We continue our reading of Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life together this week by turning our time and attention to the topic of Stewardship. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing, you can read about it here. Last week, we discussed the discipline of service. In that post, we discovered that God places a high call on the Christian’s life. We also learned that the daily dying a Christian does is to sin and selfishness.
Each week I issue something similar to the following reminder: “No one,” Whitney said, “makes himself or herself acceptable to God by trying to emulate Jesus' example of service.” While Christ may be the perfect example of how to live, copying Jesus won’t save you; trusting in Him will. Practice the Spiritual Disciplines because they get you more of Jesus and help you become more like Him.
I would venture a guess that most of the stressful or anxious moments of your life, and mine, are in some form or fashion linked to time or money. “The clock and the dollar,” Whitney said, “are such substantial factors in so many parts of life that we must consider their role in any serious discussion of godly living.” Any effort to grow in Christlikeness must at one point or another take a look at how our two most precious resources are spent.
The connection between how we spend money and stewardship is an easy one to make, and most often where our minds go when we hear the word. Stewardship however is about more than deploy God’s money, but also how we spend our time. “Godliness,” Whitney said, “is the result of a biblically disciplined spiritual life. But at the heart of a disciplined spiritual life is the disciplined use of time.” I am thankful Whitney makes this connection and leads his writing on stewardship with it. I can be so focused on steward our finances in way that makes much of God, and give little thought to time being a reflection of the same.
Whitney offers the following ten biblical reasons to use time wisely. We would do well to hit pause for a moment and consider each.
- Use Time Wisely “Because the Days Are Evil” - We do not drift into holiness. Our natural bent isn’t towards the things of God. “The natural course of our minds, our bodies, our world, and our days, leads us toward evil,” Whitney said, “not toward Christlikeness.” Failure to redeem our time by applying it to proper use results in our drift towards the things of this world.
- Wise Use of Time Is the Preparation for Eternity - It is within the context of time that we must ready our souls for eternity. Once we die, there is no second chance to get things right or time for getting one's affairs in order. So this point has a double meaning; preparation for eternity takes place in time, and we have a limited amount of it with which to do so.
- Time Is Short - Regardless of how long we live, our time on this earth is short in light of eternity.
- Time Is Passing - “We should use our time wisely,” Whitney said, “but even the best use of time cannot put pages back on the calendar.” No matter our level of discipline, time doesn’t slow down for us, it keeps trucking along.
- The Remaining Time Is Uncertain - We do not know what tomorrow will bring, or even if we’ll last to see it.
- Time Lost Cannot Be Regained - Time is not a renewable resource. “Once gone,” Whitney said, “it is gone forever and can never be regained.” We have but the present time to discipline ourselves for godliness; there is no promise of more.
- You Are Accountable to God for Your Time - Scripture is clear that each of us will be accountable to God for how we used the time He gave us.
- Time Is So Easily Lost - We don’t have to work at losing time. It is wasted more easily than anything else. Minutes and hours pass like blinks of the eye, without much thought. “Time appears so plentiful,” Whitney said, “that losing much of it seems inconsequential.” We must discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness to minimize our wasting of time.
- We Value Time at Death - Most dying men don’t wish for more money or fame, but almost all of them would give anything for more time. It is the thing we covet most as death draws near.
- Time’s Value in Eternity - We have the opportunity to use our time for godly purposes here and now, but that clock will run out eventually. At that time, what we’ve done in time will reverberate throughout eternity.
The disciplined use of time however, is only half of Whitney’s aim. Our disciplined use of money is his second target for us. How we spend money is a clear indicator of where our heart is. “How we use it reveals who we are, for it manifests our priorities, our values, and our heart.” Most of us play our spending habits and routines close to the vest for this very reason. One thoughtful glance at our budget would lay us bare.
All our growth in godliness would be shone false if we neglected our pocketbook as in our journey to become more like Jesus. “How we use money for ourselves, for others, and especially for the sake of God’s kingdom,” Whitney said, “is from first to last a spiritual issue.” The change of heart and life we are after is most poignantly seen in our use of money.
“Growth in godliness” Whitney said, “will express itself in a growing understanding of these ten New Testament principles of giving:
- God Owns Everything You Own - “There is not one square inch” Abraham Kuyper said, “in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” We are but temporary stewards of God’s stuff.
- Giving Is an Act of Worship
- Giving Reflects Faith in God’s Provision - God is the owner of all and the hand from which our provision comes. We may work hard, but it is ultimately He who supplies what we need. “The proportion of your income that you give back to God,” Whitney said, “testifies to how much you trust Him to provide for your needs.”
- Giving Should Be Sacrificial and Generous - Scripture commends those who give sacrificially. “Giving,” Whitney said, “isn’t sacrificial unless you sacrifice to give.” It has to cost us something.
- Giving Reflects Spiritual Trustworthiness - We often desire greater income and resources without pausing to reflect on our use of what we already have. We seldom ask ourselves if we are good investments of God’s resources. “If we are not faithful with the money God entrusts to us,” Whitney said, “the Bible says God will deem us untrustworthy to handle spiritual riches.”
- Giving—Love, Not Legalism - Our ultimate motivation for giving should be love. The believer in Christ is not bound to a required rule for giving, but set free to give out of love. “Paul,” Whitney said, “never gave his readers an external, measurable standard of giving. Instead, he maintained that giving to God should be measured in the heart, and the standard of that measurement was the depth of their love for God.”
- Give Willingly, Thankfully, and Cheerfully
- Giving—an Appropriate Response to Real Needs
- Giving Should Be Planned and Systematic - While responding to needs as they arise is good, right and necessary, most of our giving shouldn’t be lacking in structure. There should be a planned aspect to our giving. We should think ahead. Feelings shouldn’t guide our giving, faithfulness should.
- Generous Giving Results in Bountiful Blessing - Prosperity preachers take this way too far, but there are real promises in Scripture associated with our faithfulness in giving. There are rewards to be had. Salvation may come by grace through faith, but eternal rewards come through faithfulness in doing. Lest we wander off into heresy, not all rewards are money or even experienced in this life, but rewards most certainly come to those who steward money well.
Most churches do the body a great disservice by not ask anything of the believer. The more I read this book, the more I realize how seldom the pulpit calls Christians to pursue God in the Spiritual Disciplines. We seem to be settling for good or good enough, instead of striving for greatness. This book doesn’t beat me down however, but provides just the right encouragement I need week after week.
I enjoyed Whitney’s discussion of time. Even among churches that encourage believers to discipline themselves for godliness, few talk about how people should spend their time. Instead of moving to reorient people’s minds, the church tends to concede the area of time management to the culture. We have the highest and grandest reason of all to leverage our time well—the pursuit of Christlikeness. Becoming more and more and more like Jesus should not only be our chief concern but the lens through which we make decisions about how we spend our time.
By way of happy coincidence, I audited my time as I read through the chapter. It wasn’t something I planned out in advance, but rather an idea that took hold as I opened the book. Looking at my time in ten minute chunks throughout the day helped me see not only where my time is going, and what I’m accomplishing with it, but the times of day I am at my best. Those are the windows of time for intentional pursuit of not only important tasks but God Himself.
My mind is at its peak from 5am to noon for example. This is when I do my best thinking and am most efficient. After lunch, I’m much slower and my mind not as crisp. As a result I plan to spend time in God’s Word, prayer and working on Scripture memory when my mind is at its best.
We will continue with the next chapter (chapter nine) of the book next Sunday. We’re in the middle of a series on Spiritual Disciplines, and would love for you to get the book and join in. The chapters can be read in any order so there is no reason you couldn’t jump in and run with us. Click here to see what we’ve covered so far.
Please feel free to post your reflections, and thoughts in the comment section below. Simply share what caught your eye, or stirred your heart as you read.