Friday, February 08, 2013

Wasting My (God-Given) Time?

I often wonder if I'm using my time well. Do I regularly do things that bring glory to God? Are my activities helping me to know God better? Am I making good choices that have eternal significance? 

Or am I just wasting the days that God has given to me?

Sometimes, I'm certain that I'm wasting time. Like when I plop down in front of the TV and mindlessly watch a program—specifically because I feel I don't have enough physical or mental energy to do anything else. Or when I use Facebook to compare old photos of myself. (It's amazing how much time I can waste contemplating my hairstyles through the years.)

At other times, when I'm doing something mundane, like housework, I know intellectually and spiritually that it isn't a waste of time. I recognize that God uses work to build obedience. And it's both satisfying and motivating to complete a task; the satisfaction of a job well done is a blessing from God. BUT ... like the writer of Ecclesiastes so well articulates, work is wearisome. I sweep, frustrated that the dust is already beginning to gather the second I've removed it. I cook, frustrated that hunger will set in again, just a few hours later.  

The writer of Ecclesiastes then suggests that we try to enjoy our blessings as best as we can:

"Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past" (5:18-20).
Oddly enough, this instruction to "enjoy life" presents perhaps the greatest mental struggle for me. I often feel guilty when God blesses me, perhaps because many of my favorite blessings seem silly and trivial, in my own estimation. For example, I love to dance. I love to play with other people's children. (I don't have children of my own.) I love to run around with my parents' dog. I love to watch small animalsin particular, birds and bunnies. And I wonder: Aren't these activitieswhich make me smilejust an utter waste of time? Shouldn't I be doing something more useful: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned? Or, at least, more spiritual: praying, fasting, studying God's Word? And my desire to do things that make me happy ... isn't that just selfishness?

Yesterday, while I was in my car, I was half-listening to "Pastors Perspective," a radio show where listeners can call Pastor Chuck Smith and ask him a question. A caller asked whether it was acceptable for him to use spoken word and hip hop to worship God. (Apparently, someone from his church had told him that these genres were too worldly and must not be used for any type of ministry.) My ears perked up at the words "hip hop." This is the type of dance that I most enjoy. And it's the thing I most often feel guilty about, thinking that it's a silly waste of time.

Pastor Chuck admitted that he wasn't very familiar with hip hop. He explained that there were lots of methods and means of worship. And (to paraphrase Pastor Chuck): "If anything brings glory to God, I should not fight against it."

This got me thinking about how I fight against the things that God surely intends as blessings to me:
  • Dance is a tremendous blessing. Every time I dance, I feel such deep gratitude that God has given me a strong, healthy body and the ability to express thoughts and emotions through movement.
  • When I play with children, I learn so much about my own spiritual condition. Young children are transparent sinners: They lie, cheat, steal, and express all kinds of selfishness, never trying to hide a bit of it. (Adults later teach kids how to hide their sin by putting on external good etiquette.) Still, no matter how bad kids act, we recognize that children are deserving of love. Even our sinful society recognizes the value of children.
  • And when I run around with Bernie the Beagle, or gaze at a small woodland creature, my awe and praise ultimately goes to the Creator of all things. I recognize that only a good Creator would create in such a delightful manner.
Through the enjoyment of God's blessings, I am moved to worship God.

The caller on "Pastors Perspective" mentioned that he meditated on Psalm 45 in thinking about his own passion for rhyme. So I had to look it up when I got home. It begins:    
 Beautiful words stir my heart.
I will recite a lovely poem about the king,
for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet." —Psalm 45:1

I have a feeling the radio caller knows he was created to be a spoken word artist. It wasn't just that he learned a skill; it was something that began as a desire because God intended for it to be developed. God designated for him to live during a time in history when he could express that God-given skill through hip hop. God provided the means for him to hone that skill. Out of that enjoyment and blessing come praise.

Every Christian is called to do good, to love others, and to worship God. I think I've been very narrowly defining what it means to "do good," to "love others," and to "worship." This (wrongly) causes me to believe I'm wasting my time.

I was created to dance, to play, to fully enjoy the sights and sounds that make me smile. I was created to worship the Creator through the enjoyment of his blessings. And that certainly is no waste of time.
1) Do you ever feel like you're wasting time? Do you think your concern has any merit? Or is it unjustifiable guilt?  

2) Identify some unique activities that cause you to worship God (e.g. watching a sunset, a hobby, spending time with specific people). How does engaging in this activity bring about worship? What specific ways do you worship God after engaging in this activity (e.g. gratitude, awe)?

3) Why is good work so frustrating sometimes? Read Genesis 3, focusing on verses 17-19. Someday that curse will be lifted. Try to imagine what "perfect work" will be like. To help you imagine, think of a time when you were doing something that was so satisfying, you lost track of time.