probably greatly annoyed the younger lawyers but it was too true to not use. I would say “The operative word in the word ‘deadline’ is the word ‘dead.’” I would regularly add that “a deadline is the last time for completing something, not the first time it can be completed.” Both statements may have been annoying to them, but they served me well over a full career.
When used recklessly and cut thin without a margin, time can be a horrible enemy. When stewarded carefully, time can be a strong ally.
Just like life happens, distractions happen as well. Life is full of them. Modern American life is perhaps more packed with distractions than ever because you cannot get away from being connected – that smart phone and the 99.9% coverage anywhere is America and most of the world keeps you from ever being free or completely alone.
To make matters worse, my smart phone has a mind of its own. It has decided that at times, some determined by me and others determined by software I do not fully understand and can hardly control, that I need to be notified of many things, the vast majority of which are not important at all. Each buzz or noise is a distraction, as is the ever increasing pace of life.
However, we must admit that distractions are nothing new. Otherwise, God would not have had to tell us to “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. There have always been ways Satan would fight to pull us away from God. God has fought back asking us to make Him our priority and for us to focus on Him. In many areas of the Bible we are told to keep our minds and hearts steadfast or focused on what really matters. Below are just a few of many examples that could be given easily.
3 You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.
Hebrews 12:2 has a great message as well. We are told to “fix” our eyes upon Jesus. This does not contradict the truth that we walk by faith and not by sight because the fixing of our eyes here in Hebrews 12 is not literal but figurative for the call for us to be focused on and centered upon Jesus in all of our lives.
If you are totally focused on Jesus, distractions don’t happen, or at worst, they are brief and your focus returns to your Lord and Savior. “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2.
One form of distraction results from our own desire to be productive. So, we take on more and more and more until we must try to do too much to do in too little time. We think we can solve that by multi-tasking.
The prevalence of “multi-tasking” is a significant modern problem. First, multi-tasking is really a poor way of saying, “I don’t see anything that deserves my full attention.” Texting and emailing while driving is a major risk. Tests have shown that with text-sending and even text-reading, drivers have a distraction level equal to or greater than drunk drivers.
However, people, especially young adults, insist their attention does not suffer. To put it bluntly, they could be rated as dead wrong.
Second, the problem of multi-tasking as a distraction from the main things goes far beyond merely texting and driving. According to James Hewitt, “More than 90% of people multi-task during meetings. 42% of us admit to reading and responding to e-mail in the bathroom. 70% of us check e-mail while watching TV. When we find the opportunity to rest, 34% of us admit to using social media as a form of mental break.” Hewitt says that most people check their smart phones once every six minutes!
The failure to give your full attention to people who seek it is not only a major insult to them, it is doing a dis-service to yourself because you really can’t do two things at the same time well, even if you think you can. Stop, focus, and acknowledge that people matter, especially the people right in front of you.
In our world of expert marketing, it is hard to keep the main thing the main thing. What is the main thing? Contrast the following two views:
The founder of McDonald’s, Ray Krok, was asked by a reporter what he believed in. “I believe in God, my family and McDonald’s,” he said. Then he added, “When I get to the office, I reverse the order.
For a view that is very different:
Someone once asked Tom Landry why he had been so successful as coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He answered, “In 1958, I did something everyone who has been successful must do, I determined my priorities for my life – God, family, and then football.”
There is another way of looking at this issue that works.
An expert on setting priorities drove home a point with the following illustration. He lifted a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. He then placed, one at a time, twelve fist-sized rocks into the jar. When no more rocks would fit, he asked the audience if they believed the jar to be full. They said that they did.
He then reached under the table and produced a bucket of gravel. He scooped it into the jar and then shook it, thus causing the gravel to fill the spots between the rocks. He ask the same question again and this time, there were mixed replies. He took another box out from under that table and it was filled with sand. Dumping it in, it filled the gaps between the gravel and rocks. He asked the same question for a third time and no one said anything. He then pulled out from under the table a pitcher of water and began pouring it in until the jar was filled to the brim.
He then said that the point of this illustration is that “if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in at all. Do you know what the big rocks in your life are?”
Let’s look at some areas where better time stewardship can help us.
How you use your time at work says a lot about your desire to be a steward of your time. It also says a lot about the next promotion, raises, and the future of your work life. While there are always the uncertainties when imperfect people are involved, employers favor workers over socializers. The amount of time spent working and being productive matters. So does the amount of time spent on social media, on the Internet, and online shopping. Not being productive matters but in a negative way.
God made His view on this issue as clear as can be.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
1 Corinthians 10:31
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
The point is for us to honor God with our work and the way we conduct ourselves at work. We are a witness without even speaking. That includes showing up on time and not leaving early.
However, the focus of life is not work. Work and the money earned is a means to an end, not the end itself. As a work-a-holic who survived 60-80 hour work weeks, I know that to be true.
27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
I can say little other than just refer you to the contrast above between Ray Krok and Tom Landry. God gave us a clear plan for marriage and family and it is plan that works:
Ephesians 5:1-2, 15-17, 21-28
1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children
2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,
16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Too many stop at Ephesians 5:22 and react against the word “submission” or become puffed up at Ephesians 5:25 without understanding the enormous consequences of those verses. Far too many husbands have overlooked Ephesians 5:21 and have never understood Ephesians 5:25 showing that husband is to be ultimately sacrificial in his love, as Christ was with us.
God really is the main thing, but He does get pushed to the background during busy times. Our job is to keep bringing Him back to the front where He belongs. Keep the main thing the main thing – at all times. Make time for God daily.
The Final Issue
That having been said, there is an issue we haven’t addressed which is important. Do we have any responsibility to use our time well for God? I asked the question that way because the answer is obvious to a mature believer.
I reflect upon what Jesus was able to accomplish in only three years. How could He do that much? Because Jesus stayed on the job and even when distracted, He turned the distraction into ministry. I think of the distraction of bumping into a Samaritan woman at a well. John 4:1-26.
Instead of fitting into the cultural norm and avoiding a Samaritan woman, Jesus intentionally interacted with her and challenged her image of a Jewish man. Then He challenged her image of God and changed her life.
It seems silly to point out that Jesus was able to do this because He had a Biblical worldview. He could hardly have any other worldview. Our goal – and the challenge of life in this mixed-up and challenging world of ours – is to have and maintain a Biblical or Christian worldview. I like the way Focus on the Family defines a Biblical worldview:
“A worldview is the framework from which we view reality and make sense of life and the world. ‘[It’s] any ideology, philosophy, theology, movement or religion that provides an overarching approach to understanding God, the world and man’s relations to God and the world,’ says David Noebel, author of Understanding the Times.
For example, a 2-year-old believes he’s the center of his world, a secular humanist believes that the material world is all that exists, and a Buddhist believes he can be liberated from suffering by self-purification.
Someone with a biblical worldview believes his primary reason for existence is to love and serve God.”
If we live and use our time with a Biblical worldview, far less time will be set aside for the selfish and often frivolous things of life. Get back to making the main thing the main thing! Philippians 4:8.
I close with this thought from Vern McLellan, The Complete Book of Practical Proverbs and Wacky Wit (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publisher’s, Inc., 1996).
Take time to work–it is the price of success
Take time to think–it is the source of power.
Take time to play–it is the secret of youth
Take time to read–it is the foundation of knowledge.
Take time to laugh–it is the music of the soul.
Take time to be courteous–it is the work of a gentleman.
Take time to pray–it is the Christian’s vital breath.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40 year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.