Knowing Your Limits: Time Management
Some of you can really relate to that video, can’t you? You’re trying to do your best to have a good family, but it seems that it all comes with too much stress and too little time! For decades, really, this has been the complaint: The American family is under the thumb of the clock and racing to meet impossible schedules with inadequate minutes.
From 2002 to 2005, before the days of reality TV, UCLA recruited 32 local families who agreed to let themselves be videotaped during every waking, at home moment during a week. It was a sociological study aimed at a new “species”: The dual-earner, multiple-child, middle-class American household. They filmed 1, 540 hours of videotape, coding and categorizing every hug, every tantrum, every soul draining search for a missing soccer cleat.
What their 9 million dollar analysis found was that the American family is a fire shower of stress, multitasking, and mutual nitpicking. Moms still did most of the housework, spending 27% of their time was on it. Fathers spent 18% of their time doing it, while the kids spent 3% of theirs.
The real stress came, however, not from the amount of house work, but from the combined necessity to manage so many schedules and the inevitable battle of agendas that occur when so many live together. One anthropologist compared it to a theater production. Elinor Ochs said that coordinating the family was more complicated than a theatrical production and “there are no rehearsals.”The videotapes reveal parents as at-home teachers, enforcing homework deadlines. As coaches and personal trainers, sorting through piles of equipment. As camp directors, planning play dates and weekend “family time.”
Occasionally, those being filmed would pause to spit into a vial. Four times a day, the scientists took these saliva specimens and measured the amount of cortisol in each. (Cortisol is a key hormone associated with stress.) Needless to say stress was evident.
I am sure that those of you with your kids still at home can definitely relate. I’m also sure that, very often, the non-stop activity makes you want to say, “Stop this train and let me off!” But, in spite of that desire, we keep signing up for more activities for the kids, taking on more responsibility at work, and repeat the same errors that lead to the problem.
And I know that I’m not telling you something this morning that you are not aware of at some level. You know that all the stress at home isn’t the way God wants it, but you feel trapped. You don’t know what to do, so, in many cases, nothing gets done. This time crisis is met with no response. These “no responders” try to manage the time crisis by disengaging their responsibility. They’re just hanging on and counting the days till the nest empties and they get their life back. Guess what: If you don’t learn to manage that time, it will get no better when your kids all leave, because the problem is not the amount of time you have but the management of that time.
Realizing that, others try to make changes that will recapture some chronological sanity in their lives. They know that “no response,” is no option, so they try to tinker with the problem. They make “marginal” responses to the time crunch. They do it in a number of ways. Sadly, some try to manage their family time by disengaging from their families. They have given up on leading their families. They figure that everyone is just going to be busy, so they are just going to carve out their own little space where they can get away from the madness and be alone. Ever hear of the “man cave?” Now, understand that I am not saying that some solitude cannot be helpful, but what I’m talking about is the father or the mother who selfishly withdraws from the family because they can’t stand the stress anymore. Obviously, that’s a marginal response that doesn’t work long time.
Others don’t disengage from their families, they disengage from the church. Because they need to find some time on the margins, they’ll spend all their weekends at the beach, or take their Sunday nights to stay home with the family, keeping their teenager from small groups and the very connections that can really make a difference in their lives. All of these marginal solutions are just that: marginal. They have little real impact.
What is needed is a meaningful response to the time crunch. That’s the response you find in Romans 13:11-14.
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Paul is writing to the church in Rome. In what many consider to be the most complete theological explanation ever given of grace, faith and salvation, Paul explains that the wonderful grace of God causes us to make specific changes in the way we live our lives. One of those, given in these verses, has to do with how we view our time. I can see about three realizations about time that he gives in these verses. The first is this:
D1 - SINCE TIME IS URGENT, THE PROPER FOCUS IS REQUIRED
The Apostle lets us know at the beginning, here, that the fleeting nature of time makes what we do with it urgent. He has a specific action or specific actions in mind when he speaks of this urgency. He says in 13:11, And do this. What is it that he means by “this?” Well, I think you have to look all the way back to chapter 12 verses 1-2 to see the answer. We are told there to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God and that we are to be transformed into His image by renewing our minds. Now when we do that, something amazing happens. You find it at the end of 12:2: Then (it says) you will be able to test and prove what God’s will is; His good pleasing and perfect will. This gets right to the heart of time management in our lives. The reason you and I struggle in time management is this. If you hear nothing else I say today will you hear me right now. The reason you are so stressed over time is that you are probably trying to do MORE than it is God’s will for you to do. Think about it! There will always be enough time in every day to do everything that God is calling you to do! It’s all about yielding ourselves to Him so that we really get connected with HIS will.
And what does that will look like? Well, in 12:3-8, we are told that we are to discover God’s unique gift in our lives so that we can serve with great passion. In 12:9-13 we are told that these gives will cause us to serve each other within the body of Christ. In 12:17-21, we are to exhibit the grace of God in our lives by returning good for evil, even when we are persecuted for our faith. In 13:1-7, we are to show the love and humility of Christ by being good citizens within whatever society we may find ourselves, respecting our leaders and obeying the law as long as that law does not contradict the scripture. Paul gets to 13:8-10 and he summarizes all that he is said by simply saying its all about love. We are to love others as Christ has loved us.
Then we come to our text in verse 11. He says And do this . . . do all of these things showing the love of Christ with one very present and focused awareness. He says And do this knowing the time. In other words, “Don’t be lackadaisical about your obedience; realize that this is urgent. He goes on to give us two word pictures that illustrate the urgency of time. He says that we should do this knowing the time that now it is high time to wake out of sleep. That’s the first word picture. He says that most people, even believers, live their lives sleep walking through life. They are living this life as if this life was only about this life. There is no urgency about eternity. Most people are just trying to get through the day so they can go home from work, collapse in the easy chair, watch reruns of NCIS and consume more calories than they need, before collapsing in bed. There is no sense of eternal urgency about them.
But for the Christian, there should be that urgency. You see that with the second word picture he gives he says that The night is far spent, the day is at hand. I believe that “the night” in this verse speaks of this current world; this temporal age we live in. Your “three-score plus ten or twenty” that you live here. Now it is probably the case that Paul is also telling us that, not only is 70 years of life a fairly short thing (those of you approaching 60 can say amen to that!), but we may not even have 70 seconds until the Lord returns. The night of now is almost over. Daylight will come before you know it. Waking up, then is to switch the focus of your urgency from this world (the night) to the next one (the day). Don’t waste precious time in this night that is almost over; focus on etenrity! Since time is urgent, the proper focus is required
See this much I know: Whatever you consider to be urgent, you focus on. Now, notice I didn’t say that whatever is urgent you focus on; Whatever you consider to be urgent, you focus on. To my knowledge, I’ve only flunked one class throughout my whole college career. No it wasn’t calculus or biochemistry. You kidding? I was a musician and a ministry student. No calculus for me! I took hard stuff: like weight training! That’s right I took a gym class in lifting weights in college, can’t you tell? (don’t laugh)
I thought to myself: This should be an easy “A.” All I got to do is go down and lift for so many minutes every week. I think it ended up being, on average, about 3 hours per week to get an “A.” Piece of cake!
But it wasn’t for me! You see, to get to the weight room I had to go through the gym upstairs. I’d have on my gym clothes and be headed downstairs, but I’d be caught on the way down and end up playing basketball. In the back of my mind, I’d feel guilty and I realized that I was digging a hole it was going to be hard to get out of, but I was focused on lay-ups instead of lifting. AS the semester progressed, I knew my time was running out, but by the time I tried to do something about it, I would have had to lifted weights every waking hour. The night was far spent and the day was at hand. Finally, the day dawned, the semester ended and I got my only “F” in my whole academic career. It all had to do with what I was focused on.
Now you may be saying, “That’s great, Rusty, but what does that have to do with how I manage time in my family. Well, I firmly believe that, whether in your family or just in your personal life, time management begins with an eternal urgency. You see, if you don’t have it you’ll always be focuesed on the wrong things. For instance, I hear many parents stressing over the college their son or daughter will attend. I mean they’ll take trips, fill out applications, work to get scholarships, but many of those same parents may not be that concerned over whether or not their kids really have a heart for God. They will satisfy themselves by just holding on to some profession little Johnny made when he was five, or Mary made in the seventh grade at Lapihio, but they seem very little concerned that their child has no real heart for the Lord. Listen, this sense of urgency begins where Joe Grizzle said a few weeks ago. We need to look at our mates and then remember each member of our family and make a vow to God and to each other: NO EMPTY CHAIRS.
And it goes beyond salvation to service. Do you really want your kids to do what God wants them to do? Is that so urgent to you that you don’t care if they go away to Nashville, Tn to school or to Lynchburg? Are you so intense about eternity that you are willing for your beautiful daughter to follow her husband to Peru and become a missionary, or live in California to pastor a church?
And what about the here and now? Are you currently focusing your family on reaching out in your community right here in Wilson. Time management begins with great urgency, an urgency that turns your attention from now to then; from this world to eternity. That’s the first realization about time: Since time is urgent, the proper focus is required. Here’s the second:
D 2 - SINCE PRIORITIES ARE DECISIVE, THE PROPER CHOICES ARE REQUIRED
Time is ruthless. It keeps moving. Whether you’re enjoying a vacation in Hawaii, or suffering through an interminable lecture in a university class, you can count on one thing: Both will soon end. Time keeps moving, and because it does, how we spend that elusive time tells us what we value. Simply put, where we put our time invariably reflects our priorities.
For the Christian family, our priorities should be clear. The Scripture constantly reminds us of them. In these verses, we receive such a reminder. v12 says: The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. Three priorities of our time stand out here. First is the priority of eternity. The Apostle writes that the night is far spent and the day is at hand. The night, as we have already said, is the picture of this present world, lost in darkness, and hurdling quickly to an end. The day that is at hand is the day of the Lord when all living and dead will be ushered into eternity. The point is that, when your priority is eternity, that is, then, not now, your choices change.
The first priority that impacts our choices is eternity and the second is holiness. v 13 says, Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness; not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. We are to live holy lives, walking properly, and not giving into a partying, a sexually permissive, nor a contentious lifestyle. I’m sure Paul could have mentioned a lot more vices that contradict a holy life. His point, however, was not to give us an exhaustive sin list, but to show us the contrast of our choices. We are to choose those things which do not feed the flesh, but which feed the Spirit.
Last, Paul mentions the priority of passion. Notice v12 once again. Paul says there, The night is far spent, the day is at hand. (Watch!) Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light. Now that’s an interesting way to put that. He says to “cast off” the works of darkness and you pick up from the verb “cast off” that it is not done half-heartedly: We don’t just “remove” them or just “be looking for them,” no we are to intentionally, passionately dump the sin of our lives. But the passion is even more clearly called for by the second phrase. Notice we are to put on the armor of life. WE are to “take up arms” if you will against the world’s philosophy.
So there it is: when it comes to time management, our true priorities will be reflected in the choices that we make. Those choices are to be guided by the priority of eternity; I am to live for then, not now; They are to be guided by the priority of holiness; I am to lay aside the sin that so easily entangles me. They are to be guided by the priority of passion; I am to be intentionally involved in the warfare that is the Christian life. My choices are to be driven by the desire to win this spiritual war that I am in.
And what do these choices look like within the family? How do we begin to make choices about time that are driven by our real priorities instead of by the urgent demands of our culture? And just why do so many Christian families struggle to maintain balance in the way they handle their time? Well, for one thing, we struggle when our priorities may not be clear. Very often our time goes undisciplined because our priorities go unstated. The result of this is that we, as a family, are very busy, but we aren’t very successful at doing the things that really matter. Perhaps you need to put your priorities in writing. I really liked what Joe Grizzle told us to do when he was here. He said that we ought to come up with a family mission statement and a family constitution. The reason for this is so that we can wrestle with and write down our priorities. When we don’t do this, our priorities are unclear.
OK, I don’t want you to lose faith in me, but I have a confession that I have to make. When my daughter lived at home, I really struggled to establish a family devotional/teaching time. I would pray with Jenny at night, but when it came to having a family devotional time, I made many attempts, but was never able to establish it as I would have liked to. Ever since my daughter has left home, I have really questioned myself about that. I have asked myself, “Why was that so hard for me?” I think the answer, however, is more about priority than difficulty. The reason family devotions was so hard for me is because it was never a real priority. I allowed everything else to crowd out that time. You see, because my priorities were not clear, my choices were bad.
So, let me ask you, are you priorities clear. Listen, most families are committed to nothing because they are committed to everything. If your families are to succeed, it is time for us to WRITE DOWN what the most important values of your family are. Write them down!
Well, we struggle often because our priorities are not clear, and then we struggle because our priorities are not realistic. Whether we write them down or not, rest assured that every single family does live by priorities. Often we live by too many priorities, and when our priorities are not realistic, our schedules get too crowded. Now understand that they may not be crowded with things that are necessarily best for us.
For instance, According to the authors of a controversial new book entitled Time for Life, the average American has more free time today than at any time since 1965. Two time management experts studied the daily routines of Americans over the past thirty years to reach their surprising conclusion, which says that our leisure time has increased almost five hours per week in the last three decades. Knowing that most people feel more rushed today than ever before, the authors say more leisure time has actually accelerated rather than slowed the pace of life....
How does this all break out? Well, on an average, Americans spend nine-tenths of one hour per week, about fifty-four minutes, on religious activities, but that same American will spend an average of fifteen hours a week watching television. Whether crowded by time-wasting activities like too much television, or crowded by other, more laudable activities, many have still not learned how to say “no” to lesser things so that they can say yes to more important priorities.
Which brings me to this last application: Not only do we struggle with time because our priorities are unclear and not realistic. We struggle because, every often, they are not genuine. What I mean is that, while we say we have certain things as priorities in our lives, they really don’t reflect the way that we spend our time. For instance, we say that we value godliness in our family, but we allow movies that glorify violence, validate imappropriate sexuality, and challenge the very values we want to teach. WE say one thing, but do another.
We say that our focus is on eternity, but we refuse to evangelize our neighbors or reach out to those in need. WE say one thing and live another. We say that we have a passion for the things of God and are intentionally trying to follow Him, but our choices say that we have a passion for our own comfort and we will do anything to avoid suffering. We say one thing and do another. Our priorities, often, are not genuine.
You see, when you boil it all down to the bottom line, time management is simply a function of the choices we make that flow from the priorities we really live by. In your family that means that, if you really prioritize God’s plan for your family, there will be some very clear choices you will have to make that will seem very radical to others who are simply surrendering to the culture. Since priorities are decisive, proper choices are required.
Managing the time of your family has to do with the urgency of time and the decisiveness of your priorities, but last of all,
D3: SINCE CHOICES ARE ESSENTIAL, A DEFINITE STRATEGY IS REQUIRED
Our strategy for managing time is found in v 12. Paul writes, But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. This strategy is simple. It requires only two actions. First we are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are to pursue Him. We are to consciously embrace Jesus in such a way that His character is manifested in all that we do and say. It is related to the first two verses of Romans 12 where we are told to be transformed into the image of Christ which is essentially the same idea as “putting on Christ.” He is to become our total life—the thing that focuses our energy and gives us meaning. That is to be our focus even in our family. When we wrap our hearts around His, we begin to beat with His purpose and know His will. And here’s what we will find: His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We discover what Oswald Chambers said. He wrote: The more we get into the atmosphere of the New Testament the more we discover the unfathomable and unhasting leisure of our Lord’s life, no matter what His agony.
He went on to write: The point is that we must take the discerning of the haphazard arrangements of our lives from God. If once we accept the Lord Jesus Christ and the domination of His Lordship, then nothing happens by chance, because we know that God is ordering and engineering circumstances; the fuss has gone, the amateurish attempt to control has gone, and we finally understand that “all things work together for good to them that love God.”
And I can hear what some of you may be saying: “Really? Really? That’s your answer to my hurried, unbearable schedule? Trust God? Well, you need to come sit with me for a while and let me show you everything I have to do!”
Well, now hold on for a moment. May I just ask you a question? Who gave you all that to do? Did you know that studies actually show that the time we have to spend with out kids is actually MORE than in other generations? The problem is not insufficient time with our kids; the problem what we are doing with that time! Which just brings me to the last realization about time management: If we are going to have the proper strategy for time management in our families, we’re going to have to make some hard choices. We’re, very simply, going to have to say some “no’s.” Paul reveals what the direction of those “no’s” should be.
He says, But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh. Now that’s an interesting phrase. Just how does someone make provision for the flesh? Well, to provide for the flesh is simply to plan ahead and scheme ways to make yourself comfortable by doing something which is meant to gratify yourself, often at the expense of some other activity.
Now at the risk of making you think badly of me, I must just be honest and confess something: I don’t always want to come to church. There! It’s out! I said it! You know what I would really do if I just gave in to my flesh? I’d sit home in my easy chair, watch TV and eat ice cream! In fact, if I’m not careful, I will spend an inordinate amount of my time thinking about how I can go home, sit down in my easy chair, watch TV and eat ice cream. In fact, there are times when I am scheduled to do discipleship with someone during the evening, but my flesh is telling me, “You feel bad; you’re probably getting sick; you need to call this person up tell, them that you’re sick, then go home, sit down in your easy chair, watch TV and eat ice cream. And you know what I find? I find that, if I’m not careful, I will even get stressed out about it. I’ll be thinking: “This meeting needs to get finished quickly because I need to go home, sit down in my easy chair, watch TV and eat ice cream. I will even feel rushed when I’m having a conversation after church is over sometimes because always I’m hearing that voice of my flesh that says: go home, sit down in my easy chair, watch TV and eat ice cream.
Now, when I hear that voice, I have a choice: I can put on the Lord Jesus Christ, or I can make provision for the flesh, and whichever one I do significantly impacts how I spend my time.
So let me try to show you what this might look like in your family. What are some things you might look at as you seek to manage your time, reduce your family’s stress, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh? Well, it must begin with prioritizing your family’s spiritual life. Fathers: Every day you need to take the lead in this. Get up from supper, or, if you’re unable to eat your meal together, before you go to bed, turn off the TV, gather your family around you, read the Word of God together, and pray. Do your best to make it interesting, yes! Find a good devotional book; Keep it short. Make it interactive, but make the choice to do it!
Second: Prioritize your family’s church involvement! There is an argument out there today that goes something like this: “Well, since my family is so important, I will take some of the time we would otherwise be attending church, and just have that as family time. Even though BLITZ student ministries has some of the most powerful services that your teen really needs to hear, we’re going to take Wednesday nights for our family.” But those same families would not think of having Susie stop dance, or Johnny drop the travel baseball team. Listen to me parents! Your family comes first, but God’s church and your faithfulness comes next and that means it comes ahead of soccer, baseball, band and everything else!
Now I know what happens. Because there is no clear plan, and because you are innundated with so many opportunities for your kids outside of church, you sometimes get overcommitted. That’s why you need to write down some of these things. Make it a part of your family’s constitution: Our family comes before church, but our church comes before everything else!
If you want to manage your family’s time, prioritize their spiritual life and prioritize their church involvement. Here’s number three: Police your family’s media consumption. In January of 2010, the magazine, Business Week, reported that the average child spent eight ours per day watching tv, playing video games, or surfing the web. Now, the reason this happens is because, this article reports, only about a third of parents place any limits on that use. Parents, our kids need to discover the outdoors! It is so refreshing to me to ride into our neighborhood. Pat and Kelly Farmer live at the end of our street and, whenever I ride into the neighborhood, they are almost always outside playing! That used to be normal! Parents, if you are going to manage your family’s time, you must control your family’s media!
Fourth (and this one may be the most radical) rethink your children’s education. If your child is not home-schooled, they will spend 6-7 hours of every week day in a classroom. By the way, if you add the 7 hours per day they are in the classroom to the 8 hours per day that they are consuming media to 9 hours per night that they sleep, guess what? That equals 24! That’s all the hours in a day! Parents, no wonder you have so influence in their lives!
Now, I’m not saying that homeschooling is for everyone, because I know that it is not. I will say this. God gave you the responsibility of raising your kids: not the government, not the school system, and certainly not the internet. It may very well be that God wants you to think about where your child’s time is going and make a decision to capture more of your child’s time by teaching them at home. And if home schooling is not for you, then you must find a way to wrestle away time from their other obligations to be involved in their lives.
Which leads me to this last suggestion: In developing a strategy to manage your family time, don’t just prioritize their spiritual life and their church involvement. Don’t just police their media and rethink their education. Last of all: Limit their extra-curricular commitments. Adopt the “drop-add” rule. Whenever you add one thing to your family calendar, drop something from it. If your child says that they want to join the soccer team and they are already involved in other commitments ask them, “What are you going to drop so that you can do this?”
I realize that some of what I have said may seem radical, but radical problems call for radical solutions, and I would say that this whole question of managing our time is a radical problem. Consider that in data collected from over 20,000 Christians in 139 countries (though mostly in America) and between the ages of 15 and 88, The Obstacles to Growth Survey found that, on average, more than 4 in 10 Christians around the world say they "often" or "always" rush from task to task. About 6 in 10 Christians say that it's "often" or "always" true that "the busyness of life gets in the way of developing my relationship with God." Christians most likely to agree were from North America, Africa, and Europe.
This really is a radical problem and it demands action. Which just brings you and me to a place of choosing. You and I must decide whether we will continue to just allow our homes to slip from us because we refuse to control the clock.
So I want to give you a challenge this morning: I challenge you to go home, sit down with your family and discuss this message. As you do I want to ask you to do something: Choose one spiritual activity that you will add to your schedule in order to help your family to grow spiritually. It may be that you add a time of family devotions. It may be that you decide that once per month, your family is going to do some activity together to evangelize this town or your neighborhood.
Now that will be hard enough because it will mean establishing a new habit, but I think this last one may be the hardest. You see, if manage your time, you must do more than add, you must take away. For that one spiritual activity you add to your schedule, take two secular activities away: It may be a club your child has joined, or some sports team they are participating in. Whatever it is, talk it out and determine to take two things off your schedule. I challenge you to do that and to take it seriously. It just may reduce your stress and make your home a much healthier place to live!