Is it important to surrender my use of time to God?
God’s gift of time is a treasure! As I grew up, my parents taught our family to recognize the value of time. My own experience has shown me how fulfilling it is to live in the fear of God and learn to trade the time He gives for that which will last for eternity in His kingdom.
I saw early on that submitting to God’s will for my life affected the daily choices I made about how I spent my time. I was self-motivated and kept a check chart of priorities each day. This list helped me shape the day and make wise decisions when I faced an unexpected change of events or a few hours of free time. Carrying that check chart with me was one of the single most life-changing disciplines I ever had, even though at the time I didn’t view it as a discipline at all. I thought “redeeming the time” was fun, and it became my way of life.
An Unexpected Challenge
In 1996 the Lord began to deepen His work in my heart when I attended a one-week course on the principles of youth work and counseling that was offered by IBLP. At the conclusion of the week, I heard a missionary named Otto Koning speak. He shared how he was learning what God can do when we wholeheartedly surrender our time to Him. He said that when we give our time to God, God can take it and multiply it in ways we never expected. I was familiar with the concept of using time wisely, but giving God the right to my time was a new idea.
Soon after I returned home, I received an invitation to take part in IBLP’s work with at-risk youth in Indianapolis. However, working alongside troubled teens was one of the last things I wanted to do to reach my life goals. I was so proud of where I was, that to give any time—let alone eleven months—to help teens who had spent their time making mistakes seemed to me the most perfect waste of time there could be.
I decided not to go, but I did tell my parents about the invitation. I’ll never forget their response. It completely blew me away: they said it would be a great experience! The more I talked about my ambitions, the more they said they saw it fitting in. I could hardly believe it.
Direction and Provision
Not knowing what to do, I prayed about it. I could hardly believe I was seriously considering “throwing away” my life this way and it was difficult to seek the Lord with my whole heart. It came as a bittersweet encouragement to think about how God had prepared Moses for leadership—with forty years in the wilderness. (See Acts 7:22–30.) At least that made one year seem shorter!
During a morning wisdom search, our family read Proverbs 24:11–12: “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?”
Wow! From the perspective of at-risk youth in the inner city, I began to realize that the need for help was real, and the Lord was urging me to go and meet it. By meeting needs, I was not throwing my time away—I was giving it to God. I began trusting Him to work it out for me to go. My main request was for God to supply the funds. I had heard how He provided for others, but I knew I would be able to glorify Him most if He would grant me a personal testimony of His provision.
One week later the application for the program in Indianapolis arrived. It came two days after Dad had sold our old station wagon. When he saw that the tuition cost was the same amount for which he had sold the car, he announced that this was what he felt the money should be used for. I couldn’t have been more surprised if the money had dropped out of the sky. As God confirmed His direction and provision, my trust in His direction grew.
A Surprising Realization
While working in Indianapolis, I began to learn what it means to invest in the lives of others. I woke up to the fact that Jesus came to the earth to save people. He is our example in every area, including the wise use of time. However, Jesus didn’t come to the earth to save time. If His focus had been on saving time (and pain and effort), He wouldn’t have left heaven. He was willing to “lose” His time on the earth so that He could bring many to eternal life.
In Mark 8:35, Jesus said: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” I began to realize time really can’t be saved—it can only be spent. The challenge is to spend it wisely—to “lose” it for the cause of Christ.
The Continual Call to Serve
After spending the year in Indianapolis, the opportunities to serve haven’t stopped. Coming home, I looked forward to an easier schedule, but I soon encountered another test of my surrender to God’s call on my time. Since I was often the early-riser, Mom asked if I would use the time to help her make breakfast for the family. Again I needed to trust God to take care of the time I surrendered to Him and to multiply it in His time and in His way.
Two years later I learned about opportunities to serve in Romania with IBLP. The needs in that country impressed me deeply, and the words of Isaiah 30:21 ran through my mind: “. . . This is the way, walk ye in it . . . .” Once more, I faced a challenge of faith. No one in my family had ever been a missionary. My foreign language vocabulary maxed out at about twenty-five words. Yet I had the blessing of my parents and our pastor, and God provided the funds I needed for the trip through a job opportunity.
Many schools in Romania welcomed our team and asked us to teach about character and to speak English with their students. I had never seen the world’s harvest field before. It seemed endless. Looking at myself and our small team, I wondered how I could have stayed at home so long! Conviction of my pride and small-heartedness overwhelmed me, and when I returned home it was difficult to go back to all the comforts I had been accustomed to in the United States. I realized that it is a more-than-worthwhile investment to give my life to God and become a part of whatever He is doing in my time in history.
A few years later the Lord stretched my borders again through IBLP’s invitation to serve orphans, students, and retired teachers in Moscow, Russia. Again God reminded me of Mark 8:35, and He provided for this trip through a great-aunt who lived far away and did not know of my need. In Moscow, I was again convicted that my mission field was too small. Many people were in desperate need of simple truths that I had known for years.
Incidentally, one of my assignments on this trip was to make granola for breakfast once a week—and granola was a favorite of the ministry director! Sometimes the simple skills we learn while serving at home become unexpected gifts to those we serve in the future.
Scripture promises, “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honor, and life” (Proverbs 22:4). By surrendering my life—my time—to God, I found it was filled with service to others. By giving back to God the goals I believed He had given to me, I found them fulfilled in His time through opportunities and relationships that never would have been possible if I had relied on my own understanding. Truly, “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I Corinthians 2:9).
Related Command of Christ
This testimony illustrates the command of Christ to Follow Me. (See Matthew 4:19.) God’s call on Donald’s life included more service to others than he expected, but as he followed Christ’s example, he gained freedom and fruitfulness in God’s Kingdom.