Am I making the most of my time? Homeschool, blog, church, family; I have so many things vying for my attention, but if I’m not careful, I can easily waste an entire day wandering aimlessly because I haven’t written anything down. I know I have things to do, but I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to come to the end of our school year and feel that I didn’t accomplish all that I set out to do. I don’t want to look back at the end of this year and think that I did not give my all to my family or the people God has put in my life. It is important that I learn to intentionally think about my time and how I spend it.
As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.
So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable of a man getting ready to go on a journey. He calls his servants and entrusts to each of them various amounts of talents according to their ability. To one he entrusts five talents, to another two talents, and the last he gave one talent. Then he goes off on a journey. When he returns, he lines the servants up to see what they did with the money. He expects that they invested it in some way and received a return for it. The man who had been given five talents traded with them and earned five more. In the same manner, the man who had two talents also invested them and earned two more. The landowner was pleased with these men, because they wisely used the possessions he gave them and acquired more. This is what he he told them:
Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:21)
Then he came to the last slave, the man who had been given a single talent. He was a fearful man. What if he lost the talent? What if he didn’t use it correctly and made a huge mess out of things? He believed his master to be a hard man who reaped where he did not sow and didn’t want to disappoint him. So he decided to hide the talent — he couldn’t lose it if he didn’t use it, right? When the time came to give an accounting, he went and dug up the talent and held it out. “See, here is your talent. I was afraid to lose it because of what kind of man I knew you to be, but here it is, I didn’t lose it!”
Instead of being grateful, the master was furious! He called the slave wicked and lazy! “You should have at the very least put the money in the bank so it could earn interest! What good does it do me in the ground!” He then took the talent from the man and gave it to the servant with the ten talents.
For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. (Matt. 25:29)
What does this mean for us? Let’s think of the talents as abilities or time. God has graced each and every one of us with abilities and skills, as well as 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. How are we using these precious commodities? Wisely and thoughtfully? Or are we hiding them in fear? Are we squandering them on useless things that will gain no profit?
Consider 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” Am I being a faithful steward of what He has given me? God has given me the ability to write and a desire to encourage others. But if I decide that I’m too fearful to share the post I wrote (which I’ve done) or if I don’t talk to the person that I know needs encouragement for fear of rejection (also guilty), then I’m not being faithful to that which God has given me. He has also given me six children and has called me to homeschool them. I need to be faithful to teach them and prepare them for life. I need to be faithful to share the gospel with them and show them what it means to be a christian. The last two decades I’ve had as a parent have gone by in a flash; in another decade all my kids will be grown. I only have a short amount of time with them — how am I spending it?
I know myself, and I know that if I am not proactive and intentional about my days, I can easily waste an entire day appearing active but actually accomplishing nothing. If I don’t consider my goals and make a prioritized list of actions that need to be accomplished then I will wander from place to place, knowing something must be done but not knowing what to do first. The Living Well Planner is the best thing I have found to keep track of my life and keep me in check. You can read why I like it in this post. This is one way that I can keep from wasting my day. It is the first step, but it isn’t the only step. I must also DO the things I plan to do.
Psalm 37:5 says, Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him and He will do it. Before I begin my day I need to spend time with the Lord, as well as meditate on His word throughout the day. This is an important routine to fill up my tank for the day allowing me to go into my tasks with the right attitude and providing the words to use in spreading the gospel. I will talk more about this in my next post.
Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous in much… If you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?
What do you do to make sure you are using your time wisely?
I know that I am not alone when I say that I love fall. The colors, the crispness in the air, the cool temperatures, the smell of pumpkin and cinnamon wafting through the air as we cuddle in sweaters and blankets before a fire — yes, those thoughts bring a smile to my face. This fall has been especially beautiful; the colors of the changing leaves have been brighter, more vibrant, and longer lasting. The variance in color seems to be more pronounced as well. I’m told there is a scientific reason for this – something like more rain and cooler temperatures in the summer. Whatever the reason, I’m just basking in the artistry of it all and wanting to be out in it as much as possible.
Some of the fall colors in my front yard.
I was driving this past week with my fifteen year old daughter, who has also been enthralled with the variety of color on the trees. She really can’t get over it! She said something that I initially dismissed, but the more I have been thinking about it, the more profound it seems.
“I just love fall. I mean I love spring and the colors of the blossoms, but there’s just something about the colors of death. I love the beauty of death.”
I had never thought of it like that before — that all the beauty of fall is due to the fact that the leaves are dying! They are losing chlorophyll and thus losing their green and changing color. They will soon die and fall of the tree onto the ground.
I have said before that spring is one of my favorite seasons because it reminds me of hope. All winter the trees have been dormant, barren, lifeless. The world seems bleak, as it often does during times of trial and affliction. Then those first buds of spring appear and you know that there is hope! Suddenly the earth is bursting in luscious greens and pinks and yellows and we are reminded that God is indeed faithful to His promises! But in all that I have never thought of loving fall because of the death it represents.
Is there beauty in death? I can think of one death in particular that should bring us to our knees — the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He truly is the holy, all-powerful, all-knowing God, yet He so loved us that He left the riches of heaven and came to earth where He suffered and bled and died a brutal death at the hands of sinful men so that we might become children of God. (Eph. 2:4-7; Phil. 2:5-11; Acts 2:22-24, 1 John 3:1)
Speaking of His imminent crucifixion, Jesus said in John 12:23-24, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus would be glorified by dying! Just as a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies to produce a rich harvest, so also Christ’s death would bear much fruit by providing salvation for many.
Romans 5:8 tells us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The holy, pure, sinless Son of God became sin on our behalf because of His great love and mercy. According to Romans 3:23 and 6:23, we are ALL sinners and are thus deserving of death and hell. But Christ humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, so that we might be saved and enjoy fellowship with Him.
So, yes, there is beauty in death, but even more beautiful is the fact that he didn’t stay dead. He came back to life again three days later, never to die again and is currently sitting at the right hand of God the Father as our mediator. And that is what we rest our hope in! This is the perfect opportunity to share the gospel with your children — it’s right before your eyes! Talk with them about why the leaves fall of the trees and the hope of spring and then lead into Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and the newness of life that comes thru the resurrection.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
What are some other ways you see the gospel in fall?
If it isn’t clear by now, I’ll say it again — what got me through years and years of waiting, depression, and pity parties was the Word of God. I listened to expository preaching weekly and had frequent discussions with “older women” in the faith. I ate up passages that declared God’s faithfulness. I delved into study; I underlined; I cross-referenced; I journaled. I cried out to the Lord for understanding, and He answered me (Proverbs 2:1-8). While He didn’t rescue me immediately, the entire process took 10 years, He gave me peace in His scriptures that saw me through it. So this is my exhortation to you, Sister, read the bible. Study it. Know what it says. Find pleasure and peace in God our Father.
I was reading in Psalm 119 yesterday and was reminded of how the Word of God carries us through our afflictions. In his distress, the Psalmist cries,
25 My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to your word.
26 I have told of my ways, and you have answered me; teach me your statues.
28 My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to your word.
38 Establish your word to your servant; as that which produces reverence for you.
49 Remember the word to your servant; in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction; that your word has revived me.
75 I know, O Lord, that your judgements are righteous; and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
81 My soul languishes for your salvation; I wait for your word.
89 Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven.
90 Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth and it stands.
92 If your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
165 Those who love your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.
The psalmist clearly had great affliction and distress. Yet he found peace and hope as he studied the ordinances of God. The more He studied God’s word, the more He understood the God of heaven and loved His scriptures. I only gave you a few snippets to whet your appetite; I highly recommend you read the whole psalm and discover the beauty for yourself.
There is so much treasure to be found in a study of God’s word. It is through His word that he speaks to us and guides us. We may take to heart Paul’s commendation to Timothy, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
My favorite way to study the bible is through my bible reading plan. Right now I am doing the M’Cheyne plan in my bible app, which allows me to read in several different areas at once. When my reading brings me to Leviticus, I am also in the Gospels, the Prophets, and the Epistles. I also really enjoyed doing a chronological plan. While reading the Kings, I may also be reading the Prophets, and while in Acts, I also may be reading the epistles that Paul wrote at the time. Reading in this way brings depth and dimension to the words on the page. New connections are made as I see how God and His character remain the same throughout scripture. I try and journal what I am learning as I read. I say ‘try’ because sometimes I get lazy :0 I may change my plan from year to year, but I cannot imagine going back to reading just one book at a time.
Last time I talked about one of my all-time favorite verses, Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” When things are going wrong in our lives, our first instinct is to be anxious, or worry about it, and then to strive for a way to fix it. But scripture says we are to act in a way contrary to nature and logic. We are to seek His will, not ours, and He will take care of our needs. We are to dwell on His kingdom, not our self-dom. We must shift our focus off of ourselves and onto God.
I have struggled with this idea from time to time. There was a time where I took a lesson from the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 and therefore was praying unceasingly for my problem. I beseeched God to grant me deliverance. I felt like I was doing the right thing; after all, didn’t Jesus tell us we were supposed to pray like this? But all it did was make me moody and discontent. Why?
My perspective was askew, I was praying and dwelling so much for myself and not for anyone else. My problems had become the center of my world. In reality, we need to have balance. We need to be persistent in prayer, i.e. not giving up, but we also need to be lifting up the needs of the saints. When we become others-focused then it shifts our point-of-view away from ourselves. Here are some ways we can do that.
1. Pray for Others
When we are in the midst of a trial we tend to get pretty selfish in our prayers, asking the Lord to help us through our present situation. As a matter of fact, we tend to become pretty self-centered all around as our primary focus is on our problems and our worries. As far as we are concerned we have it worse than anyone else and no one else has problems like us.
However, when we take a step back and look at the world as a whole and not just our tiny part we see that this is entirely untrue. When we focus our prayer time on other people and their needs then we are able to be more realistic about how our problems relate to the bigger picture. We get pulled out of our self-centered focus and remember the rest of God’s children.
Once a month I go a women’s prayer meeting and bible study, and I always leave with a fresh perspective of the issues I am dealing with. Not because we prayed for them as a group (which we did) but because of everyone else we prayed for! I’m reminded that I’m not the only person who is dealing with hard things; just because another person’s trial looks different than mine doesn’t mean it’s not just as hard!
In the past year I have sought to be more intentional about praying for others needs before I pray for my own. Through that, God has burdened my heart for a couple of women whom I lift up often. I feel as deeply for their needs as I do my own. The word of God tells us to pray for others, don’t rob yourself of the blessings of obedience.
2. Seek to Minister to the Needs of
We have been reminded that we are not the only ones with problems and needs, and while praying for them is a great start, we should not stop there. God intends for the Church to help one another. We are to: bear one anothers burdens (Galatians 6:2), regard one another as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), encourage and build up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and fervently love one another from the heart (1 Peter 1:22) among other things.
While I was living in very tight quarters waiting for God to work, I continued to work with my youth group and serve the people of the church. I made meals for new moms and those in need. I listened to the needs of others and encouraged them with scripture that I had been reading.
Matthew 6:33 says to “seek first the kingdom of God and all these things (food, clothing, basic needs) will be added to you.” That has been a life-verse for me. When I focus on those things God has called me to do and the people He has asked me to help then I can trust He is going to take care of me.
In an earlier post I posed the question, “what can we do during the waiting time?” While the short answer is to be still or cease striving, I think there is something we can do — Seek first His kingdom and righteousness. Change our focus. Stop worrying about that which we are waiting for, and direct our attention instead on what God wants us to be doing with our lives.
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34
This has been, and continues to be, a life verse for me, as it has kept me going through all of life’s ups and downs. When we had bills due and not enough money to pay them, and I would start getting anxious and think, “what should we do,” the Lord would guide me to this verse. My husband and I have served in the youth ministry ever since we got married and every year we spend a week during the summer at camp. It has always been always a great week of seeing the Lord work, but it has also been a week of no work and no paycheck. When I would get anxious because the bills were still due, the Lord would point me to this verse. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So in faith we would go serve the Lord at youth camp. And He always took care of us. Money didn’t necessarily fall from the sky, and we may not have have gotten extra from anywhere else, but we always had enough.
I’ve been reading the autobiography of Brother Andrew, a man who smuggled bibles behind the iron curtain during the Cold War when communist persecution of the church was prevalent. There are so many examples of seeking first the Kingdom of God in his life. So many times that he and his wife had a great need but no funds. Fulfillment of that need was impossible in his own strength. But, with God nothing is impossible. So they prayed and continued in faith to seek to build God’s kingdom, and God provided for their needs.
One instance of great faith was when he had his heart set on producing special small bibles for Russia in order to make it easier for more people to have one. But there was a huge cost involved. The only way they could think to come up with the money was to sell their house — the house they were currently living in. They knew God would provide another place for them to live, and they felt strongly about the enormous need for the people of Russia to have bibles. Because of their faith and desire to serve the Lord they put their house on the market. A week later they received a call from the Bible Society saying they would support the production and pay the entire cost upfront! Andrew only had to purchase the bibles he needed at the time and for half the cost! What a praise and an answer! They immediately took their house off the market. The Lord knew their need of a place to live as well as the need of making special bibles for Russia and He provided abundantly.
But what about those of us who are not missionaries to foreign countries — how do we seek first the Kingdom of God? Let’s go to the Word of God — Deuteronomy 6:5-7 tells me, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” In light of that, one thing I am to be doing is teaching my children about God. When my mind is set on presenting the gospel and on discipleship rather than worrying about whatever the problem of the moment may be, then I am seeking first the Kingdom of God. I am to be focused on doing God’s will for my life and trust that He not only knows my needs but will provide for them.
That is just one example of God’s will for your life now, right where you are. In the next post we will look at other ways we can be seeking His kingdom.
What are some ways you can be focusing on building the Lord’s kingdom right now, where you are, in the midst of the chaos?