Day 5: Eliminating Some Good Time
The last step in simplifying our time is called focus. At this point in your process of simplification, you have done much to make sure your calendar matches your heart’s desire. Each day’s activities should reflect your priorities and move you toward your goals. But now it’s time to ask, are any activities weakening your ability to fulfill your mission statement, even though these activities reflect your priorities? In other words, is there ever too much of a good thing?
There is a point at which your good intention can become burden. Although vacations are great, too many will make you broke and unemployed. While spending time with your spouse should be a main priority, too much will leave too little time for God and other important priorities in your life.
By now you know you need to cut out some things, but how do you know what to eliminate? The answer lies in establishing and maintaining focus. By creating an intentional focus, you enable your actions to be even more purposeful, more potent, and more direct.
50% want to slow down, but they don’t know how.
The Fallout of Focus
In the story of Martha, we can imagine the frustration she must have felt when Jesus told her that her efforts focused on something that meant little and that Mary had chosen an act that meant everything. After all, Jesus taught His followers to be servants: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Matt. 20:26-27).
Why were Martha’s servant actions inappropriate for the
Maybe, for that moment, something took precedence over a good action.
During his time on the earth, Jesus was constantly aware of the brevity of his time living among us. With each passing day, with each step, and with each breath, Jesus was drawing closer to the cross. Like all of our lives, His life on earth was a constant march toward death. Unlike us, however, He knew the final hour, minute, and second. He therefore lived with an intentionality that we aren’t capable of.
So maybe it wasn’t that Martha’s desire to serve was in itself wrong, but there was something greater to be done in that moment. These times with Jesus were fleeting, and he wanted her to spend time with him while she had the opportunity. Sometimes even the best intentions may come up lacking if God is not in them.
As we focus our efforts on the mission alone, we must be willing to allow some good things to fall by the wayside. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to say no, not just to things that go against our priorities but also to activities that, while aligning with our priorities actually push us further away from fulfilling our mission statement.
This leads us to a two-step process to increase your focus and the speed at which you can reach your goal.
Step 1: Be Willing to Let Go
In day 3 you eliminated had areas of your life that did not line up with your priorities. In day 4 you made sure your activities matched the uniqueness of who you are. Letting go for the sake of focus is different It is more difficult to let go of what truly lines up with your priorities but may still limit you in reaching your goal. Telling others you are limiting your overtime at work to free up more time to spend with your family is a lot different from announcing your plans to decrease your family time, even if it is to increase your time with God.
Focus is about completely purifying your actions so that nothing prevents you from simplifying your time. It’s OK to step away from an activity, even if you are doing a good thing.
Don’t get us wrong; doing good things is important to the Christian faith. The Book of James makes this clear. But it’s very important that you seek Gods direction in deciding what you need to let go of Spend time in prayer asking Him to reveal to you whether these activities are to he abandoned, at least for a time.
Name some of the priorities you identified in your mission statement related to time.
Name some things you have eliminated or need to eliminate in order to work toward your goal.
Write down any good things that are keeping you from your goal.
If your goal is to have one meal a day with your family, do what is necessary to make this a priority. If your goal is to attend worship with your family, switch to another Bible study or otherwise alter your schedule to make this goal possible. There is a big difference between activities that have to be done and those that want to be done. Focus on what has to be done in order to simplify your time.
45% of Christians rarely or never attend worship together as a family.
Step 2: Discover imbalance
We often hear from our culture that the best way to do life is to live a balanced one. It seems to us that many of our Bible heroes were quite unbalanced. They lived life in extremes. Yet it is because of their extremes that we talk about them today. Consider these examples.
° Noah built a massive wooden ship to house two of every kind of animal.
° John the Baptist lived in the desert, ate locusts and wild honey, and wore clothes of camel hair.
° Paul endured beatings, imprisonment, stoning, a shipwreck, hunger, and thirst for the sake of the gospel.
Some would probably say these men were a little unbalanced. But they were focused on the tasks God gave them to do. Focus is by definition unbalanced. It is narrowing your held of vision so that you block out the unnecessary. Yet focus is powerful. When harnessing your energy for one or a few goals, your impact will be multiplied. Why is a laser so powerful? It is focused energy.
As you let go of certain things to gain focus, understand that you may lose some balance in your life. But also understand that balance is not always the best pursuit. It can sometimes spread you too thin with activities and make this journey more complex than it needs to be. It can cause you to have less of an impact.
Take hold of your priorities. Narrow your vision. Focus. Sure, you might become a little unbalanced, but you are in good company.
In what ways has your focus on your time goals brought imbalance to your life?
The Ultimate Story of Focus
There is no greater demonstration of focus than Jesus’ example while on earth.
Read the following Scriptures.
“I have come down from heaven, not to do my will, but the will of him who sent Me” (John 6:38).
“I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).
How did Jesus define his focus in John 6:38?
How did Jesus define his focus in John 10:10?
While on this earth, Jesus healed many people, exorcized many evil spirits, and raised people from the dead. But for all he did, the majority went without His help.
With all His power and authority, why do you think Jesus didn’t reverse every sickness, every death, and every problem while he was on earth?
Jesus was on a divine schedule. From the moment of birth, His countdown began. Christ knew his main purpose was not to heal physical needs, because these healings would provide only temporal relief. There was greater work to he done, work that was grossly misunderstood during his time on earth.
And we are left with an undeniable result: it worked. Jesus overcame what He was sent battle between good and evil, life and death. And He won.
Some things are just more important than others. One good thing might he better than another good thing. It’s OK to choose one over the other. In fact, it is critical. Stay focused, reach the goal.
Identity two or three things you still need to say no to, even it they are good things.
Write a concrete plan to eliminate some of the activities you have named
Pause and pray for wisdom to discern the pace at which you need to eliminate things and for perseverance to follow through
let’s review where you are on this time issue. Answer the questions in the four areas you have studied related to time.
Do you have a plan for a better use of your time?
Do you have a written mission statement to reflect that plan? Yes No
Does your plan actually define the process you will use? Yes No
What obstacles or impediments might binder you from accomplishing your plan for a better use of your time?
What are you doing about these obstacles?
Does your plan reflect who you are? Yes No
Your personality? Yes No
Your preferences? Yes l\lo
What steps are you taking it you are out of alignment?
What good things do you need to eliminate from life?
The writer of Ecclesiastes said,
There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every activity under heaven (Eccl. 3:1).
As part of Cod’s purposeful creation, time has meaning for our lives here on earth. We discover that meaning as we submit our time to God and follow his direction for using it.
Truett Cathy built the successful Chick-fil-A® restaurant chain on Christian principles, values, and ethics. His decision to close the 1,200 plus restaurants on Sundays illustrated his recognition that some things matter more than business. Cathy once said, “l’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order.”1
You already know your time is important. Every day you walk a path without knowing when it will end. Your next step may be one of many or the very last. Each moment you have is precious. God has wired you to give priority to the heart. Make sure you don’t leave this little, round rock called Earth without living out what God has placed
on your heart.
Let your last breath be one of satisfaction, not regret. It’s all a matter of time.
1 “Truett Cathy Quotes,” S. Truett Cathy [online, cited 13 October, 2011].