Documentation Published on Friday, 09 September 2022

Redeeming the time: Do not waste the opportunities you have

Redeeming the time: Do not waste the opportunities you have

The apostle Paul always tried to give practical advice to his audience. One such example is found in Ephesians chapter five, where the first part is devoted to how Christians should conduct themselves in public. The second part demonstrates how husbands and wives should conduct themselves as an example of the union between Jesus Christ and the church. Tucked away right in the middle of the chapter is this:

15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16

He advises the Ephesians to be careful with their lives (“walk circumspectly”), not irresponsibly as fools, but as wise people should live. Then he tells them to redeem their time. What does he mean by this? The word “redeem” usually means to make something look less bad than it is. For example, if you did something wrong and then tried to correct it, we may say that you have redeemed yourself – you exercised damage limitation. However, the word can also mean to trade in, change or exchange. This is more likely what Paul had in mind.

Paul starts his thought on redeeming the time we have, a long way before. Look at the first verse of the chapter. We are to be followers of God first. Then we must do what Christ did. This is spending our time wisely. If we do not, we are sidetracked and all the negative things cited in verses three to seven, and 11 to 13 confront us. However, because we are in the light, we should act the way Christ would. The Christian believer takes care of the time he has been given because it is the right thing to do.

Think of what you did in the last 24 hours. How much of your time was spent living sensibly? How much of it do you now realise was wasted, with no opportunity to ever get back the time lost? I am not saying that free time spent recovering after a work week is wasted time. Rather, time that was spent doing nothing, or doing the wrong thing, is a wasted opportunity. Our lives should demonstrate purposeful living in everything that we do.

Paul continues and tells us why we should redeem our time – because the days are evil. He does not say we have to trade in available time to spend it wisely, although that is clearly the implication. Instead, he warns that we should be careful how we spend our time because of the evil all around us, and how it influences us. I am sure you know exactly what I mean here, and the writer James gives an excellent example about this:

12Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. 13Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. – James 1:12-15

When you are not doing anything sensible, the temptation is always there to do the wrong thing. A thought can lead to an action, and the action can lead to sin. We also know this as idleness, and because it leads us to waste our time, God warns us against it. 1 Timothy 5:13 is a good example. It is clear then that when Paul says we should redeem our time, he means we should trade in the time we have, to do good, rather than waste it. Time is a very valuable, but not a renewable resource. It cannot be replenished. Once it is over, it is gone forever.

Of course, not all time spent relaxing is wrong. Last weekend my family and I were enjoying a relaxing time in the garden just chatting to one another, sharing old photos I had found in a cupboard. Just then, I heard someone calling from the front fence. I found a man outside asking if I would be interested in buying a Bible or donating to his cause. I was immediately struck by the focus he had, introduced myself, and we started a chat. While the rest of us were doing what most of us do on a Sunday afternoon, here was someone who was actively using the time he had – to distribute the message of the love of God. Now this is using your time constructively! While the days are evil, and we would be blind not to see the evil around us, this man is spreading the opposite of evil by sharing God’s love with total strangers.

How do you spend your time? Do you waste away hours doing nothing sensible, or do you plan to use what time you have in the best way possible? If you find that there have been ample opportunities in the past that have been wasted, maybe it is time to think about planning better. I watched a video clip recently where a man who is involved in Information Technology, like me, explains how he plans his time. Despite a busy programme, he makes time to spend on things other than his work. This is not idle time, but quality time needed to recover from work and prepare for the next day. It is worthwhile noting that those who plan well, get more done, more effectively.

Even God planned properly. He worked for six days and then rested on the seventh. This makes me think: if you find that you must work on a Sunday to catch up with what you could not complete during the week, there is a problem with how you work. Working hard is not necessarily effective. Working smart, however, shows you can plan and redeem time. This is effective planning. You are a steward of the time you have been given. Do not waste it. Take time in the morning to plan your day, whether you do this on paper or electronically. Learn to prioritise – what should be done, what may be done, and what does not have to be done. Learn to say no. Sometimes others will waste our time with things they could have done themselves, or things that do not affect you. Learn to discern and not be distracted.

In the times we live, we are bombarded from all sides. The media wants to suck you in and present you with as much as it can to keep you busy. How much time do you spend using your mobile phone? I am not referring to time spent doing your business, but rather idle browsing that does not benefit you. I think back on my time working in a foreign country. It never ceased to amaze me to see people together at a table in a restaurant, each focussed so much on their mobile phones that the others may as well not have been present. Time spent with friends should be precious, not wasted by focussing on something you could do later.


Nehemiah and the dynamics of effective leadershipThis week, take some time off to plan how to plan. This is not in any way unscriptural. We live in a world where the only we way we can effect change is by being the change. Let others see that you as a Christian believer can manage your time. Here is some good advice for you: one of the best examples in the Bible of someone who was a great project manager and thus also a time manager, was Nehemiah. Read the book and see how he planned effectively and rallied people around him to ensure the walls of the city were built in record time. As you read Nehemiah 1:4-11, study one of the longest prayers, followed by Nehemiah 2:4, the shortest prayer mentioned in the Bible! If Nehemiah could do it, so can you. Read Cyril Barber's book "Nehemiah and the dynamics of effective leadership", available on Amazon and possibly Christian outlets.

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