Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is one of the most influential men in my life. He was a very well-known and influential pastor in Northampton and then Stockbridge Massachusetts who ended his career as president of what is now Princeton University. In fact, he is widely recognized among scholars as one of the most important people in American history—and Christian history. Few people in Church history have had as lasting an influence as Edwards. Of course, the only way we have met is in his books. Writing, it seems, was how he processed. To give you an idea of what I mean, Yale University Press began a project in the 1950’s to print all of his writings. They stopped after 26 printed volumes.
One of the things that has interested people over the years are his personal resolutions. He wrote 70 of them. He started writing them when he was 19 years old. They were meant to be used as a tool for self-examination. If he actually followed his own instructions, he took the time to review them weekly. Many of them set themes that you can trace throughout his life and teaching.
One of those lifelong themes was the importance of using time well. The 5th resolution on his list, one of the ones he wrote when he was 19 years old, was this:
Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
What a thing to be intentionally committed to at such a young age! I have been learning that the older I get, the more important this is to be learning—using your time well.
You can replace things that you lose. You can spend money and end up with more if you invest it well. But you can’t get lost time back, and you can’t make more of it. We have been given a set amount of time. As the Psalmist exclaims in Psalms 139:16 (NLT),
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of things clamoring for my time; and sometimes it is downright confusing trying to figure out what is the best way to divvy up my time among those things. This is all the more complicated by my natural bent to procrastinate.
Jesus was asked what the most important command was in the entirety of God’s Law given to Moses. He replied, You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT).
Jesus summed up the whole of our responsibility in these commands, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. If you are alive and breathing (that should include anyone reading this post) then you know that to love takes time, a lot of time, intentional time.
What I have been learning is that based on what Jesus teaches here, the best use of time is in the exercise of love. So while many things both urgent and important call for my time, if I am to be spending my time wisely, I need to be spending time building and growing my love for God in prayer, in reading His Word, in worship with my church family, and in solitude with Him. If I want to be spending my time wisely, I will be intentional about giving love to my neighbors. That starts with my family, moves out to my church family, friends, acquaintances, and people that God brings into my day. If we are not loving one another, we are not using our time well.
If you are anything like me, after a day of research, study, writing, discipling, and counseling people, I just want to crash when I get home and be loved. But home is where the biggest responsibility to give love is. Two of my favorite quotes about love and marriage is from Martin Luther,
Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.
The Christian is supposed to love his neighbor, and since his wife is his nearest neighbor, she should be his deepest love.
Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards had this in common: they had great marriages. They both made sure that they made time to be with their wife. They walked their talk. Edwards I know also made regular time to be with each of his 11 children. They knew their dad, and loved him very much. Yes, Edwards spent a lot of time in his study, sometimes as many as 12 hours a day! But his wife Sarah always had open access to him, and he made time outside his study and writing and church responsibilities for her and their kids.
Time is the most precious gift we have to give. There may be different ways we like being shown love—gifts, touch, quality time, affirmation, or acts of service—but these all have one thing in common: they all take time. And in my experience, the more time you know went into showing love, the more precious that love is seen to be.
How are you spending your time? Who have you been taking the time to love well? Is your family and especially your spouse getting your best love, or are they getting “love-leftovers?” Who is God calling you to take the time to love today? How will you do that?
I know what I am doing when I get home. I hope you do to.