I believe that for those with unstructured weeks, managing our time is a unique challenge. How can we manage ourselves better? The following meditation was written for church leaders but it can certainly apply to the busy mom too!
We will start with a short theological foundation by looking at a verse that shocks the senses of a Type-A personality. In John 17, we are able to peer into the intimate conversation between Father and Son before the torture of the cross. As we eavesdrop from the shadows, we hear these words from Jesus.
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4).
Jesus has a unique calling on his life as the Savior. We are never meant to repeat his life. But Jesus is also the perfect man. We can look at and imitate his example. And in this moment, the attitude and heart from this verse are certainly instructive to us.
Let’s look at this verse again, thinking about how it is especially helpful to you.
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
I see a number of principles that fall out from this verse.
1. You bring glory to the Father by doing the work he gives you to do. There are many ways you glorify the Lord. You love him, serve him, and serve others. Your work, in its many different facets, is meant to have a vertical component. You serve as unto him (Eph 5:6,7). You are ruling under his rulership. You are creating and bringing dominion as a regent underneath him. He is the great shepherd delegating work to you. He is the great teacher, giving you a teaching assignment. He is the mighty counselor giving godly counsel through you.
The Father has given work to you to do. That means your tasks have a vertical component. You are to seek him for guidance as to work you should do. And you are to create and subdue in order to bring glory to him. You work for an audience of One. As long as you have breath, you are to listen for what he calls you to do and to glorify him in that.
2. However, that does not mean you have to do everything. When Jesus left earth, every leper was not healed. Everyone had not heard the gospel. There was still much work to be done but it was not for Jesus to do it.
As a young pastor, I had high goals that came from big needs in our state. But the weight of those big needs and big goals soon started to crush my joy. I believe big needs, big ambition, and big goals should spur us on. But we need to ask, “What role do I have in this? Is this something for me to pray about, or act on? Is this a concern I should pray about, or is it a responsibility I need to act on?”
As a missionary friend shared with me, “A need does not constitute a call. It may. Or it may not.” This insight was a great help to me. I could look at needs, realize that I am only one person, and ask the Lord what he wanted me to do.
3. You can complete the ministry assignments you have from the Lord. So much of ministry has messy endings or no endings. This is not true with other jobs. When the contractor builds a house, there comes a point when he is done, receives payment, and walks away. A salesperson closes her sale and she is done. On the other hand, ministry can seem like it is never done. There is always one more troubled couple that you could talk to. There is always a better illustration for a sermon if only you would spend a little more time.
But here is a word from Jesus. He can look at the needs remaining but also know he has finished what he was supposed to do. You, too, need to accept that you can complete your work even while messiness remains in it. You can find joy without focusing on the incompleteness. It took me a long time to learn that.
4. You take your ministry assignments from the Father. If we are to do the work he gives us, how will we know? Sometimes that guidance may come from fulfilling a job description. Sometimes that comes as needs arise in front of me. Sometimes that may come from internal desires and motivations. But you should sense that the Spirit is calling you and giving you assignments. Every good idea you have is not God’s idea. The Lord in his kindness had to crush a number of my “great” ideas until I learned to go to him and seek his confirmation in prayer.
5. You have enough time to do everything the Father wants you to do. This is a corollary of taking my assignments from the Lord. If we study the life of Jesus, we get the sense that he balanced his time perfectly. He was purposeful with his goals yet left margin to be interrupted. He was never hurried. Each person in front of him felt like the most important person in the world. He was perfectly at peace when he taught or went to dinner at someone’s house. He was always “present” and never preoccupied. He kept communion with his heavenly Father by withdrawing for prayer. He accepted the limits of only ministering three years before his life was over.
If you are harried and bothered, you may be doing more than the Lord wants you to do. Or you may be doing it sooner than he wants or in your own strength. You may be overcommitted because of your desire to please people or just because you genuinely see the need. But this principle reminds you that you are to work hard but not work harried.
6. Time alone with the Father can help you set certain priorities and goals. We see this in Mark 1:35 where Jesus went out early to a desolate place and prayed. His ministry is really gaining traction and there are already crowds who want to see him. When his disciples report this popularity with excitement, Jesus is unmoved. He has received direction from the Father. They were to leave this one crowd so that he could preach in the other villages. Time in prayer helped discern the important from the urgent.
7. The motivation for thinking about time management is so that you will glorify the Lord. This last point brings us back full circle. We see in this prayer the motivation of Jesus. His heart was that God would be seen as glorious by those around him. Similarly, our heart motivation must be that we will honor the Lord in all that we do. At the end of the day, we don’t want people to think that we are great, but that he is great.
Time management will be a constant prayer. Circumstances will always be changing. Needs will come up. Goals will be met. You will constantly need to ask the Lord to give you wisdom as to how to invest your time.
Jesus is not only our Savior but our example in how we can honor the Father in managing our time. From this passage we peer into the heart of Jesus and see how our Savior sought to please his Father and listened for his work to do and how he could rejoice in the completion of his personal responsibility even while the messiness of this world continued.