How to make the most of the time you have left

There are two contrasting daydreams that many of us tend to have regarding how we'd like to use our time.  Some of us, if we were given more control over how our time is used, would choose to spend the time relaxing.  Just recently, I was speaking with a man who is retiring soon, and he intends to spend as much of his retirement as he can relaxing next to a pool, enjoying the sunshine and the soothing sounds of the water.

Some of us have a different daydream that is more active in nature.  We picture using our time to meet needs, accomplish tasks, and be more selective about the demands on our time so as to remove activities that we don't enjoy.  We may want to weed out items from our schedule that tend to needlessly waste our time.

Honestly, while I gravitate toward the second perspective, I think there's room for both.  There's a time to rest, and a time to engage in activity. But in the end, it's wise for us to make an honest assessment of how we're using the days, weeks, months, and years of life the Lord has blessed us with.  The years will be used up faster than we often realize, so are we making the best use of the time we have left? The Apostle Paul gives us great counsel in Romans 12:1-8 that can help us answer that question.

I. Hold nothing back from God

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
— Romans 12:1, ESV

God who has given us life, and who has shown us mercy even though we deserved condemnation, is perfectly justified when He expresses a demand on the life He's given us.  It's clear from the opening verse of this chapter that God has high expectations for His children.

Paul brings up the subject of sacrifice in this passage, and for those familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures, sacrifice would certainly be a familiar concept.  During the era of the Old Covenant, the people of Israel were required to make various sacrifices involving the shedding of the blood of animals. These sacrifices were pointing toward the day when the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus would be made, and His blood would be shed on the cross.

First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
— Hebrews 10:8-10, NLT

Now that Christ's sacrifice has been made, no further blood needs to be shed to atone for man's sin.  So, when Paul speaks of us making a sacrifice, he isn't speaking about physical death. In view of the finished work of Christ, we're called to give ourselves completely over to the Lord as a "living sacrifice."  We're challenged to hold nothing back from God. Presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice is considered an act of spiritual worship. This is how the Lord wants us to live the new life He's given us through His Son.  This is how the Lord wants us to use the time we have left on this earth.

II. Don't adopt this world's mindset or values as your own

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
— Romans 12:2, ESV

Parenting is both an enjoyable and emotionally draining task.  In my opinion, one of the hardest aspects of parenting is trying to help your children understand the difference between a Christ-centered worldview and a worldly perspective.  There truly is a battle that takes place in this world for the minds of our children.  There are so many tools being used by Satan to negatively impact the minds and the values of our kids.  And while children may seem most susceptible to these schemes, adults need to be on guard as well because we're also quite capable of adopting a worldly perspective.

In this passage, Paul challenges us not to be conformed to this world.  Our lives, values, influences, and priorities should honor Christ, not dishonor Him.  Even if the majority of people in our lives conform to the unbiblical values that get adopted by our culture, we should never give in to the temptation to follow suit.

In fact, Scripture teaches us that we have been supernaturally empowered to see beyond this world's corrupted perspective.  Our minds have been divinely renewed through faith in Jesus, and by the transformative work of the Holy Spirit.

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
— Ephesians 4:20-23, ESV

And with a renewed mind, we're enabled to understand and discern the will of God.  When we welcome sinfulness and worldliness into our manner of thinking, we struggle to understand God's will because our minds are clouded with deceitful desires.  But when we walk in the divine renewal of our minds, our ability to perceive, discern, and understand the will of God is clarified. This should be our desire for ourselves and for our children because this is God's desire for those He has graciously redeemed.

III. Appreciate who you are in Christ

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
— Romans 12:3-5, ESV

A worldly perspective involves an unhealthy level of selfish comparison based on human standards.  When life, people, and plans are evaluated in that way, we'll inevitably begin to devalue others while elevating ourselves.  But Christ hasn't called us to elevate ourselves or devalue others. Rather, He invites us to appreciate who we are in Him. He invites us to assess ourselves with sober judgment.

As Paul mentions in this Scripture, we're all different.  He tells us here that even though all believers are part of the body of Christ, and we're all united to one another in Jesus, we have been intentionally created by God to function differently.  We've been given different gifts, talents, experiences, and opportunities. We've met different people who have influenced us. We come from different backgrounds, and we have had different life experiences that have been used by the Lord to shape and mold us.  Likewise, we've been gifted with different supernatural abilities to serve one another.

I'm glad we're not all carbon copies of each other.  My wife and I are both oldest children who were the type of kids that tended to color within the lines.  I think I can accurately say that there hasn't been a single day of our marriage when our bed wasn't made.  We like our clothing ironed, our schedules predictable, and our cars clean. Ironically, some of our best friends on this earth who encourage and refresh us most notably, are the exact opposite of us.  We recently grabbed dinner with some of them and were refreshed by their unique personalities, and blessed by their differences.

As this Scripture reminds us to appreciate who we are in Christ, it also helps us to learn to appreciate the way Jesus has shaped and gifted those who also share our faith in Him.

IV. Use what God gives you to bless others

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
— Romans 12:6-8, ESV

Have you ever taken time to understand the nature of the gifts the Lord has given you?  According to this chapter of Romans, as well as 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, all believers have been supernaturally gifted by the Lord with special abilities that are to be used for serving one another.  As we serve one another with these gifts, we have the privilege to build one another up.

Paul speaks of people with gifts of prophecy (proclaiming the truth of God), service, teaching, exhorting (encouraging), generosity, leadership, and mercy.  Has the Lord gifted you with one of these gifts, or possibly one of the gifts listed elsewhere in Scripture?  Are you regularly making use of your gifts to build others up?

By the way, this is one of the Scriptures that impacts the way we structure the leadership of our local church.  Our church is governed by Elders who serve alongside Deacons. We typically refer to our Deacons as "Ministry Directors," and they serve in various roles.  We have Ministry Directors who direct our children's ministries, youth ministries, nursery, hospitality, missions, prayer, building needs, finances, music, technology, congregational care, and administration.  Each of our Ministry Directors is actively building a team under them that utilizes the ways in which they have been gifted by the Lord. As each person makes use of their gifts, our entire church benefits and is built up, just like Scripture describes.

So, how should we respond to a portion of Scripture like we see in the first eight verses of Romans 12?  I believe this portion of Scripture describes in helpful detail the ways we can make the most of the time we have left on this earth.  We're called to be people who hold nothing back from God. We're challenged not to adopt this world's mindset and values as our own. We're taught to begin appreciating who we are in Christ, and we're encouraged to use what God gives us to bless others.  A life that's lived in such a way is a life that won't be wasted.

© John Stange, 2019