Manage Your Time Wisely

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Manage Your Time Wisely’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/8/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1MZa1ZE

This is the second Sunday in our series, ‘Real People, Real Problems.’ Last week, we talked about sharing Jesus with skeptics: having a real Gospel conversation with those “difficult” people in your life who just won’t hear what you have to say. This week, we’ll be talking about supernatural time management: allowing God to manage your schedule, so that other people don’t walk into your life and take over your time commitments. Next week, we’ll be talking about being equally yoked: the wonderful world that is opened up when you date someone who is a believer.

Time Is Money

You’ve heard the phrase “time is money.” The truth is, time is much more than money. I would argue that time, not money, is our most valuable resource. Even if you spend all the money you have, you can always make more. You can always budget wisely, and find new ways to save.

Time, on the other hand, is the one thing that continuously slips away. No matter what we do, we can’t go back in time. Our lives are finite. Moses begged God, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). James described life as, “…a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas 4:14). We are here today, and gone tomorrow. Our time is infinitely important.

So why don’t we guard our time the same way we protect our money? There are whole industries built around money management: how to become wealthy, how to grow wealth, and how to maintain the wealth you already have. We spend so much time thinking about money, but not much at all thinking about time!

We would be outraged if someone stole our wallet, yet we barely get upset when someone takes our time. If someone gives us money as a gift, we love it! Yet we place only a fraction of the value on a gift of someone’s time.

This discussion on time management might be the most important discussion your ever have. If you’re like me, you constantly have way too much stuff to do, and you don’t have time to get anywhere close to finishing all of it. I believe that if we honor God if our time, He will simplify our lives. When we ask Him to manage our time for us, we will be relaxed, refreshed, and full of life! When we ask God to come in and take over, He will give us wisdom to manage our time better than we ever thought possible.

If we don’t manage our time wisely, we will find ourselves on the fast path to burnout. If we continue to take on responsibilities without stopping to plan how to fit them into our days, we will drive ourselves crazy. It’s time to ask for God to give us discernment and help us manage our time.

Let’s Be Honest

The first key to time management is being blunt and honest about how long something is actually going to take. Did you know that when we estimate how long something will take, we are usually way off? We add endless stress to our lives because refuse to be realistic about how long things take, and what we have time to do.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky discovered a phenomenon called “planning fallacy.”[1] They found that when we estimate how long it will personally take us to do something, we have an optimism bias: we drastically underestimate how long something will take. On other other hand, when we estimate how long it will take for someone else to do something, we have a pessimism bias: we drastically overestimate how long something will take.

How many times have you seen this play out in your own life? This week, I had to fix the shower in our apartment. I knew exactly what I needed to do: switch out a set of springs in the shower dial to fix a dripping shower head, and then re-seal all the edges of the shower with caulk. Before I tackled the project, I turned to my wife and said: “This shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.” I would learn to eat my words.

What was happening here? I was overly optimistic. I thought I was so proficient, and so smart, that I could finish the job in a fraction of the time I knew it would really take. The repairs ended up taking four hours, stretched over multiple nights this week. I had fixed the shower before, and I knew how long it would take. But I refused to accept reality.

We see this principle playing out on a larger scale all the time. Have you ever heard of the Sydney Opera House? It was originally scheduled to be completed in 1963. After many rounds of planning and multiple revisions, a scaled-down version was finally completed over a decade behind schedule, in 1973. The final cost? $102 million dollars, versus original estimates of only $7 million![2]

If you’re a New Yorker, you know about planning fallacy because you’ve heard the MTA talk about the 2nd Avenue subway line. When I moved to New York, I remember real estate brokers trying to convince me that I should consider living in the Upper East Side because property values were going to explode when the 2nd Ave subway was completed.

Guess what? That was almost eight years ago, and the darn thing still isn’t done. I know people who moved to the Upper East Side in the 80’s, and guess what? Realtors told them exactly the same thing. With a little research, you can find out that the 2nd Ave subway line was originally proposed in 1919! In other words, it has taken almost a century to complete the project! This is planning fallacy at its finest.

What’s the point? I’m willing to bet that being too busy is a significant source of stress in your life. Your schedule fills up, yet people keep asking for more. Instead of learning to say “NO,” we keep adding to our schedules until they’re over-packed, and we convince ourselves that we will somehow have enough time to get everything done.

I know that being too busy is the number one source of stress in my life. If we’re just honest about how long things will take, we will save so much unnecessary headache. What’s more, we will start to be on time!

Don’t unnecessarily complicate your life. When your schedule’s full, it’s full! Learn to gently say no to people when they ask you to do more than you have time to do. At the end of the day, God is the only One who really has the right to come in and adjust your schedule; no one else does!

Let God Dictate Your Schedule

God should be the only One who can come in and upend your schedule any day of the week. If He says it’s time to drop everything and take care of His to-do list, we had better listen. I believe that when we allow God to set our schedule for us, it becomes much easier to manage our time wisely!

I am a man of routine. Every morning, I start my days the same way: in prayer. I get a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and I put them down on a table in front of me. Then, I sit, kneel, or stand, and ask God to fill up that paper with His plans.

It never takes long: by the end of my prayer session, I have a full list of people to call, people to text, and people to e-mail. I have a strong sense of what my priorities should be every day. I honor God by allowing Him to set my schedule for me.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t follow routine. I have to be in the office by a certain time. I have more meetings, agendas, and appointments to keep than you could ever count. But I give God room to move. I invite His Holy Spirit into my day, and I clearly announce for all of Heaven and all of Hell to hear, that if God needs me to rearrange my schedule to take care of Kingdom business, then that’s what I’m going to do!

There is power in praying in advance. We see Jesus rise up early to pray throughout Scripture. He made time at the beginning of the day to let God set His schedule. That way, when someone came and asked Him for healing, He wasn’t surprised. When a demon-possessed person approached Him for deliverance, He was available. Jesus allowed God to show him exactly what was going to happen, well in advance:

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. “ – Jn 5:19

You’ll never be taken by surprise if God shows you what’s coming in advance. You’ll never be pressed for time if God sets your schedule. My personal prayer every single day is, “Lord, extend my time. Give me the time to do everything I need to do with excellence. On top of that, give me the grace to be busy, yet completely unaffected by the busyness.”

Jesus had way too much to do, in way too little time. Can you imagine if God came to you and said, “Go and save the world. You have thirty-three years to do it, and you can only show them who you are for the last three.” How unfair is that!

Jesus had grace to be busy, yet remain stress-free. His schedule was always full, yet He always experienced the anointing of God over His life. No matter how busy He got, He always made time to stop for the one. No matter who needed help, when they asked Him, He was there.

Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. – Matt 8:5-10,13

How would you have responded if the centurion came and asked you for prayer? I know my first response would probably be, “I just don’t have time. I have way too much to do; but if you leave your name and your prayer request, I’ll pass it along to the intercessory team at my church!”

Jesus made time. I would argue that nobody caught Him by surprise. He knew what was coming, well in advance, and He made time to do the things that would leave the most significant and lasting proof that He Is the Son of God!

It’s also important to notice that Jesus didn’t have to go and physically pray for the centurion’s servant. The pattern we often exhibit is this: 1) we say no, and 2) we feel bad and over-compensate.

If the centurion had asked you for prayer, we might have said “No, I don’t have time. I’ve got work.” But then, hours later, we would start to feel bad. We would call up that person who asked for help, and we would over-compensate. We would offer to move heaven and earth to help that person however we could. We endlessly complicate our schedule because we offer more than we have to give.

The centurion told Jesus that He didn’t have to make the trip Himself. He told Jesus that he understood authority: if Jesus simply said the word, his servant would be healed. Jesus listened! He didn’t insist on making the trip, simply because He had offered. He refused to add unnecessary items to His schedule. The servant was still healed, and Jesus was free to move forward and accomplish His mission.

This week, God spoke to me about something that was going to happen in advance. He told me to leave a huge chunk of extra time in my schedule on Wednesday. I didn’t understand why! I had a line of people waiting to meet with me, and I could have really benefited from packing everything I possibly could into my schedule. But I listened, and I left the whole day free.

Wouldn’t you know that something came up, and I had to spend the entire afternoon dealing with an unexpected issue? God warned me in advance, and I listened. As a result, a day that could have been jam-packed to the brim was calm and relaxed.

Who’s In Charge of Your Schedule?

If God sets our schedule, it means nobody else gets to. There will be plenty of people in your life who try and monopolize your time. It is your responsibility to know God’s agenda for you, and to stick to it.

Jesus had people stopping Him for help all the time. If you want to get a feel for how busy Jesus was on a constant basis, just take a look at Mark 5. The chapter starts with Jesus delivering a man from demonic oppression. As soon as He was finished, a religious ruler named Jairus came up and asked Him to come heal his daughter. Jesus said sure! No problem! Then, while He was on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter, the woman with the issue of blood stopped Him for healing!

Jesus was so busy, yet He always made time to stop for the one. However, even He knew His limits. Even Jesus knew when someone was trying to sidetrack Him from God’s agenda.

At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. – Mark 1:32-39

Simon interrupted Jesus while he was praying. “Everyone is looking for You!” There were more people who needed healing and deliverance. There were more people who needed prayer. There were people who undoubtedly wanted to sit and talk with Jesus, taking as much time as He would give them.

But Jesus knew His mission. His role was to preach the Gospel. He refused to be detained, and insisted on moving forward. He commanded the disciples to come with Him into the next town so that He could fulfill the mission that mattered most: the mission to preach the Gospel and save souls.

God knows you’re busy. He will send you people – friends, family, and co-workers – who need help. God will put people in your path so you can help them by meeting needs that would otherwise go unmet, and sharing the Gospel with them.

But Satan knows you are busy too. The enemy will send people into your life to serve as time-consuming distractors. Satan will send people to detain you from what God really wants you to be doing with your time.

Wisdom and discernment means knowing the difference. Think about the people in your life who monopolize your time. Are you being nice in allowing them to do it, or are you being irresponsible? There will always be more people to help. Our responsibility is to know our calling, and our destiny, so that we know if we should stop, or keep it moving. We should never allow someone else to set our schedule, and detain us from what God would have us do.

So, what has God called you to do? Are you ready to go out and do it by using your time wisely, with no apologies? Be realistic about how long things are going to take. Let God dictate your schedule; and remember that if God does, other people don’t

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_fallacy

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_fallacy#cite_note-:0-11