Friday, February 23

Every $1 Counts

Here's lesson 18 in my study on Financial Freedom. Today Paul gives us an application which is simple to understand, oh-so-difficult to do, and tectonic-plate-shifting in its ability to change our lives.

Passage: Eph. 5:15-17
15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Of course I want to live as a wise person, Paul! How do I do that? 

Paul gives us several keys. First, a wise person makes the most of the time. They say time is money. A wise person pointed out that actually, that saying demeans time. My time can be used for so many things which money cannot! I've experienced 2 or 3 hours with a close friend, which created something thousands of dollars could never buy. 

Some people (me, often!) complain about how little time we have. Actually, we all have the same amount of time. Check out Charles Hummel's fantastic little booklet, Tyranny of the Urgent. It changed my life in dealing with my time. 

The Gift of Time
My time is a gift, a blessing from God. It is my life. But in God's wisdom, he lets us choose with a great deal of freedom what we'll do with our time. We can  use it to "fool about with sex, drink and ambition" if we want. Or just watch TV and play video games.

Whenever I do, I look back in regret. Unless it was significant time with family and friends, socializing and bonding over the TV show or games, and building relationships that way.

Paul's comment is "because the days are evil." How so? That's strong language! I take him to mean our times are evil, not that our time is evil. Look at the daily news. Or ask someone how their day's been. Clearly, we live in evil days. Lots of evil is afoot, wreaking destruction in the lives of people all around us, let alone across the globe. 

But our time has something to do with that. Clearly, if we use our time wisely, we can make a difference. As people brought to life, we can accomplish a great deal of good. As people who don't have to live under the powers, we can change the systems and this world, with lots of effort and lots of grace.

"The Son does only what the Father tells him" (John 5:19)
The other part of wisdom is not just understanding time: it's a gift to be used wisely, because our times are evil. It's understanding the will of God.

Everything outside God's will is foolishness. But if I understand his will, I can make the most of the time. 

God knows what will be the best use of my time. His general will revealed in Scripture can guide the general flow of my life, and I know I will be making the most of my time. 

I have thought through my usage of time throughout my average week, and now I'm at a point where almost all of my time is being used in ways I do not regret; wise, not foolish ways. Sabbath, sleep, feasting on God's word, loving people, working hard, playing with my kids and having lots of fun with them, deepening relationships with God's people, doing ministry. Wow! I love it! What a great life God has given me. 

That's when I follow his general will. But in specific, if I will listen to him and trust him with this day, or this next two hours, or even this 10 minutes, then I won't regret the use of my time, and I won't live foolishly. 

I don't know how many times I have worked to prepare something, with a sense from God of "Don't worry about it." But in order to be a "good leader" or "responsible" I have spent hours of toil and anxiety getting it just right. Then the event was cancelled, or our plans changed because of some emergency. My work was wasted time. If only I had not been arrogant, or more concerned about my own reputation, and submitted to the will of the Lord in trust! I could have gotten 2 more hours of sleep or done something fruitful with that time. 

Wise Living and Money
My friend Steve Barker recently preached that much of our discipleship can be tested by how we use two books: our pocket book and our appointment book. 

Making the most of the time sometimes requires money. If I have submitted my $10 to God's will, as well as my ten minutes, then I will have the money available for making the most of the time. If I have spent it on myself or on others without consulting with the Lord, I may misappropriate money he intended me to use for great good.

John Wesley once bought a beautiful new painting and hung it in his study. Then the cleaning lady came in, wearing only a thin dress, though it was cold and rainy outside. He had nothing to give her, and was convicted--"The money I had to buy her a coat is hanging on my wall! Her blood and the blood of her children is on my hands!" He vowed never again to make a purchase without consulting the Lord. 

Practical Application
I believe that if I'm to live wisely and make the most of the time, I must check every minute and every dime with Jesus. That's a habit I can't develop overnight, nor by sheer will power. But as I have been paying attention to Jesus with every transaction I have made, over the past two months, I have become more and more aware of Jesus' presence. 

I am going to start tracking every penny we spend for a couple months, starting next week, so that we have a better sense of where it is all going, and how much we are really submitting it to God's will and God's priorities.

Lord, I want you to keep teaching me to submit all of my resources--my time, my money, my energy, my thoughts--to you and your wonderful, brilliant and gracious will. 

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