Sunday, November 9, 2008

Time Management

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

                        Ecclesiastes 3.1

What Time Is It?

This statement opens an amazing passage of Scripture that (like 1 Corinthians 13 and a few others) suffers worse for wear. The moment we read it, the vast majority of us immediately hear strains of The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn,” followed by something like, “Yeah, yeah, I get it—birth/death, sow/reap, kill/heal, etc., etc., etc. What else ya got?” In this case, concision is not our friend. It permits us to glide over the extraordinary wealth of knowledge tucked beneath its surface. Over the coming days (with occasional intermissions), as we give Solomon’s words their due, we may discover much we overlooked.

For starters, it helps to recalibrate our concept of time. Asking “What time is it?” in this context, we’re not inquiring about hours and minutes. We’re taking stock of where we are in our lives, our progress and maturity, and what’s best for us at this time. Buddhists call this “living in the moment”—using what’s immediately before us to inform how we respond and behave, knowing the past and future lay beyond our grasp. Yet I think Solomon also counsels us to enlarge our scope to view each discreet moment as one in a series, as part of a specific season.

The Seasonal Approach

The seasonal approach to life raises interesting questions and enlightening answers. It begins with belief that God creates us as unique beings with unique plans for His pleasure and our welfare. David wrote, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139.16) Who we are, where we are, and when we’re there are by design. Believing everything has its reasons isn’t cliché. It’s the smartest way to think.

We live season to season. Some are sunny and temperate. Others are fraught with uncertainty. Then there are cold, dark seasons that absorb our emotional strength and spiritual confidence. In every season, we do well to adopt Paul’s philosophy: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4.12-13) With each season’s purpose Christ provides strength to enjoy and/or endure it.

Calendar Control

Our seasons aren’t predictably cyclical and divided like earthly ones. They’re linear, placed along the continuum of life. Every season prepares us for those to come, some lasting longer than others to ensure we get all we need to move ahead. This means time management is an essential skill for every believer. More than we realize, God gives us calendar control. The quicker we identify the season, the more readily we ascertain His purpose for it and master the lessons He intends us to learn. Attention to His Spirit and voice—and faith in Him to work everything out for our good—are tremendously efficient tools we can’t be without.

Finally, it’s crucial to remember our seasons change independently of our natural circumstances. Long trials often encompass many seasons. This is why we mark progress by seasons of the soul rather than minutes and days. As each passes, we learn how to regard and handle ongoing problems in fresher, more informed ways. If we manage our time wisely, time is—and will always be—on our side.

Per God's design, we pass through every season to learn essential lessons for coming ones. How quickly we learn affects how long each season lasts.

(Tomorrow: Coming and Going)

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