Redeeming the Time Pt. Two
Passage: Ephesians 5:15–5:17
Redeeming the Time Part Two
On an ancient sundial these lines were found engraved:
The shadow of my finger cast divides the future from the past; Before it stands the unborn hour in darkness and beyond thy power; Behind its unreturning line the vanished hour, no longer thine;
One hour alone is in thy hands, the now on which the shadow stands
Once time is past we can never get it back. The shadow on the sundial never goes back. The vanished hour passes the unreturning line and its gone. Time is a gift from God and redeeming the time means making the most of the time we have. To do that we need to prioritize, plan and deal with procrastination. Last week we considered the importance of prioritizing. Jesus said seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these [other] things will be added to you.
If we put the most important thing first, everything else falls into order. The first priority of the Christian ought to be seeking God's will. Paul connects redeeming time with understanding the will of the Lord.
Last week we were learning about prioritizing. This week it's the importance of planning if we are to redeem the time. If prioritizing is pointing the boat to a destination, planning is putting oars to the water to move the boat to that destination.
For some people planning comes naturally. Others have to work at it. Some people love it- and others hate it. CJ Mahaney mentions a friend on his blog who claims he'd rather stick a fork in his eye than go to a planning meeting. For me, I love the idea of an organized and well-planned life. When I walk through the aisles of Staples I get this feeling that I'm organized just by being there.
I appreciate the value of planning and I actually enjoy doing it - but there's a kind of inertia that I need to overcome every time I go to plan. And if I am honest, often my motives for wanting to plan better are superficial and selfish. I like the idea of a neat, organized, efficient life because of how it would improve my life and make me feel better about myself. God gives a bigger vision for redeeming the time than that! So when we think about the role of planning in redeeming the time, the first thing we need to turn to isn't a book on time management or our Day timers or Ipods - it's our Bible!
This is not a workshop on planning. There are many resources available for that purpose. Today we want to convince our souls of the biblical place that planning should have in our lives. Let's survey three aspects of planning from a biblical perspective this morning: The theology behind planning/ the confidence of planning/ and the fruit of planning
•I. The theology behind planning: imitating the God who plans
You probably don't think of theology when you think planning. The Bible tells us that God is a God who plans.
- ¨ What God is doing now, He planned long ago: "have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what I now bring to pass." 2 Kings 19:25
- ¨ God's plans and His purposes are one, and what He plans will be accomplished! The Lord of hosts has sworn: "As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand." Isa 14:24
- ¨ God's love for us is expressed in His good plans for us: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jer 29:11
- ¨ Acts 2:23 tells us that Jesus was delivered up to be crucified by the "definite plan and foreknowledge of God..."
- ¨ In Eph 1:10 we see that all the blessings that flow to us through Christ are according to God's purpose and plan.
God is eternal and timeless and all-knowing and all-powerful, and yet He plans. We are created in God's image and when we plan out the important things of our lives we are imitating God in that area.
Sometimes people can think of planning as being contrary to the Spirit led life. They may not say it in so many words but they think that planning is walking in the flesh and being spontaneous is walking in the Spirit. The reality is that being spontaneous is often just another word for being lazy, and plans can be Spirit-led.
Certainly God may interrupt our plans at any time - and we need to be willing for God to do that. But the theological foundation behind wise and biblical planning goes back to God Himself - God plans and so should we.
•II. The confidence of planning: committing our plans to God
Proverbs has a lot to say about planning, but the most important verses in Proverbs never even mentions the word planning. Proverbs 3:5-6 says:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will [direct] your paths.
We need to watch out that our hearts don't begin to trust in our plans rather than in God. This verse calls us to trust the Lord with all our hearts and all our plans. Plans are made according to our best understanding of what should be done - but don't lean on your understanding or your plans. Lean on the Lord, acknowledge God as your God - and He will direct your paths.
Prov. 16:9 - The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
We may make plans - that's good - but ultimately its God who determines what actually happens.
We all have heard on the news about the tragedy of flight 3704 the plane that crashed into a home in Buffalo a couple of days ago. All 49 people aboard lost their lives. But I was reading that there were three passengers who were supposed to be on that flight but weren't because they were delayed for 5 hours by another flight leaving from New Orleans.
I imagine they were frustrated and disappointed by that five hour delay that caused them to miss their flight to Buffalo. It totally messed up plans. It meant they wouldn't be returning to their families as soon as they expected. They might have been writing their letters of complaint to the airline as they waited. But think how quickly that frustration and anger turned to thankfulness to God that they weren't on that flight. If not for that delay they would never have returned to their families at all. One passenger told how it was pretty emotional when he talked to his wife. They easily might never have heard each other's voices again. He said his knees grew weak when he thinks about how he was supposed to be on that plane.
We can't see what the future holds. The delay that seems to upset our plans could end up saving our lives.
The plans that seem so good could lead to great heartache or harm. This doesn't mean we should live in fear - just the opposite, it means we should live in faith. Make your plans, but trust in the Lord with all your heart! Don't put your confidence in your plans. Put your confidence in the Lord.
Hudson Taylor noted that there are three ways to plan: We can make our best plans and try to carry them out in our own strength. Or we can make careful plans and ask God to bless them. Or, he said, "Yet another way of working is to begin with God; to ask His plans, and to offer ourselves to Him to carry out His purposes."
Trusting God doesn't mean we don't plan. It means we begin with God. Ask His plans. And offer ourselves to God to carry out His purposes.
Pastoral application: Are there plans you are making right now? Things that you want to do or see done? Begin with God. Ask Him what His plans are. Yield your life to Him and to His purposes. Remember the promise in Proverbs 16:2:
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Prov. 16:2
•III. The fruit of planning: time redeemed for our benefit and for God's glory
Planning bears good fruit in our lives - fruit that blesses our lives and helps us be more useful to the Lord.
- a. Planning gives us greater freedom in life
In one sense it seems like planning would give us less freedom. If I plan out my day, don't I have less freedom, not more? The answer is you have less freedom in one way and more in another. You are putting a self-imposed restriction on yourself so you can't do whatever you want to do, but in that plan you have a greater freedom to accomplish what your goals are.
The guy who quits high school to do whatever he wants with the day has greater freedom than the guy who works hard to excel at school and then go on to college. But in a few years the guy who studied hard has freedom to choose between several careers with high potential. The first guy finds much less freedom - freedom to choose between pumping gas or working at McDonalds.
The person who wakes up late every day and sits around in their bathrobe all day watching TV and wandering listlessly (but without any schedule or expectations) is free in one sense, but shackled with chains that are very real. That person is chained to a wasted life. God has so much more for our lives!
Jesus sets us free - to be bondslaves to His service. True freedom isn't doing what we want when we want, but serving the purposes of God with our lives. Redeeming the time is making the time count for eternity and for the glory of God!
- b. Planning enables us to achieve our goals (priorities)
Actually, it could be that the most important part of planning our goals is helping us know what not to do. Planning clears away the debris of what is useless and a waste of time, the stuff that just distracts us from our priorities.
Planning helps us determine what's most important and then stick to that. I shared the story of Ivy Lee
last week - he urged Charles Scwab to make a list of the most important things to do in the day and then start with the most important and stick to it until its finished. Then move on to the next. Scwab said it was the most important lesson he ever learned in his long business career. We may not get through the list, but we will have accomplished the most important things.
Without a plan, we are likely to be victims of the urgent - always giving our time to the pressing issue that demands our immediate attention (and maybe deserves some of it) and the things that are most important get pushed back to the back burner.
CJ Mahaney recommends that we list out our primary roles: Christian, husband, father, worker. And then plan out how we can do things each week to grow and serve in each of these important roles. This helps us avoid focusing on one role to the detriment of the others.
•c. Planning prepares us to better seize the opportunities God gives us
The word opportunity comes from a sailing term. In the days before modern harbors, ships had to wait for the tides to rise before they could enter the port. The latin term ob portu means a ship standing by waiting to make it to port. The captain and crew were ready, knowing if they missed the tide; it'd be a long time before they could catch the next tide.
Those opportunities to glorify God with our lives are all around us - planning helps us to see and seize them more consistently. We have the opportunity to love, opportunities to serve, opportunities to strengthen our families in Christ, opportunities to share Christ with those who do not know Him. We will be more effective if we plan for those opportunities.
Billy Graham tells about a time when John F. Kennedy asked him about the second coming of Jesus. Graham was able to share the gospel with him. "Very interesting" Kennedy replied. "We'll have to talk about this some more sometime." Years later, after both Kennedy and Graham had given a talk at a National Prayer breakfast, they were both leaving and Kennedy stopped at the curb and asked Graham if he would ride back to the White House with him, he'd like to get a few minutes with him. Graham, however, had the flu and asked to be excused saying couldn't we wait and talk some other time?
But there wouldn't be another time. Shortly after that Kennedy was shot and killed. Billy Graham later remembered, "His hesitation at the car door, and his request, haunt me still. What was on his mind? Should I have gone with him? It was an irrecoverable moment."
There are irrecoverable moments everyday for us - opportunities to witness Christ to someone who doesn't know him. The opportunity to laugh with our children and enter their world. The opportunity to express our love to our spouse or appreciation to a friend.
Rarely do we drift into those opportunities. We need to be intentional. It takes planning - how can I seize the God-given opportunities all around me? Let's plan ahead so when the tides rise, we're ready. What do you want to accomplish? If haven't already, I encourage you to sit down and plan out specific steps towards that goal - and then wait for the tide to rise for you to make the port.
Ultimately God wants us to redeem the time not so that we live more organized lives, but so that we lead more fruitful lives - lives that bear fruit for His glory. At the end of his earthly ministry Jesus could say, "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do." John 17:4 (ESV)
God has given us a work to do - a work that will bring God glory through our lives. Paul tells us to redeem the time - seize the opportunities that God gives us each and every day to glorify Him and advance the good gospel of Jesus Christ. Let's pray.