Effective use of time, getting things done and achieving goals are something of a current obsession. Like food diets, there are any amount of schemes and books on the subject of productivity. Everyone is “busy” but many are driven by the desire to be efficient. Our priorities shape the way we manage our time. What are your priorities? How do you know if they are the right ones?
We can learn a lot from a preacher who lived his life in constant expectation of capture and execution. Donald Cargill (1627–1681) did indeed eventually lay down his life for his Lord. In one of his sermons, Cargill had said, “If believers loved Christ as He loves them, they would be more in haste to meet Him.” “Death to the believer is just like putting off a worn suit of clothes, and putting on a new suit.” As he mounted the ladder to be hanged, he said, “The Lord knows, I go up this ladder in less fear and perturbed of mind that ever I entered the pulpit to preach… Farewell, all relations and friends in Christ; farewell all acquaintances and all earthly enjoyments; farewell reading and preaching, praying and believing, wanderings, reproaches and sufferings. Welcome joy unspeakable and full of glory. Welcome Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
The following updated extract comes from one of his sermons preached in the fields during the times of persecution. He gives practical advice as well as highlighting the principles that should govern our use of time. Some ask how they can get more done or do things better. Yet there is no point in doing more and doing it more efficiently unless we are persuaded that these are the right things to do. “Redeeming the time” is certainly a biblical priority.
Cargill says that it is important to manage our time well to the glory of God because time is uncertain. We lie down and do not know if we will ever rise up again. We must make best use of our time because we do not know how much we will have.
Time is short and the task is great, especially the task of best using it to our spiritual benefit such as putting sin to death. Nothing is more important than eternity; eternity is fast approaching and we must be prepared. This should stir us up to make best use of our time.
1. The Advantages of True Time Management
(a) It gives peace of conscience
It keeps us from many rebukes of conscience that we otherwise might have. Those who employ their time right, have great peace. They have much comfort and good spoken to them.
(b) It gives comfort at death
It gives comfort when we are about to launch out of time and enter eternity. You will then have nothing to do except step into your Master’s house. What sad thoughts they will have, who have employed their time otherwise!
(c) It makes everything sweet
It makes all your refreshments sweet. Your sleep is sweet, your waking is sweet and all is sweet. The wise man says, that the “rest of a labouring man is sweet,” but especially when he has been about his master’s work.
2. Directions for True Time Management
Now we shall give you some directions how you may employ your time aright.
(a) Organise your time
You ought to divide your work into tasks: setting so many hours apart for hearing, so many for reading, praying, meditating etc. and so many for your ordinary calling. It would be an excellent thing if we were tasking ourselves and saying, “Such a thing we resolve to do and such a thing we must do.” This would make a Christian’s work sweet to him!
(b) Employ your time well
You must have much heavenly and sweet prayer. With the psalmist, “Lord make me know mine end.” “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” If this were our main concern and petition there would not be so much misspent time amongst us as there is.
(c) How to spend the day
In the morning when we rise, we should be thinking on our last end, and in the evening we should take account of how we have spent the day, and mourn over what we have done amiss.
3. Manage Your Time in the Present
We should not trouble our thoughts with empty future prospects. Are there not many who have projected things for twenty years from now? And who knows if they will live that long? It is better to employ our time and cast off vain and foolish prospects. The apostle James speaks of those who make such plans, they “know not what shall be on the morrow.”
If we would consider the shortness of our time we would think the cares of every day enough for itself. But this is a burdening of ourselves with unnecessary cares, adding a load to a burden. Are not the cares of a day sufficient for itself? Why then are we anxious about tomorrow or for many days into the future? These unnecessary cares put your heart out of the right frame of spirit. They indispose the heart so that we cannot get our time as well spent as we ought.
They do not only indispose us for duty, but duties are jostled out. Things that are at hand are put far off, and things that are afar off, are brought near. Thoughts concerning the far-off future put death and eternity out of mind. Are there not many who when they put death, judgment, and eternity far out of mind, are suddenly overtaken by them? Now consider which of these is most necessary, and having found that which is most necessary, let your thoughts be employed about it.
We don’t need to attempt to “do it all” but rather spend our time well in the right things to the glory of God. Cargill gives the biblical perspective of focussing on each day, managing the minutes and hours well so that our days are well spent.
Be moderate in all things, Cargill says, even in the use of all lawful enjoyments. It is strange that we, who seek after other things, should be so taken up with such frivolous things. It is strange to see even believers so much taken up with the world, and the cares of this life. This eats out the comfort of the soul, and where there is very much of this, there cannot be much prosperity in true godliness, and where there is much real godliness there cannot be much of this, these two are inconsistent with one another. We cannot serve God and mammon; for, as the thoughts of the one rise up, the other goes down. Is it not strange that we should be so much taken up with these things?
Cargill shows that we have much time to redeem when we consider how we have spent what has already been given us. In the short time we have to live, we ought to be as travellers who have sat until the day is far spent, and are obliged to run more in one hour than in three before. Let’s be spiritually productive.
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