FIRST-PERSON: A theology of time
MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)--For many leaders, complaints about not having enough time are about as common as breathing. Yet, God isn't a harsh taskmaster, making unreasonable demands or giving us more to accomplish than there is time to do it. Let's consider the issue of time management for leaders. Let's start, not with learning how to program an electronic calendar, but with developing a theology of time. In summary, what does God say about time?
First, God invented time and called it good. God demarcated days and nights as part of his creative work and called the result -- time -- good (Genesis 1:3-5, 31). Time was part of the pre-Fall creation, thus time is good! This means time isn't your enemy. There is nothing sinful or evil about time. So get over making so many negative comments about stress, fatigue and hurry caused by a "diabolical force" called time.
Second, God established the time of your life. God placed you at the appropriate time in human history (Psalm 139:16). Your birth was perfectly timed for you to be part of this generation. Stop complaining about the times you live in. One friend repeatedly told me, "I was born about a hundred years too late" as he longed for a supposedly simpler, more moral era. My friend was not untimely born. He was born at the precise time God intended ... and so were you.
Third, related to number two, God's plan for your life also includes appropriate timing. He has a timetable for you. Your most productive life isn't life lived "in a hurry." Your most productive life is life lived in pace with God's plans. Jesus' birth came at the fullness of time, paraphrased "when the times were ripe" (Galatians 4:4). God's timing is always perfect.
Fourth, God has called us to the stewardship of time. He instructs us to "redeem the time" (Ephesians 5:15-16). This doesn't mean life is a frenetic contest to see who can get the most done. Redeem the time means to make the most of it, to use time most wisely. Sometimes, the best use of time is rest, vacation, reading to a child, walking a beach with your wife or enjoying a beautiful sunset. Redeeming time means making responsible choices to make the most of the time you have, not just checking things off your to-do list.
Finally, God models a pattern of time use for His people (and expects them to follow it). The pattern is simple -- work six days, rest one day (Genesis 2:2, Exodus 20:8-11). Sabbath rest is setting aside one day each week without work (without advancing your own cause). Doing this requires faith God can do more through you in six days than you can do in seven.
There are other types of "rest" mentioned in the Bible. There is the rest in the land of Canaan (Joshua 1:13) and three annual week-long rests associated with Jewish feasts and festivals. There was also rest associated with the Year of Jubilee. In the New Testament, there is of course the rest we have as believers in Jesus. Clearly, God intends His people to follow a pattern of work and rest.
So, here's a summary of a Theology of Time. God invented time and called it good. He places us at the right time in history and has appropriate timing for events in our lives. We are responsible to use time wisely, including following God's pattern for work and rest. So, let's celebrate the gift of time and make managing it a positive part of our leadership role.
Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., just north of San Francisco. This column first appeared at his blog, JeffIorg.com.