How do we determine what is the best use of our time? We know amid the mundaneness of our days, the work the Lord has given us in our homes matters for eternity. God has a purpose in all things. There is no secular work in Christ; all is sacred.
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As homemakers, we desire to be productive and accomplish much in the time we’re given. It feels good when we check those tasks off our to-do lists and then the reality hits that most of them are back on it again tomorrow. It’s hard sometimes to determine how to prioritize our days and feel like we are getting things done.How do we determine what is the best use of our time?
How do we determine what to do next? I’ve quoted Elisabeth Elliot’s words to you often of “Do the Next Thing,” but what is the next best thing to do? How do we determine we are using our time wisely?
I’m a checklist type of gal. My morning and evening routine are pretty much daily habits, and I keep my planner updated daily. I can find myself basing my contentment on how well my day goes as planned. It’s that moment that I realize I may be making an idol out of my productivity.
I read a little booklet called, How Can I Feel Productive as a Mom? by Esther Engelsma, where she shared about how to think of our work as believers. She reminded us in the quote below on what should be the result of our work, and it’s not just about getting things done:
“I thought that God’s call to us, God’s will for us, and God’s purpose in creating us all centered on getting things done. They don’t. Getting things done is part of using time well. Using time well is part of growing in sanctification. Growing in sanctification is part of glorifying God. The end of it all is to glorify God. The most basic tool is getting things done or productivity. The tool is meant to be used but not idolized. It is a means; it is not an end. Because it is only a means, we will never be satisfied when we make it our end.”
Work Given by God:
So what is the best use of our time? Amid busy days with so much to take care of from tasks to, more importantly, our people we can miss the end goal. We can get caught up in the temporary and forget to have eyes on the eternal.
My hopes with my family are that the Lord would save them and that He would continue to sanctify them and me. Honestly, this is not my focus most of the day. I can be caught up in Martha moments and not live like Mary, who focused on the “one thing” that was most important. Jesus.
I don’t want us to think that we don’t have to plan and order our days because this is an essential part of helping us to have the time to focus on the “one thing” that is most important.
Esther’s words from the above book are helpful again to give us a clear perspective on taking as Gloria Furman calls it the “long view of motherhood.”
(taken from Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms)
“But daily productivity is important to this long view because it is a tool to help you focus on and further your goal of the salvation and sanctification of your family—a goal only God can achieve and yet a goal He has called you to work toward (Proverbs 22:6). Spiritual success is never up to you, yet you must bring the gospel to your children. God is the only one who can give the fruit, yet you are called to obedience and faithfulness. Getting things done is necessary so that you can keep your eyes on eternity. It’s hard to find time to talk to your children about Jesus when you’ve been procrastinating on other things. It’s hard to be an example of devotion when you rarely put your phone down to take up your Bible. A Christian who is living in obedience to God is a Christian who gets things done because the work is given by God.”
~ Esther Engelsma
What is our Work?:
We seem to forget Who plans our days and Who allows moments in our days that we might consider interruptions. They weren’t accidents or interruptions but appointed by God for our good (Romans 8:28). These interruptions aren’t taking us away from our real work because they are the real work the Lord desires for us to accomplish.
We can miss the work God's given us when we think the important work isn’t changing diapers or washing dishes. Our children aren’t an interruption to our work; they are the important work.
My home and the upkeep of it isn’t unimportant; it is an area that God has given me stewardship over, and He desires me to care well for it and those inside of it.
We will never finish everything we think needs to be done in a day or even yet in our lifetime. But we will finish the work the Lord has ordained for our days. We are going to have days that seem like chaos and so many things on our to-do list we’re left unfinished, but maybe that was the day we spent ministering to a friend on the phone. Perhaps that was the day we spent an hour in prayer over a broken relationship. Was it the day we needed to make dinner for a family in need or spend more time in the Word.
We don’t want productivity to be just an end goal and miss the higher goal the Lord has in mind—our sanctification. Jesus lived a very short but eternally productive life, and He stated to His Father, “I have finished the work You gave me to do.”
These moments or days that seem mundane or not very spiritual are the work the Lord has given us. The Bible doesn’t tell us to be the one who gets the most things done, but it does tell us to redeem the time we’ve been given, and we do that by making the best use of our time.
Redeeming the Time:
We are all given the same 24 hours in a day. The verses in the Bible that seem to be known as the time management verses are Ephesians 5:15-16:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.
How do we redeem the time we’ve been given? We control our time and what we do with it. Redeeming the time means utilizing what the best use of our time at that moment is.
As busy homemakers using our time well doesn’t automatically mean that all that’s on our to-do list will get accomplished that day, but we can be assured, what God has ordained for the day will get done.
What is the Next Best Thing?
We are simply learning how to prioritize what is most important. Sounds easier on paper than it can be in the reality of our days. I’m working through this one with you.
When we remember children are not an interruption then when our child is naughty or disobedient, we are reminded that it is a God-ordained moment to get to point them to the need of a Savior. It’s not a moment to wash the floor. Those are the times we need to stop and focus on what is the best use our time at that moment.
It’s not an interruption or an inconvenience. It is the most important work. If your child spilled milk, cleaning it up with an attitude of doing all your work as unto the Lord without grumbling or complaining is what we are called to.
We need to shift our mindset to keep our focus on getting the right things done instead of just getting things done. Our attitude matters too! Our children are watching what we do much more than what we say. Do our attitudes match our actions?
If you’re impatient as you’re sitting in traffic, repent of it and praise God for His grace to show you this sinful attitude in your heart and ask Him to help grow you in patience.
How can you redeem the time in traffic? By remembering God controls everything. Everything, even your traffic jam. Take the time to pray for someone or have a conversation with your kiddos while you're waiting. Redeem the time.
Growing in Sanctification:
These tasks we have to accomplish are not just merely to get things done, but as we make the best use of our time, we also grow in sanctification:
1 Thessalonians 4:3
For this is the will of God, your sanctification
and that we grow in the fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentlenesses, self-control; against such things; there is no law.
These ordinary moments we have in our days are what God uses to grow us more in His likeness:
“You pray to have the Christian graces in your life. You want to have joy, patience, gentleness, humility, mercifulness. But these heavenly qualities cannot be put into your life at once; they have to grow from small beginnings to perfection—“first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear,”—and that requires a long time.”
Making the Best Use of Our Time:
As wives and mothers and homemakers, we have much on our to-do lists, but we can accomplish these tasks with Mary's heart, and we don’t have to find ourselves distracted and anxious like Martha. We may be getting things done but not necessarily making the best use of our time.
We can tend to find our value in how much we accomplish or how productive we are with our days. Don’t misunderstand me; we need to plan and work and keep our to-do lists or whatever system we use to keep order in our days. We need to learn to manage our time well, and these tools can aid us in making the best use of our time.
The tools I use to manage my days help me to get time to sit with God’s Word and in prayer with Him. They help me to make time to study the Word. Taking the time to sit with my planner and plan my days have been a help in freeing my mind, so I don’t have to mentally remember every single task on my list in my head or to forget important items that need taken care of for my family or friends.
We need to learn how to use these tools well but also learn when it is time to be like Mary and focus on the One thing that is needed, and Mary not only did the One thing, but she had chosen the good portion. It was a choice. I want to choose the good portion.
I want to as Mary did to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to His voice. His Word is where I’m going to receive the good portion that my soul needs most.
When our eyes are on Christ and focusing on the eternal, we will be making the best use of our time. One of those best things, when we do this, is being more and more conformed to His image as we die to our desires and to-do lists and live for Him.
True satisfaction is found only in Christ; not checking off all the boxes of my to-do list. If I finished my list but at the end of the day was short with my husband, cleaned the shower with a complaining heart and neglected to show compassion to my child when they had a need, I have forgotten that God is much bigger than my to-do list.
I’m seeking fulfillment in the wrong place. Christ's example was of a servant. – Philippians 2:7a – but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. Jesus didn’t try to fulfill Himself, but He emptied Himself.
In the booklet “How Can I Feel Productive as a Mom? Esther says people often ask what we would do if we only had 24 hours left to live – she continues and says we don’t have to wonder what Christ would do in that situation because we have it recorded in the bible for us.
He took the form of a servant, and washed the disciple's feet, served them a meal and went to the Cross for them.
Elisabeth Elliot states:
“Does God ask us to do what is beneath us? This question will never trouble us again if we consider the Lord of Heaven, taking a towel and washing feet.”
May we look with eyes on eternity and seek our contentment in a God Who is sovereign over every little detail of our lives. The best use of our time in these moments is to serve others with a heart full of gratitude and give praise to the Lord for saving our soul and giving us the gift of loving and caring for a family and home and friends.
Our purpose is to glorify Him in all the mundane moments of our days and not just to get things done. Be reminded that God's will for us is so much bigger than our to-do list.