Resolutions have a lot in common with fads. They come and they go and shift depending on what’s happening in culture. When skinny is in, people resolve to get fit. When financial independence is valued, we resolve to spend less and save more. Inside the church, we resolve to be more spiritual: better quiet times, less sin, more involvement at church, etc.
But one of the things we don’t often consider is what we will wish we had resolved in five years, in 10 years, and even at the end of our lives. Think about that. What if you could ask your future freshly-dead self anything? What would you ask? What advice might you expect to receive from yourself?
It is not a new idea to consider priorities at death during life. Many spiritual leaders throughout church history have encouraged people to live with the end in mind. They taught us to live today as we would counsel ourselves to live at the very end. Death is not a pleasant thought, but it does help many live their lives better.
I believe most of us will one day look back over our lives and wish we had learned sooner the priority of redeeming the time, that we would have made using time well a daily priority. I believe we will all look back at the time we’ve wasted with regret. We will see how valuable time really is and how we lived most of our lives ignorant of its great value. Consider these four reasons, and resolve to make better use of time in 2015.
1. Time is precious.
Only God knows how much time you have. You might live to a ripe old age, and you might not. God has ordained that you have a set number of days on the earth. He set the day of your birth, and He knows the day of your death. From God’s perspective, you have only been given so much time.
Jonathan Edwards famously argued time is more valuable than even money. His reasoning was that money when lost can often be regained, but time wasted can never be regained. You will never get that time back. Once it’s wasted, it will always be time wasted. We only get one chance to use time well.
2. Wasting time is common and easy.
We live at a time in history when wasting time is particularly easy. There are countless shows and movies to watch, video games to play, and let’s not forget the exponentially growing waste potential of the internet. If you feel judged, don’t. I’m preaching to myself here as much as anyone.
And I’m not legalistically suggesting there is no place in the Christian life for entertainment and amusement. We must each come to our own convictions on this issue. I’m hoping my convictions will be increasingly informed by the above reflection on what I will value most in the future. What seems like a good (or fun) use of time now, might not seem so good after this life is over. I believe many of us are blind to the things we will value from eternal retrospect.
3. God will hold us accountable for our use of time.
Even more important than how I will one day assess the use of my time is how God will. The Scriptures teach that one day we will all stand before Christ and give an account to Him for how we lived. Yes, even those of us in Christ will be called to account. I wonder, does this biblical certainty impact the way you make decisions today? I think most of us prefer to put the coming day of judgment out of our minds. We prefer to think warm and fuzzy thoughts about the future, ignoring places in Scripture where Jesus calls even Christians to repent and turn from their sins (see Revelation 2-3).
In Matthew 24-25 (referred to as the Olivet Discourse), Jesus answers a question about the coming kingdom, telling His followers to live intentionally while waiting for His return. His words were serious and stern, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).
Jesus uses the imagery of a master leaving servants in charge before a long journey, promising to reward those faithful and wise servants (who use their time well) and severely judge wicked and slothful servants (who use their time poorly) [Matthew 24:45-51]. One of the best reasons to use time well is that Jesus is watching how we use our time and will one day weigh in on how we did. As you plan for 2015, plan to live in a way that will make Jesus one day say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23).
4. Remember the testimony of those who’ve already died.
Lastly, consider those who are already dead. The Bible teaches all those who have preceded us in death are in one of two places, with God or away from Him. I believe both groups, those who are with God and those who are away from Him, have reasons to regret wasted time. Those in heaven wish they had spent more time glorifying Christ through faithful service on the earth and those suffering wish for just a little more time to repent and turn to Christ. But their window of opportunity is over. Their race is run either for good or bad, and they don’t get another chance. Let the permanence of the death unsettle you and push you to use the time you have left well. Someday, all of your allotted time will be spent. Spend it well.
In light of such a sobering reflections, let’s live in the time God has given us with intentionality and zeal. Let’s live as those who understand the preciousness of time and who earnestly seek to redeem every moment. This year, I’m praying that God would impress the truth of Psalm 90:12 on our hearts in fresh ways, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”