Taking time isn’t wasting time

Ilove the quiet. 

Sometimes the noise levels in our culture seem extreme. 

As I pass by other people on my morning walk, I so often see them using ear pods and cell phones for company, education, or entertainment. There is a lot of information available online. 

Our ministry provides a lot of “God-information” online. 

But, I wonder how often the people I pass take time away from the “talk” to hear the voice of God speak to their thoughts.

The power of the quiet

Last winter, we lost power for most of the day for several days. The quiet was eerie. Even as I type, I can hear the fan running on our air conditioner, the washing machine sloshing the clothes around, and the keys of my computer tapping out these words. 

We are seldom without noises, even in the quiet hours of the night. Things would have been very different in the first century. The kind of quiet that seemed eerie to me last winter would have been normal back then. 

I don’t just appreciate the quiet; I need it. I often pick the early hours of the morning to write because, in the quiet, I can hear my own thoughts being redirected by God’s. I’ve often thought about the quiet David enjoyed while he was in the fields, watching the sheep. He probably spent a lot of time learning to play the harp and use his slingshot. He also had plenty of time to look around at the created world and think about God. 

I imagine there were days he thought his life was boring and dull. I imagine he wished to be like his brothers, doing exciting things on the battlefield. David couldn’t know as a young man that God was growing him up to be a great king. He couldn’t know that generations of people would be blessed by the Twenty-third Psalm he wrote about God’s holy presence in our lives. 

I’m sure there were days when David looked for distractions, but it was the quiet that enabled him to know God. Knowing God enabled David to be a king. Quiet can be a powerful tool in the Lord’s hand. It’s important to take the time to be quiet in this noisy world. We should ask God to speak his thoughts into the quiet moments and author our thoughts. 

Who would we become in this world if we spent a lot of quiet time thinking with God? 

Wise words for your walk

Paul spent time in the deserts of Arabia after he left Damascus. I think those were among the most important years of his life. He went from the highest levels of the demanding life of a Pharisee to months of quiet days spent in faithful desolation.  

I imagine those quiet days in the desert helped him create the theology of the Christian faith that he would take on his missionary journeys and include in his many letters. I don’t think we can estimate the value of Paul’s months, possibly years, of quiet reflection. 

Paul told the Ephesians, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15–17). 

Some of Paul’s meaning gets lost in the English translation. He had just told the church to “wake up.” The culture of Ephesus was a lot like the American culture. Living in Ephesus was living in an oceanfront resort city with all manner of distraction. They had industry, education, entertainment, politics, and religions. The people who lived there did not lack for distraction, Christians included. 

That’s why Paul told them to “wake up” and “look carefully” at how they were walking through their lives. He told them to make the “best use of the time, because the days are evil.” The word evil is best understood as anything that isn’t God’s purpose in our lives. We miss Paul’s point if we define evil like the dictionary would.  

There is God’s plan for our lives, and everything else is not God’s plan. “Therefore,” Paul says, “do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Foolish, according to Paul, is spending time doing things that aren’t part of God’s plan for our lives. The opposite of foolish is understanding God’s will and doing that. 

If Paul were our counselor, he would have us examine the way we spend our time and list which moments are spent accomplishing God’s purpose and plan. Next, we would make a list of the things that don’t. 

The first list is the “best” use of our time, and the second list we could label “foolish.” 

Taking time isn’t wasting time

The great balance in the Christian life is understanding that taking time for the quiet isn’t wasting time in our “walk.” A quick glance at almost every book of the Bible will tell you that God’s people have always struggled with understanding what God wants us to do with our time. 

The Israelites wanted to serve God. They ran into problems when they substituted serving rules and requirements for serving God. God doesn’t want our time commitment unless it also includes a commitment of our hearts.

God wants us to listen when he speaks. God wants us to understand the directions the Holy Spirit is speaking into our hearts and minds. God wants us to be wise about how we spend our time because the way we spend our time on earth directly impacts our lives eternal. 

God owns the big picture, the eternal picture. When we take time to listen, pray, and study, we will spend time developing into the person who can walk through life directed by God’s Spirit. 

I wonder who David would have been if he had spent his free time on a cell phone or computer. I doubt he would have volunteered to take down Goliath with a slingshot. If David had listened to music and podcasts all the time, would he have created his own psalms? 

If Paul hadn’t taken the time to be alone with God in the desert, would he have been able to comprehend how the Old Testament laws were fulfilled by the life of Christ? Would he have understood his calling was to take the gospel to the Gentiles? Imagine our New Testament without Paul’s letters of theology. 

It takes a lot of time with God to learn to walk with his Spirit. Your time with him is an eternal investment.  

Take time

We spend a lot of time planning for a vacation. We research then make reservations. We spend time planning for the things we want to see and do. Finally, we make plans to ensure that everything will run smoothly at home while we are gone. What would a vacation be like if we didn’t take the time to plan for it? 

What would Paul say to us if we spent more time planning a vacation from our daily lives than we did planning for God to use our daily lives? 

If we don’t take time, we can waste our time.  

What if our Bible heroes had avoided time with God? 

Would David ever have been a king? 

Would Paul ever have become a Christian missionary and theologian? 

Taking time to be quiet isn’t wasting time. Instead, it’s probably the most important use of time for our choices today and our eternal reward. 

How will you spend time walking quietly with God’s counsel today? 

He will enjoy having that time with you.