One of the important things that the Bible requires Christians to observe is the right usage of time. Two times it commands us to redeem time or buy every moment as precious (Eph.5:16; Col.4:5). Time is a significant and valuable possession that God entrusts to man; we are accountable for every single second on the life roll. The Master will return in the appointed time to see if we have made best use of time.
There are a few things that God wants us not to waste our time in. Sin does waste and plunder our time; it robs our life. However, there are people of God who have been delivered from sin who may have gotten entangled in certain practices or situations that are wasting their life. We'll let God's Word tell us what not to waste our time in.
1. DON'T WASTE TIME OVER CONJECTURES ABOUT THE EXACT TIMINGS OF THE SECOND COMINGThat was a big issue in the early Church. Some even had gone to extent of saying that the Day of Christ had come, and Paul had to correct that by showing why such views were wrong (2Thess. 2:2-10).
There are many people today who think that to know the exact timing of His coming is a mission mandate. However, Jesus made it very clear that the mission of the Church is not to know "the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority" (Acts 1:7). In other words, the business of keeping to His timetable belongs to God and He has chosen NOT TO REVEAL it to man. He gives signs of the Second Coming, but He has not specified the date.
On the other hand, what the Church must concentrate on is clearly given:
"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
The mission of the Church is to be witness of Christ "to the end of the earth." In modern times, this focus on evangelism and discipleship is being lost and replaced by other programs and non-evangelistic activities. However, the time that Christ has given to the Church is for the sake of witness: for the sake of evangelism and discipleship.
2. DON'T WASTE TIME OVER UNPROFITABLE CONTROVERSIESIt is a sad thing to realize that much of Church time and intellectual energy has been wasted over issues and questions that are either meaningless or unsolvable. I have heard that there were theologians who wasted volumes of pages over the discussion about how many angels could stand upon a pinhead! The Bible commands us to avoid unprofitable and foolish questions.
“Avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.” (2Tim. 2:23)
“Avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.” (Tit. 3:9)
It is not necessary for the servant of God to answer every question and engage in every so called theological discussion or controversy. Anything that doesn’t promote spiritual love and harmony is not divine; it is sensual, worldly, and demonic (James 3:14,15). Any knowledge that belittles others, humiliates other humans, and gives occasion for false pride or false humility is ungodly and unspiritual. We must avoid such knowledge.
Instead of wasting time over questions or controversies that lead to nothing but strife, we must focus on the communication of God’s wholesome doctrine. Anybody who wastes his time on foolish and ignorant disputes and strivings about the law is like a farmer who is perpetually only trying to clean all the weeds in the world. That is not his job! Instead, he is supposed to concentrate on his own field, to soften its soil, to sow the right seed, water the ground, and enjoy its fruit.
The Bible tells us not to waste our time with people who have a rebellious nature and always try to confront us with foolish reasoning. Their intentions are not pure, and so we must rebuke them, not waste our time with them.
“Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” (Tit. 3:10,11)
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a [means of] gain. From such withdraw yourself.” (1 Tim. 6:3-5)
Again, we don’t need to be answering every question of every man. We must be ready to give the reason for the hope that is within us (1Pet. 3:15); but, we must avoid “profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1Tim.6:20). Our main job is to guard what has been entrusted to us (1Tim.6:20) and to teach, with gentleness, God’s sound doctrine (2Tim.1:13; Tit.1:9; 2:1). If we spend more time with the Lord in His Word, we will recognize His voice very well, and the devil’s fake voice won’t be able to deceive us. We don’t need to disprove something in order to prove God. When the light shines, darkness has to recede.
3. DON’T WASTE TIME WITH NEGATIVE PEOPLEThere were times when Jesus put everybody out and only took a few within when He wanted to minister to someone. For instance, when He was on the way to Jairus’ house, some people brought the news that Jairus’ daughter was dead. But, Jesus didn’t agree with the negative information. Negative news couldn’t alter His mission target. Nothing could turn Him back from the course He set Himself upon. He replied, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed." (Luke 8:50). His faith and confidence was not shaken by the negative information, because He knew what He was doing and that nothing could waste His time – He didn’t make a mistake when He listened to Jairus and started towards his house. On reaching Jairus’ house, He saw a number of mourning men and women. We have lots of mourners and wailers in society today who only bemoan negatively about everything around and say “It’s hopeless; nothing can be done; these people are like that, they won’t change!” I question them back, “Why do you have to think like that? Why don’t you hope for better things to come?” Jesus told the mourners to stop wailing. “Stop wailing,” He said, “She is not dead but asleep.” However, the mourners only laughed at Him, because the Bible says that they knew “she was dead” (Luke 8:53). Isn’t it ironical that people can be wailing and laughing at the same time – that’s the mark of negativism; it is filled with prideful hopelessness, as if even God cannot change anything! It is filled with scorn and mockery; that’s why the Bible calls that man blessed who doesn’t sit in the seat of the scornful (Psalm 1:1). So, what did Jesus do? The Gospel (Good News) tells us that He put all of them outside (Luke 8:54); then He took the girl by her hand saying “Little girl, arise!” And, immediately, she rose. That is the power of faith in God. Faith is not ambition; faith is being confident of God’s will and being obedient to what He wants us to do in a situation. However, the point I wanted to highlight was that Jesus put all the negative people outside.
The Bible does teach us clearly: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” (Prov. 13:20).
Who are the fools? Proverbs lists many of their qualities like: they slander others (10:18), are right in their own eyes and listen to nobody (12:15), are self-confident (14:16), are intolerant, impatient, and irrational (12:16), are afraid of unreal and fantasized objects (22:13, 26:13), and are lazy and great wasters among many other such self-destructive things (18:9). That’s why it is written, “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.” (Prov.17:12).
One simple definition of negative people would be “those who don’t take God and His promises seriously but are driven by their own prideful thoughts.” Negative people cannot see that God is light; because they are always living in darkness. That is why they cannot experience the fullness of God’s blessings in their lives. It’s like the Pharisees and the Sadducees whose intellectualism clouded their minds from believing in Jesus. Jesus said that the others, who were perhaps not so knowledgeable as these were, were entering the Kingdom of God, because they were passionate and forceful in receiving God’s promises (Matt. 11:12). But, the intellectual Jews only were absolutely negative: they had an excuse for everything, especially for not accepting the word of God. When John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, they said “He has a demon”, and when Jesus came drinking and eating, they said He’s “a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” “But” said Jesus, “wisdom is justified by her children” (Matt 11:19). In other words, they were not wise just because they thought they were wise – and they weren’t nice either, just because they thought that they were nice. Jesus didn’t waste His time on them, He only rebuked them; on the other hand, He went to the lowly ones, to the sinners, to those who were searching for Him, to those who had the spirit of acceptance.
He established that principle also for His disciples when He said: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matt.10:14). He helps us to know in the spirit where to draw a line in the ministry of persuasion and reconciliation.
Who is a negative person? A negative person is someone who doesn’t respect you as a person, has a spirit of mockery, is a discourager, doesn’t wish the best for you (doesn’t love his/her neighbor as him/herself), is envious, exerts negative pressure, is compromising, is impatient and tries to win by manipulation and strife and not by wisdom.
We must surround ourselves with wise people: those who fear God and wish to honor Him with their lives, those who are not afraid to obey God, those who have strong faith in the sovereignty and wisdom of God, those who are mature and can discern very well between the right and the wrong, those who love you, wish the best for you, and are happy to see you grow, those who respect the God given vision in your life and are willing to speak into your life. And, you should also be likewise, wise.
4. DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME DOING NOTHINGThere is an interesting story in the Old Testament about four lepers who suddenly hit upon this wisdom. Lepers in those days, as we know, were outcastes. They had to live outside the city. Their lives were miserable, having to depend for their daily living on crumbs of waste food thrown out of the city, or perhaps food left by someone’s generous charity. They were the untouchables. But, in the days of these four lepers, there was a great famine in Samaria because of an enemy siege around the city. As a result, food became scarce: “the siege lasted so long that a donkey's head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods for five shekels” (2 Kgs. 6:25). No wonder, to the dismay of the lepers, it was impossible for any kind of food material to get outside the city gates. But, one day they asked one of the most important questions that man had ever asked - I think it was better than Newton’s question about why an apple fell from the tree, because this question saved their lives. They asked, “Why are we sitting here until we die?” (2Kgs. 7:3). So, they weighed the options before them in order to choose the proper course of action that could save their lives.
There were three options: sit there and die, enter the city of famine and die, or go to the Syrians and surrender – if they kill, they die; if they spare, they live. They chose the third option, and we can read the rest of the story in 2 Kings 7 about how they discovered that the Syrian camp was abandoned and God had brought both victory and provision to His people. It all happened because they chose to make the best use of the time that they had before they died; they weighed the options and chose the most appropriate course – often, that is how God leads us on to victory and provision, to the place we need to go. If we sit waiting for a miracle to drop from heaven, it is possible that God can do that, but I don’t think God wants to encourage our laziness and passive inaction. He wants us to be grown-ups, decision-makers, discerners of His will, of His opportunities, and redeemers of time. He wants us to be rulers, not vegetables.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (NIV). Don’t just retire from work. Keep doing something for the Lord, to honor Him. If God thinks you are not fit for any action, He’ll take you away anyway!
Ephesians 4:28 teaches us to work, doing something useful with our hands, so that we may have something to share with those in need. In other words, God wants us to work and be so fruitful that we can be a help to others as well in their need. The Bible warns those who act as if they are very busy; but, they are not busy; just busybodies. It commands such people “to settle down and earn the bread they eat” (2Thess 3:12). It stipulates "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." (2Thess 3:10) and asks us to stay away from those who disregard this instruction (2:14).
The Bible commands: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exo 20:9), because God is also a working God. If someone has not labored, the term “rest” doesn’t apply to him. What is he resting from? Jesus said, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). God is interested in action. But, it’s not just about any action. Jesus said to the Church at Ephesus: “repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place -- unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5). Why? Was the Church of Ephesus inactive? Not at all; because, Jesus said to her earlier that He knew her works, her labor, her patience, and that she labored for His name was did not become weary. But, she had left her first works, or the principal works.
Many times a church has lots of activities and works going on, but she misses on the principal works. We’re glad for the apostles. When the problem of food distribution arose in the church (Acts 6), they refused to waste their time over table serving. Why? Was table serving wrong? Not at all; but to depart from their principal responsibility, to steal away time from their principal duty-mandate time and allot that time to something else was uncalled for. So, the apostles decided it well that they would devote themselves to prayer and ministry of the Word – which was their principal course of action. For the distribution service, they appointed deacons. We must understand the value of time in answer to the calling that God has placed over our lives. More importantly, we should not forget that evangelism and discipleship are the principal tasks of the Church. Oswald J. Smith said it well, “The church that does not evangelize will fossilize.”
May the Lord grant us the wisdom to redeem our time and honor God with every single second of our life!