The Goal of a Disciplined Life (5)
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5.15, 16
Make the best use
Of course, everything we have been discussing in this study regarding the discipline of the body relates to how we use the time of our lives. We only speak with others, listen to their concerns, and lend our hands and strength to serve them within the framework of time.
Thus, it is important that, as Paul says, we learn to make the best use of the time allotted to us. As followers of Jesus Christ, the phrase “best use” can only refer to advancing the rule of Christ (Matt. 6.33) – making disciples, building His Church, and making Him and His Kingdom known to the world (Matt. 28.18-20; Matt. 16.18; Acts 1.8). With respect to the time of our lives, any use we make of that time must be consistent with our calling to follow Jesus and to use our bodies, in time, to serve His purposes and ends.
The importance of this is heightened when we understand time from a Biblical perspective. Each moment of time comes to us as a gift of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who upholds all things and every moment of time (Heb. 1.3). Our duty is to receive this gift and “improve” it, to use Jonathan Edwards’ term, before it returns to the Lord from Whom it came.
A stewardship of time is thus demanded of us, a stewardship that can only be realized for a tenfold return (Matt. 25.14-30) when we discipline our bodies in the time of our lives.
How can we become better stewards of the time of our lives? Embedded in Paul’s exhortation are three guidelines for using our time with disciplined bodies to follow Jesus.
First, we must pay careful attention to how we use our time. The New King James Version puts this well: “walk circumspectly.” Keep an eye on the horizons of your time. Don’t do things in a mindless or merely reactive manner. Know your purpose; have a plan; and, as much as possible, work your plan with wisdom and for the glory of God (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17).
As followers of Christ we have a purpose in life; we shouldn’t scuttle around in the time of our lives like pin balls, bouncing uncontrollably from one situation or circumstance to the next. Rather, we should learn to plan our time wisely, numbering the hours and days of our lives in advance, so that we can prepare to use them wisely. Your plan doesn’t need to be exhaustive, nor are you a servant of your plan. Your plan should help you keep the path ahead of you in mind throughout the day, so that you prepare for each activity prayerfully, enter them all as unto the Lord, and use every member of your body as a witness to Christ and His love.
And it wouldn’t hurt to have some method in place for evaluating your time, even if that consists of nothing more than an end-of-the-day review of your activities, as you wait on the Lord in prayer to show you how you might improve your time usage tomorrow.
Second, Paul insists that we must use our time like wise people, not like fools. The fool says in his heart that there is no God (Ps. 14.3). In the life of an unbelieving person, what this means is that God, if He exists at all, has no interest or place in the time of his life. He is the master of his fate; he is the captain of his soul. What could God possibly add of significance to the time of his life?
But believers must not live this way; rather, we trust in the Lord with all our heart; in all our ways we don’t want to depend merely on our best thoughts or what others do or say or approve. We want to trust in the Lord and look to Him for guidance in everything we do, all the time of our lives (Prov. 3.5, 6). This will require that we pay careful attention to the Scriptures as we read them, listening for the Spirit as He speaks into all the nooks and crannies of our lives, allowing God’s Word to shine its light into the activities, relationships, roles, and responsibilities of our everyday lives, so that we might have God’s wisdom in how to discipline and prepare our bodies to make the best use our time.
Finally, Paul suggests that we keep the larger spiritual perspective in view at all times. The days are evil, Paul tells us. Spiritual forces of wickedness in high places are deceiving and misleading many people. They will latch on to anything to advance their pernicious objectives, even things we might mindlessly do or say. Every moment of our time that we waste in endeavors other than seeking the Kingdom and glory of God, will be captured by the enemy of our souls and used for his ends.
Keep a close watch
Paul instructed Timothy to keep a close watch on his life as well as his doctrine (1 Tim. 4.16). Solomon similarly instructed his son, insisting that the way of wisdom is found as we keep a close watch on our souls, lives, plans, and paths (Prov. 4.20-27).
The application for how we use our time is clear: We must be vigilant daily, consecrating all our bodily members to the work of the Lord, training and disciplining them for obedience, and beseeching the Lord for His guarding and guiding presence in all the time of our lives.
The more aware we are of our time, and purposeful in how we must use it, the greater will be the likelihood that we will serve Christ with our bodies in the time of our lives.
1. What is your approach to planning the time of your life? How about to evaluating the way you use the time God gives you?
2. Time comes to us from God as a gift we are to steward. Meditate on Matthew 25.14-30. How would you apply the teaching of the parable to the way you use your time?
3. In his sermon, “The Preciousness of Time,” Jonathan Edwards wrote that we must strive to improve the time God gives us. What is your approach to improvingthe time of your life?
Next steps – Preparation: Are you confident that all the time of your life is being used as fully as possible for the Kingdom of God? Do you plan well and review frequently? Is your body rightly disciplined to make the most of all the time of your life? Talk with a Christian friend about these questions. How can you encourage and help one another to make better use of your time for the Kingdom and glory of God?
T. M. Moore
This study, The Goal of a Disciplined Life, is part 1 of a 7-part series that supports the course, Introduction to Spiritual Theology at The Ailbe Seminary. To learn more about this free course, watch this brief video. Then enroll at the website and register for the course.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.