“I didn’t have enough time.” That is one of the usual responses we give when asked about whether we had done something we should have but didn’t necessarily want to, or may have wanted to but didn’t give it the proper prioritization and it didn’t get done. I remember years ago shortly after I had become a Christian, I had been studying with my grandfather Dale Donahoe. He is profound with his knowledge of the Bible. I remember we were studying a certain portion of the Bible and he asked me. “Did you read that yet?” I, being in a hurry to go hang out with friends, said “No, I didn’t have time.” He responded with, “What you mean is, you didn’t make time!”
He was right! I had deemed other things, such as entertainment, hanging out with friends, etc. as more important and didn’t make the time to read and engage in something much more important. That one question changed and shaped my Christian walk in a profound way. That really set a course for my Christian discipleship that I have yet to stray from since. I would like to help challenge you in the same, positive way to help you grow as a Christian and be as effective for Christ as we possibly can. Below I will briefly discuss Christian discipleship then offer some tips that really helped me along the way (and I am still learning and have a long way to go!) with the hope it will help you as well.
“…since you have become too lazy to understand.
Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food.
Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant.
But solid food is for the mature– for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.”
As Christians we are instructed to grow as students/disciples1, even loving God with our minds2. As evidenced by the above verses from Hebrews, it was an act of disobedience to not press on to maturity as a Christian. Christian discipleship involves growing in knowledge/wisdom/understanding, obedience/application (this includes as a foundation growing in holiness), as well as using all of that to help others do the same. This all is built on the foundation of the pursuit of truth. If we aren’t after truth and we don’t value it, then of course the other things will go by the wayside. How valuable is truth? Jesus said that the reason He was born and why He came into the world was to testify on truth’s behalf3! Unfortunately many in our age seem to devalue truth or act as if it unattainable or not worth the effort. As evidenced from Jesus’ words in John 18:37, this is not an option for the Christian. If we value truth then we will pursue knowledge, wisdom, understanding, etc. as those things take much time and experience to attain, despite the fact that we live in the age of information. In the fast paced age we live in, how is one supposed to find time?
Time Management: Making Time
It is self evident that just as in our job, relationships, etc. the more time we invest in it, the more skilled we become. This is certainly no different for our Christian discipleship as well. If we are not growing in our discipleship daily, then what are we doing? I’m not talking about just “going to church,” as sometimes that can even impede4 our growth depending on whether or not the church leadership has in place a strong discipleship program that requires you to put in work during the week to make you a more effective disciple. Unfortunately many of us if we are willing to be honest engage in what I call “conscience appeasers,” which steer us away from true discipleship and seeking truth. These activities just appease our conscience enough to make us feel like we have done enough to count to excuse us from the real work we ought to be putting the time into.
Some examples include: “Going to church but ignoring serious discipleship, reading the Bible 5 minutes before we go to bed each night and claiming we have studied, and we could go on and on. I myself have been guilty of some of those things as well, although it occurred when I professed to be a Christian but came to realize eventually that I was not, and so trusted in Christ as my Savior. This is something that is ultimately our own responsibility, and we work hard at many other things that are way less important and less fruitful. If we actually believe we have the message we say we have as Christians then why not train to be as effective as possible in getting it out there? As I mentioned above, in our fast paced world how does one find the time? I would like to offer four areas we can start slowly managing better that will make us realize we have had time, we just haven’t made time.
Remember that Jesus demands to be first in our lives above all other relationships, and if not then He says we cannot even be His disciple. He even asks us to count the cost and gives examples of building a tower and going to war and applies that to committing to being His disciple5. Given the high cost and the serious emphasis Jesus places on being His disciple, shouldn’t He be the priority in our life? When it comes to prioritizing our lives as Christians we need to be training and growing and we can only do that if we are disciplined and have our priorities straight, namely with Jesus and growing as His disciple as top priority. When we reflect on our lives, what would someone from the outside looking in think was the priority in our lives?
2. Cutting Back On Entertainment
The easiest and most efficient way to make room for discipleship is cutting back on entertainment. There is certainly nothing wrong with entertainment, but when we value it over study and discipleship, then we are inconsistent. I myself have been guilty of this in the past so I can unfortunately speak from experience. Also, since I can speak from experience I know that it is very possible, as well as rewarding, to let the entertainment go and put in the hard work of becoming a disciple of Jesus. Entertainment should be a very low-level priority on the Christian list of priorities. Remember that I am not suggesting we cut it out entirely, just prioritizing it rightly in light of our commitment to Christ and His commands. Think of how much one could grow in Christ and in presenting a powerful case for the truth of Christianity with just 30 minutes a day? Watching a movie takes around two hours on average, television show last 30-60 minutes. If we cut back on movies and television shows by just 30 minutes a day to grow in our pursuit of the truth, think of how effective we could be and how much better equipped we would be to serve others!
3. Realize What Is At Stake and Remember Your Commitment
The Lord has chosen us to be His representatives to the world and we should take that responsibility serious. It reminds me of when I would go on a field trip in elementary school. The teachers would always want us to behave and would remind us that our behavior would reflect on our school, implying that since we were the representatives of our school that our bad behavior would make the school look bad. This is true of Christianity as well, as many of us as Christians need to take our role of ambassadors to the world way more serious. Not only does our bad behavior reflect badly on Christ to the non-Christian, but also it means we have balked on our commitment we made to be His disciple.
4. Helpful Tips To Maximize Growth
Here are a few tips that have helped me grow as a Christian and I pray they help you as well:
Maximize time by using audio or video resources. This is really helpful, because on breaks at work, car rides from one destination to another, etc. we can be learning much during what would probably otherwise be time not well spent. Using an iPod or cellphone with the capability to download lectures, etc. has really contributed to my growth as a Christian. Downloading Podcasts from top Christian scholars and listening to them while waiting in line, etc. can really help maximize our learning. Also, watching lectures, debates, etc. has really made an impact on my learning, and still does.
Practice reading. I can’t stress this enough. When I first became a Christian my reading comprehension level was embarrassingly low. I have had to pray and practice, practice, practice to get to where I am now and I still have a long way to go. I mentioned using electronic devices to listen to teaching in the above tip. However, do not be totally dependent on audio or even video resources, as there is no substitute for getting better at reading. I started off using much audio and video resources, still do. However, we should still be trying to practice gaining the skill of good reading comprehension, as many of the very solid resources need to be read and are not available on audio or video.
Read widely. Try to gain the skills necessary to read across different disciplines. What I mean is be able to read philosophy, science, history, literature, etc. All of these will aid you in reading different portions of the Bible, as well as showing others how the truth of Christianity is pertinent to these different disciplines.
Start slow and build up. Start by studying 30 minutes a day if possible. I had to do that at first, but I had to split it up into two 15 minutes sessions so I didn’t lose focus or concentration. Now, years later, the hard work has paid off and I can study for hours and stay focused, even with more difficult content. So start with small manageable goals and then as you grow continue to increase the time to gain more and more skill sets, and never give up on them by remembering what is at stake.
I pray this information has helped you realize the importance of engaging in Christian discipleship and how to start managing your time in a more efficient way so as to be optimally effective for the Lord and be able to better serve Him and others. If we concentrate on seeking truth and asking the Lord to help us all the while being better managers of our time, I think we will notice significant results in our growth and so will others. May we ever be mindful that we are representatives of Christ and carry the most important message ever received!