Everyone is a steward, and while most people immediately think of money when they hear the word “stewardship,” God actually expects us to manage every area of our lives for His glory. We will certainly be held accountable for what we did with what we had. Paul mentions in Romans 14 that each of us will appear before the judgment seat of Christ and will give an account to Him for how we managed our lives. Again, in 1 Corinthians 3, he says that what our lives have produced will be revealed by the fire of judgment. It is essential that we understand how seriously God takes our management of what belongs to Him.
One of the most precious things God has given us to manage for his glory is our time. No one has more or less time than anyone else, no matter what we think or say about it. Everyone has twenty four hours each day to manage, and there is no end to the options available for filling them. For those of us in ministry, learning good time management skills is not only important, but absolutely essential. Here are four tips for managing our time wisely.
• Put in the big rocks first. I remember reading an illustration of a business professor who brought a large glass jar into his class one day. He filled it to the brim with large rocks, and asked his class if it was full? When they said it was full, he pulled out a bag of smaller rocks, which he began to pour into the jar. These rocks filled in the big gaps left by the larger rocks. The professor then asked the class if the jar was full. Again, they replied that it was full. He then pulled out a bag of sand, and poured it slowly into the jar. The sand filled every visible space in the jar, and again the professor asked if the jar was full. The class, catching on, said that it probably wasn’t full. Then the professor pulled out a pitcher of water and poured it into the jar, filling it to the brim. One final time, the professor asked if the jar was full, to which the class unanimously responded, “Yes!” Then, the professor asked the class what the point of this object lesson might be. One student piped up and said, “There is always room for one more thing.” The professor shook his head and said, “Incorrect. The point is that in order for the big rocks to fit, you have to put them in first.”
With all the distractions around us, begging to fill our time, it is vitally important that we learn to identify the most important things and make them a priority. That means necessarily that sometimes, we will choose not to spend time doing good things in order to do the best things.
• Make prayer a priority. Let’s be honest. We are all broken human beings with a flawed sense of what is important. Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 tell us, using exactly the same words, “There is a way which seems right to a man. But its end is the way of death,” (NASV). Good time management begins with the understanding that our time actually doesn’t belong to us. If we are only stewards, that means we need to obey our Master. We need to spend time with God in order to discover what He believes are the big rocks for our lives. I am constantly amazed by the fact that Jesus spent only three years doing public ministry, yet there has never been another person in history whose life has made a greater impact than his. I believe one of the reasons for this is the sheer amount of time he spent alone with his Father. Luke tells us that Jesus often went into the wilderness to pray (5:16). The night before he set apart the twelve as apostles, he spent the entire night praying (6:12). Jesus was convinced that His only role was to do what God wanted him to do (John 6:38), so he spent much time talking with God. How can we do otherwise?
• Get plenty of rest. This point seems to be anti-intuitive in the context of an article on effective time management. However, it is a fact that God designed our bodies in such a way that we need rest. No one performs well when they are fatigued, and much productivity is lost by those who rely solely on caffeine or other stimulants to get them going. Everyone is much sharper mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually when they are well rested. If God, who is the source of our strength, wisdom, and endurance took the time to rest on the seventh day, it would seem that we who were not created with unlimited stamina would do well to follow his example. God did not rest because he was tired. He rested as an example to us (Exodus 20:8-11).
• Play to your strengths and learn to delegate. God created each of us for a specific purpose to fill a specific role in the body of Christ. In his book The Purpose-Driven Life Rick Warren calls it our SHAPE. God has given each of us Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personalities, and Experiences. No two people are SHAPED exactly the same. One of the most effective strategies of time management is to do what you are good at and love to do and learn to allow other people in your organization to do what you do not love or cannot do. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul spends an entire chapter comparing the church (the body of Christ) with our human bodies. Both are made for one purpose. Both are made of many different parts that serve different purposes, and every part is significant. Don’t waste time doing what someone else has been gifted to do.
Those who accomplish the most are those who have learned to manage their time successfully. God has only granted us twenty-four hours in each day, so making the most of the time we have is not only important, it is a non-negotiable. Learning effective time management is worth any amount of time and energy we spend on it, for it will help us to become the very best stewards of this precious commodity we can be.
William Jaques serves on the Church Health Team. He and his wife Marabeth have three children and three foster children.