Time Management for Christians – Part 2 – Prioritizing Time

Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.” That implies a prioritization of our time, if we want to be successful with God. Learn more about doing this in a balanced way in this presentation.

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For Further Consideration

We also have a series called Important Stuff, about things Jesus found important.

The book that we referenced, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, may be found on Amazon here.


Good day to all. This is Bill Jacobs with LifeResource Ministries.

We talk about things very few are talking about in Christianity – specifically, how to be successful in the really important things of Christian life. Today, we’re continuing a series called Time Management for Christians. This is the second one and the title is Prioritizing Time Use.

Previously, we showed that Jesus knew how to use time efficiently while he was bound by it here on earth.

And the even though the Father is completely outside of time, He does not dawdle, but works hard to accomplish His work. He does this because He has things He wants to accomplish. In other words, He has goals. And we should set goals, too. We’re going to talk about why planning to use our time is so important for Christians. I think that many of you are in free-float when it comes to that and, maybe, turned off by it. I’m sorry for that. If you turn off the player, you may lose out on something that could reduce your stress many fold over – and even make managing your time fun. I know that’s happened to me.

Let’s start first with the big picture. During World War II, there was a Jewish man who was sent to Auschwitz. He lost everything except his life. His whole family was murdered. He watched other prisoners devolve into depravity under the rigors of starvation and torture. He watched many of them give up and die. He did neither of these things. He resolved to survive, because someone had to be a witness to this terrible atrocity in which he found himself. That was the meaning of his life at that point. Later, when he got out of Auschwitz – he was one of the survivors – he wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. His name is Victor Frankl. And his book is still read all over the world. If you haven’t read it, it would help you. He said something that has stuck with me for over thirty years. He stated that we do not go out and make meaning in our lives. Instead, we detect it.

When I became a member of the church, I read in Ephesians and Romans that God had given us gifts for the benefit of the church. At first, I thought this meant that I “had to get good at something spiritual.” It didn’t take long to realize that was an impossible task – at least, it was for me. Once I realized this, about the same time I was reading Man’s Search for Meaning, I came across Victor Frankl’s statement – “We don’t make meaning for ourselves. We detect it.” God is the one who has a place for each one of us in His body, the church. I won’t quote the scripture, but He likens the church to a body. We’re each a part of it with a unique purpose. God gives that to each one of us. And we are to detect what part we are to play.

Now this may sound difficult. I’ve run into many people who puzzle about this when ministers speak about spiritual gifts. “What’s my gift?” “What am I supposed to be doing?” But I think, when we think specifically about that, we may be making more difficult than it needs to be. Here’s how you can do it. Simply ask yourself, “What roles do I play in my life?” What do you find when you do that? What do detect? Are you a high school student? Are you a parent? Are you a brother or a sister? Are you an usher at church? Is it your job to make the coffee every week at services? Are you a member of the choir? Or, maybe, do you do IT work for a large company? What roles do you play in your life?

I’ll give you my personal example. I have detected that I’m a husband, a father, the president of a non-profit – which is LifeResource Ministries – professional counselor, and a home maintenance person. So, basically, five roles. You know, I could include my grandchildren, but that, to me, goes under the father role. You can make this as specific as you want or as general as you want. Different people’s minds work different ways. In fact, I have one really big role for everything that has to do with me and the people I know, and that’s personal – because I cover all of that together. But there’s also one overarching role that I play that figures into all five – one that determines how I do all five of them. And that is, I’m a follower or imitator of Jesus Christ – at least, I’m trying to be.

We’re going to cover this in much more detail at the Feast of Tabernacles in Fort Walton Beach this year in 2018. Unfortunately, the audio that we’re going to put out for that won’t go out until 2019. You might be able to hear it after the festival in 2018 on the Website, but you won’t get it from me until a year later. So, if you want to hear that one any time soon, you’re going to have to attend the Common Faith Network site in Fort Walton Beach. And, if you haven’t detected the personal roles you play, or have any spiritual goals yet, you might think about some long range planning in order to attend and to consider what you hear. Now, there’s kind of different idea than the way a lot of us think about going to the Feast – choosing a festival site – because of what we hope to learn there. I’m not being sarcastic. I’m just being factual. I’ve quote you the results of the survey I did about what people take away from the Feast. And I’m trying to encourage people to take a deeper more meaningful approach to it.

Look with me at this scripture. It’s in Matthew 22, starting in verse 1:

Matthew 22:1-6 – And again, Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding, but they would not come. Again, he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I’ve prepared my dinner. My oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast!”’ But the paid no attention and went off – one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.”

So one of the things that we can learn from this parable that Jesus tells is that gaining the Kingdom of God requires foresight and planning – organization and prioritization. A lot of these people were too busy doing their own thing. They didn’t have their priorities straight. You know, the king went to a lot of trouble and spent a lot of money to get things ready for them. He wanted to take care of his guests properly. But they didn’t value what he had to offer. So their own business, and their farming, and whatever else was more important to them.  So gaining the Kingdom requires some planning and organization on our part. It has to be more important than business, or farming, or where we can have the most fun at the Feast. It has to be about more than mere duty and include fervent desire. There’s no place for free-float when it comes to the Kingdom of God. God has made His plans and He has lovingly laid out a great Feast for all of us on the day we enter into an eternal relationship with Him and our elder Brother. What are we willing to do about that? What are we willing to do to get there?

So we have some roles that we play in our lives. And maybe you’ve written some of them down. I hope you did. What will we do with them? What are you willing to do? What goals will you set for yourself related to the roles in your life? What do you want to accomplish as a father? As a husband? As a son or a daughter? As an employer or an employee? Or as a business owner?

I was talking to a seventeen-year-old girl sometime back, who had been referred because she took half a bottle of antidepressants in an attempt to commit suicide. And sometime after she’d been in therapy, she started talking about how much it frightened her parents that she did this, and how ashamed she was of it, and how she was determined to never get in that state again, because she loved her mom and dad, and didn’t want to put them in that kind of stress ever again in her life. So part of her work in therapy was to figure out what caused the problem, what to do about it, and how to insure that she had a backup plan to take care of serious things that came up in her life after that.

Also, sometimes we’re an employer or an employee. Some of us own businesses. What do we hope to accomplish in those?

Now, let me ask you this. We’re talking about setting goals. What does goal-setting do for us? Well, Jesus said, “I work and my Father works.” They have goals they’re working on to accomplish. They want to get something done. And with them, there’s no time pressure, but there is still incredible motivation to make something good happen. Goals give us the enthusiasm and the desire to play out our roles in life. If you have goals, you’re automatically not in free-float anymore – unless you lose sight of them. I’ll give you a personal example.

When I was a minister, I was employed by two different churches in my ministerial/pastoral career. And I noticed that in neither one of those situations was I very good at helping people with personal problems. I told the story this last year, at the Quality Church Retreat – and those of you who were there might remember the experience I had with a psychologist, who knew how to help members of my congregation better than I did. Everything he told me to do worked perfectly, though it was, for the most part, directly the opposite of what I thought in the beginning. And as I watched this man figure out what to do, and realized that he knew the people better than I did – though he’d never met them – I saw that he had a framework in his head that helped him understand the situation and what to do about it. Consequently, when I resigned from the second church I’d worked for, I set a goal to learn how to do what he could do to help other people. That was a specific goal. I wanted to learn that. And it was a goal not just for me, but for others as well – people that I can help. So now, because of that, I get to sit in a little room with no boss telling me to do ridiculous or futile things, and I get to help people – many of whom are Christians – with their personal challenges. So I love going to work now. I love to see people change and grow. Now I only have one problem – insurance companies that don’t keep their word and pay me for the work that I do. So, just recently, I set a new goal, and I think I’m pretty close to accomplishing it. I only work for the insurance companies that actually pay me when I do work for them. And that’s down to one. So almost all my other clients are private pay now, and I don’t have to bill or do any of that work, and then I’m sure I’m getting paid, because it happens up front. So that makes my work even more fulfilling. And I’m more enthused about it, because I know when I sit there helping somebody, I am going to get what I’m supposed to get for it – a sense of satisfaction and a fee for the service. So I’m enthused about that. I’m excited. I’m more motivated.

So do you see what I’ve just done? Not only did I suggest that we be excited about God, our work, our family, our career, our lives, but I also drew our collective attention to how God and Jesus maintain eternal enthusiasm all their eternal lives for the roles that they play. They do it because they have goals. So, if you’re in spiritual free-float, think about what you want for your life with God now, and set some goals. It will help you draw closer to God. And it’ll be a lot more fun, too.

Okay, let’s move on. Let’s talk about prioritizing. We read the scripture earlier about focusing on the Kingdom. It was portrayed as a wedding. Here’s something else to think about when it comes to spiritual priorities. In Hebrews 2:1, Paul wrote:

Hebrews 2:1-3 – Therefore, we must pay closer attention to what we’ve heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation. It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard.

So very important. When we drift or neglect, we’ve downgraded salvation to a lower priority. Now, it’s not natural for humans to gravitate toward the spiritual. And when we’re in free-float, we’re consequently drifting away, “neglecting,” as Paul called it, “so great a salvation.”

Now, the solution to that is to set priorities for our roles and goals, and then continually review, adjust, prune, add, reorient our roles and our goals back to what will help us be closer to God. We can’t do it just one time. Some people think when they’re baptized – or once they “give their heart to the Lord” – that’s all they have to do. No, it’s a never-ending process of readjusting. Everything in life changes all the time, so we have to adapt to that and adjust our goals and our priorities in all of those things – keep them fresh and relevant.

There’s a scripture in Matthew 6:33. It says:

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God – Jesus is telling His disciples this – and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

One year I was at the UCG summer camp in the Grand Tetons, and I heard a young man, in a Bible study for some of the campers – and I remember it as clearly as yesterday. He quoted the scripture I just read to you, and he said, “I used to say, ‘I’m too busy right now to seek the Kingdom. I’ll do that later. Right now I need to get an education, and find a wife, and have a family, and develop a career. And after that, then I’ll have time to make my move toward God.’ But things didn’t work out. I crashed and burned over and over. I was like ramming my head into a brick wall. And I was so discouraged. And finally I just gave up and focused on drawing close to God, seeking first the Kingdom – just like Jesus said – and guess what? Now I have an education, a career, a wife and a family.” I looked at all those young faces, with their bright eyes focused intently on him, and I realized that my time had passed for that kind of work. He was so much more effective than I could have been. He was almost their age and he was talking to them person-to-person about exactly what was on their minds. It was awesome!

So we need to keep the first things first in our lives. And we do that by setting priorities and then reviewing them, and setting goals and reviewing them. As we do that, then we stay focused on what’s really important.

You know, when you talk about things like this – when you talk about getting organized and setting priorities and identifying roles – it makes people tired. I ran into a guy that said he worked in a helter-skelter fashion. He would start out mopping the kitchen floor, but then he’d see some dirt that – you know, food or something – so he’d sweep that up. And then he’d walk around with the broom into other rooms. Then he’d come back and he’d finish up mopping the kitchen. He was always just here and there – all over the place. He stopped several times in the house to do other chores, before he finally got back to the mopping in the kitchen.

Those folks think that prioritizing and organizing and making a plan is too much work. And I think that’s not because they’re lazy, but because they’ve never learned how to prioritize.

Look at this scripture. It’s in Luke 5:15.

Luke 5:15 – But now, even more, as the report about Him went abroad, then great crowds gathered to hear Him and to be healed of their infirmities – it’s talking about Jesus, of course. But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

Jesus knew that He needed to recharge after doing God’s work. And He said that doing God’s will was His food. Right? He was the One that said that. So you could think from that that was all He needed – to do God’s work – but He also knew that, as a human, He needed to rest and spiritually rejuvenate. So He took care of Himself so that He could take care of others. And that care we think of as including fasting and prayer and studying the Bible, but it can also include sleep, and relaxation, and recreation – vacation, even. Fun is a part of that. But I am going to temper that statement, so that the fun-lovers will understand exactly what I mean. We think that the solution to weariness is rest, but, if you’ll really think about it, the solution to weariness is passion more than it’s rest.

If I didn’t like helping people in my office, it would be harder for me to go there. But because I’m passionate about helping, it doesn’t seem like work to me, and it doesn’t make me that tired either. So passion comes from establishing worthy goals, and setting inspiring goals, and prioritizing them according to need.

So let’s look at this whole process a little bit. I’m not going to go into depth, but just to give you some idea. We’ve covered already detecting our roles, then setting goals, and then prioritizing in a balanced way. And I mentioned this earlier, but we’re going to talk more about reviewing. If we’re going to know what our roles are, and then set goals, and prioritize what we’re doing, we have to review periodically. Because things always change. What does that look like? Well, for me, it’s simple. I just look at my hard drive, because I’ve organized the folders on my hard drive according to the roles in my life. One if for my counseling practice. One is for LifeResource Ministries. One is for personal – and under that, I have family, and home maintenance, and a bunch of other stuff. And it also has to do with self-care – things like that. And then I have a folder called Tech. And that’s about computer maintenance that spans the other three areas, because I use a computer to manage all of this. In my world, if I don’t pay enough attention to that, the other three all suffer. So that’s important. Also notice that, after I gave in and put the tech stuff on my list of roles, things are going a lot smoother for me. I’m not telling you it’s a must. I’m just saying that that’s what I do. I mentioned that I do it on a computer, but all this can be done completely on paper. There’s no need for a computer, or even a smart phone at all. And I have done it both ways.

How do you do it on paper? Well, I’m just going to very simply explain a simple way to do this. You can even manage a huge business this way. I’ve managed my counseling practice with dozens of sessions every week, and sometimes as many as fifty clients. And I’ve organized LifeResource Ministries with twenty-six audio presentations a year and all the things you have to do to put one of those up on a Website. So it can be done on a computer, or you can do it on paper. The process is, essentially, the same, but just different modalities.

So do this, once a week, for roles and goals. Get a notebook , make a divider for each role – business owner, or whatever job you do, and all the other roles that you play in your life – and have a monthly calendar for the whole year in this notebook as well. And then put two things in each role – each divider – a sheet with all your goals for that role. Okay? And then a sheet for each project you’re working on to reach your goal. What’s a project? Well, a project is something that has more than one step to it. “Walk the dog” is not a project. It’s just an action that you would take. But “Buy a dog” would be a project. You’d have to do research, and then you’d have to shop – find the dog – and then you have to make accommodation for it at your house – whatever So all of those other good things are actions. So a project is something that has more than one action involved in it. So you have a sheet for each project you’re working on, under the role that it fits under. And then you write down the actions, or steps, you need to take to accomplish each goal. Please don’t do this all at once or you’ll burn out. This is some thought sexample.

Okay, basically, that’s it for that notebook. What does it look like? Well, mine looks one of these A5 notebooks, which is about…well, it is about half the size of an 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper. That’s what the sheet of paper size is. And it’s got six rings to it. That’s what I use. You could use a bigger one. You can use a smaller one. But that’s what I use, because I don’t like to write too big or too little, and I need room in my briefcase for other stuff. So that’s it for the notebook.

Now, you need also a smaller notebook to carry in your pocket or purse with a pen or pencil. I use these little field notebooks. I think they’re about 3 x 5 – something like that. I can stuff them in a shirt pocket or any pocket I have. This is going to be for every day use. At the front of this notebook, you write down the first day and date you want to start using it. For example, Sunday, April 5, 2018. That would be your first day. And the next day, you’d start with Monday, right? And you’d keep going down the page, from front to back, toward the end of the book. Okay? And at the back – the very last page – you start writing down all the actions of all your projects in all your roles out of your big notebook that you can accomplish right now. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s say you have a project to fix a sprinkler system in your home maintenance role divider in your big notebook. That’s going to take several steps or actions. The first one might be to see why there’s a 30-foot arch squirting into the neighbor’s back yard from your sprinkler system. You’d want to know why there’s a problem before you do anything else, wouldn’t you? So that would be the thing that you would write in the back of your little notebook – out of your big one. Only write down the things in the back of the book that you can do now. Everything else stays in the big binder. So what you’re looking at, at the back of that book, is stuff you can do today. And you can make space to prioritize those things, if you want to, and also space to order them. But what I do is, I pick out the ones off the back of the list, and I go to the front of the book, and I write down five or six things for the current day. And, as I accomplish them, I check them off, and then I go back and scratch them out in the back, as I get done with them.

A little bit about the back part of the book…. You start on the last page and you work forward. So, from the back, you’re working forward, and from the front, you’re working back. And, at some point, you’re going to meet in the middle. And when you do that, you need a new notebook. It’s simple. I use two paper clips – one to keep the current page, where the current day is, and one to keep where the current list of available actions is in the notebook. So once you write them under today, it is now scheduled.

So, every week I look in the big notebook for things that I can now do, and I think about projects. Are there new ones? Or, are some of the projects I have now obsolete and I don’t need to finish them? I can take them out. Always re-evaluating and looking about things. And I think about what needs to happen first. What’s most important of my roles today? I prioritize things that way. And so each week, I look at each role, and see what I have to accomplish long-term and short-term. I look at my goals and see if they’re still relevant. And once I have that idea of what needs to happen, I start putting them either in the little notebook to be done today, or I put them on the big calendar – the monthly calendar. And then when it comes up, it’ll get moved to  my little one – as the time to do it.

So, when you start thinking about it that way, it really is a very simple thing to do. It just takes a little bit of organization and a little bit of planning. And then you have a framework to hang all your stuff on that you need to get done. Of course, I do this on a Mac and a smartphone. It saves having to copy things back and forth, from book to book. And I don’t have to carry the notebooks around with me. I just have my little phone. But on the up side of doing it on paper, it’s so much more satisfying – at least, to me – to scratch things off the list. And you can also doodle and draw easier on paper. And it’s also easier to see the big picture in a paper notebook. And you can take notes easier on paper, as well – which I often do in my little paper notebook.

There’s a thing out there now on YouTube, called Bullet Journal. You might look at that. It’s essentially the same thing I’m talking about here. They talk about how it’s easier to see the big picture in a paper notebook. And I think that’s probably true – at least, for me it is. Other people say the same.

Okay, so that’s just a bit about roles and goals today. If you want to think more deeply about it, read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. That book changed my life.

Next time, we’re going to discuss in more detail how to manage all of these roles and goals, and how to organize them more tightly. And then, the last one in this series will be about how to deal with all the incoming information in today’s electronic, rapid transit world with texts, emails, social media, smartphones, etcetera. Quite a challenge! There’s been nothing like it in human history, until just recently.

If you want to hear more about this series, you can go to liferesource.org and search on Time Management for Christians. Lots of stuff will pop up for you, once we get the series completed.

Now it costs a lot of money to keep all fourteen years of our material available on the Website for you, so if you find value, please contribute. Even a small amount helps a lot. You see, it’s not really free. It costs someone something somewhere so that you could have it. You can’t pay for it, but you can pay it forward so that someone else can have it. Who knows? You might even help someone come to Christ or overcome a serious personal issue with just a small contribution.

Until next time, this is Bill Jacobs, serving children, families and the Church of God