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Chapter 12: The Leader and Time:CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP

Posted by on Aug. 12, 2009 at 2:24 PM
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Make the best use of your time.      Ephesians 5:16 PHILLIPS


The quality of a person's leadership depends on what happens during time. The character and career of a young person depends on how he or she spends spare time.  We cannot regulate school or office hours - those are determined for us - but we can say what we will do before and after.  The way we employ the surplus hours after provision has been made for work, meals, and sleep will determine if we develop into mediocre or powerful people.  Leisure is a glorious opportunity and a subtle danger. Each moment of the day is a gift from God that deserves care, for by any measure, our time is short and the work is great.


Minutes and hours wisely used translate into an abundant life.  On one occasion when Michelangelo was pressing himself to finish a work on deadline, someone warned him, "This may cost your life!"  He replied, "What else is life for?"


Hours and days will surely pass, but we can direct them purposefully and productively.  Philosopher William James affirmed that the best use of one's life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. Life's value is not its duration but its donation - not how long we live, but how fully and how well.



Time is precious, but we squander it thoughtlessly.  Moses knew time was valuable and prayed to be taught to measure it by days, not by years (Psalm 90:12).  If we are careful about days, the years will take care of themselves.


A leader will seldom say, "I don't have the time."  Such an excuse is usually the refuge of a small-minded and inefficient person.  Each of us has the time to do the whole will of God for our lives. J. H. Jowett said:


I think one of the cant phrases of our day is the familiar one by which we express our permanent want of time.  We repeat it so often that by the very repetition we have deceived ourselves into believing it.  It is never the supremely busy men who have no time.  So compact and systematic is the regulation of their day that whenever you make a demand on them, they seem to find additional corners to offer for unselfish service.  I confess as a minister, that the men to whom I most hopefully look for additional service are the busiest men.


Our problem is not too little time, but making better use of the time we have.  Each of us has as much time as anyone else.  The president of the United States has the same twenty-four hours as we.  Others may surpass our abilities, influence or money, but no one has more time.


As in the parable of the pounds (minas in the NIV; Luke 19:12-27), where each servant was given the same amount of money, we each have been given the same amount of time.  But few of us use it so wisely as to produce a tenfold return.  The parable recognizes different abilities; the servant with less capacity but equal faithfulness received the same reward.  We are not responsible for our endowments or natural abilities, but we are responsible for the strategic use of time.


When Paul urged the Ephesians to "redeem" the time (see 5:16) he was treating time like a purchase. We exchange time in the market of life for certain occupations and activities that may be worthy or not, productive or not.  Another translation renders the verse, "Buy up the opportunities," for time is opportunity.  Herein lies the importance of a carefully planned life:  "If we progress in the economy of time, we are learning to live.  If we fail here, we fail everywhere."


Time lost can never be retrieved.  Time cannot be hoarded, only spent well.  These lines are found engraved on a sundial:


The shadow of my finger cast

Divides the future from the past;

Before it stands the unborn hour

In darkness and beyond thy power;

Behind its unreturning line

The vanished hour, no longer thine;

One hour alone is in thy hands,

The now on which the shadow stands.

                           Author Unknown


In the face of this sobering reality, the leader must carefully select priorities.  He or she must thoughtfully weigh the value of different opportunities and responsibilities. The leader cannot spend time on secondary matters while essential obligations scream for attention.  A day needs careful planning.  The person who wants to excel must select and reject, then concentrate on the most important items.


It is often helpful to keep records of how each hour in a given week is spent and then look at the record in the light of scriptural priorities.  The results may be shocking.  Often the record shows that we have much more time available for Christian service than we imagine.


Suppose that we allot ourselves a generous eight hours a day for sleep (and few need more than that), three ours for meals and conversation, ten hours for work and travel on five days Still we have thirty-five hours each week to fill.  What happens to them?  How are they invested?  A person's entire contribution to the kingdom of God may turn on how those hours are used.  Certainly those hours determine whether life is commonplace or extraordinary.


The intrepid missionary Mary Slessor was the daughter of a drunkard.  At age eleven she began working in a factory in Dundee, and there spent her days from six in the morning until six at night.  Yet that grueling regimen did not prevent her from educating herself for a notable career.



David Livingstone, at age ten, worked in a cotton mill in Dumbarton fourteen hours a day. Surely he had excuses for not studying, for not redeeming the little leisure left to him. But he learned Latin and could read Horace and Virgil at age sixteen.  At age twenty-seven, he had finished a program in both medicine and theology.


Similar examples are so numerous that we have little ground today to plead insufficient time for achieving something worthwhile in life.


Our Lord sets the perfect example of strategic use of time.  He moved through life with measured steps, never hurried, though always surrounded by demands and crowds.  When a person approached Him for help, Jesus gave the impression that He had no more important concern than the needs of His visitor.


The secret of Jesus' serenity lay in His assurance that He was working according to the Father's plan for His life - a plan that embraced every hour and made provision for every contingency.  Through communion in prayer with His Father, Jesus received each day both the words He would say and the works He would do.  "The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work" (John 14:10).


Jesus' greatest concern was to fulfill the work committed to Him within the allotted hours. He was conscious of a divine timing in His life (John 7:6; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1). Even to His beloved mother He said, "My time has not yet come" (2:4).  Responding to Mary and Martha's distress, Jesus declined to change His schedule by two days (11:1-6).  When He reviewed His life at its close, He said, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do" (17:4).  Jesus completed His life's work without any part spoiled by undue haste or half-done through lack of time.  His twenty-four hours a day was sufficient to complete the whole will of God.


Jesus told His disciples:  "Are there not twelve hours in the day?"  J. Stuart Holden saw in our Lord's words both the shortness of time and the sufficiency of time. There were indeed twelve hours in the day, but in fact there were fully twelve hours in the day.



Conscious of time, Jesus spent His time doing things that mattered.  No time was wasted on things not vital.  The strength of moral character is conserved by refusing the unimportant.


No trifling in this life of mine;

Not this the path the blessed Master trod;

But every hour and power employed

Always and all for God.

                                Author unknown


How interesting that the gospel accounts contain no hint of any interruption ever disturbing the serenity of the Son of God.  Few things are more likely to produce tension in a busy life than unexpected interruptions.  Yet to Jesus there were no such things.  "Unexpected" events were always foreseen in the Father's planning, and Jesus was therefore undisturbed by them.  True, at times there was hardly time to eat, but time was always sufficient to accomplish all the Father's will.


Often the pressure a spiritual leader feels comes from assuming tasks that God has not assigned; for such tasks the leader cannot expect God to supply the extra strength required.


One busy man told me how he mastered the problems of interruptions.  "Up to some years ago," he testified, "I was always annoyed by them, which was really a form of selfishness on my part.  People used to walk in and say, ‘Well, I just had two hours to kill here in between trains, and I thought I would come and see you.'  That used to bother me. Then the Lord convinced me that He sends people our way.  He sent Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch.  He sent Barnabas to see Saul.  The same applies today. God sends people our way.


"So when someone comes in, I say, ‘The Lord must have brought you here.  Let us find out why He sent you.  Let us have prayer.'  Well, this does two things.  The interview takes on new importance because God is in it. And it generally shortens the interview.  If a visitor knows you are looking for reasons why God should have brought him, and there are none apparent, the visit becomes pleasant but brief.


"So now I take interruptions as from the Lord.  They belong in my schedule, because the schedule is God's to arrange at His pleasure."


Paul affirms that God has a plan for every life.  We have been "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).  Through daily prayer, the leader discovers the details of that plan and arranges work accordingly. Each half-hour should carry its load of usefulness.


John Wesley and F. B. Meyer, men who influenced the world for Christ, divided their days into five-minute periods, then tried to make each one count.

  All of us could benefit by similar discipline.  For example, much reading can be done during otherwise wasted minutes.



Meyer's biographer tells how he would redeem the time:


If he had a long railway journey before him, he would settle himself in his corner of the railway carriage, open his dispatch case which was fitted as a sort of stationery cabinet, and set to work on some abstruse article, quite oblivious of his surroundings.  Often at protracted conventions, and even in committee meetings, when the proceeding did not demand his undivided attention, he would unobtrusively open his case and proceed to answer letters.


Another miser with time was W. E. Sangster.  His son wrote of him:


Time was never wasted. The difference between one minute and two was of considerable consequence to him.  He would appear from his study. "My boy, you're not doing anything.  I have exactly twenty-two minutes.  We'll go for a walk. We can walk right around the common in that time."  He then hurtled out of the house at tremendous speed and I normally had to run to catch up.  He would then discourse on current affairs (five minutes), Surrey's prospects in the country championship (two minutes), the necessity for revival (five minutes), the reality of the Loch Ness monster (two minutes), and the sanctity of William Romaine (three minutes). By that time we would be home again.



A leader needs a balanced approach to time lest it become his bondage and downfall.  Without a grip on time, the leader works under unnecessary strain.  Even when the leader has done the utmost to fulfill daily obligations, vast areas of work always remain.  Every call for help is not necessarily a call from God, for it is impossible to respond to every need.  If the leader sincerely plans his day in prayer, then executes the plan with all energy and eagerness, that is enough.  A leader is responsible only for what lies within the range of control.  The rest he should trust to our loving and competent heavenly Father.


Procrastination, the thief of time, is one of the devil's most potent weapons for defrauding us of eternal heritage.  The habit of "putting off" is fatal to spiritual leadership.  Its power resides in our natural reluctance to come to grips with important decisions.  Making decisions, and acting on them, always requires moral energy. But the passing of time never makes action easier; quite the opposite.  Most decisions are more difficult a day later, and you may also lose an advantage by such delay. The nettle will never be easier to grasp than now.


"Do it now" is a motto that has led many people to worldly success, and it is equally relevant in spiritual matters.  A helpful method for overcoming procrastination is to set deadlines, and never miss or postpone even one.


A lifelong reader was asked by friends, "How do you get time for it?"  He replied, "I don't get time for it; I take time."[6]

-Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer

by on Aug. 12, 2009 at 2:24 PM
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