Key Scriptures: Matthew 8:5-13, John 11:38-44, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 2 Peter 3:8, Psalm 90:12, Ephesians 5:15-17, James 4:14, Colossians 4:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, Proverbs 6:6-8, Esther 4:14, Acts 1:7, Galatians 6:9, Proverbs 6:10-11, Proverbs 27:1, 1 John 2:17, Matthew 25:14-30, Acts 17:10-11, Philippians 4:6-14
Guiding Question: How does God want us to spend our time?
Introductory Activity: Have students turn all time keeping devices like phones and watches over. Tell them to write down everything they have done in the last 24 hours and how long each thing took. They should be as specific as possible. After between five and ten minutes, ask students to stop and tell you how long they have been working on the assignment. Was anyone accurate? Why was it difficult to know exactly how long they had been working without looking at their phones, watches or a clock? Point out that some places like casinos and stores want people to lose track of time so they will spend more money. They remove all clocks and make sure it is difficult to see outside and know whether it is night or day.
Lesson: (Questions to students are in bold italics.) Read Matthew 8:5-13 and John 11:38-44. How did the people in the stories view time in relation to how quickly they believed Jesus should respond? Why did Jesus have a different timeline for his miracles than the people involved might have preferred?
In both stories, someone was very ill and dying. The people who loved them knew Jesus could heal them. Jesus delayed healing them until after they died. It wasn’t that he wanted the people involved to suffer. Rather he knew the impact of the miracle of raising someone from the dead would point more people to God and serve God’s purposes for his ministry better. The end result was the same perhaps at least as far as the people being restored to health, but these stories point out that God may view time differently than we often do.
Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. What do we learn about time in this passage? There are some things in life that have what we could call an appointed time. These things must, can or need to happen at a specific time. Winter doesn’t come in the summer. What are some of the appointed times mentioned in this passage?
The return of Jesus and Judgment Day is one of those appointed times. This one is a little bit different than some of those listed in Ecclesiastes. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3. What do we learn about this particular appointed time? Only God knows when Jesus will return and Judgment Day will occur. Trying to guess when that will be is a waste of time. In fact it sounds like it will happen when we all least expect it.
We also won’t know God’s timing on some things until they happen. God knows when we will marry (or not) and other things that we might think we would like to know in advance. Read Acts 1:7, Proverbs 27:1, 2 Peter 3:8. What do we learn about God and time in these verses?
Read James 4:14. What does this verse tell us about our time on Earth? Since our time here is brief in comparison to eternity in either Heaven or Hell, it only makes sense God wants us to use our time wisely. Not to earn a place in Heaven, but in gratitude, because Jesus has made that possible.
Read the following verses. What clues does each passage give us about how God wants us to spend our time?
- Psalms 90:12
- Ephesians 5:15-17
- Colossians 4:5
- Proverbs 6:6-8
- Esther 4:14
- Galatians 6:9
- Proverbs 6:10-11
- 1 John 2:17
- Acts 17:10-11
- Philippians 4:6-14
Read Matthew 25:14-30. Normally, we use this story to talk about using our gifts from God, but what hints does it also give us about God’s priorities for our time? God wants to make sure His priorities for our time are His. He wants us to use our time wisely, doing things like the good works He has planned for us in advance to do. Notice that we, like Esther, may find God allows those good works to be done by others if we don’t do the ones meant for us, but….we may suffer negative consequences or miss out on positive ones as a result.
Also, don’t assume God doesn’t want us to spend time resting. But it’s a special kind of rest. Read the following verses and see what clues you can get about healthy rest from them.
- Genesis 2:2-3
- Mark 6:31
- Matthew 11:28-30
- Psalm 127:2
- Psalm 37:7
- Hebrews 4:9-10
- Mark 2:27
God wants us to have regular times of rest, but a special kind of rest that will replenish our mind, soul and body. It can include sleep, exercise, worship, prayer, Bible study, hobbies, reading and other things we enjoy. Spending the time in only idleness, however, will not replenish us the way we think it will. We need to spend our rest time carefully, too. We can have fun, but we shouldn’t waste most of the time we have on this Earth chasing after the pleasures of the Earth. Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes after spending a good portion of his life doing just that. He regretted those choices immensely.
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Depending upon the needs of your Bible students, you can teach them some of the following time management strategies and give them the tools to use them in their lives – particularly in areas where they struggle with time management.
- Encourage students to keep a time log for a week. How are they really spending their time? Are they surprised to find they are spending less time doing productive things or wasting more time than they thought? Are they spending enough time getting quality rest or are they spending their rest time in idleness that doesn’t really refresh them?
- Do a time audit. For students who have a pretty good idea about how much time they spend doing various activities without keeping a log, you can teach them how to do a time audit. What activities do they need to replace with better choices? What are some of their options for better choices for those blocks of time? What is the best way to decide between the possible options?
- Teach them about scheduling. Adding things like Bible study to a busy life is easier if we schedule times. Help students find a scheduling device that works for them and use it to schedule things they want to add to their schedule. Most will need to divide their day into 15-30 minute blocks and add everything they need to do on that particular day including eating, sleeping, etc.
- Have a time waster cleanse. Discuss the things each of them is doing that they now realize is merely wasting time – not contributing to quality rest or productive output. What steps do they need to take to reduce or eliminate these time wasters? Are there other strategies they can use to make better use of that time (like working on a project that will serve someone while watching a show on Netflix)?
Application Challenge: Review the scripture from the lesson. What changes do you need to make to better manage your time? Choose at least one of them and implement it this week.