Doing "Time Management" God's way!

During the First World War a certain soldier was so distraught by the conflict that he decided to desert. The account relates that his intention was to find his way to the coast of France and then catch a fishing boat back to England. The night he chose to abscond was particularly dark and black. After walking and stumbling for what seemed like miles he got totally lost. In the darkness he eventually saw what he perceived to be the outline of a road sign. With relief he climbed up the pole to the cross beam to read it. Taking out a match, he lit it, and found himself looking directly into the face of Jesus Christ. He had climbed an outdoor crucifix.

The soldier was so stunned and shaken by the image of Christ in Agony that it made him feel profoundly ashamed. He was looking into the face of the One Who had endured it all and never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches.

Over the years this account has stirred the conscience of numerous individuals who sensed that God was asking them to either do or change some particular thing in their lives, but who had been resisting this call. Jesus endured the Agony of the Cross for our sakes, so we must be willing to obey whatever He commands. To be a “follower” of Christ one must actually “follow”. And following means obeying! There are many individuals who assume that they are Christians but because they don’t actually obey and follow His will and commands they are but deceiving themselves.

Obedience to the will of the Lord is central to having a personal relationship with Him. In order to have this closeness, our daily walk with Christ needs to be composed of a multitude of “small things”; the avoidance of little evils, little inconsistencies, and little indiscretions. It should involve little self-denials, little honesties, little passing words of sympathy, little nameless acts of kindness, and little silent victories over temptation. At the very heart of this life, will be a Godly management of our time, which both enables and prioritises having regular time for prayer, Bible study and Christian fellowship. This Divine Friendship or relationship is sometimes compared to tending a garden and we need to obediently set aside time from doing other things, in order to do this. Anna H King wrote;

“Friendship is like a garden; of flowers fine and rare. It cannot reach perfection except through loving care. Then, new and lovely blossoms; with each new day appear. For friendship like a garden; grows in beauty year by year.”

Our Friendship with the Lord, just like a garden, needs time; it needs constant tending and nurturing. And an individual needs to be fully active and attentive to make time for this, otherwise they will only drift away from Him, having become choked by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. (Matthew Ch13vs 21-22).

Lack of spending time on this Friendship can begin very subtly at first. It can almost happen without really thinking. In her book “I dared to call Him Father”, Bilquis Sheikh, a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity, movingly describes how she personally learnt the importance of giving up other activities so as to spend time with the Lord.

The following are her own words describing what happened after her conversion. A Christian called Ken said to her, “‘you’ll need some regular Christian fellowship now. Please come to our house on Sunday evenings.” And that is how I began regular meetings with other Christians. On Sunday evenings we met at their house. The living room could barely hold the dozen people who crowded in. At the meetings we sang, read the Bible and prayed for each other’s needs. It quickly became the high point of my week.”

“Then one Sunday I didn’t particularly feel like going, so I rang them up and gave some excuse. It seemed a little thing, but almost instantly I began to feel uneasy. What was wrong? I walked through the house restlessly. I then went to my room to pray. Mahmud my son crept up beside me and asked ‘Mum, are you alright? …You look as though you have lost something.’ …Mahmud was right. I knew right then what I had lost. I’d lost the sense of God’s Presence. It was gone! Why? Did it have something to do with not having fellowship when I needed it? With a sense of urgency I phoned Ken to say I would be there after all. What a difference. Immediately I felt, actually felt the return of warmth to my soul. Ken had been right, I needed fellowship. I had learned my lesson.”

But there was still more for Bilquis to discover about maintaining and nurturing this Divine Friendship. Her account continues; “As I drew closer to God, here a step, there a step, I found myself hungering even more for His Word through the Bible. Every day, as I arose, I would begin reading it. The Bible became alive to me, illuminating my day, shedding its light on every step I would take. But here too I found a strange thing. [On one occasion] I was late heading to bed and didn’t feel like getting up early the next morning to have an hour with the Bible, so I gave instructions to be awoken with tea shortly before having to get up and go out.”

“I didn’t sleep at all well that night. I tossed and twisted and had bad dreams. The next day I was exhausted and I noticed that the entire day didn’t go right. Strange! This was the second time when I seemed to be stepping out of the glory of the Lord’s Presence. What was the Lord saying to me? That He expected me to read the Bible every day? The experience left me with the feeling that I was sitting on an important truth without realising it. There were times when I felt His Presence and experienced a deep sense of joy and peace, and then there were times when I lost this Closeness. What was the key? How could I stay close to Him?”

“I thought back over the times when He seemed close and about the opposite times too, when I had lost this sense of nearness. I got out my Bible and finally read John Ch 14v23 where Jesus says; ‘When a man loves Me, he follows My teaching. Then My Father will love him, and We will come to that man and make Our home within him.’ The key to having His closeness was obedience! When I obeyed His will I was allowed to remain in His Presence.”

Looking back, Bilquis realised that she lost His nearness whenever she disobeyed Him by failing to spend time nourishing her spirit with regular Bible reading or by failing to spend time having Christian fellowship. She hadn’t initially realised the vital importance of these activities. Now she realised that sacrificing time for regular Bible reading, praying and Christian fellowship was all part of being obedient to Christ. These activities were central to maintaining and nurturing her relationship with the Lord, not “added extras” to be done as and when she felt like doing them.

Sadly, sacrificing time to be with the Lord is often one of the first casualties in a person’s daily struggle against busyness. Many aren’t willing to let go of some things in order to free themselves up to be with Him. Someday however, just like that soldier, they will come face to face with Christ and will be ashamed of their behaviour. Can we imagine what Jesus will say to such people?  “I did all this for you, but you chose to do other things rather than have time with Me.” How will such people answer?

Today many people have let themselves become totally absorbed by the busyness of everyday activities, refusing to make time for God. They are only concerned about their rights and their life style. But what about God’s rights? What about the obedience and time we owe Him in the light of what He suffered for us?

Once upon a time, a man imagined himself being in a boat which had been pushed off from an unknown shore. He was shown the direction of the opposite shore, given a pair of oars and left alone. He started to row but the further he rowed towards the other shore, the stronger the current became, pushing him off course. He met other people afloat, also being carried away. A few were faithfully struggling against the current, but most were letting themselves glide and indeed some, with total indifference, had thrown away their oars. From every side cheery voices shouted out to him that there were happy just drifting along. All seemed well. Some even mocked the few individuals who were struggling against the current. Why did they bother?

Suddenly he heard screams of terror in the distance. It was then that he saw boats being broken up by rapids. Instantly he realised drifting with the current meant certain death and that rowing to the other shore was the only way to save his life.

In this story, “the rapids” represent the prophesied Judgement of God upon individuals and the world. The “opposite shore” stands for being safe with God and in His care. The “oars” represent human freewill and of course “the current” stands for busyness which constantly tries to pull us away from the Godward direction of safety and salvation. Busyness is constantly exerting its influence upon us. Unless we actively pull on the oars by deliberately setting aside time for God, busyness will totally consume us, occupying all our thoughts and time. We will become oblivious to the terrible danger of drifting away from His shore and eventually become totally indifferent to the things of God.

Many people today have now reached this state of indifference to the things of God and are oblivious to the rapids lying a head. The world is teetering on the brink of total chaos and collapse and yet incredibly the churches in our land lie empty and abandoned. They should be full to overflowing as the sound of the rapids gets louder. The time has long since arrived to start really pulling on those oars! Resist busyness and set aside proper time for God.