“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” Ephesians 5:5-16
The phrase, “making the best,” means to “buy up, rescue from loss, or improve” the use of time. It is a metaphor taken from the merchants and traders of the ancient Near East, who aggressively pursued the best deals when they would buy, sell, or trade. (We told you this idea of “shopping for time” comes straight from Scripture!)
The idea of this verse is that we are to approach life in the same way we go after bargains. We need to discern the best opportunities life has to offer. Then we must seize those opportunities and make them our highest priorities.
Every day presents us with countless options for how to spend our time. However, only some are truly great deals. Only a few things are really important.
Our job is to figure out what those prime deals are—these key opportunities—and devote all our time and energy to them.
This means choosing not to do a thousand other things. It means saying no to a lot of enticing options.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Obviously, we don’t want the “bad deals” to keep us from what is truly valuable. We don’t want sinful pursuits to deter us from what is God glorifying. But it’s often the good things such as a ministry opportunity, a relational pursuit, a money-making venture, a leisure activity, or a hobby that hinders us from making the best choices.
It’s frequently the good things that distract us from the best things.
So how do we learn to spot the best deals and ignore the bad ones? What are the secrets to discovering life’s most excellent bargains? In the coming days, we will discuss how to become savvy shoppers of time.
But first there is one fundamental principle we must understand. We’ll consider it tomorrow.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” Ephesians 5:5-16
Look carefully. It’s a sobering command, is it not? It means that we are to walk with the utmost accuracy, with extreme care, with caution.
We are not to trudge blindly or routinely through our days. We shouldn’t just let life happen and try to deal with the results, be what they may. We should not allow one day to flow into the next, being concerned only with the present moment.
No, we must look around. We must develop keen eyes. We must examine our lives. We must evaluate our present manner of living and consider how to prepare for the future.
After all, we wouldn’t dream of sauntering through a clothing store with our eyes closed, picking up whatever we touch, placing it on the counter, and hoping it would turn into a wardrobe. No, we carefully walk through the store with our eyes wide open. We consider style. We study the price tag. We evaluate quality.
This verse in Ephesians tells us to live the way we shop—carefully.
It means we look…
backward on our life thus far, so that we might avoid past errors and repeat former victories; forward to consider where a plan or course of action may lead; inside our hearts to examine our motives and the reasons for the choices that we make; around and take stock of our present fruitfulness; beside us for critique, help, and wisdom from fellow believers;
and most of all…
Look up and seek guidance from our Heavenly Father through prayer and His Word.
This is how to be intentional, purposeful, and, as this verse says, wise in the way we walk.
We women take our shopping seriously—especially in these tough economic times.
We scour the Sunday paper for coupons and sales. We haunt thrift stores. We track down bargains better than a hound dog on a scent. We’re experts in our trade. We know which time of year to shop for what items. We know which supermarket has the best produce and where to find the best deals online.
The reality is, however, we don’t often manage the time God has granted us on this earth with the same intentionality or skill that we bring to shopping.
While we constantly—almost unconsciously—plan, evaluate, strategize, and make wise choices when shopping, we often neglect to do so with the most important matters of our lives.
We wouldn’t dream of going to the grocery store without a shopping list, or buying a car without haggling over the sticker price, or purchasing new shoes without checking the price tag, but we throw away our time as if we had an endless supply.
As a result, we often miss out on the best deals life has to offer and end up paying big time in guilt, anxiety, and a lack of confidence that we’re really doing the will of God. More often than not, we’re overwhelmed by life’s choices and demands. Perhaps, most unfortunately, we lack fruitfulness in Christ’s kingdom.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. We can know for certain that we are doing all God wants us to do. Peace and joy and rest can be an everyday experience. We can live a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Eph 4:1).
How? By becoming shoppers of time. This isn’t our bright idea. It comes straight from Scripture. Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us how to live like we shop: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
This week we’ll consider what Scripture means when it tells us to shop for time.
Yet we cannot fulfill any resolution apart from the grace of our Triune God.
So we pray:
“Father, I pray today that you may count us worthy of your calling. Enable us to become increasingly holy, self-denying, loving, full of integrity, steeped in the knowledge of you and your Word, ever delighted and eager to trust and obey you. We are not strong enough or disciplined enough to live up to your calling on our own. But I ask that you will so work in our lives that we may grow in all things that please youso that you ultimately judge us to be living up to the calling that we have received….Lord Jesus, thank you that you are transforming us into your likeness with ever increasing glory by your marvelous grace. It is only by your grace that we can become fruitful. It is only by your grace that we can persevere. It is only by your grace that we can mature. It is your grace that enables us to love others more. It is your grace that enables us to cherish holiness and a deepening knowledge of God. Therefore I ask all these things on the basis of your grace.” (DA Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Chapter 3, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, emphasis mine)
This year, with God’s help, I am going to rejoin The 5 AM Club. Yes, I confess that I let my membership lapse for a while. Two moves threw me off schedule, and even after settling into our current home, I still put it off. However my mornings were hectic instead of peaceful, and I knew that re-resolving to rise early each morning would serve me and my family. Now that I’m back in the club, I’ll be able to have a quiet quiet time, get Andrew out the door for school in a peaceful manner, make a real lunch for my husband, and be prepared for the day with my younger two.
This is not an easy resolution for me. It’s especially painful during the first groggy fifteen minutes after I wake up. But the benefits of rising early keep rolling in all day long.
If you don’t know what The 5 AM Club is, or want incentive to get up early yourself, you can revisit our posts on this from several years ago (as you can see, we’ve changed the name slightly since then), or you can read chapter three from our book, Shopping for Time.
Starting the New Year with two kids has me wondering what I did with all my time when I only had one. Accomplishing anything more in a day than keeping my family fed and clothed requires some serious strategy.
As I consider the year ahead, one of my goals is to read more beyond the reading that I already do in my quiet time. Yet my nights are full of interrupted sleep (Like last night when MJ had a cold that made her sleep fitfully and we lost power for two hours during which Caly was wide awake waiting “for the workers to fix her fan.”) And the days can be long and hard. (And yes, I know what you moms with more than two kids are thinking right now!)
Given my season, I can’t imagine carving out an hour each day for more reading. Even 30 minutes seems a bit scary. I have tried this before and failed. But thanks to John Piper I’m reminded that a very small daily investment can yield a big return.
He recommends setting a goal to read for 15 minutes a day:
“Suppose you read slowly like I do—maybe about the same speed that you speak—200 words a minute. If you read fifteen minutes a day for one year (say just before supper, or just before bed), you will read 5,475 minutes in the year. Multiply that by 200 words a minute, and you get 1,095,000 words that you would read in a year. Now an average serious book might have about 360 words per page. So you would have read 3,041 pages in one year. That’s ten very substantial books. All in fifteen minutes a day.”(When I Don’t Desire God, p. 129)
I’m sure I read more slowly than Dr. Piper, but thinking about it this way helps me see that even with only fifteen minutes a day, I can accomplish something significant this year. Even with two kids, two and under, I can read ten good books!
So, my plan this year? Read 15 minutes each day during the first part of Caly’s play alone time in her room. If I miss that slot than I will try to make up for it right before I go to bed. My prayer is to make this a lifelong habit that will increase my love and passion for my Savior.
Over the course of time, preaching the gospel to myself every day has made more of a difference in my life than any other discipline I have ever practiced. I find myself sinning less, but just as importantly, I find myself recovering my footing more quickly after sinning, due to the immediate comfort found in the gospel. I have also found that when I am absorbed in the gospel, everything else I am supposed to be toward God and others seems to flow out of me more naturally and passionately. Doing right is not always easy, but it is never more easy than when one is breathing deeply the atmosphere of the gospel.
So I can breathe more deeply the atmosphere of the gospel, I’m taking the month of January to memorize a portion of A Gospel Primer entitled “A Gospel Narrative” (written in the prose format). It’s a list of forty-one gospel truths derived from Scripture. I’m convinced this little memorization endeavor will help me to apply the truths of the gospel to my life on a daily basis and experience the benefits Mr. Vincent describes.
Last January I only made it through number eight before I abandoned my goal. But I’m trying again. This time I decided to recruit some help. So the previous Monday when the girls and I were together, I asked them to join me. They eagerly agreed. I hope that having others memorize with me will provide fresh incentive to reach my goal.
Would you like to join us? Even if you only make it through number eight it will be well worth the effort. For this discipline of preaching the gospel to yourself every day can make “more of a difference in [your] life than any other.”
Last Monday afternoon Kristin brought our favorite Greek salads to Mom’s house and we sat around her kitchen table for the afternoon—you guessed it—talking. At our request (or more accurately, our pathetic pleading) Mom agreed to give us girls one day each year to help us evaluate our lives and get that “older woman” wisdom we so desperately need.
Don’t misunderstand—we call Mom for advice almost every day. But this day is special. It’s when we take time to evaluate our priorities and consider how we can grow in biblical womanhood over the coming year. We always begin with our relationship with God, for nothing serves our husbands and children more than a wife and mom who is consistently seeking God through His Word and prayer.
It is prayer that has always been a weakness for me. I suspect I’m not alone in this. But I’ve been inspired by the example of my husband and my mom as I’ve watched them grow in prayer; and I’ve been aided by the verses and prayers that others use.
My collection swelled this January as I added many verses to my prayer list. I have three people to thank for that.
Add these verses to your collection and may many prayers for us and our loved ones reach our Heavenly Father’s throne this year.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” Ephesians 3:20-21
Our home was always full of laughter. My dad inherited a quick wit and hilarious sense of humor from his dad. He taught us to laugh—laugh at ourselves and laugh along with each other. To this day, whenever we get together, our conversation quickly turns humorous, and we often laugh until we can’t breathe.
While the trip down memory lane over the last few days has brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face, it has also brought that familiar laughter. I laugh when I remember the time my Mom was out of town and Nicole and I impetuously sold all of our bedroom furniture at my aunt’s yard sale. It has taken Mom ten years to laugh about that one.
I laugh when I think about my dad attempting repair jobs around the house while carrying on a running conversation with his tools. Not so funny to Dad, but hilarious for the rest of us to listen in as he blamed the leak on his faulty wrench.
We all can’t help but laugh when we recall how Mike came over to the house weekend after weekend to “hang out with Chad.” He wasn’t fooling anyone, not even Chad.
Oh, and let’s not forget the time a certain sister left the top on the hamster cage open, and four baby hamsters spent several weeks roaming the basement.
Laughter practically sent me into labor the other day while I was watching my brother mow the lawn. He ran into a few technical difficulties (which were all the fault of the lawn mower, of course) and, well, you had to be there.
We all laugh when we remember Nicole and Kristin’s poodle perms, my lime green baseball hat and Chad’s endless collection of soccer cleats.
In all this laughter, we learned humility. My dad led by example as he always laughed the loudest when the joke was on him. But whenever we did something silly (or can I say stupid?) he taught us to laugh rather than withdraw in pride. While it took the sons-in-law some time to adjust to our family culture, they now lead the way in pursuing humility through laughter.
Although I’m sad to leave this house where we have known endless hours of laughter, I’m glad that when we move, my dad will be around to teach his granddaughters the same lessons of humor and humility.
My parents are busy packing to move out of their home. The boxes are piling up and the pictures are coming down from the walls. Actually, it’s still strange for me to think this way, but legally it is my home now and they are renting back from me.
A story is ending and a story is beginning. The door is closing on my life as a daughter in this home and opening to a new role as wife and mother in this home.
I still remember riding with my dad in the big moving truck from our old home in Silver Spring, MD to our brand new home in Gaithersburg. I was eight years old. And as I walk into each room of my new (for the second time) home, so many wonderful memories come to mind….
Mom waking us up each morning with a special song.
Dad leading in morning devotions at the breakfast table.
Birthday celebrations with the “You are Special Today” plate.
Reading and talking long after dinner was finished.
Watching the Redskins with Dad on Sunday afternoon.
Sleepovers with friends.
The surprise graduation party Mom threw for Nicole and me.
The night Brian asked my dad if he could court me.
Trying on my wedding dress in the bedroom.
Rolling my luggage down the hall on my wedding day as I prepared to leave home (for what I thought was the last time!).
And, while almost all of the memories are fond ones, I also remember arguing with my sister in the bathroom each morning over who got to use the hairdryer first! (Love ya, Nic!)
My oldest son Andrew is eight years old—the same age I was when I first rode to this home in the big truck with my dad. He’s going to share the same room with his brothers (yep, bunk beds and a trundle!) that I shared with my sisters. In fact, I’ve found myself planning to arrange our furniture much the same way it was when I first lived here twenty-two years ago. God-willing, I hope Brian and I can make as many wonderful memories for our children as my parents did with us.
Most of all, I pray God will give us grace to carry on the legacy of a loving, joyful, gospel-centered, kingdom-minded, home for His glory.