I am a calendar and planner lover. I love lists and making goals and seeking to make the most of my days. I'm also aware how easy it is to become overwhelmed, miserable, and really exhausted when I don't have a good plan in place to make the most of my days.
I want to share today a system I've used for years on planning my spiritual priorities for the year. It has helped me to focus and build my choices in light of biblical priorities. It comes from a great little resource called Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney.
Making the Best Use of Your Days:
Carolyn and her daughter share how to become a shopper of time and they share it wasn't their idea but came straight from scripture:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
In Ephesians 5:15-16 there are two types of people mentioned, wise and unwise. I don't know about you but I would prefer to be wise and the next part of the verse tells me how, by “making the best use of the time”. I hope you will desire with me to discern what are good opportunities and good ways to spend our days by being intentional in setting priorities that are truly important.
I review my spiritual priorities at the start of a new year and refer to them every month to see how I am progressing. One reason I do this every year is because our lives are made up of changing seasons (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Our lives are continually changing. I went from a young stay at home mom with littles, to a caregiver to my husband's mom to now a grandma and an empty nester. My priorities look much different from when I was a young mom with littles at home.
The hope is we will make wise choices with the use of our time in all the various seasons the Lord has us in.
“Scripture provides ample evidence that God sets the boundaries for each season. God determines when one closes and a new one begins. He is in complete charge and sovereignly rules over every season of our lives. And his purpose for our lives in each season ultimately cannot be frustrated”
~ Carolyn Mahaney, Shopping for Time
Our God can be trusted because His plans and purposes for our lives are always for our good and for His glory (Romans 8:28).
“Everything that happens to you has come through hedge of His love.”
~ Elisabeth Elliot
The Days are Evil:
The verse in Ephesians 5:16 finishes with the reminder of why we are to make the best use of our time, “because the days are evil”.
Because the days are evil Carolyn gives five tips for becoming good shoppers of our time so we are living lives with eternity in mind:
- Rise early.
- Sit still.
- Sit and plan.
- Consider people.
- Plan to depend.
To quickly summarize the first two tips (they are a post in themselves) the hope is for you to see the value in getting up before your family to sit at the Lord's feet before the day gets into full swing. The next three tips are what I want to focus on as we set spiritual priorities.
I've been using this method because it works to keep me focused on what is most important. It is no different than planning a meal for company or a vacation. If these are important things to us we will take the time to plan ahead with the hopes that the event will be successful and enjoyable.
I don't take a retreat day or afternoon as stated in the book but can usually carve out a few hours to have a cup of coffee at a coffee shop and sit with my Bible, notebook and a pen (or your computer if your more techy ;)).
After I have gone through my list I simplify it and write a short list under each main category listed below and keep it in my planner.
Here is the list from Shopping for Time:
- Grow in godliness
- Love my family.
- Serve in the church.
- Fellowship with Christians.
- Evangelize non-Christians.
- Attend to my work.
- Care for my physical health.
There is a reminder that your list may look different. You need to determine your spiritual priorities for the season of life you're in. I have kept these same ones and they have worked beautifully in all seasons and just look different depending on where I'm at.
I really take time to pray and sit and evaluate myself in light of each priority. I ask myself questions. What am I doing well? What needs to change? Where am I weak? Where do I need to grow?
I'm going to share some of the items that are on my list and I encourage you to pick up this little book because it is a helpful read to take you through if you're desiring to prioritize your year by spiritual priorities.
Grow in Godliness:
Take the time to pray and ask the Lord is there a particular area God is calling you to grow in? Is there an area of sin or temptation in your life you need God's help in overcoming? If you determine an area of need take the time to look up Bible verses on this topic and read a book or ask you husband or a friend for help. Humility is the first step in overcoming sin and God's grace is enough to help us change.
My summarized list of grow in godliness would be to read through the Bible chronologically, continue to work through memorizing the book of 1 Peter, take time to meditate and study deeper a book or chapter of scripture at a time and continue to deepen my prayer life. I also have some patterns of sin that I see in my life and I'm continuing to pray and speak God's Word over those areas and truly to do battle with them with the help of the Lord.
Love my Family:
I prayer over each member of my immediate family and my close extended family. I determine what ways I could point them to Christ. I ask questions such as:
“How can I show love to this particular family member?” How can I help them to grow more in their love for the Lord?”
It may be simple ways by remembering to ask my husband how I can be praying for him and just take the time to pray for him on the spot. It may be encouraging my daughter with homemaking resources or articles or Christ focused resources.
Serve in the Church:
This is a time to ask yourself how you're using your gifts to serve the local church. An area I want to continue to get better at is by sending notes and cards to church family throughout the year.
Is there an area of need in your church that you can help with? Can you disciple someone one on one? Can you help an elderly couple or widow in your church with visits. There are so many ways to serve in your church and many times seeking your Pastor's guidance may be a help to see where you can help.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
~ Galatians 6:10
Fellowship with Christians:
Spending time with my brothers and sisters in the faith is an important part of my spiritual growth. We grow in our love for each other, bear each other’s burdens and learn better how we can pray for one another.
On my list this year is to keep it a priority to have our church family over for dinner. It is a time when we can spend time with each family and get to know them better and talk about what the Lord is doing in their lives.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:7
I want to be more intentional in bringing up Christ with my non-christian friends. I also need to be more prayerful and intentional in forming friendships with non-believers. I love the question they gave in the book to ask in this area: “Who is one person I can develop a friendship with for the purpose of sharing the gospel?”
Attend to My Work:
Carolyn has us to ask ourselves this question – “What is one way I can be more effective or efficient in the work God has called me to do?” As a wife and mother homemaking is my primary work. When I look at the needs in my home at the moment there could be many options that come to mind so I limit them to two items.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
Care for My Physical Body:
This is an important area as we need to be healthy to care for our family and there are two verses that Carolyn directed us to in this section (1 Timothy 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 6:19). Keeping those two verses in balance the question she has us ask ourselves is: “Am I giving too much or too little attention to the care of my physical body?” As you ask yourself this question you should be able to determine what actions you need to take to accomplish proper care for your physical health.
It's easy to fall into one extreme or another on this one. Either thinking too much about the care of our physical bodies or not at all. Think about areas like doctor visits, exercise, eating healthy, and drinking more water. My list usually has these three: Exercise, make healthier eating choices and drink more water.
Does this whole plan look overwhelming? That is not the purpose. You can’t change in every area at one time.
“What one or two priorities do I want to focus on for the next three to six months, and what steps will I take to grow in each area.” – Shopping for Time
I appreciated this part of the book – we may wonder why there are seven areas when we are to focus on one or two to change in and work on.
Usually when we make a list like this the areas of our lives that need the most change tend to rise up to the top and stand out. I keep all seven areas on an index card in my bible with my two areas of focus highlighted.
To be a good shopper of time this year my focus is on Growing in Godliness (specifically my prayer life) and Loving my Family (I have an adult child who is unsaved that I want to love well). I'll take the time to write out steps of what specifically I plan to do to foster growth in these areas. I keep my whole list handy so when the time or opportunity arises I can see what other areas I can spend time in prayer and planning to work on growing in those areas.
“Each season offers only a few best deals, so in order to be successful shoppers of time, we must identify those best deals and buy them up.” – Shopping for Time
What are your spiritual priorities for the new year?