According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey (2012), the average working person between the ages of 25-54 spends 2.5 hours per workday in leisure and sports (is Facebook a sport?). That’s 12.5 hours per week, about 50 hours per month, and roughly 600 hours per year. And remember – that does not include weekends! While we certainly need rest and recharging for the many tasks God provides, perhaps we can ask ourselves what we are doing with that 600 hours per year.
Consider some of these estimates:
To learn a new language in a year – 30 minutes per day (182 hours in a year)
To walk across the continental United States – 180 minutes per day (1100 hours in a year)
To learn how to fly and obtain a Private Pilot certificate – an average of 20 minutes per day (120 hours in a year)
To read through the Bible once in a year (at a comfortable pace) – 20 minutes per day (120 hours in a year)
These numbers are a bit shocking, right? Especially in relation to the 600 hours that we spend doing…well, pretty much nothing. As we consider our frustration and disappointment over the time we have wasted, let’s consider three passages that help us think Biblically about how we can use our time in the future.
9 “To whom would He teach knowledge, And to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast? 10 “For He says, ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.’ ”
In the context of God’s judgment on Israel, this passage considers God’s method of speaking to the rebellious nation. He would teach them simply – like children, yet the nation would not listen. So, whereas we would normally teach “‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there’” in order to be understood, He would teach in that manner, but would not be understood or heeded (Is 28:12).
Still the principle of ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there’ is very helpful. When we prepare a meal, we don’t try to make the whole thing at once, rather we prepare each ingredient one at a time. When one writes a book, they don’t write the whole thing all at once, but rather one letter, one word, one sentence, and then one paragraph at a time. One doesn’t attain fifty years of marriage overnight – it takes fifty years of one moment at a time. Parents don’t raise children all at once, it takes years full of moments. When we learn God’s word, we don’t learn it all at once, we learn it bit by bit – order on order, line on line, a little here, a little there.
In this same way, if we use the time God has given us with the understanding that it is not one big block of time, but rather many small bits of time, we can be more patient about results. It is important for us to realize that God has given us only the small bits to work with – and we don’t know how many of those we have, so we should use them wisely. Life is like a pizza. When we try to devour it all at once, the results are…well…messy and usually disappointing. But when we simply try to use each moment for His glory, things turn out quite differently, and usually we don’t need so many napkins.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
A straight path is vital for any efficient use of time. When we lean upon our own understanding, the paths start to become crooked and much, much longer. But if we trust in Him, and acknowledge Him in all of our ways, He will make our paths straight. Often we think that the big things are important to God, but the little things aren’t. But if it is true that God does all things for His own glory, then that includes the little things as well. In fact, it is rather arrogant of us to think we can determine which things are important to God and which things aren’t. So rather than just trusting Him in the big things and making our own way in the little things, it is so much better to acknowledge Him in all our ways – big and little. Perhaps you are familiar with the exhortation, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Well, there’s really no such thing as small stuff. So, let’s not sweat the small stuff or the big stuff. If we acknowledge Him in all the stuff, the stuff just works out better.
Additionally – and more importantly – we find ourselves spending the small moments with Him, rather than trying to set aside big blocks of time to get on our knees and pray. And if we begin to spend all of our small moments with Him, it is then that (in my estimation) we begin to really understand what Paul meant when He said “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17). Life is full of small moments and we can spend them with Him or without Him. I can say with certainty a moment with Him has never been wasted.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
In this passage, Jesus is challenging the priorities of his listeners. He explains to them that the things people so often consider important, simply aren’t. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It is a very simple fact that we spend our time doing what is important to us. If we say that we love to study God’s word, but we don’t ever open our Bibles, are we not being dishonest? If we say that we love our families, but we don’t spend time with them, are we not being dishonest? If we say we love the Lord, and yet we spend no time with Him, are we not being dishonest? Our hearts are where our treasures are.
When we look back on the past year (or day, for that matter) and consider how we have spent our time, we realize that time spent is an accurate reflection of where our hearts are. That is an uneasy thought. I will never forget one evening as a child, sitting with my family reading the Bible together. I recall being particularly disinterested in reading the Bible that night, and perhaps my father sensed that. He looked up from his Bible, stopped reading, and began to say, “We don’t really love the Lord, do we?” My brother and I looked at each other with surprise that such words would ever pass through our father’s lips. He was a man very devoted to the Lord, and we could not imagine that he would make such an admission. “We really don’t love Him like we ought to love Him,” he said, “So why don’t stop and ask Him to help us to want to love Him like we ought.” And we prayed. I cannot remember a moment since that I did not want to love the Lord. Of course, my father’s words are still as true today as they were then. We do not love Him yet as we ought. But we can walk with Him each moment and learn.
Where is our treasure? Where are our hearts? How can we possibly think about using moments wisely if we haven’t fixed our eyes on what is important? I think David understood the importance of treasuring the right things. He said so beautifully in Psalm 19:9-11, “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”