Making the Best Use of Time in the Worst of Times

Making the Best Use of Time in the Worst of Times

Making the Best Use of Time in the Worst of Times
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
1 Mar, 2019

For many of us it seems like time equals pressure. We’re “pressed for time” because there’s less available than what we need to fulfil our “pressing priorities”. It seems like time gets away from us and there’s never enough to achieve everything. Appreciating its value only seems to add to the pressure we feel in relation to it. Of course we all have exactly the same time, 24 hours in a day. Its limitations and value call for wise stewardship. How should we go about that?

The great challenge is to live wisely in relation to time. After speaking about living wisely, the apostle Paul goes on to identify one particular area; our use of time. We must “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:15-16). But what does that mean? And what is it to redeem the time during days that are described as “evil”? In the following updated extract James Fergusson gives a helpful explanation and application of this verse. There are some key principles here for how we use our time.

The apostle illustrates the previous instruction (v15) by pointing out one main way of walking wisely. He exhorts them to redeem the time. This means, make use of every opportunity and fitting occasion for doing good. The word translated “time” literally means the moment of time which is fitting and opportune for doing anything (Galatians 6:10). It means to use it with more diligence than usual. This may mean denying themselves their own pleasures, ease and worldly profit. In this way they regain the time previously lost by negligence. They should do as much in the present opportunity as they might have done in the past if time had been used with diligence rather than being misspent.

They are to be like merchants (the word “redeem” relates to that) who buy their commodities while the fit time of buying lasts. Perhaps they have had great losses, or previously spent their time idly. They deny themselves their own pleasures and ease and by greater diligence than usual seek to redeem and buy back again the time which is lost. He enforces this duty of redeeming time in view of the evil of the present times due to the wickedness of men. He also refers to various troubles in those times that were hanging over the heads of churches. Every opportunity of doing good might be taken from them shortly (Ecclesiastes 11:2; John 9:4).


1. Identify the Best Time

Some times and periods are more fit and opportune than others for doing something in the service of God or others.  A great part of  spiritual wisdom and accurate living consists in fulfilling the duties God requires at the right time in a diligent and timely way. Those who misspend their time out of love for personal ease, profit, pleasure and reputation ignore this. They neglect the one good thing which God’s glory and their own salvation require to be done at a particular time. They are like fools since wise living consists in redeeming the time.


2. Identify How to Proportion Time

We are naturally prodigal and lavish in misspending time. It is a great part of divine wisdom to regain misspent time by double diligence. We can buy it back again, so far as is possible, by reducing our comforts such as our time in sleep, and weaning ourselves from ordinary and lawful recreations at other times. This command to redeem the time, implies this.


3. Identify How to Live in the Worst Times

We must not comply with the evils of the times in order to gain the favour of wicked men and avoid their hatred (Hosea 5:10-11). The way in which sin and wickedness abounds in our time should make us more conscientious and diligent in spending time profitably.  We should be even more focused on accurate and circumspect living by keeping at a great distance from anything sinful in the times in which we live (Revelation 3:4). Evil times not only threaten to remove all opportunity of doing good (Ecclesiastes 11:2) but are also accompanied with many temptations from evil examples, trials and persecutions (Matthew 24:24). This requires greater circumspection. The dishonour which God gets from many in such times should make us honour Him all the more, (Psalm 119:136). Paul makes the evils of the times a motive, not only to redeem the time but also to walk circumspectly.


4. Identify How to Use the Worst Times to the Best Advantage

No matter how evil the times may be, God’s children can and will make best use of them. They can even use the evil of those times for God’s honour and their own spiritual advantage. The worse that the times are, they able all the more to find a way to make the best of them for these purposes. Paul makes the evil of the times a spur to incite the godly to do their duty. He speaks of “redeeming the time, for the days are evil”.



Perhaps we feel that there are ever greater demands on our time in a generation in which there is decline and even hostility in relation to the gospel. There are challenges not faced in past generations that witnessed greater spiritual prosperity. The encouragement that the apostle Paul gives is that this actually provides an opportunity for the wise use of time to the maximum glory of God. It needs wisdom and discernment to identify what we are called to do and how we are to serve God not just with our lives but also in this particular time of our lives. We often feel that we have squandered time or simply did not have enough but Paul encourages us that we can buy that time back again with such discernment. We need to identify the opportunities we have now for the glory of God that we will not always have. It is a significant challenge but we know where to go to receive such wisdom.



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True Priorities for Managing Your Time

True Priorities for Managing Your Time

True Priorities for Managing Your Time
Donald Cargill (1627 – 1681) was the minister of the Barony Church Glasgow who was dismissed for a protest against the celebration of the restoration of Charles II in 1662. He went on to preach in Covenanter field meetings until he was eventually captured and executed.
30 Dec, 2016

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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