I have friends who can get the work of three people done in a single day, but some folks I know, no matter how hard they try, never seem to cross a single item off their to-do lists. Now, the difference between these people is probably not a matter of ability. Some of us just have a better sense of time management than others. And this skill is essential because we are all responsible to God for how we use our time: If we’re going to accomplish all He’s planned, we must learn how to invest it for His purposes. That’s not to say every second of the day must be spent in certain ways. We simply need a balanced schedule.
The goal is to be proactive, not reactive.
Those who just react to the demands of the day are shortsighted in their approach. The Lord has a custom-designed purpose for every person, and He has perfectly placed each of us to accomplish His goals. Instead of coming to the end of our days and wondering what we’ve achieved, wouldn’t it be better to finish life like the apostle Paul, who was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7)?
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he gave some very helpful instructions regarding the use of time: “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:15-17).
If we’re going to accomplish all He’s planned, we must learn how to invest our time for His purposes.
The word careful conveys the idea of turning your mind to a matter and giving it serious consideration. Have you ever asked, What does the Lord want me to do today? Am I investing my time in His plans or pursuing my own agenda? As stewards of God’s precious gift of time, we should always consider whether we are living wisely according to His will or just drifting through life.
What does a balanced life look like?
Although some people may think a schedule is too restrictive, in reality, it’s simply a way to budget time to live purposefully and productively. Since Jesus is the only person who ever lived a completely balanced life, let’s consider how He spent His time.
• Communing with the Father. The Gospel of Mark tells us, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there” (1:35). Now if the Son of God needed to begin the morning with His Father, how much more do we? This has to be our top priority in order to grow in our relationship with God and receive His guidance. It doesn’t matter how much we can accomplish in a day if we haven’t submitted our plans to the Lord and invited Him to arrange our schedules as He sees fit.
• Building relationships. Since people are God’s top priority, we must make sure that we, too, are investing in them. Jesus spent His early years with family and the last three years with 12 men who became His most intimate friends. To thrive, our families and friends need us to be available and involved in their lives. That’s why we must guard against letting tasks become more important than people.
• Working. This is the area where we most often get out of balance. When I first began in the ministry, I thought I was sinning if I wasn’t praying, studying, or preaching. I was so consumed that I actually made myself sick. But the Lord’s instructions in this area are quite simple: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col. 3:23). This means we should always do our best at work, but we should never let our careers become idols.
Jesus knew exactly how to maintain balance. That’s because He did only the work His Father gave Him to do, even if it meant leaving other needs unmet (Mark 1:35-39). However, He also saw interruptions as opportunities to minister to hurting people (Luke 8:41-48).
Have you ever asked, What does the Lord want me to do today? Am I investing my time in His plans or pursuing my own agenda?
• Worshipping. Throughout His ministry, Jesus often entered synagogues and the temple to worship. I’ve sometimes heard folks say, “Well, I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” Although this is true, believers who try to live the Christian life on their own miss out on some great blessings. When we gather together, we rejoice together, receive instruction from God’s Word, and find encouragement, support, and fellowship.
• Relaxing. Have you ever wondered if Jesus had fun? Although the Scriptures don’t explicitly describe Him as laughing and joking around with His disciples, the fact that children were attracted to Him tells me that He knew how to have a good time (Matt. 21:15-16). God loves to see His children enjoying themselves. After all, if we’re living holy, obedient lives, we have every reason to be happy. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine,” and that’s exactly what the Lord prescribes for us.
A balanced schedule requires commitment.
We will never accidentally manage our time wisely. It’s going to require an intentional evaluation of priorities, a commitment to live under the canopy of God’s guidance, and an ongoing review of our direction.
The first step is to examine where our true commitments lie. We tend to think our desires reveal our priorities, but our activities are a more accurate measure. We may want to spend more time with our families or have a more consistent quiet time with the Lord, but if we’re not doing it, they’re not priorities.
The next step is to ask the Lord what His schedule for us looks like. We can’t follow someone else’s plan, because God guides each of us individually. We should also ask Him to give us His long-term goals for our lives. Then we will have a direction for not just our hours but also our years.
And finally, we need to ask Him to help us stay on track. We can’t always assume that the direction He gave us years ago is the one He wants us to follow today. What once demanded our time might now be an empty place He wants to fill with new responsibilities. Just remember that a balanced schedule doesn’t restrict our freedom; it liberates us to become who God wants us to be and accomplish what He desires. And that, my friends, is the most wonderful way to spend our time.
Adapted from the sermon “Maintaining a Balanced Schedule” by Charles F. Stanley.