You see a link to an interesting article and “click.” The page quickly loads, and to your dismay, all you see is line after line of text. It’s 8 point font, Times New Roman, and stretches from edge to edge across your screen. Your interest quickly disappears and you move on to the next exciting headline.
Sometimes we’re like that writer. We fill our days with 8 point text, with little attention to focus, and no room for margin. Each day, we turn the page in the story of our lives and find yet another page jam-packed with activities and to-dos. Our time seems to disappear even before we start our day. We just don’t have time to do everything.
Or do we?
Ironically, time is the world’s only resource that has been distributed equally. Every person, from CEO to field worker, has 24 hours in a given day. You cannot save time in a bank nor can you borrow time in advance. Time cannot be sped up or slowed down. It passes one second at a time, and then it’s gone, never to be used again.
At twenty-six years of age, statistics indicate that I have another fifty-two years to live. That’s comforting, at least right now. However, in another twenty-six years, I’ll be well past my mid-life crisis and will wonder where the time went.
Billy Graham recognized our tendency as young adults to disregard the brevity of time.
“If someone had told me when I was twenty years old that life was very short and would pass – just like that – I wouldn’t have believed it. And if I tell you that, you don’t believe it either. I cannot get young people to understand how brief life is, how quickly it passes.” 
So on one hand, we live as if there were no tomorrow. On the other hand, we live as if we have all of a lifetime before us. This combination steals today of its joys and tomorrow of its effectiveness.
Lately, God has been teaching me some important lessons about time. Yesterday was a prime example. I started out my day with a phone call that cut into my college study time. I was determined to make up for the lost study time later in the day, but that never happened. To my embarrassment I forgot a scheduled appointment, which then caused me to get started at work fifteen minutes late.
On days like yesterday, I need to be reminded that God has given us enough time to do His will. He will never give us a task without providing the resources that we need to complete it. This does not mean that everything will go as we planned. There will be times that we plan our ways and then He redirects our steps. However, we can always be sure of one thing: God has a purpose for our life on earth, and that means He has a purpose for the very minute that we are living right now.
Jesus lived His short life surrounded by endless ministry opportunities. He gave of His time and energy without reserve, from dawn until dusk, but there were always more people, more opportunities, and more needs. Israel was still a needy place when Jesus came to the end of His three-year tenure. However, He could confidently say, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4, NKJV).
Jesus didn’t meet every need, but He did finish the will of His Father.
Something else that I am learning is the importance of focus. When we say, “I don’t have enough time,” we are really admitting that we’ve taken a wrong turn. Either we are trying to do something that God has not called us to do, or we are not using our time wisely.
Focus is simply investing our time wisely, and that is only getting harder as the years go by. Google earned 110 billion dollars last year from advertisers willing to pay for our attention. Facebook grew from a small college-based project into a company worth 571 billion dollars after figuring out how to capture large chunks of our time. Telemarketers want our time. Salesmen want our time. It’s a valuable resource, and you and I get to decide how we use it.
No matter what stage of life we are in, there will always be plenty of ways to use our time. That is why we must learn “to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, NKJV). We must ask ourselves, “What is God calling me to focus on? What are my priorities?”
Perhaps the greatest mind shift for me has been embracing rest. I recently read the book “Reset” by David Murray. All throughout the book, he uses the analogy of a car in a repair bay. Murray points out that we, like cars, must be taken care of in order to run well. We must keep our tank full and our engine oiled. Otherwise, we will not be able to make it from point A to point B.
Our ability (or inability) to rest goes beyond our physical health. It directly affects our relationship with God. Murray puts it well:
“God designed this pattern of six days of work and one day of rest for perfect people in a perfect world. How much more do we need it now in such fallen bodies in such a fallen world? This is a divine gift for our good, as Jesus said: ‘The Sabbath was made for man’ (Mark 2:27). It’s needed now more than ever before, considering that in the last twenty years working hours in the United States have increased 15 percent and leisure has decreased 30 percent.” 
As Anabaptists, we’re known for our strong work ethic. From little on up, we’ve learned to carry our own share of the load, to do the hard things and reap the rewards. Family men work 60-80 hours a week, pastors run their own business while shepherding their congregation, and wives garden, can, homeschool, sew their own clothes, help out on the farm, and raise 5-10 children all at once. But have we learned to rest well?
How about you?
Over the past year, God has been stretching and growing me in my use of time. I have to keep reminding myself that I do have enough time – no, not enough time for every opportunity that comes my way, but enough time to finish the will of my Father. I need to focus on what’s important in life and ask God to show me what’s important to Him. I have to remind myself to rest, both physically and spiritually. That means being like Mary and sitting at Jesus’ feet, even when there are plenty of “to do’s” on my list and a Martha breathing down my back.
How about you? What are some things that you have learned about how you use your time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
--Written by: I.M.
It’s summertime in South Asia. Even with the ceiling fans on high blast, the heat saps my energy. As I look out the window, I see the rickshaw driver coming down the street. He’s skinny – barely weighing 130 pounds. Drenched in sweat, he has a bandana wrapped around his head to shade him from the noon sun. It's half way through the day, but he’s totally exhausted. He heaves all of his weight on the left pedal to get half a rotation of the pedals and then leans right and heaves his weight on the right side for another half rotation. He needs a break – a long drink of water, a spot of shade where he can rest, some breeze to cool him off….
I could invite him in – give him a large glass of lemonade, a plate full of rice and curry, and a spot to stretch out under the ceiling fan. He’d be refreshed, but he really needs more. Hard work is destroying him. It’s not just the work itself; it’s the fact that he never gets a break and that he’s trying to do too much work with too little food. He ate a meager meal before he left home. He may buy some cheap food when he’s out working.
Tonight when he gets home, he’ll eat cooked rice, but he can’t afford vegetables and meat. He won’t sleep well tonight – noise and heat in the slums leave little room for rest. Tomorrow morning he’ll be tired, starting another day of intense manual labor with too little food and limited energy. If he becomes sick, he has nothing in reserve so that he can bounce back. There is no margin, just bare survival one day at a time.
Many of you are facing similar situations. You’re in a setting that’s exhausting. Your work is demanding. There’s no margin. You roll out of bed and you feel the pressure of life bearing down on you. You’re facing another day and wonder how you’ll make it through. You mechanically make your way out to your rickshaw, feeling hungry and worn out. You throw all of your weight on one side for half a rotation. You groan. You throw your weight on the other side. Inching down the street, there’s no hope of real progress. People in your life need you to be there, to listen to them, to care. You try, but their words are drowned out by the exhaustion and hunger in your own heart. It’s hard to hear the cries around us when we’ve had to block out the cries within.
It’s not that work is a problem. Kingdom work is often hard. Hard work can be a good thing. However, if you want hard work to strengthen you, rather than destroy you, there are at least two things that you’ll need – you need rest and you need food.
God has built rest into the rhythm of the universe. He worked six days and then He rested. He calls us to rest. We work hard and then we disengage. We receive His weekly Sabbath and are refreshed. We receive His daily rest – learning to lay aside responsibilities in the evening, spending time with loved ones, receiving His gift of sleep. We’ve also found that it includes longer times of rest where we step away from work for a week or two at a time and spend time with each other, with God, in nature, and are refreshed. We need rest.
We also need food. We weren’t meant to starve ourselves. There is food that will nourish our souls and water that will quench our thirst.
And yet so often we struggle through life hungry, never sitting down to the feast that God has prepared for us. The harder the work that we face, the more desperately we need to eat regularly and eat well. Let the Father feed you. Sit at His table and receive the Word that gives you life.
One of the biggest lies is “I have to keep going.” When you feel the most trapped, don’t push through on your own strength. Stop and rest. Stop and eat. He is our food, He is our rest, He is our life.
Verses for Reflection
Rest: Ps 4:8, Ps 62, 127:1-2, Is 40:28-31, Matt 11:28-30, Mk 6:31
Nourishment: Jn 4:13-14, 6:55-59, 7:37-39, 15:1-11, Rev 22:1-2, 22:17
Written by: E.M.