You have a special relationship with time. We all do.
When God was preparing the Earth for human existence, His first major act was bringing light on a planet blanketed in darkness. “… God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:4-5).
The light served as an organizational device. This recurring pattern of dark and light established a rhythm of night and day. Rhythm is basically just time, and this particular recurring pattern of time is obvious to anyone who has ever lived.
The fourth day of creation is described in verse 14: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” He used heavenly bodies to establish a larger recurring pattern of time. Our article “God’s Sacred Calendar” states: “He aligned the sun and moon in conjunction with the universe to function as a great time clock” (theTrumpet.com, Feb. 29, 2008).
Unfolding less frequently than days, monthly rhythm is created by certain shapes of the moon at night and an annual rhythm is found in certain temperature shifts and weather patterns. These patterns are less obvious to us than night and day, but they are still vital to our existence, as God is setting all this up before mankind comes on the scene.
On the sixth day, God created man, and before Adam was even a full day old, God created the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2-3). By his first sunset, man learned about this recurring segment of time.
One thing we find common among God’s people: He keeps them aware of time. The Sabbath itself was a sign they were His (Exodus 31:16-17). A tragic feature of the Israelite slavery in Egypt was that they lost track of time: “The Egyptians observed no Sabbath,” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath? “They lashed the Israelites in their slave-labor, on the Sabbaths the same as other days. So these Israelites, for some 150 to 175 years—several generations—were not permitted to keep the Sabbath. … Time could have been lost—to them. But, if so, God revealed it by amazing miracles!”
Though day and night are so obvious as to never be lost, the question of which day it is must be initially revealed by God.
Just before He delivered Israel from slavery, the first time increment He made known was how the months and years were to be calculated (Exodus 12:1-2). Then a few chapters later, He taught them the weekly schedule through the miracle of manna appearing on the ground—five days of a certain amount, then a day of double that amount, then a day of none. God clearly revealed the weekly rhythm that was established when He hallowed the Sabbath at re-creation.
When God codified His law into stone, He told Israel to “Remember [be mindful of] the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). They could only keep it holy one day a week, but they were to be mindful of it all week—informing how they managed the other days: “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work” (verse 9).
God had priests help the nation keep track of the months by playing two silver trumpets in a special way around the sacrifices offered at the new moon (Numbers 10:9-10).
If you didn’t live in Israel but just out in a prairie somewhere, you could wake up with the sun and go to bed at dark (people didn’t have clocks everywhere as we do today—in fact, it wasn’t much different a century ago in certain parts of more civilized nations). But you would lose track of the days with the Sabbath. You might discern a new moon if clouds weren’t in the way. But in Israel God made sure they knew what day of the week was, and each new moon had a “ringtone” that kept them mindful of the monthly calendar.
How blessed Israel was to have this!
And their time awareness didn’t stop there. God had them count days during the spring harvest (the day after seven weeks, or seven sevens, was Pentecost). Every seventh year they rested the land. The year after the seventh of those seven-year cycles was the jubilee year.
We are approaching the beginning of the seventh 1,000-year period since man rejected God in the Garden of Eden. As with other “sevens” in time, this will be a “rest” period—a millennial duration. Of all God’s people, those in this end time should be particularly time sensitive.
“How do you manage your time?” Gerald Flurry asks in The Last Hour. “How urgent are you in organizing your time? We all need to get motivated to do more. We have less than an hour left! … God is calculating time as never before. He is breaking time into specific increments, just before His Son returns. Now the last hour is ticking away!”
Even yet, leaving the urgency of these times aside—a constant awareness of time impacts how we live. Managing that time becomes one of our most important tasks. But we can’t manage time unless we are first aware of how it works.
There are two aspects of time awareness that serve as two basic prerequisites for time management, and they will start you on a path of being more organized and productive.
This mindset is found in Moses’s Psalm 90.
Verse 4 tells us 1,000 years is like a day to God. His awareness of time is completely different from ours. God inhabits eternity, and yet He is time conscious, and on the seventh day of creation, He tied His presence to a recurring space of time! This was to make us conscious of time.
Verse 10 gives us our general life expectancy (70 to 80 years), then verse 12 admonishes: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” To properly apply our hearts to wisdom, we need to be taught how to “number” our days. This doesn’t mean we need to know our own personal life expectancy—that varies for everyone.
The idea of “numbering” days is related to a term we often apply to time: budgeting our time. That is a great term because “budget” brings to mind the resource of money. With anything we want to buy, there’s an amount that things cost and an amount that we have. Those form two questions when considering a purchase: 1) How much does it cost? 2) How much do I have?
There are some subtleties to the second question: What you “have” might be less than what you have banked, since you can leave things in your account for other upcoming purchases. Some might struggle with that. This costs $20, and hey! I have $20. They buy it, forgetting that $20 was set aside for something they needed later, and now they’re broke. So the second question implies: Should I buy it? Is it a wise purchase?
These principles apply to time. The one difference here is that money can be stored away, whereas time can’t. Time is being “spent” constantly. Perhaps it’s like we have a “gun” in front of us that’s shooting money out at a constant rate of speed, and we can either aim it at specific things or moments, or we can drop the “gun” to where it just keeps shooting into an abyss where the money vanishes. Or perhaps the analogy is the gun is shooting money at us constantly, and we have to catch it and put it where it works best, or it’s just gone forever.
Here are how the two budget-based questions can be applied to time: 1) How much time does it take? 2) How much time do I have?
We may not think about that first question enough. Imagine trying to run your finances by only knowing how much you have but never knowing how much things cost. Do we know how long things actually take? Do you know how long it actually takes to get places, or to read a certain amount of pages, or to do the dishes, for example?
As for the second question, like money, we may “have” the time, but maybe there’s a wiser use of it, or it was already meant to be set aside for something else.
Constants and Constraints
Consider each of those questions on an even deeper level. In the second one, we have some supernaturally imposed constants that tell us how much time we have: We know how long a day is going to be—it’s the same for everyone, as are the number of days in a week, and the number of months in a year.
We can answer the first question based on a lot of those constants. Do I have time to finish this thing by sunset? That requires knowing when sunset is (question 2), but also knowing how long things take (question 1).
Additionally, we have some man-made constraints: Here are the hours the store is open; here are the times when that theater is showing this film; here is when the plane is scheduled to push out of the gate.
These constraints abound in student life: The school career is this many years; the years are this many months; the semesters are divided this way; here are the due dates, tests, recitals, etc. And here is where the school day starts and ends.
Those tell you how much time you have, and as you go through life—the more time-aware you are—you improve at knowing how long things actually take you.
Some of your assignments may be time based. If you’re a student of music—a time-based art-form—this is obvious. But even a speech-assignment or similar kind of presentation comes with a certain time limit (question 2). That means you have to know (question 1) how long does it actually take you to cover the material? Do I have too much, or not enough?
You can approach a school semester like that. Find the due dates and work backward. When you realize how many school weeks, school days, open evenings, etc, that you have to do something, then you can decide—based on how long things take—where you should schedule working on such things.
That’s Not Until …
Being this time sensitive will battle a human tendency of ours: to talk about things that aren’t that far away as though they are. On Monday, if something is due Friday, that feels far away. Or later in a week, something due Monday feels like forever from now because there’s a juicy weekend between you and the deadline. But how busy is your week or weekend? We can do the same things with weeks and months—fooling ourselves that certain dates are further down the road than they actually are.
Jesus told His disciples: “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).
The urgency in that admonition is a stark contrast to our human nature—which is happy to goof off for four months and then get busy at the end. Being time-aware makes you far less likely to whittle away your time after school early in a semester, for example, and then to nearly have a nervous breakdown late in the semester, because the time to finish papers and projects just doesn’t exist.
If you prefer to save things for the last minute, that might be OK if you haven’t saved the entire process for the last minute. Abraham Lincoln said: “If I had 9 hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend 8 sharpening my ax.” In one sense, he would do all the work at the last minute (the last hour), but he wouldn’t waste the first 8 hours. His approach makes it so it only costs an hour of hacking away at the tree.
Some actually do better under the stress of an impending deadline and wouldn’t give as great an effort if they started well in advance, but that does not mean they should also be “sharpening their ax” at that moment. (For more, check out “The Case Against Cramming”: pcg.church/articles/1169).
Luke 12:43-46 describe a connection between our time-sensitivity and our character. Making the most of time and taking advantage of each moment is godly. This passage contrasts that with a “my lord delays his coming” mentality. Here, the one who works with the attitude of, I have way more time till the boss comes and checks on me, becomes a glutton, a drunk and a jerk. God is warning how our attitude toward time affects our character and work ethic.
Knowing the Time
We began by looking at the rhythm of day and night—the constraints of light versus darkness.
In John 9:4, Jesus likened His life as being the “day,” and a “night” was coming when He couldn’t do any work. So He would make the most of this “day.”
In Romans 13:11-14, the analogy is flipped. We’re working while the world is figuratively in the night, and pretty soon it will be day, so we must be ready for that. Whatever the metaphor, the principle remains (as verse 11 phrases it): We must be “knowing the time.”
If you know the larger God-ordained constants and the man-made constraints of time, this helps when you have your own personal time to manage.
As a youth, a lot of that may still yet be standardized for you. The Summer Educational Program is an example. Parents and other mentors are helping dictate that too throughout the year—providing the answers to both principles given earlier: Here is how long prayer and study should take, and here is how long you have until school starts, so here is how much time you should budget. As a piano teacher, I tell my students how long they should practice and often how long things are going to take them within those practices and the assignments they have for me.
Now think of the areas where you have more control of your own time. How “time sensitive” are you? Are you getting places on time, getting things done on time, or rushing at the last minute? Are you taking a lot more time for things that aren’t productive and thinking they are taking less time than they actually are? Are you aware of how long things actually take?
As you get older, you have more control over your own time. There are still the larger, God-ordained and man-made constraints. But what are you doing with them?
At times, you’ll find you have more things to fill the time than you have time for. You may pat yourself on the back and say, Good for me, I’m not wasting my time. But are you getting everything done? What is being produced? God often allows us to have more to do than we have time for to see what we’ll choose.
God has always made His people acutely aware of time. Consider those of us in the end time—even the phrases we use (“end time” and “latter days”) indicate a special awareness.
The Apostle John recorded a prophecy of when Satan would be cast down to Earth, knowing “that he hath but a short time (Revelation 12:12). Even the devil is time sensitive! John prophesied of a time period here at the end called the “last hour” (1 John 2:18; Revised Standard Version). Jude refers to time in the form of moments, not even an hour (Jude 18). There’s a psalm about a “set time” when God’s message goes to Judah just before the coming of the Messiah (Psalm 102:13). Daniel talks about counting literal (not symbolic) days (Daniel 12:11-12). Moses said in Psalm 90 to pray that God would teach us to number our days—to help us be time sensitive.
Learn now, as a youth, how to be acutely aware of time. Then you can apply your heart to wisdom and make the most of your time!