“Use your time wisely.”
Has a parent or teacher ever said that to you? If so, they are correct in their instruction. But what exactly does it mean to manage your time? And why does it even matter if we use our time wisely or not?
Donald Whitney doesn’t include time management in his Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. However, he defines spiritual disciplines as “those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Time management certainly fits his definition, not to mention that if you are going to practice his other suggested spiritual disciplines of prayer, scripture reading, evangelism, journaling, and more, you’ll need to manage your time wisely.
From a practical perspective, time management is an adult life skill that can and should be learned and put into practice during your teenage years. Learning how to balance school, work, homework, sports, a social life, and volunteering…as well as personal devotions, catechism, young people’s fundraisers, evangelism efforts, oh, and sleep a few hours too…will prepare you to be efficient and productive in the workplace or in your home as an adult.
The world has much to say about time management, and we can make use of some of these tips and tricks. But what does God say about managing our time?
First, let’s remember that God is in control of time. He created the structure of times and seasons in our lives and ensured that there is a season and a time for everything (Eccl. 3). God is eternal, but we are not. He has given each of us a specific number of days, hours, minutes, seconds, and breaths to exist here on this earth. James 4:14b confirms this for us: “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Quite simply, this means that our time here on this earth is a gift from God, and we should honor God by using that gift wisely. Ephesians 5:15–16 specifically instruct us not to be foolish, but instead to behave wisely by “redeeming the time.”
The fact that God is in control of time also means that while it is wise for us to make plans (Luke 14:28), ultimately those plans might not work out, because God is really the one who makes the plans (Prov. 16:9).
So God has created time, it’s a gift, we need to use it wisely, and he’s in control of time. What do all these concepts mean for us as believers? How should these ideas guide you in your walk as a Christian young person?
Negatively, we shouldn’t waste time. Ugh, I know, right? I’m sure you’ve heard that before. But God cares about how we use our time. Proverbs refers to the “sluggard” many times, and that sluggard is never put in a positive light. The modern-day sluggard is a time waster, and our modern-day lifestyle provides the sluggard with a variety of ways to waste his time. There are so many temptations and options to spend our time doing things that aren’t important.
I don’t mean that you can’t ever just do “nothing.” Relax, unwind, rest, take a break, go on vacation. Rather, wasting time means scrolling through Instagram when you should be doing homework, hitting snooze three times when you could be up and doing your devotions, and watching entire seasons of your favorite show on Netflix when you should be going to bed so that you aren’t sleeping through government class tomorrow. It’s a good practice occasionally (or often!) to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now important? Or is there something else I could be doing that is a better use of my time?”
Another example of wasting time is attempting to multitask: for instance, doing homework while watching football, studying for your algebra test while texting your boyfriend, or checking email in between writing paragraphs of your Beacon Lights article (guilty). Single-focus activities are much more productive, efficient, and effective. You will get your homework done much faster and have fewer wrong answers if you DVR the game and watch it after your homework is finished.
Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are wasting time. Instead, we feel like we don’t have “enough” time. The only way to know for sure where your time is going is to pay attention to what you are doing with your time. For three days or so, write down what you are doing every minute of the day. This “time audit” in and of itself will take up some of your time. But you’ll easily be able to see the reality of where your time is going, and you can use the results to decide what you can change about your daily schedule and habits to find “more” time.
Being intentional with your time is something you should implement whether or not you complete a time audit. All this means is that you should make a plan for each day. Many of you use academic planners to remember when specific assignments are due and what day you have a chemistry test. The same concept can be applied to your life outside of school. Your work hours, church activities, soccer games, estimated homework hours, and more can be written down on a calendar or in a planner. After reading this issue of Beacon Lights, you’ll realize that you also need to make time for reading the Bible, praying, and journaling. So look at your planner and decide what time each day you will set aside to do these important things. Fill your time intentionally with important things, or you’ll unintentionally allow less important things to fill your time.
As you live out the schedule you created for yourself, keep in mind that God has already decided how much time your homework will take, how many minutes it will take you to get to work, and how many words your prayer will be. While this might frustrate some of the Type A personalities among us, the truth is that this is an immense comfort! God has each minute under control, so that even if our day doesn’t play out like we planned, it’s still for our good.
Galatians 6:9 encourages us to “not be weary in well doing.” “Well-doing” is literally “doing good.” God has given us the good gift of time, so let’s use our time for good, thereby glorifying him.
Originally published January 2020, Vol. 79 No. 1
 Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991, 2014), 4.