Time Management in Light of Eternity

An influential pastor in my life use to say that words and sentences don't change your life, paragraphs do. This week I had a lot of conversations about how Christians can best use their time in light of eternity. A decade ago, I heard one of those paragraphs in a sermon by Steve Lawson at the Resolved conference in a sermon titled, "The Use of Your Time," and in that sermon, he read a paragraph by the great American theologian Jonathan Edwards that really did change my life in many ways. chinese_eternity_tn

After hearing it, I went hunting for the original context that Edwards wrote it in, a sermon called The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It. That paragraph still rings in my ear and almost whispers over my shoulder as I sit at my desk every morning. It reads:

Second, time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious. The scarcity of any commodity occasions men to set a higher value upon it, especially if it be necessary and they cannot do without it. Thus when Samaria was besieged by the Syrians, and provisions were exceedingly scarce, “an ass’s head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver.” 2 Kin. 6:25. — So time is the more to be prized by men, because a whole eternity depends upon it; and yet we have but a little of time. “When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.” Job 16:22. “My days are swifter than a post. They are passed away as the swift ships; as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.” Job 9:25, 26. “Our life; what is it? It is but a vapour which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Jam. 4:14. It is but as a moment to eternity. Time is so short, and the work which we have to do in it is so great, that we have none of it to spare. The work which we have to do to prepare for eternity, must be done in time, or it never can be done; and it is found to be a work of great difficulty and labor, and therefore that for which time is the more requisite.

I remember first listening to this sermon while I was jogging around a lake. I was 19 and these words forever changed how I manage my time. The understanding that time is the period in which I can only ever do what needs to be done for eternity was a staggering and motivating reality. And this paragraph still helps me to have an eternal perspective on every hour of every day and reminds me that God has given me only so much time to do ministry and then it is gone forever. My hope is that it can help others as well.