It’s an all too familiar story. You go to bed with every intention to spend time with Jesus in the morning, and then you press snooze on your alarm. And then you press it a second time. Possibly even a third.
Or you start to think about that 9am meeting you have. Or one of the kids starts crying. Or you peek at your email or social media. Sure enough, 15 minutes have gone by. “Well now that I don’t have enough time to really get into the Word, I’ll find time later today. Maybe before people come over for community group. Yeah, that will work.”
Later that afternoon, your plan still seems to be on track, but then on the way home you remember that you need to get gas. Oh and then groceries. And then you need to tidy up the house because your community is coming over. And then your brother calls. And then you peek at your email again. As well as social media. Ding dong! Your community is here! The day is done. There is always tomorrow.
Does this sound familiar? Do you feel like growing in your faith is something that you have to cram into an already busy schedule? We all feel this struggle, even on days we consider “normal.” And we feel it even more when there is a major deadline coming up or when final exams are around the corner or when you’re caring for a sick friend/family member or when you are job hunting or even, ironically, when you’re on vacation.
Let’s face it—being faithful to regularly spend time with God in His Word and in prayer is hard on its own. If those were the only things necessary in order to faithfully walk with God, we’d still struggle with it seasonally. And yet we are called to more than that. We are also called to be faithful workers, spouses, parents, friends, church members, community members, and neighbors. We are called to pursue the lost, live in community, love our city, serve the church, and everything else God has made clear to us in the Scriptures. What do we do?
We have to be disciplined with our time.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15–17 ESV)
Look at verse 16, “... because the days are evil.”
Genuinely ask yourself right now, “Does today feel evil?” And I’m not referring to the evil that we sadly see in the headlines every day. I’m talking about your average day—does it feel evil? For me, not really. Some days are better and some are worse. But “evil” is not the word I would use to describe my average day. I’m assuming the same is true for many of you reading this too. What’s Paul’s point here?
While it may not feel like our average day is evil, what the Scriptures are saying here is that, in reality, your day is not set up to encourage your faith. The world, Satan, and your own flesh are constantly trying to do whatever they can to keep you from communing with God and walking daily with Him by faith. One of the most effective ways they can do that is to chip away at the finite resource of our time.
Since the days are evil, we have to fight. We fight by being disciplined with our time so that we can be faithful to all that God has called us to today, this week, this month, and this year.
Look at verse 15, “Look carefully then how you walk …”
I don’t know about you, but rarely do I have to consciously look down at my feet and consider where I am going to place my next step. I just walk. The only times I have actually had to do this are in situations where I’m aware that a careless misstep would be really costly. Like being on a steep hike for example. Steep hikes aren’t the best environment for leisurely walking. Injuries happen because of careless steps. Nobody climbs a mountain aimlessly. Even the best climbers plan their steps. You could even argue that the best climbers are those who plan their steps the best.
This is the point Paul is trying to make. The reason why we need to look carefully at how we use our time is because Christian faithfulness, obedience, and personal growth are not things we stumble into. When was the last time you tripped into obedience? The reality is that the path we are walking on isn’t as paved as we may think it is. The mountain is steep and as I mentioned there are real threats actively trying to pull you back down to the bottom—and that fall can be very painful spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, and relationally. So before you continue forward on the long road of Christian growth, pause and evaluate how you have been walking in this current season:
Take a moment to step back and look at how you spend your time. Think through a typical week. What are your set rhythms? What time do you go to bed? What time do you wake up? What time do you start your first task? What time do you work? Get an idea of where the majority of your time is spent each day. Make note of anything that stands out. Are there any rhythms that are unhealthy? Try and identify any common rhythms/habits that regularly trip you as you try to grow in your relationship with God.
Look at the first half of verse 16, “... making the best use of the time …” Paul’s point here is simple. Since the normal structure of your day is trying to hinder your faith instead of helping it, we must prioritize how we use our time.
God has given you responsibilities that you cannot (and should not) change. Yes God wants to meet with you through His Word and prayer, but not at the expense of the other good and godly roles and responsibilities you have. Or vice versa. Your ability to please God with these responsibilities and your ability to meet with Him daily requires you to make the best use of your time.
Make a list of your main roles and responsibilities at this point in your life (e.g. marriage, kids, family, work, community, church, finances, mission, hobbies, etc.). Are any of your current responsibilities being neglected? Are there any responsibilities that you think you don’t have time for? Now look back at the everyday rhythms you just listed earlier. Are there any habits/rhythms that are regularly preventing you from making the best use of your time in order to pursue the clear responsibilities God has blessed you with?
Making the best use of our time requires that we establish rhythms that empower us to pursue all these things regularly. What would it look like to set aside one Saturday a month to have a neighbor over for dinner? Or to plan a regular date night with your spouse? Or to serve on a Sunday service team once a month? Or to pick a date to fast and pray for our city? Or to set aside a dedicated 30 minutes at a consistent time and place to read and pray? Disciplined use of our time empowers our ability to faithfully pursue all the responsibilities that God has called us to and grow in our faith as we regularly meet and walk with Him.