In just five days, my chronological odometer will turn over to sixty-eight. For some reason, if I spell out the number, it is not as alarming as typing the numerical digits. However, baseball players are wearing numbers higher than that on the back of their jerseys these days! If it is true that the average lifespan in the United States is around 27,375 days , then on my upcoming birthday, I have only 2,538 days left to finish the work the Lord has assigned to me on this side of eternity. I’ll save you the time; that’s just seven more Thanksgivings, seven Christmases, and just seven birthdays! Talk about throwing ice-cold water in a guy’s face!!!
The reality is that none of us know exactly how much time we have left on this planet. Too many of our friends and family have had their lives cut way too short in these last two and a half years! Covid-19 and its virus variants have been a wake-up call for all of us on this reality. Would you agree with me that, especially in the period we live in today, we can’t take time for granted? Every day is truly a gift from God!
You may be wondering why I began this article about disciples of Jesus being generous with their time with specifics about days, years, and the reality of the brevity of life. I purposely chose to lay it out this way for two reasons. First, I wanted you to know that I’ve had some experience with the existence of time: sometimes using it wisely, wasting it foolishly, or simply taking it for granted. Do I have regrets? I won’t waste your time!
Secondly, serving as a pastor for thirty years, I have had a front-row seat to seeing well over one hundred people pass on from this life to the next. Thankfully, many have lived their life well and made a tremendous impact on the lives of those they left behind. Sadly, however, others spent most of their days focused on themselves. Later, as people gathered to say their goodbyes and reflect upon their dominant qualities, it became a bit awkward for those who knew them best. It quickly became apparent that these folks were not generous with spending time expressing their love in tangible ways with their family and friends during their days and years on Earth.
This unfortunate reality reminds me of the lyrics to a song released in the summer of 1974, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin . The ballad recounts a father who was too busy working and taking care of the urgent to spend time with his son. As his son grew, he would say to his absentee father, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad. You know I’m gonna be like you.” His dad was blind to the value of intentionally spending time bonding with his son. By the time the dad had retired, his son had moved away. So, the dad called his son and told him he would like to see him. Shocker, the son, repeated the same excuses his dad had given him in his formative years, “I’d love to, Dad, if I could find the time….” Fortunately, this song has been used through the years to awaken both fathers and sons to make the most of their limited time together.
Even though the apostle Paul never had biological children, he had countless spiritual sons and daughters as a result of his life of discipling others with the teachings of Jesus. He challenges the church in Ephesus to be careful each day as to how they live out their days. Paul gives us wise counsel on how to spend our time on this side of eternity.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Eph. 5:15-17 ESV
The word Paul uses for “walk” literally means how we live and behave. In other words, how we use the time God has entrusted to us. To ensure he has their attention, Paul uses three imperative commands: Look carefully, don’t be foolish, but understand the will of the Lord! Let’s zero in on these three exclamations.
Paul uses an idiom that literally means “to redeem the time” to do something with intensity and urgency. This phrase means to go beyond merely seeing something, but “to take heed,”  “to pay close attention to,”  to contemplate intently and earnestly about something, i.e., the way we are living and behaving (this would include our thoughts, attitudes, motives, words, and actions). Why? to make the best use of the time that God has entrusted to us because we have an enemy who wants to distract us from this goal! 
Don’t be foolish!
Paul warns believers not to be senseless and unwise when it comes to the time to live out the Lord’s will for our lives. Paul doesn’t want us to live distracted lives as we could easily neglect the priorities of following the life and teachings of Jesus. Luke recorded Jesus using this very word in a parable to describe the wasted life of a productive but self-centered farmer. This man reasoned that he would simply build bigger barns to store his surplus crops so he could retire and spend the rest of his life taking it easy, consuming his bounty. Then God showed up one night while the man was enjoying his extravagance, and He said to the man, “Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?” Jesus concludes the story with this application: “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” 
But understand what the will of the Lord is!
In contrast to wasting our time by behaving foolishly, Paul concludes his triple imperatives by urging his audience to approach every day with a clear understanding of God’s desire and will for their lives. Paul’s teaching on this could easily be a teaching series; however, I will summarize his epistles by stating the core issue: God’s will for us is to follow the life and teachings of Jesus so that we become more like him every day. Paul’s favorite word for this goal of Christlikeness is the Greek word, eikon. Just as Jesus is referred to as the eikon of the Father, making Him visible, we also are the eikon of Jesus, making His character and will visible to those around us (See Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10).
Since Paul sought to imitate Jesus in his later years as his disciple , how did Jesus treat the issue of time? From the age of twelve, we find Jesus was intentional about spending time with his Father and his teachings.  As an adult, even amid full days of exhausting ministry and travel, Jesus would spend time praying with his Father.  The Scriptures reveal the reality that Jesus knew the Father’s mission for his brief life on Earth, and he resolved to focus his time on accomplishing that mission. 
We find early in the public ministry of Jesus that he chose a small group of young men as his disciples to train them to continue the work he began of revealing the Father to the world, proclaiming and manifesting the Kingdom of God to others.  Some bible scholars have estimated that Jesus spent as much as ninety percent of his time during the last three years of his life among those twelve disciples.
During those brief years, we find Jesus not only spending the majority of his time with these students, but we find Jesus going out of his way to meet the needs of others, spending quality time with people, many of whom were considered outcasts by the religious leaders and the dominant culture. Do you remember some of those who Jesus considered worthy of his time? I’ll share a few to give you a sample of his generous love and attention to others:
A family in Cana ; an inquisitive religious leader named Nicodemus ; a scorned Samaritan woman , a forgotten paralyzed man ; thousands of hungry people ; a woman caught in adultery ; a man blind from birth ; a family whose brother had recently passed away ; a demon-possessed man living in a cemetery (no kidding!) ; a man whose daughter had died ; a widow whose son had died ; a blind beggar ; and despised tax collectors . Do you think Jesus is trying to tell us something?
If Jesus took his disciples along with him in these above examples of investing his valuable time into the lives of others, what might be the implications for those of us who claim to follow his teachings as it relates to how we spend our time? Remember, every day is a gift. Therefore, let’s be attentive to how we use the precious moments the Lord has entrusted to us each day.
When people gather to reflect upon our lives, perhaps we will be remembered as those who invested our time wisely and generously into the lives of others! May we echo the prayer of Moses, “Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Or, as Eugene Peterson has translated it in The Message, “Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!”
This post originally appeared at: Don’t Waste Your Time — The Bonhoeffer Project
 W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 59.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 332.
 Ibid, 662.
 Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Lk 12:20–21.
 1 Corinthians 11:1
 Luke 2:46-49
 Luke 4:42
 Luke 4:18-21, 43; 8:1; 9:51; 19:10; John 4:34; 6:38-40; 7:33; 17:4
 John 1:35-51; Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 3:13-14; John 15:5; John 5:19, 30; 8:28b, 38; 17:6, 8, 14, 18, 26
 John 2:1-11
 John 3:1-21
 John 4:4-42
 John 5:1-15
 John 6:1-15; Mark 8:1-10
 John 8:1-11
 John 9:1-39
 John 11:1-44
 Mark 5:1-20
 Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
 Luke 7:11-15
 Luke 18:35-43
 Luke 5:27-32; 19:1:10
 Psalm 90:12, ESV