“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14.
The New Testament book of Philippians was written by Paul in 60-62 A.D. from a Roman prison. While on his second missionary journey, Paul established the Philippian church whose predominate members were Gentiles. He had a special love for these believers, a love which they reciprocated. Despite being in jail and unsure of his earthly future, Paul uses the time to write a letter to the Philippians—a book of joy through Christ.
Our Time Belongs to God
In the beginning God created man in His own image and placed them in a beautiful garden home. They were given authority over all other living creatures on earth. The first couple was happy in Eden until they disobeyed their Creator. This act allowed Satan to claim rulership of the earth. However, a plan had been devised to conquer the fallen angel. Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, came to pay the penalty of our sins, buying back, with his blood, the ownership of this world.
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I Corinthians 6:19, 20.
“Let us devote our time and our means to the service of God, that we may have His approbation and receive His reward.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 83.
Paul’s Perspective on the Past
Paul came from a very privileged family and was educated by the most influential of Jewish schools. However, his upbringing afforded him little. His life was centered on the persecution of Christians, and in doing so, he had been persecuting Christ. Paul could have looked at the past with regret, but, he looked at his past experiences with a desire to learn from them. “Whatever the mistakes or failures of the past, we may, with the help of God, rise above them. With the apostle we may say: ‘This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.’ Philippians 3:13.” The Ministry of Healing, 516.
Paul’s Perspective on the Present
Paul made a conscious decision to make the most of the present. He decided to reach “forth unto those things which are before.” He did not look back at his life with either pride or remorse; he chose to make the most of the time he had remaining to work for the Lord. He developed singleness of purpose to do what he could to better his character and share the gospel of Christ with what time and strength he had left. “Singleness of purpose, wholehearted devotion to God is the condition pointed out by the Savior’s words. Let the purpose be sincere and unwavering to discern the truth and to obey it at whatever the cost, and you will receive divine enlightenment. Real piety begins when all compromise with sin is at an end.” Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 91.
We, like Paul, must make the most of the time God has given us to develop characters that will glorify Christ. In doing this, our lives can be a wonderful witness of the power of a living Christ.
Paul’s Perspective on the Future
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14. Paul was in jail as he was writing this letter, a place of despair, doubt, fear, and anger. Yet, he looked at his present condition with hope and joy, for he knew well Who held the future. He knew that there was a hell to shun and a heaven to gain and so pressed toward the mark of the high calling of Jesus. Each of us, no matter what our current situation, can look forward to heaven and the wonderful reward that Christ has prepared for the faithful.
“It is the work that we do or do not do that tells with tremendous power upon our lives and destinies. God requires us to improve every opportunity for usefulness that is offered us. Neglect to do this is perilous to our spiritual growth. We have a great work to do. Let us not pass in idleness the precious hours that God has given us in which to perfect characters for heaven. We must not be inactive or slothful in this work, for we have not a moment to spend without a purpose or object. God will help us to overcome our wrongs if we will pray and believe on Him. We can be more than conquerors through Him who has loved us. When the short life in this world is ended, and we see as we are seen and know as we are known, how short in duration and how small will the things of this world appear to us in comparison with the glory of the better world!” Testimonies, vol. 3, 540.
Now is the time to perfect our characters for heaven. Now is the time to present Christ to a dying world. Like Paul, we must learn from the past and then forget it. Our thoughts need to be focused on Christ and His reward for the faithful. Living the present to the fullest for Christ, and looking to the future He has prepared for us, will make the present a glory to both ourselves and also those around us.
Improper Use of Time
Sleeping too long—“The bright morning hours are wasted by many in bed. These precious hours, once lost, are gone never to return; they are lost for time and for eternity. Only one hour lost each day, and what a waste of time in the course of a year! Let the slumberer think of this and pause to consider how he will give an account to God for lost opportunities.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 412. “This lifetime is too short to be squandered in vain and trifling diversion, in unprofitable visiting, in needless dressing for display, or in exciting amusements. We cannot afford to squander the time given us of God in which to bless others and in which to lay up for ourselves a treasure in heaven. We have none too much time for the discharge of necessary duties. … By neglecting these essential duties and conforming to the habits and customs of fashionable, worldly society, we do ourselves and our children a great wrong.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 146.
Acquirement of wealth—“That time is worse than lost to parents and children which is devoted to the acquirement of wealth, while mental improvement and moral culture are neglected. Earthly treasures must pass away; but nobility of character, moral worth, will endure forever. If the work of parents be well done, it will through eternity testify of their wisdom and faithfulness. Those who tax their purses and their ingenuity to the utmost to provide for their households costly apparel and dainty food, or to maintain them in ignorance of useful labor, will be repaid only by the pride, envy, willfulness, and disrespect of their spoiled children.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 69.
Justifying self—“If pride and selfishness were laid aside, five minutes would remove most difficulties. Angels have been grieved and God displeased by the hours which have been spent in justifying self. I saw that God will not bow down and listen to long justifications, and He does not want His servants to do so, and thus precious time be wasted that should be spent in showing transgressors the error of their ways and pulling souls out of the fire.” Early Writings, 119, 120.
Disorder and disorganization—“Washington, the nation’s statesman, was enabled to perform a great amount of business because he was thorough in preserving order and regularity. Every paper had its date and its place, and no time was lost in looking up what had been mislaid. Men of God must be diligent in study, earnest in the acquirement of knowledge, never wasting an hour. Through persevering exertion they may rise to almost any degree of eminence as Christians, as men of power and influence. But many will never attain superior rank in the pulpit or in business because of their unfixedness of purpose and the laxness of habits contracted in their youth. Careless inattention is seen in everything they undertake. A sudden impulse now and then is not sufficient to accomplish a reformation in these ease-loving, indolent ones; this is a work which requires patient continuance in well-doing. Men of business can be truly successful only by having regular hours for rising, for prayer, for meals, and for retirement. If order and regularity are essential in worldly business, how much more so in doing work for God.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 411, 412.
Self Seeking—“It is wrong to waste our time, wrong to waste our thoughts. We lose every moment that we devote to self-seeking. If every moment were valued and rightly employed, we should have time for everything that we need to do for ourselves or for the world. In the expenditure of money, in the use of time, strength, opportunities, let every Christian look to God for guidance. ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’ James 1:5.” The Ministry of Healing, 208.
Lack of purpose or object—“It is the work that we do or do not do that tells with tremendous power upon our lives and destinies. God requires us to improve every opportunity for usefulness that is offered us. Neglect to do this is perilous to our spiritual growth. We have a great work to do. Let us not pass in idleness the precious hours that God has given us in which to perfect characters for heaven. We must not be inactive or slothful in this work, for we have not a moment to spend without a purpose or object. God will help us to overcome our wrongs if we will pray and believe on Him. We can be more than conquerors through Him who has loved us.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 540.
Selection of wrong subject matter upon which to converse—“Lack of wisdom in the selection of subjects of conversation has done much harm. The conversation should be upon spiritual and divine things; but it has been otherwise. If the association with Christian friends is chiefly devoted to the improvement of the mind and heart, there will be no after regrets, and they can look back on the interview with a pleasant satisfaction. But if the hours are spent in levity and vain talking, and the precious time is employed in dissecting the lives and character of others, the friendly intercourse will prove a source of evil, and your influence will be a savor of death unto death.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 186, 187.
Time is a valuable gift, one that we are called upon to account for, so how we use this gift is critical. “The value of time is beyond computation. Christ regarded every moment as precious, and it is thus that we should regard it. Life is too short to be trifled away. We have but a few days of probation in which to prepare for eternity. We have no time to waste, no time to devote to selfish pleasure, no time for the indulgence of sin. It is now that we are to form characters for the future, immortal life. It is now that we are to prepare for the searching judgment.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 342.
Strict accounting of our use of time—“Our time belongs to God. Every moment is His, and we are under the most solemn obligation to improve it to His glory. Of no talent He has given will He require a more strict account than of our time.” Ibid., 342.
Proper Use of Time
“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:14–16.
Find the best and wisest use of our time. “They are taught to appreciate the value of time, and to make the best and wisest use of it.” Sons and Daughters of God, 97. “God declares, ‘Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting,’ [Daniel 5:27]—wanting in a knowledge of practical business, wanting in a knowledge of how to make the best use of time, wanting in a knowledge of how to labor for Jesus.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 468.
There Should Be Time Spent in Planning
“As far as possible, it is well to consider what is to be accomplished through the day. Make a memorandum of the different duties that await your attention, and set apart a certain time for the doing of each duty.
“Let everything be done with thoroughness, neatness, and dispatch. … Give yourself a number of minutes to do the work, and do not stop to read papers and books that take your eye, but say to yourself, ‘No, I have just so many minutes in which to do my work, and I must accomplish my task in the given time.’ ” Sons and Daughters of God, 114.
“Let those who are naturally slow of movement seek to become active, quick, energetic, remembering the words of the apostle, ‘Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.’ [Romans 12:11.] … But if you are under the control of slow, dilatory movements, if your habits are of a lazy order, you will make a long job out of a short one; and it is the duty of those who are slow to reform and to become more expeditious. If they will, they can overcome their fussy, lingering habits. In washing dishes they may be careful and at the same time do quick work. Exercise the will to this end, and the hands will move with dispatch.” Child Guidance, 125. “It is the duty of every Christian to acquire habits of order, thoroughness, and dispatch. There is no excuse for slow bungling at work of any character. … The one who is slow and who works at a disadvantage should realize that these are faults to be corrected. He needs to exercise his mind in planning how to use the time so as to secure the best results. By tact and method, some will accomplish as much in five hours as others do in ten. … By their slow, dilatory ways they make much work out of very little. But all who will, may overcome these fussy, lingering habits. In their work let them have a definite aim. Decide how long a time is required for a given task, and then bend every effort toward accomplishing the work in the given time. The exercise of the will power will make the hands move deftly.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 344.
Gather and Use the Fragments of Time
“A few moments here and a few there, that might be frittered away in aimless talk; the morning hours so often wasted in bed; the time spent in traveling on trams or railway cars, or waiting at the station; the moments of waiting for meals, waiting for those who are tardy in keeping an appointment—if a book were kept at hand, and these fragments of time were improved in study, reading, or careful thought, what might not be accomplished. A resolute purpose, persistent industry, and careful economy of time, will enable men to acquire knowledge and mental discipline which will qualify them for almost any position of influence and usefulness.” Ibid., 343, 344. “Where there is an abundance of idleness, Satan works with his temptations to spoil life and character. If youth are not trained to useful labor, whether they be rich or poor, they are in peril; for Satan will find employment for them after his own order. The youth who are not barricaded with principle do not regard time as a precious treasure, a trust from God, for which every human being must give an account. Children should be educated to make the very best use of their time, to be helpful to father and mother, to be self-reliant. They should not be allowed to consider themselves above doing any kind of labor that is necessary. The value of time is beyond computation. Time squandered can never be recovered. … The improvement of wasted moments is a treasure.” Child Guidance, 123.
“He taught all to look upon themselves as endowed with precious talents, which if rightly employed would secure for them eternal riches. He weeded all vanity from life, and by His own example taught that every moment of time is fraught with eternal results; that it is to be cherished as a treasure, and to be employed for holy purposes.” The Desire of Ages, 91.
Time Spent in Labor is Noble
“Parents should devise ways and means for keeping their children usefully busy. Let the children be given little pieces of land to cultivate, that they may have something to give as a freewill offering.
“Allow them to help you in every way they can, and show them that you appreciate their help. Let them feel that they are a part of the family firm. Teach them to use their minds as much as possible, so to plan their work that they may do it quickly and thoroughly. Teach them to be prompt and energetic in their work, to economize time so that no minutes may be lost in their allotted hours of work.
“Let us teach the little ones to help us while their hands are small and their strength is slight. Let us impress upon their minds the fact that labor is noble, that it was ordained to man of heaven, that it was enjoined upon Adam in Eden, as an essential to the healthy development of mind and body. Let us teach them that innocent pleasure is never half so satisfying as when it follows active industry.” Child Guidance, 126, 127.
Understanding the importance of the above uses of our time, lays a good foundation for allowing us to make the most use of our time and allows us time to do the most critical things with our time.
Our Responsibility to the Work in the World
“My brethren, the Lord is coming, and we need to bend every energy to the accomplishment of the work before us. I appeal to you to give yourselves wholly to the work. Christ gave His time, His soul, His strength, to labor for the benefit and blessing of humanity.” Gospel Workers, 115. “Let us give while we have the power. Let us do while we have the strength. Let us work while it is day. Let us devote our time and our means to the service of God, that we may have His approbation, and receive His reward.” Counsels on Stewardship, 21.
“All the people of God should have an interest in His cause. … God requires those who have health and strength of body, to do what they can, and use their strength to His glory, for they are not their own. They are accountable to God for the use they make of their time and strength, which are granted them of Heaven.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 324.
“Now is our time to labor for the salvation of our fellow men. There are some who think that if they give money to the cause of Christ, this is all they are required to do; the precious time in which they might do personal service for Him passes unimproved. But it is the privilege and duty of all who have health and strength to render to God active service. All are to labor in winning souls to Christ. Donations of money cannot take the place of this. …
“Every moment is freighted with eternal consequences. We are to stand as minute men, ready for service at a moment’s notice.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 343.
“Sin and wickedness are rapidly increasing; and now we shall have to redeem the time by laboring all the more earnestly.” Counsels on Health, 556.
Our Responsibility to the work In the Church
“You may feel that others have done wrong, and I know as well as you do that a Christlike spirit has not been manifested in the church. But will this avail you in the judgment? Will two wrongs make one right? Though one, two, or three in the church have done wrong, this will not blot out or excuse your sin. Whatever course others may take, your work is to set your own heart in order. God has claims upon you which no circumstances should lead you to forget or neglect, for every soul is precious in His sight.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 349.
Our Responsibility to the work in the Home
“Parents should teach their children … that to do something which will honor God and bless humanity is worth striving for. Even in their early years they can be missionaries for God.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 345.
“The great object which parents should seek to attain for their dear children should be the inward adorning. Parents cannot afford to allow visitors and strangers to claim their attention, and by robbing them of time, which is life’s great capital, make it impossible for them to give their children each day that patient instruction which they must have to give right direction to their developing minds.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 146.
Use Our Time for Character Development
“ Study to show thyself approved unto God.” 11 Timothy 2:15. “The life of God, which gives life to the world, is in His word. It was by His word that Jesus healed disease and cast out demons. By His word He stilled the sea and raised the dead; and the people bore witness that His word was with power. He spoke the word of God as He had spoken it to all the Old Testament writers. The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ. It is our only source of power.
“This word does not repress activity. It opens before the conscientious searcher channels for activity. It does not leave men in uncertainty, without an object, but places before them the highest of all aims,—the winning of souls to Christ. It puts in the hand a lamp that lights the way to heaven. It tells of unsearchable riches, treasure beyond estimate.
“The word of God is the standard of character. In giving us this word, God has put us in possession of every truth essential to salvation.” Gospel Workers, 250.
Prayer and Communion with God
“Begin to pray for souls; come near to Christ, close to His bleeding side. Let a meek and quiet spirit adorn your lives, and let your earnest, broken, humble petitions ascend to Him for wisdom that you may have success in saving not only your own soul, but the souls of others.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 513.
“Many, even in their seasons of devotion, fail of receiving the blessing of real communion with God. They are in too great haste. With hurried steps they press through the circle of Christ’s loving presence, pausing perhaps a moment within the sacred precincts, but not waiting for counsel. They have no time to remain with the divine Teacher. With their burdens they return to their work.
“These workers can never attain the highest success until they learn the secret of strength. They must give themselves time to think, to pray, to wait upon God for a renewal of physical, mental, and spiritual power. They need the uplifting influence of His Spirit. Receiving this, they will be quickened by fresh life. The wearied frame and tired brain will be refreshed, the burdened heart will be lightened.
“Not a pause for a moment in His presence, but personal contact with Christ, to sit down in companionship with Him—this is our need. Happy will it be for the children of our homes and the students of our schools when parents and teachers shall learn in their own lives the precious experience pictured in these words from the Song of Songs: ‘As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, So is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under His shadow with great delight, And His fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, And His banner over me was love.’ Song of Solomon 2:3, 4.” Education, 260, 261.
“The strength acquired in prayer to God, united with individual effort in training the mind to thoughtfulness and care-taking, prepares the person for daily duties and keeps the spirit in peace under all circumstances, however trying. The temptations to which we are daily exposed make prayer a necessity. In order that we may be kept by the power of God through faith, the desires of the mind should be continually ascending in silent prayer for help, for light, for strength, for knowledge.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 459.
“Let there be … no desecration of His holy time. The servant of God will call sacred that which the Lord calls sacred. Thus he will show that he has chosen the Lord as his leader. The Sabbath was made in Eden, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. God has placed it in our charge. Let us keep it pure and holy.” Medical Ministry, 215.
“Mental effort without corresponding physical exercise calls an undue proportion of blood to the brain, and thus the circulation is unbalanced. The brain has too much blood, while the extremities have too little. The hours of study and recreation should be carefully regulated, and a portion of the time should be spent in physical labor.” My Life Today, 144.
“Words and actions and motives are recorded; but how little do these light, superficial heads and hard hearts realize that an angel of God stands writing down the manner in which their precious moments are employed.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 589, 590.
What would you do if someone deposited $86,400 into a bank account for you each day that carries no balance from one day to the next and cancels whatever amount you failed to spend by the end of the day? Of course you would withdraw every penny and use it as you saw fit! Each of us has an account like this. It is called “time.” Every day a deposit of 86,400 seconds goes into our account called “life.” We have the opportunity to invest every second for the glory of God or to waste it, never to regain the seconds lost. The clock is running… Go!
Janet Headrick has been associated with Steps to Life since 1991. She has been serving the ministry as office manager since October of 2007. She can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at: 316-788-5559.