HOW CAN I BE GENEROUS WITH MY TIME WHEN I'M SO BUSY
DAVID LARRY KIM | DEC 23, 2017 | 12 MIN READ
More than 50 years ago, Andy Williams described Christmas by singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Would you agree that it’s the most wonderful time of the year? Or would you choose a different word? Because if I were to ask people I know, they would probably say things like, “Busiest.” “Most stressful.” “Craziest.” “Most hurried.”
As much as Christmas reminds us of how limited our finances are, it also reminds us of how limited our time is. In fact, most people would agree that time, not money, is our most precious resource. If you lose, spend, or waste money, you can get it back or earn it. But once your time is spent, you’ll never get it back.
So how can we be generous with our time, if it is in such short supply? Jesus shows us in Mark 1:35-39:
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else — to the nearby villages — so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Jesus’ life was so busy. Yet still, he was so generous with his time. How did he do it?
Being generous with your time starts with your time with God
While it certainly feels like life is busier in the 21st century than in any other time in history, the reality is that people have always been busy. Students have always felt swamped. Moms have always wished they had an extra set of hands. And working folks have always wished for 30 hours in a day.
If there’s anyone who could ever say, “I know what it is to be busy,” it’s Jesus. Everywhere he looks, he literally sees someone who needs him. The leper. The blind. The mute. The lost. A quick glance at the early chapters of Mark’s gospel reveals a Jesus who is busy ministering to his people, giving his time away. But he knew his limits as well.
Jesus was able to be generous with his time because he started by being generous with his time with God.
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Rick Warren has said that whatever area of your life you want God to bless, give Him the first place. That’s the principle of tithing, isn’t it? When you give God the firstfruits, God will bless your decision. The same is true with time.
Have you ever seen someone whose life doesn't make sense to you? Their lives are so busy and you wonder, “How do they do it?” Jesus shows us that it’s what people don’t see that drives the life that everyone sees. The secret to life is life in secret.
Those moments with God become a time out to catch your breath and to get your game plan. They become the sharpening of the axe before the chopping begins. They are the tuning of the instruments before the recital. You will be most effective in being generous with others if you are first generous in your time with God.
Learn when to say “yes” and when to say “no”
Jesus has just spent all this time helping others by driving out demons and healing people. Now the whole town is looking for Jesus.
36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Jesus, ever generous with his time did not say, “Oh, okay, tell them to come here.” Instead, Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else…”
Can you imagine this happening with Superman? Picture the superhero’s friends seeing him nap and exclaiming, “Superman, oh my gosh, where were you? Everyone in Metropolis is looking for you!” If Superman were to say, “I’m gonna go somewhere else,” it would be shocking. But Jesus did exactly that. Why?
Jesus shows us that being generous with your time doesn’t mean you become a slave to other people’s desires. He isn’t worried about disappointing people. Jesus was able to say what he did because he knew the difference between what was really important and what was simply urgent.
Jesus said “no” to what seemed urgent and “yes” to what was actually important because he knew something that we often forget: that every time you say “yes” to one thing, you say “no” to thousands of other things.
To what things, and to what people, do you need to say “yes”? Maybe your family, friends, your health? And what are the things and who are the people who need to hear you say, “no” more? Maybe Netflix or that video game? An unhealthy relationship? A time-wasting habit that causes you to procrastinate? Learn when to say “yes” and when to say, “no.”
Live today in light of “that day”
A few days ago, my five-year-old son and I were spending some time together at home. I was trimming my beard when we had the following conversation:
Elijah: Daddy, why don’t you cut your beard all off?
Me: Why Elijah, you don’t like it?
Elijah: It’s getting too white.
Me: You don’t like the white part, huh?
Elijah: It means you’re getting old.
Me: Does that make you sad?”
Elijah: Yeah, because then you might die soon.
I still think I’m a young man, but that conversation made me think. There is a day coming when all of our lives will be called to account. And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come…on that day, what will really matter? On that day, I don’t want to have any regrets.
It’s often been said that our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things that don’t really matter. The way that Jesus lived was to live today and every day in light of that final day. Jesus knew what mattered. On that day, he would offer his life for the sins of the world. And on that day, he said, “It is finished.”
Why did he say that? Yes, his life was finished but his cry wasn’t a cry of defeat. It was a cry of triumph. So then what was finished? His mission. He had accomplished the purpose for which he was born. From the time he started to the time he finished, he knew the end would come one day and he lived EVERY day in light of that one day.
Unless we’re clear on what matters in life, we’ll be distracted by the many things that call for our attention. That’s why Jesus could say, “I’m not gonna follow the crowds. That’s not why I’ve come. I haven’t come to be a crowd-pleaser. I came to be the Kingdom-bringer. A soul-winner. A hope-giver.” That’s why he could leave the crowds. He knew his mission and he lived in light of that.
This Christmas season — and every season — let’s remember what it’s all about. Let’s seek times and spaces to be intimate with the Lord. Let’s hear from Him what really matters. Let’s embrace what is important and reject what distracts us. And let’s live each day as Jesus did — in light of the end.
David Larry Kim (DL) is the Lead Pastor at Harvest, an Inter-Generational, House-Church-Based, English-Speaking Congregation of the Korean Presbyterian Church of Orlando. He is married to Olivia and has three children.