I heard recently about an English teacher who asked her class to write an essay on what they’d do if they had a million dollars.
When the exercise was completed, a little boy named Alec handed in a blank sheet of paper.
“Alec!” yelled the teacher. “You’ve done nothing.”
“Well,” he said, “if I had a million dollars, that’s exactly what I would do.”
We each get to decide how we use our time. Whether you have a little or a lot, there’s nothing more valuable than this resource. While some have more talents and resources than others, each of us has been given the same amount of time each day.
How will you spend the time that God has given you?
How Jesus Spent His Time
As followers of Christ, we are committed to learning His way. If He indeed is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, NIV), then it makes sense that we would pattern our time on how Jesus spent His time.
Jesus didn’t need a million dollars to live a full and abundant life. He depended instead on spiritual riches. That’s why He got up each day and spent the first part of the day with His Heavenly Father.
Mark 1:35 (NIV) tells us, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” He made sure that the first words He heard came from God — not the voices of others. He didn’t seek out the latest news or check on what His friends were doing as a first activity. Instead, He went to a solitary place and prayed.
How would your life be different if God’s words were the first words you heard each day? How would the rest of your time during the day be reordered if you first reflected on the thoughts and words of God?
Having heard from God, Jesus frequently went about the business of working with His disciples. He invited them to follow Him as He taught, healed, and blessed people around tables. Jesus eventually sent out His disciples to do the things that He did. He showed us what discipleship looks like.
People flocked to Jesus’ ministry, but He also went to where the people gathered: by the well, in the fields, by village gates and by the seaside. His mission was to love and serve people.
Some have noticed that Jesus’ day was marked by a rhythm of “up, in, and out”: “up” with His Heavenly Father in prayer and devotion, “in” with the Body of believers to teach and bind them together in love, and “out” to serve and bless others.
If this was Jesus’ way, should it not also be ours? We can practice the “up, in, and out” path of discipleship whether we are retired, work in an office, drive a bus, teach children, or care for patients in hospital rooms.
We can also identify areas where we aren’t as strong in the path of discipleship. Perhaps you have a strong relationship with God, but rarely serve others. Or perhaps you love to serve others but neglect the family of faith — the “in” relationships of the Body of Christ. Maybe you love relationships but neglect time with your Heavenly Father.
Take Out the Trash
It’s important to develop the right kind of rhythm in following Christ. It’s also important to address patterns of behavior that waste your time and take you further from Christ.
If you’re like me, then you have some ways that you don’t use your time wisely. You spend too much time on things that don’t last.
I love great drama and comedy, but sometimes I can spend too much time on TV shows and movies that don’t help me spiritually. I may think they are basically benign — they don’t affect me much — but the content and ways of thinking don’t match my walk with Christ. What I think is insignificant could actually hinder my relationship with God, blocking prayer, spiritual attentiveness, or impact the next day.
The Psalmist prays, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (Psalm 119:37, ESV).
A similar word is expressed by David in Psalm 101: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless” (Psalm 101:3, ESV).
And Paul encourages us, “Dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT).
I don’t want to come to the end of my life and say. “I missed it. I wasted way too much time on worthless things.”
Now is the time to deal with those patterns. Ask the Lord to help you take out the trash. Pray that God would help you not crave those things — or that God would increase your craving for the things of God.
What Many People Discover in the Second Half of Life
If the first half of life can be mostly about yourself, many people learn over time that life is actually about others. It’s about serving people rather than living selfishly.
Over 150 people came out Saturday to volunteer in our community. People served at Bridge Refugee Service, at the PetSafe Dog Park and Krutch Park, by prayer walking/driving, through the Compassion Coalition, and in so many other wonderful ways. There was a lot of joy in serving our neighbors, but we also got to know one another better, too. As we served, we met Jesus, for He said, “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40, NKJV).
Notice the “up, out and in” components of what happened Saturday. We were able to worship, bless one another, and help our neighbors as we served.
For many years I have quoted Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) when he said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
But I never thought until Saturday about how true that is for our church, too. The happiest people in our church — the ones that have the most joy and peace — are those who are always serving. They make life better for all of us, and the byproduct is joy for themselves and others.
Don’t wait until life is halfway over to start serving. This is the only life you have. You don’t need a million dollars to make it count.
Annie Dillard, in her book The Writing Life, says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
How will you spend the days God has given you this week?
Give glory to God as you seek the Lord, support one another, and serve people in need.
Pastor Brent McDougal