How to Use Your Time Wisely (Ephesians 5:15-16)
I’ve known several folks who were late everywhere they went. At one congregation I served, one sweet sister could not be on time anywhere. Jane Ann said that as she was walking out of the house she always saw something which needed to be done. She was late every single service of the church she attended, and Jane Ann never missed an assembly of the saints. Because she and a few other members of the congregation were late so habitually the elders asked me to preach a sermon on the need to be on time to the assembly. After the sermon, Jane Ann came up to me laughing hysterically and said, “That sermon was all about me, wasn’t it?”
You know folks who are habitually late, don’t you? Maybe when you have a family gathering you’re waiting on the same person to show up every single time. Maybe you have a coworker who is “fashionably late” every morning. Maybe you sit in a doctor’s office forever at every appointment because he or she simply cannot be on time. Maybe you are the one who cannot be on time for anything in your life—maybe you will even be late to your own funeral.
You know that you must use your time wisely. There are only so many hours in the day. I get up at 4:45 every morning; get coffee and read my Bible; then I head to the gym to swim a couple kilometers. It’s then off to the office and then I head home to ride my bike 15 miles or so, spend some time with Tammy, and then it’s off to bed. I never have enough time to do everything I want or need to do.
Paul told the Ephesian Christians that they needed to be wise masters of their time. We need to examine what Paul taught about the necessity of wise time management. I’m not going to tell you the secret to getting more things done in the day; instead, we’re going to think in spiritual terms. You’ll learn that “You must use your time wisely because time is short.”
Scripture (Ephesians 5:15-16)
“Look carefully then how you walk.”
The word “then” refers to the previous paragraph. Paul had said one cannot live in darkness and participate in deeds that it’s shameful even to mention. Thus, because there is so much evil in this world, the Ephesians needed to give care how they walked.
“Walk” is a present active indicative in the Greek and looks at continual action. While you’re in this flesh, you’re always walking—living—and you need to do so intentionally and carefully.
“Not as unwise but as wise.”
Jesus taught his disciples to use wisdom: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16). Paul told the Romans to be wise: “For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Rom 16:19). You, too, need to be wise, and we’ll examine in a moment how you can become wise.
“Making best use of the time.”
The Greek phrase is literally: “Buy up at the marketplace.” There are two possible interpretations of what Paul meant:
- “Seizing the opportunity”
- “Buying back [redeeming—at the expense of personal watchfulness and self-denial]”
Either way we understand the exact phrase, the meaning is the same—Make the best use of your time while you are on this earth.
“Because the days are evil.”
This phrase also has two possible meanings:
One: This may refer to the brevity of life. In other words, because this life is short, you need to use your time wisely. You do know how very brief this life is: “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Js 4:14).
Two: This may refer to the diligent use of opportunities. Opportunities in life come and go. You can’t always visit someone—he may get well or he may die—either way, you’ve squandered the opportunity to serve. Some folks who are receptive to the gospel today may grow cold to the truth tomorrow. You need to act when you have the opportunities and not squander your time.
You need to be seizing opportunities because evil fills this world. You need to be active in doing the right thing and pushing back darkness.
You see: “You must use your time wisely because time is short.” How can you wisely use your time?
One: Look carefully how you walk for the best use of your time.
That’s precisely what Paul said to the Ephesians. Let me ask you this: How are you using your time?
- Are you more interested in trivial, earthly pursuits or eternal, heavenly pursuits?
- Do you spend so much time in other “stuff” that you have no time for God?
- Are you more interested in catching up on your favorite TV program or spending time in prayer and the Word?
- Do you spend more time doing whatever you want or serving others like Jesus did?
Take the time this week to examine your life very carefully. Answer this question: “Am I using my time appropriately?”
Two: Pray for wisdom as you seek the best use of your time.
Paul informed the Ephesians that they needed to walk “not as unwise but as wise.” You need to spend some time this week asking God for wisdom as you seek to use your time appropriately.
- You know God answers every prayer: “I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Lk 11:9-10).
- You further know that God specifically answers every prayer for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (Js 1:5).
Get off to yourself sometime today and ask God to bless you with wisdom as you seek to use your time for his glory.
Three: Set your priorities for the best use of your time.
After you’ve looked at how you are using your time and you have prayed for wisdom, it’s time to determine what your priorities are going to be.
You know that there is an appropriate time for your hobbies, for your relaxation, for your family time, for your career, and for so much more. Solomon reminded you: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl 3:1). However, the people of God haven’t always set the right priorities for “every matter under heaven.” After the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews who returned took care of all their personal property and neglected rebuilding the Lord’s temple; God told the people, “My house . . . lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house” (Hag 1:9). Fortunately, after the prophet Haggai spoke to the people, the Jews “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God” (Hag 1:12) and got busy rebuilding the temple.
You know that serving God needs to be your highest priority.
- “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13).
- Luke 14:26-27.
What is the priority that takes up your time this morning? Is it your career? Your family? Your pleasure? Your hobbies? What is keeping your from making God the priority that takes up your time?
Four: Understand why you need the best use of your time.
Paul said: “Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Because this world is an evil place and your days are numbered, you need to use your time wisely.
Do you know why you need to be a good steward of your time? You could be dead this afternoon—that’s blunt, but that’s the truth. Your life is a vapor that appears for a little while and vanishes away. It is in that context that James said, “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (Js 4:17). We often just pull that passage out of context and start talking about sins of omission; keeping that verse in context, though, James said that you need to do the right thing because life is so very short.
Your life is short—use your time wisely.
Five: Get busy with the best use of your time.
We’ve talked this morning about using your time wisely in the service of God. Enough talking! It’s time to get busy. What do you need to add to your life to use your time effectively for God? What do you need to subtract from your life to use your time effectively for God? Do you need to add Jesus and subtract sin?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.