Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Prodigal of Time

a. Rashly or wastefully extravagant: prodigal expenditures on unneeded weaponry; a prodigal life.b. Giving or given in abundance; lavish or profuse: prodigal praise.
(noun)One who is given to wasteful luxury or extravagance.
Am I guilty of being a "prodigal son"?

The thought came to my heart today in prayer, and I confess that I was immediately smitten, convicted in my heart.

How much could I accomplish for the Kingdom in the time that I have been given? What could I do in the hours that I have each day? How could I have "paced" myself differently to accomplish more for God than what I have accomplished?

I confess that I am not good at time-management. Although my choleric-melancholy nature drives me to be extremely organized in many facets of my daily life, the truth is that Time somehow still slips through my fingers, and I find myself at the close of each day, each week, each month, and yes, each year wishing. Wishing I'd done something different; wishing I'd spent more time (or any time) in the Word; wishing I'd written the words of my heart into a blog, or a newspaper article, or a forum; wishing I'd actually started on that book that I've wanted to write for so long... I would've felt better if I'd just written that article I've thought about writing for so long.

But I didn't.

Somehow, another 24 hours has slipped through my fingers like sand...nay, like water. You see, it's possible to grasp just a tiny portion of sand as it slips through your fingers, because of the natural abrasive nature of sand. Water seeks the path of least resistance, however, and because of its fluid nature, is impossible to clutch or hold onto.

Another week has passed, and still I have not prayed 30 minutes a day like I promised myself during Sunday night's sermon that I would start doing; I have gone another week without fasting an entire day.

(There is a difference between "fasting" and merely postponing a meal, but that is another story, for another posting.)

Another month has dribbled away, and still I have not written the title page to that book that has been burning in my heart for at least two years now. Even worse, the article I told that publisher I wanted to share...he has yet to get that simple little 500-word column from me.

The end of the year is fast closing, and I look back at 2006 and the bewildered expression that is all too familiar comes again to my face, as I wonder what happened to the year.

I'm not a pastor; not a full-time evangelist; not a full-time staff member. I don't even hold a secular job, and haven't for over two years. So what have I done all day, every day? I try to tell folks "I'm a stay-at-home dad." When prospective employers call with telephone interviews, the question rings loud in my ears, "What have you been doing in this two-year gap on your resume?" I can envision the narrowed eyes, the suspicion on their face as they wonder what a healthy 43-year old guy---with a background in computer repair, welding, banking, customer support, you name it---has been doing. Did this guy win the lottery? Is he disabled? Is he leeching off of Workman's Comp? Is he just a slacker? They don't have to say it...but I know the question is there.

The sad thing is, in my prayer closet today, I "came to myself", just as the prodigal son of Luke 15 did. I realized that, yes...I have been a "slacker".

a. negligent; careless; remiss
b. not busy; inactive

I have been "slack" in the time I could have given myself to the things of God. I have been slack in my personal growth and development, slack in things I could have done from this chair, this computer, to add to the Kingdom; slack in a variety of ways I could have, and should have, given my time and efforts to this business of "ministry".

Yet, like so many others, I fell prey to the mindset that, unless I was full-time, full-fledged, full-blown preaching---either as a pastor, or as an evangelist---that I wasn't really in "ministry".

Is writing really a ministry? How can you define "blogging" as a ministry? How can you justify writing stuff on WordShare or Pastor's Helper as ministry? Who would read your book if you ever did write it, anyway? That can't possibly be ministry. And people---especially other pastors---look at musician/singers as "entertainers", not ministers, so who are you trying to fool with that?

These are the things I struggled with in my mind, when I thought about Time and how much I should be giving to ministry.

Please don't crucify me.

It's a mindset that affects many, if not most. We're so given to setting "marks" for ourself, measures of achievement, standards of completion, and "ministry" has become synonymous with "preaching".

I know, and you know, that many can preach without ministering, and many more can minister without ever preaching.

So today, I purposed in my heart to "return home", to go back to my Calling, to give myself back to the Master's service. My calling is not merely to preach, although that is a fractional part; more especially, my call is to minister. I should be fulfilling that call in a variety of ways, even if it does not presently involve a pulpit.

Luke 12:48 ...unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:

Like the prodigal of Luke 15, I find that I have "wasted [my] substance". The difference is that his substance was financial gain through an early inheritance; mine has been the hours, the days, the weeks, and even the years that God has given me.

Thus far, I realize I have been the prodigal of Time.

By the Grace of our Lord Jesus, that shall cease to be.

Reviving the faint. Restoring the fallen. Refreshing the weary.

Steve Shubert

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