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We all know that time is a precious commodity. I have always been impressed with Jonathan Edwards’ fifth resolution: “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.” Paul said something similar in Ephesians 5:15–16: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Therefore, as Christians, we should ask ourselves, “How can I best use my time in this life to honor the Lord and advance His kingdom?”

Created to Work for His Glory

The opening chapters of Genesis teach us that God created us for a specific purpose, which includes work. God created us as His image bearers to spend our lives fulfilling what some theologians call the cultural mandate. In Genesis 1:28, God commands Adam and Eve, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” In Genesis 2:15, God specifically puts Adam into the garden of Eden in order “to work it and keep it.” Here we see both time and work wedded together. Adam was to spend his life and energy laboring in and protecting the garden.

Time and Vocation in a Fallen World

However, when Adam and Eve sinned, this honorable calling by God to work was placed under a curse. God says to Adam in Genesis 3:17–19, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” This curse means that our work will be difficult. In a fallen world, what was intended to bring satisfaction to us and glory to God often results in sin and failure.

After my father was killed in a plane crash, my grandfather, a former Marine infantry officer and strong Christian, took it upon himself to teach me the discipline of hard work. As early as I can remember, I was picking up sticks in his yard and cleaning out storage closets at his office. Over time, I began to appreciate the value of hard work, but this was something I had to be taught. At first, I hated the very idea of “work.” This was my fallen aversion toward the very thing God had created me to do.

Unfortunately, because of the curse, sinful humanity is naturally inclined to misuse the precious time that God has given us. We are prone to either laziness or overwork. Sometimes it is both. We neglect the roles of father and mother that God has placed us in. We make poor decisions that cause us to lose precious time. We work for our own honor instead of God’s.

The roles that God has placed us in are not merely jobs but providential callings.
The Redemption of Time and Vocation

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard a simple Latin phrase that would change my life. I was a Marine Corps officer in my early twenties jogging on the seawall at the Marine Corps air station in Iwakuni, Japan. I was listening to Dr. R.C. Sproul’s first lecture from The Holiness of God. I remember hearing about the stunning reality of the “otherness of God”—a God who is holy, perfect, and worthy to be honored. I became even more transfixed by the Latin phrase that Dr. Sproul introduced at the end of the lecture: coram Deo. It means “before the face of God.” The term speaks to how we as believers, through our union with Christ and His indwelling Spirit, now live our lives entirely in His holy presence.

The knowledge of this “coram Deo life” changed everything for me. My service as a Marine officer, as a church member, and as a seminary student were not merely temporal means to an end. My work had eternal significance. I was now working for God’s glory, and I was doing it in the presence of God through His Holy Spirit (John 14:20).

This is exactly the same discovery Martin Luther came to as a result of his understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. At the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church taught that most vocations are “secular,” while the “sacred” vocations are to be found only in the church. Luther understood that the biblical doctrine of justification demolished this distinction. Every Christian’s work is to be done “heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” and for “serving the Lord Christ” because every Christian now lives in God’s presence (Col. 3:23–24).

The Transformation of Time and Vocation

This coram Deo discovery propels us to think about our time and work differently. We are, as John Calvin said, living out our lives in the grand “theater of God.”

The roles that God has placed us in are not merely jobs but providential callings. The word vocation literally comes from the Latin verb that means “to call.” A vocation is a task or role that God has providentially called us to carry out on this earth.

Some vocations we serve in—whether as a painter, a dentist, a construction worker, a nurse, a journalist, or a governor—are done for God’s honor and the benefit of the broader culture. Other vocations take place in our family lives as we live out our callings as a son, a daughter, a mother, or father, a wife, a husband, or a grandparent. These familial vocations are of vital importance and serve as the bedrock of both a vibrant church and a flourishing culture.

Moreover, as Christians, we are called to unique, God-given responsibilities. Every Christian is called by God to be one of His children (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14). Every Christian is called to be a part of the glorious body of Christ and exercise his or her spiritual gifts for the edification of the body in a local church (Rom. 12:3–8; Eph. 4:1–16). Every Christian is called to walk in fellowship with other believers so that we may spur one another on toward godliness (Heb. 10:24–25). Furthermore, Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 1:15–16 that this Christian life that God has called us to live has ethical dimensions: “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy for I am holy.’ ” Obviously, these callings from God affect how we view our time and the work that we carry out throughout our lives.

Practical Biblical Principles for Time and Vocation

I would like to close by pointing us to some practical principles that God’s Word gives us in carrying out our vocations so that we “redeem the time” as we live coram Deo:

  1. Integrity and excellence. Every Christian is to strive for integrity and excellence in all that we do so that we will shine as bright “lights” in this dark world for Christ (Matt. 5:14).
  2. Discipline and productivity. We are to discipline ourselves to produce quality work for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). In a distracted world, this often means putting the phone away for extended periods of time so that we are able to focus on the tasks at hand and the people we are called to serve. As we are reminded in Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”
  3. Prioritization and delegation. As we face deadlines and looming responsibilities, we have the opportunity to prioritize which tasks to complete and which tasks to delegate to others. In our weaknesses, we have an opportunity to empower others as Jethro taught Moses when Moses was overwhelmed with his responsibilities in the wilderness (Ex. 18:1–27).
  4. Initiative and judgment. So much of our success hinges on good initiative and sound judgment. When Nehemiah saw that the wall in Jerusalem remained torn down, he took the initiative to rebuild it (Neh. 2:17–18). He also exercised good judgment in how he approached King Arta­xerxes regarding the problem (Neh. 2:4–8). As believers, we should seek the Lord in prayer and seek godly counsel in all of our decision-making (Prov. 15:22).
  5. Rest and rhythms. Sleep is literal dependence on God. We can restfully sleep because God never does (Ps. 121:4). Through our sleep, God empowers us for the tasks and work He holds in store for us tomorrow. Moreover, God has ordained that one out of every seven days is to be a day of Sabbath rest—a day dedicated to the Lord (Ex. 20:8–11). In resting on the Lord’s Day, we are confessing that God is God and we are not and that our work depends entirely on His provision (Ps. 127:1).

Time and Relationships

Time and the Individual

Keep Reading Time

From the September 2020 Issue
Sep 2020 Issue