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“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 5:15-16
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.
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?
“The way we should go and the thing we should do” (Jer 42:3) is found only by prayerful study of God’s Word. In Scripture alone are the signs marking the true bargains for each season of our lives.
(adapted from Shopping for Time)
Yesterday I sought to answer one humble mom’s request for advice. Here is the second half of her question:
I want to be a godly mother who sits on the floor reading books to my little one. I want to enjoy the little moments, singing songs to him, but most of the time I’d rather be getting the laundry folded, the dinner cooking or cleaning the house so that I can scratch another thing off my to-do list. Can you give me any advice? How can I change this attitude on a practical level, for I know God must first change my heart.
What does it mean to be a good mom? How do you know when to play with your kids and when to make them play by themselves? When do you read them a book and when is it OK to fold the laundry?
This mother’s question touches on an important topic, for I am concerned that some moms of young children live under a load of self-imposed guilt. There are many reasons for this and the result is that we often feel guilty for things that are not sinful and sometimes neglect the things that Scripture does call us to. But that is another post for another time! Whatever the source, the solution is, as always, to return to Scripture.
First of all God’s Word tells us what we are called to do as moms. Among other responsibilities, we are to love our children (Titus 2:3-5). And 1 Corinthians 13 spells this out for us: love is patient, kind, not self-seeking or easily angered. You know it well.
The important thing to remember here is that love is not a feeling. It is something we do. So when we don’t feel like enjoying our children, but sacrifice to serve them anyways, this is not sin but obedience. Now feelings are an indicator so we aren’t to ignore them—but they don’t necessarily mean we have sinned. We should not feel guilty simply because we do not feel like enjoying our children.
What we need to do is ask ourselves, Am I caring for my child’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs, regardless of what I feel like? Am I loving my child (in a 1 Corinthians 13 way) even when I don’t want to?
Sometimes this does mean stopping what we are doing to read them a book or sing them a song. But we also love our children by serving our husband first, keeping our home orderly, serving in the church, and having a consistent quiet time. Sometimes we love our children best by letting them play by themselves for a while!
On a personal note, when my girls have struggled with feeling like they don’t spend enough time “playing” with their children, I’ve reminded them of my mom. I don’t remember my mom getting on the floor and playing with us or taking us to all kinds of special outings or planning special projects.
But she was there for us. Not only was she physically present in the home, but more importantly, she was content to be there. She worked from sun-up to sundown to keep a clean and orderly home, do the laundry, cook economical meals, serve neighbors and church members. She did our hair each morning, helped us with our homework, read us a bedtime story. She was eager to listen to us, available to help us, happy to be right where she was.
And she raised five children who all adored her. I don’t think any of us for a single second ever doubted her love.
May God give all of us grace to love our children with this 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love.
Our current series on the Internet sparked a related question from one mom:
I am a full time stay at home mom to my one year old son. Over the last couple of months I find myself longing for my son’s nap time to come so that I can have some “me” time, either reading online, watching youtube, checking facebook or just wasting time on the net while sipping my cup of hot tea. I want to be a godly mother who sits on the floor reading books to my little one. I want to enjoy the little moments, singing songs to him, but most of the time I’d rather be getting the laundry folded, the dinner cooking or cleaning the house so that I can scratch another thing off my to-do list. Can you give me any advice? How can I change this attitude on a practical level, for I know God must first change my heart.
First, I want to encourage you for your humility. It is obvious you want to be a godly mother and I am confident God will give you grace—and is already giving you grace—to do so!
And let me say, I don’t know any mom with young children who doesn’t long for nap time to come! I know I sure did when my kids were little! There is nothing in God’s Word that says you should not desire rest. In fact, God has ordained rest. He himself rested on the seventh day.
And God created us to need rest. We moms are creatures. We have limitations. We get tired and we need rest. That’s the way God has created us to be. It is one of the ways he reminds us of our dependence upon him.
And as we’ve said all along in this series, it is not wrong to enjoy Facebook or read articles online. These can be wonderful ways to relax, stay in touch with friends and family, grow in our knowledge of God and the world etc..
But instead of “me” time, we as Christians should approach all our time—even our leisure time—as “God” time. Therefore we should rest to His glory, just as we work to His glory. And bringing our rest into this light helps us to evaluate it biblically:
Is the content of my restful activities God-glorifying? (1 Cor. 10:13, Col. 3:17)
Is the goal of my rest to be refreshed in order to better serve my family and others? (Matt. 20:26-28)
Is the time I spend on leisure activities appropriate or excessive (one way to tell is if essential things aren’t getting done!)? (Prov. 20:4)
As moms, if we bring our leisure time into the light of God’s Word we can enjoy it for His glory. This will not only protect us from excessive or idolatrous pursuit of restful activities, but it will also help us to enjoy the rest God provides, that we may be refreshed for service.
But you’re asking a great question which has sparked a few more thoughts, so I’ll pick up here tomorrow.
A Widow’s Story: How Good He’s Been to Me - A good word for widowed women on God’s grace to you in grief.
Refnet Christian Radio - Many good words for all of us on this new Internet radio station—featuring teaching from R.C.Sproul, John Piper and more, news an analysis from World Magazine, and radio drama for children. I’m so excited about this!
So how do we maintain a clear biblical vision of motherhood that helps us resist distraction? It’s simple really. We need to have a routine whereby we regularly return to God’s Word and to biblical resources on parenting.
I was at Janelle’s house a few weeks ago helping her to finish unpacking her bedroom. In the basket by her bed (amongst several bills, a cable to who knows what, an old cell phone or two, and an Agatha Christie novel that needs to be returned to my sister-in-law) were several books on motherhood as well as a few verses on note cards to encourage her in praying for and training her children. We de-cluttered the basket, but replaced the Bible, notecards, and books by her bed. Just having these resources with her quiet time stuff reminds Janelle to re-read them, even if its just for a few minutes here or there.
Given our selfish hearts, the ever-present online distractions, and the world’s misguided messages on motherhood, we can’t afford not to be regularly reminding ourselves of what our biblical mission is as mothers. I am not nearly as consistent at this as Janelle is, but when I am, I find myself growing in the fear of the Lord, dependence upon Him, and joy in motherhood. And once again, it focuses me on what’s important, so I’m less inclined to be distracted.
There are many great resources out there, both old and new. I return often to J.C. Ryle, Elisabeth Elliot, Tedd Tripp and my mom’s chapters in Feminine Appeal. Or you can listen to audio messages or collect articles and blog posts that serve you. The recent article we recommended by James Hamilton on A Biblical Theology of Motherhood is definitely one I’m going to re-read often. Reviewing verses on parenting from Proverbs, Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 5, Proverbs 31, Titus 2, or Psalm 128 all reorient my mothering God-ward.
Contrary to what some may think, routinely reviewing biblically grounded resources on motherhood should not lead to a legalistic, gospel-less existence, but instead drive us to the cross once again. For few things in my life reveals the depth of my sin and my need for a Savior, or the limitless riches of God’s grace, like being a mom. And focused on the cross (and not on my Facebook page) is where my eyes need to be.
To paraphrase the first magnificent answer of the Shorter Catechism: A mother’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. And it is interesting to note, as J. I. Packer points out in his new book, Praying the Lord’s Prayer, that this doctrinal statement uses the word “‘end,’ not ‘ends,’ for the two activities [glorifying and enjoying God] are one.” Dr. Packer continues:
God’s chief end, purposed in all that he does, is his glory, and he has so made us that we find our own deepest fulfillment and highest joy in hallowing his name by praise, submission, and service.
Christians get so hung up with the pagan idea (very dishonoring to God, incidentally) that God’s will is always unpleasant, so that one is rather a martyr to be doing it, that they hardly at first notice how their experience verifies the truth that in Christian living duty and delight go together. But they do! And this will be even clearer in the life to come. To give oneself to hallowing God’s name as one’s life-task means that living, though never a joyride, will become increasingly a joy road.
In other words, as we continue “lub-dubbing” along (I love that expression!) and learning contentment as mothers for the glory of God, caring for our children will increasingly become a joyful experience. That doesn’t mean it will be easy or a “joyride” as Dr. Packer says. But if our highest fulfillment is found in worshipping and obeying God, then motherhood will undoubtedly be a “joy road.” And if this is what God has called us to, then there is no other road we would rather be on.
—from the archives