“See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” Colossians 4:17 niv
Have you ever wished for a longer day? Then we’d be able to get to all those unfinished tasks we constantly push off for various reasons. Some may not be very glamorous or rewarding. Others may be tedious and boring. Sometimes we get into the middle of a project and find we don’t know how to finish it. For many of us, other demands on our time allow these tasks to remain undone.
This may be what happened to Archippus in the Scripture above, prompting Paul to encourage him to complete the work that he had been given from God. While the pace of society in Paul’s time was probably a much slower one than we face today, Archippus still needed to learn how to be faithful with his time in order to complete his task.
Many of you have probably read or heard about “Tyranny of the Urgent” by Charles E. Hummel. In that little booklet, the author uses Christ’s example of being faithful with the time God had given Him on earth. At the end of His life, in His prayer in John 17, Jesus makes this statement in verse 4 (The Message): “I glorified you on earth By completing down to the last detail What you assigned me to do.”
How did Jesus do this when He was only in active ministry for three years? There were still sick people, for example. He hadn’t healed everyone. In fact, there were times that He went away from what was expected of Him to minister somewhere else. How did He know where He was needed and when? How did He know what tasks He needed to perform and which to leave undone?
We see the secret in Mark 1:35–38, where Jesus spent time praying about His ministry and then waited for His Father’s instructions. When Peter found Him later, Peter told Him of all those who were waiting for healing. But Jesus responded that they were to go to another village to minister. It was because of this time spent with the Father He was able to resist the urgent demands on His time and do what God wanted Him to do.
As we follow Christ’s example, keep in mind three things.
I. Evaluate your activities
In Colossians 4:5, Paul encourages his readers to “make the most of every opportunity.” We need to evaluate our activities and determine which are the best ones, the ones we need to focus on. Others may be good and valuable, but maybe they don’t promote “making the most of every opportunity” the Lord has for us. Determine which of our activities need to be put aside so we can concentrate on exactly what the Lord has for us to do.
Paul again encourages his readers in Ephesians 5:15–16: So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! (The Message) We are to be careful how we walk, being wise, redeeming the time (Psalm 90:12), or making the most of the twenty-four hours God has given us. God knew what He was doing when He made twenty-four hours in a day. And He made our bodies to need proper nourishment, exercise, and rest. Are we truly making the most of every minute the Lord has allowed us?
Identify the time-wasters in each day. What can be eliminated in order to accomplish the goals God has given us?
II. Prioritize activities
After evaluating our activities, then we must prayerfully decide what our priorities are. When we know what our priorities are, then we can determine where our activities fit and the importance to place on each one, the amount of time we need to spend on each goal.
Paul tackles prioritizing in Ephesians 5 and 6.
5:18–21 — First priority is a right relationship God. Like Martha in Luke 10, we need to learn the one thing that is needful. Mary had chosen the best thing, sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning to know her Savior. I’ve found that the more time I spend seeking God and growing in my relationship with Him, the more time I have to accomplish the tasks He has given me to do.
5:22–6:4 – Second priority is our families. This includes husband, parents, and children, as well as all the activities that go along with them. I also include my own personal well-being in that, since if I am not exercising, eating right, and getting sufficient rest, I eventually let my family down.
6:5–9 — Third priority is work. This means various things to us depending on our situation in life. For me, it means editing, writing, speaking, and conference work. Learning to juggle these is an ongoing process.
III. Budget activities
We have our goals after prioritizing our activities. We have identified the time-wasters. Now it’s time to budget the time to accomplish the goals and get to work doing what needs to be done.
“Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table” (Proverbs 14:23 The Message). I am guilty of talking about all the things I’m going to do, but then not applying myself to get them done. So this is when I must determine what I’m going to do about the time-wasters in my life.
This isn’t accomplished overnight. Take it in small increments and work on changing one thing at a time. Take time to plan your day after prayer and quietly listening for God’s leading.
Start with a monthly calendar and block out required activities (job, school, commuting, shopping, etc.). Determine one high-priority item that needs more time budgeted for it. Then decide what activity or activities need to be cut back in order to accomplish the high-priority one.
Don’t make too many major changes at once, or you will get bogged down. Take it a step at time. Once you’ve succeeded with one goal, move on to another high-priority item and concentrate on that.
Remember to allow some uncommitted time each week to allow for unexpected demands. Plan for interruptions and changes in plans. They will happen no matter how well we plan. Be flexible!!
Take time each day to plan for the next day; take time each week to plan for the next week; take time each month to plan for the next month. I like to take time on or around my birthday to look back on the past year to see if I’ve accomplished the goals I had and then to determine new goals or reestablish the same goals for the next year. Of course, it helps that my birthday is on New Year’s Eve. J
Finally, determine to stick to it, even if you fail. Get back up and start over. Don’t give up. That’s what being faithful means. Perfection is not in the definition. Put aside any perfectionistic tendencies you may have.
“In all labor there is profit.” I hope one day to hear my Savior say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” I want to be able to say as Christ and Paul said, “I have finished the course. I have done all that the Father asked me to do.”