Making Time to Serve God
Shawn Chou—San Jose, California, USA
We have many things to do each day, some of which are necessary, such as eating, resting, sleeping, working, going to school, or studying. There are also many things that are not necessary, such as watching television, surfing the Internet, or shopping. How we use our time is important as it is a precious resource. The Bible tells us to redeem our time, using it wisely for the Lord (Eph 5:16). In order to do so, we need to understand where our time comes from.
WHERE DOES OUR TIME COME FROM?
Many people feel that their time is their own and they can use it however they wish. The Bible tells us that time does not actually belong to us, but to God, and we are merely custodians. Acts 17:26 says that God has determined each of our pre-appointed times; therefore, how much time we have is not within our control.
Isaiah 38:1–8 records that God granted King Hezekiah an additional fifteen years of life. From this, we understand that God is the sovereign giver of our time on earth, and with this recognition, we should manage it in accordance with His will.
THE PRINCIPLE OF ALLOCATING OUR TIME
In order to please God, we should live
according to biblical principles. Colossians 3:2 urges us to set our minds on
the things above, which are eternal. In so doing, we will spend less time on the
things on earth, which are temporal. We will naturally prioritize matters of
God over secular matters. We may have many goals, such as earning a college diploma,
finding a good job, and establishing a family. However, if we focus the majority
of our time on the pursuit of such matters, we would have insufficient time left
for the things above. By prioritizing our time according to biblical principles,
we will refocus our efforts on matters such as serving God, knowing that what
we do for Him will not be in vain (
A SPIRIT OF DEDICATION
Since our time is precious, how can we allocate more of it to serve God, amidst competing priorities? The Bible teaches us that if we want to serve God, we must have a spirit of dedication. In Romans 12:1, Paul exhorts us to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. Only then can we serve Him wholeheartedly.
Without a heart of dedication, it would be challenging for us to serve effectively; our servitude could become a mere show (Col 3:22) or a routine (Mt 16:6). It could lack vitality, compassion, and love, and might be superficial, in a similar fashion to the deeds of the Pharisees who focused on the letter of the law but neglected its spirit. Those who have a heart of dedication will diligently offer their time to serve Him.
So what is a heart of dedication? Let us study two biblical characters to see how they offered their best to God:
David (1 Chr 29:3)
David was determined to build a temple for the Lord. However, God wanted his son Solomon to complete this work instead. In spite of this, David’s heart of dedication did not waver. He offered his own savings instead of the money that was in his country’s treasury, because he loved God. As a result, God’s name was glorified. From this, we realize there is a significant difference between serving God out of obligation and serving with a heart of willingness and a desire to please Him.
Mary of Bethany (Mk 14: 3–9)
Mary came to Jesus with an alabaster flask of costly spikenard, broke it and poured the contents on His head. Because this oil could have been sold for much money, others criticized her, saying that she was wasteful because the money could have been given to the poor. However, Jesus defended her and praised her deed before the crowd. Sometimes, we may be criticized or ridiculed for offering our time and resources to God instead of pursuing worldly gains. But we must firmly believe that Jesus will be pleased and will praise us for our precious offering.
David and Mary both loved the Lord, which was evident in their willingness to offer their best. Similarly, we must love God wholeheartedly so that we can be determined to serve Him.
WHAT IT TAKES TO TRULY LOVE GOD
Be Filled with the Love of Jesus
In Ephesians 3:18–19, Paul prays that the believers may be filled with the fullness of God. This fullness includes His abundant love manifested through Jesus Christ. What kind of love is this?
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Eph 5:2)
For the sake of love, Christ completely sacrificed Himself for us. Something akin to this type of love is seen in parents who willingly endure hardship and sacrifice themselves unconditionally for their children. However, our Lord Jesus Christ went further than this, loving us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:6–8 says that He loved the ungodly who did not know Him and who were unwilling to believe in Him. Such sacrificial love transcends everything.
Therefore, we must appreciate the depth of God’s love by recognizing His saving grace. By doing so, His love will fill, motivate and inspire us to willingly and joyfully dedicate what we have to Him. When Jesus’ love fills us, we will naturally strive to serve Him and dedicate our lives to Him.
Be Filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18)
In Ephesians 3:16–17, Paul emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit, stating that the Spirit helps us to understand the love of Christ and to be rooted and established in His love, while strengthening us with might in the inner man. If God’s Spirit fills us, His power and joy will manifest through us, and we will not feel burdened in our servitude.
When we are filled with the love and Spirit of God, we will freely offer ourselves to be used by God. Such willingness will prompt us to overcome our limitations by prioritizing and dedicating sufficient time to serve Him.
Set Aside Time to Serve
Many of us would like to serve God, but somehow, time just passes us by, and we feel that we do not have enough time. If we do not manage our time wisely, even a thirty-hour day would seem insufficient for our needs. Conversely, if we manage it wisely, we would be able to serve God, even in the midst of our busy lives.
Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthian
believers to set aside their possessions for God in case there was nothing left
to offer (
The difficulty that we often face relates to our value system. If we can set aside time for God as the priority, we will find that we always have time to serve Him. Whatever time is left can then be used for other activities. For example, if we plan to visit members on a Sunday afternoon, we should dedicate the time for this work, and schedule other activities for another time. Without the right attitude, we will find that we cannot accommodate God’s work.
Loosen and Bring Over
Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”
The Lord Jesus asked two of His disciples to bring a tied colt from a nearby village. After the disciples had loosened the colt and brought it to Jesus, He sat on it and went into Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy (Zech 9:9). Even though the animal was a lowly colt, the Lord Jesus was able to make use of it to fulfill an important purpose.
The colt is probably symbolic of many believers: we may be bound by many things, such as our studies, occupation, career goals, and family life. When we are constrained by such things, our movement will be restricted. Like the colt that was tied up, we will be limited by the length of rope. In order to be used by the Lord, we must free ourselves from the things of this world.
We need to understand why God wants us to work for Him. When God placed Adam in the garden of Eden, God commanded him to tend the garden (Gen 2:15). Because this was a direct command from God, Adam worked to serve Him; however, after Adam sinned, he was forced to work in order to provide for himself (Gen 3:17–19).
Today, God has forgiven our sins. Therefore, we should aspire to Adam’s condition before he sinned. Although we must undertake secular work to survive, our goal in life should be to serve God. When choosing our career path, a primary consideration should be whether the line of work allows us time to serve God. Some occupations may regularly require us to work overtime, beyond our regular working hours. When God’s love fills our hearts, we will be inspired to choose a career route that not only sustains our lives, but enables us to be uninhibited to serve God.
We must discern between the things that are necessary from the things that are not, and have the wisdom to untangle ourselves from the latter by limiting the amount of time we spend on them. For example, if our career occupies all or a significant amount of our time, then we should consider whether we need to change career paths. When we are bound by our worldly pursuits, there is often little or no time left for God. Just as Jesus could only use the colt after it had been untied, so we must be loosened from secular matters.
Lastly, we must be brought over to Jesus, just like the colt that obediently followed those who brought it to the Lord. We know that a colt is typically stubborn, and if it is unwilling, it will not budge. However, this colt was willing to be led to Jesus. Today, when Jesus wants to use us, are we obedient enough to take hold of the opportunity to be used by Him, or are we resistant and stubborn? Perhaps we think that there is still time to serve God in the future, or we may be unwilling and uninterested in participating in the holy work. We may even repeatedly decline opportunities to serve, thinking that we do not need to do so in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Let us examine ourselves to see if we have a stubborn streak, and learn to be more obedient to the Lord and His calling. Once we learn obedience, God will be pleased to help us redeem the time to serve Him.
God does not need us to accomplish His work. However, He delights in seeing our willingness to take part in His ministry and to use our lives to serve Him. The Lord Jesus provided the best example while He was in this world: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45).
Let us constantly reflect upon God’s saving grace and His mercy. May we be filled with the fullness of His love and His Spirit, and may our hearts overflow with thanksgiving so that we yearn to serve Him all the more.