As I’ve sought guidance from the bible on using my time better, I’ve often gone back to Psalm 90. Interestingly scholars believe this to be one of the oldest pieces of literature in the bible, possibly dating back some 3,500 years. Here are 3 wise insights from this ancient text that still help disciples work out how to use time well.
1. God is eternal
Psalm 90 says that God is eternal – that he is ‘from everlasting to everlasting’ (v.2). That means God is timeless. He lives outside of time. Of course he still works in our world – the world he’s made – the world of day and night, of months and seasons and years – the world of time. But God is not restricted by time and has a different view of time to us. That’s why Moses tells God (in v.4) that ‘a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by’.
Because God is eternal, he’s not impatient like me. It’s not unusual for me to pray: ‘please God, do it now!’ And whilst the Lord understands that prayer and sometimes answers it, often he doesn’t. That’s because God is not in a hurry. And he’s never late.
In Gulliver’s Travels the Lilliputians decide that Gulliver consults his watch so often that it must be his god. Many of us are like that, constantly checking the time. But God is not. He’s never impatient because he’s not in a hurry. He is eternal.
Whereas God is eternal, our human bodies are not! They wear out and (v.3) ‘return to dust’ whilst our souls live on into eternity. If we follow Jesus Christ we can be assured that our eternal destiny will be with God in heaven. Like Moses, we can know something of this ‘home‘ in God here on earth (v.1) but not in full until heaven. So despite all the good things of being alive right now there’ll always be a sense of frustration this side of the grave. U2 expressed it so well when they sang ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’. That’s because ‘God has set eternity in the human heart’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and we will only find true rest for our souls with God in heaven.
2. Life is short
A second thing Psalm 90 tells us is that we live in this world of time for only a short time. Whilst it’s great to be alive, we’re not actually on planet earth for very long. Verse 10 reminds us that: ‘Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strengths endures, yet … they quickly pass.’
If you’re an average person you will live for 27,365 days. That’s not very long! For me, I’ve already had over 16,000 of those! Because life is short, we can’t do everything. We need to think carefully about how we use our time.
3. Make the most of your time
That’s why Moses prays (in v.11): ‘teach us to number our days’. It’s like he says to God: ‘Lord, help us make the most of our short life’. That’s my prayer too.
But how do we do that? How do we make the most of our time? Two things are especially mentioned in Psalm 90.
One is to live a contented life. There’s nothing wrong in desiring to live a fulfilled life, which is why Moses asks the eternal God for help to live a life full of joy and gladness (v.14). The other crucial thing is to live a useful life. A life that makes a difference. That’s why the psalm ends by asking the eternal God to ‘establish the work of our hands’ (v.17). This reminds me that God wants us to do something useful with our lives. He wants you to live a life that makes an impact he on planet earth.
So what we do with our time is very important. Instead of cramming too much in it’s normally better to do a few things well. That doesn’t mean we’re called to be lazy. In fact in many places the bible tells us to work hard (Prov 12:27, 18:9; 2 Thess 3:7-9) … and to rest hard (Ps 127:2)! In our frenetic world we mustn’t miss the importance of rest – which is why the bible says a lot about having a Sabbath (Ex 20:8-11; Heb 4:9-11) – a day each week free from our normal work-patterns.
Jesus said that the two most important things in life were to love God and love others (Matthew 22). Those two priorities need to be reflected in the way we use our time. To make that happen most of us will need to make some changes and get rid of some unhelpful things that eat up our time. To do that you’ll need to:
Stand still. Stop rushing. Make some space. Take some time to press the pause button on your busy life. Only then can you…
Have a good look at your life. Ask some searching questions. When did you last do some kind of proper analysis of how you spend your time? Do you know how many hours you spend doing things like watching TV, or being on YouTube or Facebook? Be honest. Could you use your time better?
Then listen to God’s word. Read the bible. Perhaps Psalm 90 and Matthew 22. Are your two main priorities loving God and loving others? What is God’s Spirit saying to you?
To do this properly will take some time and effort. And then you need to make the necessary changes and be accountable to others for them. Otherwise the changes won’t last.
But all this will only happen if you slow down. Only then will we be able to make the changes.
If you don’t slow down you will miss much. Here’s an example.
One Christmas Eve a family decided they’d go round their neighbourhood singing Christmas carols. They walked a few streets away and began singing at the first house.
Out came a woman, who said:
‘Look Mr. I haven’t got time for all this. The plumbing is on the blink. I have a houseful coming over to eat. If you really feel like singing Christmas Carols, come back another time.’
‘Yes, ma’am’ said the man.
And respectfully Bing Crosby moved his family along to the next house.
I don’t want to be so busy that I miss out on the surprises that God brings my way. If you’re the same, slow down with me and apply the ancient wisdom of Psalm 90 to your life.
V helpful, Matthew, thank you…
Thanks Matthew – likewise really helpful reflection