In Ephesians 5.15-16, Paul writes, "Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil" (NRSV). Let me paraphrase, "Live wisely, and use your time productively, because the length of your life is uncertain."
Isn't time the most precious commodity of all? What other resource is as fleeting. Material possessions come and go? Money can be earned, and spent, and earned again. Time, however, is here and then it is not. That minute that just ticked by is gone forever. Another minute may come, but it is not the minute we just experienced. And who's to say how many minutes remain.
Are you disciplined with your use of time? I often am not. Not to my satisfaction, at least. I allow to much of my day to waste away in my idleness or lack of application. You know, watching two hours of Home Improvement yesterday was entertaining, but was it productive? No. Did the experience improve my well-being or prove a blessing a to someone else. No, beyond the few laughs, it was wasted time.
Now, we need moments of levity and relaxation. God made with an innate need for rest. He himself rested at the end of his labors in Creation. But, let us not lose sight of the formal of work and rest employed by our Creator: six days of work, one day of rest. I, to often, flip the formula.
God made us to work. Our oldest ancestor worked, and in the Garden, no less. Despite our often conception of Eden as a vacation paradise, God placed the man in the Garden to "to till it an to keep it" (Gen. 2.15). God put Adam to work! The very design of our bodies is work-oriented. Just consider the amazing design of the human hand and all that our hands are able to accomplish. We were made to be productive. Our Creator is a God of action, not passivity, and we were made "in his image."
Paul's exhortation in Ephesians 5.15-16 concerns our use of time. His is an appeal that we use our time wisely. We should be live our lives fully aware that time is precious, that God has placed us here to be productive, and that God will hold us accountable for our use of the time that he has given to us. Consider Jesus' parable of the talents. Now, the resource in the story is not time, but rather money, but the principle of productivity can certainly apply to our estimation of time. Let us not forget, the servant that buried his talent was condemned.
How we can use our time more wisely? It begins with an understanding that our time is a gift from God and an awareness that time is fleeting and never guaranteed. We must think in terms of productivity: is my use of time accomplishing something that is worthwhile and beneficial. We should see our time as a resource to use in blessing others. We should see our time as a conduit through which God can work.
Some practical considerations include the use of scheduling. I have discovered, in the past few months, the values of keeping a daily calendar. For so many years, I would (try to ) remember dates, appointments and assignments in my head. I would begin each day as a clean slate and whatever came up, came up. How much time did I waste doing this? A lot, I'm afraid. These days, I keep my DayRunner close at hand!
Another valuable tool in organizing one's life is a daily inventory of how one's time will be used that day. I have not arrived at the point of discipline to do this enough personally, but I see the value in it. At the beginning of one's day or the close of one's day, the upcoming day is analyzed and a schedule is written, and a list of goals are composed. Then a follow-up inventory is taken at night, with the question in mind: "Did I make my day successful? Did I accomplish what I set out to do?" I need to get in the habit of doing this. This type of inventory works great with an accountability buddy (a spouse or close friend) who can help keep us on our toes.