Saturday, August 19, 2006

Christ's Guide to Time Management: Sermon Ephesians 5:15-20

How many times have we asked, “where does the time go?” It seems that this question continues to plague us. In fact I asked that question several times this week, once when it was Friday and I still had work to do on my sermon and again when I thought I start class next Tuesday. It seems that time flies and what time we do have is never enough to do all the things we want to do.

Have you ever missed out on something because you were so busy with life that you failed to notice? Have you ever thought of how many rainbows, or shooting stars, or even life altering opportunities like meeting a new friend or expanding your relationship with your family or even with God because of your hectic schedule? This is not anything new, even in the days of Paul people got so busy that they missed out on some important things. Paul knew that it was critical for the new converts in Ephesus to take time to strengthen their new commitment to Christ and that if the church was going to grow that it had to take the time to do the things that churches should do and that is making disciples for Christ.

Paul continues his advice to the newly convert church by talking about time and we should spend it. Time is a gift from God, we are not guaranteed tomorrow and so we must use what God gives us wisely. Paul knew this and wanted to share this with the new church so that they might live as God intended. Paul once again shows the Ephesians the difference between the old way of living and the new way of life in Christ. Paul told them to make the most of their time because the days were evil. He meant that new churches were a target for persecution and the church could face hardships soon and so they should spend what time that was available to strengthen their lives as new Christians. He also meant that the church has to take the time to continue its growth.

Today’s Scripture lesson is only five verses long but contains a great deal of knowledge that is as valid today as it was in Paul’s time. First, Paul says to live wisely and to make the most of time. So, first we must list and organize our activities in order to see how our time is being used. Have you ever written down your daily itinerary, just to see how you spend your day? There is showering, breakfast, work, lunch, more work, come home, more work, dinner, maybe TV and then sleep again. Do you notice something missing from this list? There is no prayer, no Bible reading, no time spent with God. If you go through your whole day and do not spend time with God then that is the first thing you need to do, the first thing you need to add.

Today we have so much extra stuff, we have many extracurricular activities that take up so much of our time it might be good idea to cut some things out. We try to pack our schedules so tight that we do not even have room to breathe, so it is important to cut out some things that may not be necessary to make room for those things that are like spending time with God.

The next step is to prioritize, that is to rank your list from most important down. It is important to prioritize our lives and to make sure that our priorities are where they should be. Paul gives advice in this regard as well; he says to “understand what the will of God is” and to “be filled with the Spirit.” This lets us know to put God first in our lives. Jesus said something similar to his disciples. We read it as our call to worship, But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” “Strive for first” or as the KJV says “seek first” the kingdom of God, that let’s us know what our top priority is, not our job, not our family, not even our spouse, but God. God is number one.

Paul says not to be drunk with wine, in other words do not be distracted with worldly things but instead keep your focus upon God. When we become so focused on worldly things then we fail to see opportunities that God lays before us. There are so many things that can lead us to distraction; troubles, bills, medical problems, entertainment, TV, all these things can lead our minds and our hearts away from its true primary focus.

Sometimes the biggest distraction we have is ourselves. We can talk our way out of anything, including spending time with and serving God. We all have had the same excuses “I don’t have time”, “I’ve got kids to deal with”, “and I’m too tired to go to Bible study or to read the Bible on my own”. We excuse ourselves right out of our top priority to God. We all have circumstances that can lead to an opportunity or to an excuse depending on the state of our priorities. Every season of life is an opportunity or an excuse depending upon what a person is looking for. You will find what you’re looking for.
A single person says, “I’m so lonely. I want to serve God. I would really serve Him if He would just give me a husband. I just can’t wait until God answers my prayer.” Another single says, “How can I help at the church. I’ve got some time available and I would love to serve the Lord with you.”
The young married couple says, “Our kids are too demanding. I’m lucky if I can just get to church, let alone serve.” Another family says, “Can our family do something to further the kingdom of God? Let us help in the ministry of the church.”
The middle aged person says, “You have no idea how much responsibility is on me—family expectations, work expectations—I have nothing left to give.” Another person the same age says, “I am at the peak of my strength. If I order my priorities right I can make a real difference!”

The retired couple says, “I’m tired. Let the younger generation do it. I’ve served my time.” Another couple in the same life season says, “We have our retirement income. We don’t need money. We have time. What can we do for the kingdom of God in our golden years?”

Whatever stage of life or situation we find ourselves we have an opportunity to make God first and when we do this an amazing happens, God responds by making our lives easier. Jesus continued his remarks by saying, “and all these things will be given to you as well.” When we make God first and prioritize our lives around that then God blesses us and provides everything that we need.

When we put God first and seek God’s will first then everything we do glorifies God. As, we organize our time and prioritize how we spend our time then we begin to see those things we were missing before, opportunities that we might have missed out on before because we were so busy with life we forgot to live for God. Here at Rehoboth/Liberty God is presenting us with a moment, with an opportunity. This church can be strong again, but only if we take the time to fulfill the mission of the Church. That mission is to make disciples for Christ.

Over 45 years ago, President John F. Kennedy had a vision. In a speech to Congress Kennedy challenged the country to do something that at the time seemed impossible. He said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Many people at the time thought he was nuts but before the decade was out just over 8 years later, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and returned to Earth. The impossible was made possible because the opportunity was there, the challenge was accepted and the work was done.

Now it is my turn. I challenge this church to double its active membership in 4 years. Now you might think it is impossible but I know it can be done. I am going to spend the rest of my time here at Rehoboth/Liberty working with you toward that goal. That means that each person who is an active member must bring in one person that does not have a church home; one person in four years. I am going to preach evangelism, I am going to teach evangelism, and I am going to worry you to the point that you’ll invite someone just to get me to hush. You know someone you work with, or you play golf or cards with, that doesn’t have a church home. I don’t want people to transfer from another church. I want people who do not have a church home to find a home in our family. I have thrown down the gauntlet, I have challenged you and I know you can do it.

Remember Paul’s message; organize your time cutting out things the things that are wastes. Prioritize your time, putting God first and seeking his will first finally, don’t waste an opportunity, God wants us to be a thriving church again. We can do it, when we put God first.


At 11:35 PM, Blogger J. O'Neill said...

Nice message Pstr. Smith. I enjoyed everything you had to say, very well written. I pray your congregation doubles even quicker than you had hoped for. God Bless!


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