We fill our Google calendars with events, parties, work trips, and basketball games. We use our smart phones to schedule things most important, most urgent, and of most value to us. We make decisions about our schedule every day because it is an important part of our lives.
But are we using our schedules in a way that God is pleased? What if there was a better way to use our schedules for something eternally redeemable? If we find that our schedules serve only us, we must come to realize that the better alternative is to serve others with our time.
Serving others is foundational to the Christian life. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 12:31), prefer others over ourselves (Phil 2:4), and serve others with our Christian freedom (Gal 5:13). If we are only serving ourselves in our life, then we are clearly sinning against God. And sometimes how we plan out our schedules can be an expression of selfishness without us realizing it. We as Christians are called by God to be better stewards (Eph 5:15-16) of our time and one way to better steward time is through the service of others.
With that said, here are some helpful practices and attitudes to adopt as Christians when we are planning out our schedules and the time that God has given us to steward. Here are the ways we can serve with our schedule:
1. Be Intentional with Your Schedule
Be intentional at scheduling people into your calendar and spending time with them. Look for opportunities and pursue them. If you experience rejection, keep at it until you find success (either with them or someone else). Make a plan, list out who specifically you want to serve, and plan how you want to serve them. Intentionality will go a long way. Including others in your planning of everyday matters can change your life and theirs. Including them in your mundane tasks, home life, family dinners may bear unexpected spiritual fruit. There are endless possibilities when incorporating people into our daily lives. We just need to be thoughtful!
2. Be Willing to Bend to Others
Serving others means to prefer someone else over your own particular needs (Phil 2). It’s easy to ask others to bend towards us, but how often are we willing to bend toward others? Be willing to change your routine, go out of your way for them, or change your schedule to serve someone else’s needs or their preferences. Be willing to get up earlier, stay up later than you would prefer. Be willing to meet on days that are uncomfortable. Be willing to inconvenience yourself for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of loving another person.
3. Don’t Make Your Schedule an Idol.
Some people will protect their calendars and schedules at all costs. They refuse to change and fight against valid interruptions and show zero flexibility in their schedules. Some prefer only themselves when planning their time. If this describes us, we may be exhibiting a heart of selfishness and even an idolatry of our schedule. We know we’ve made an idol out of our schedule when we value our schedule above everything else and everyone else, including God. When the schedule becomes the end rather than a means to the end (which is glorifying God), then we know we’ve turned our calendar into an idol. Schedules are a servant, not a master. We must master our schedules and make it our slave to serve others. Let us beware of the temptation to make an idol out of our schedule!
4. Allow for Real Differences and Different Personalities.
If you haven’t noticed already, people are different. Some prefer to schedule things one way, and others prefer to schedule things another way. Recognize that the subject of Christian liberty overlaps with how we plan out our days, months, and years. Be aware of the fact that people approach time management differently and are free to do so. Of course, there are times where people steward time in an unhealthy manner and even sin with their schedules, but at other times it is a matter of Christian freedom. Sometimes our use of time conflicts with another Christian, and that’s okay. We don’t need to take it personally or be offended. Use discernment and realize that people are different and Christians are different in how they use their time.
5. Allow for Varied Places in Life
In this time discussion, we must also recognize that people are in different places in life. Some have more demanding jobs, some have child responsibilities, and others have health concerns. We must accept the natural ebb and flow of life and the different seasons in which people live. Sometimes people will cancel, reschedule, or have trouble penciling us into their calendar. They too may have their own struggles, trials, and hardships, so we should be sensitive to that. The heart is willing but the schedule is weak. Embracing this cultivates contentment and understanding.
6. Don’t Cram People Out of Your Schedule
“Sorry, I’m busy,” is all too common of a term even for Christians. Paul warns that some can act like “busybodies” without actually accomplishing anything of true value (2 Thess 3:11). We have the temptation to fill our schedules to the brim even with many good things (additional family time, extra curriculars, vacations, hobbies, etc.), but it prevents us from remaining open, being approachable, or capitalizing on opportunities. Our schedules should serve us well and set us up for success with people so that others don’t see us as “too busy to bother” and feel they do not have any access to us at all.
7. Remember Your Schedule is about Christ and Not about You
When you prioritize your weeks, months, and years, ask the question, “What would Christ say about my calendar?” How would He evaluate my choice of time? Remember, our schedules must have eternity in mind. As Christians, we work for eternal rewards, we prioritize the work of the Gospel, and we value God and His people in the local church. Does your schedule prioritize heavenly priorities? Or does your schedule revolve more around you rather than around Christ?
“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” (2 Cor 5:9)