I’ve received a lot of excellent counsel over the years from men and women godlier, smarter, more experienced, and wiser than me. One of the choicest pieces of wisdom came from my dad some 50 years ago. On a beautiful winter morning as I drove my ’63 Volkswagen up Pacific Coast Highway to Long Beach State, my eyes caught a "car for sale" sign atop a classic MG Roadster.
Now, in the late 1960’s nothing was cooler than driving a British sports car. Of course, no college student could afford one, or knew how to fix their legendary electrical problems. Still, I pulled over and took a look. Everything seemed in order. No obvious collision repairs, and one could only hope the engine and drive train were in good order.
Well, I saw my chance to leave the nerdy world of VW bugs and enter the suave and sophisticated atmosphere of foreign vehicular conveyance. That night I called my father back in Iowa and told him all about it. He listened politely, as he always did. I told him the car would get snatched up quickly due to its good condition and reasonable price. Would he "go in with me" (i.e. pay for it and I’d pay him back – very slowly)?
His response: "Mick, wait two weeks and we’ll see about it," But dad, it will be gone by then! "Well, it could be, but if it isn’t, then we’ll give it some serious thought." Of course, this was not the answer I wanted to hear, but twenty years’ experience as his son told me there was nothing I could do about it. So after sulking a bit I resigned myself to a future of 34 horsepower of German engineering. But the depression didn’t last long. By the following week the car was gone, right along with my interest in having it. Amazing. A little time – not even two weeks – brought about a change of heart and a savings of no small amount of cash.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that we live in a world where everything seems to be speeding up. Whereas we could take a few days to answer emails, now people expect us to answer within the hour, or sooner. We used to have weblogs, now we "tweet" in real time. The pace of our lives may be accelerating out of control. We need to re-program ourselves to slow down, take some time, and sit on things for a while before moving on.
Now, we can’t do this in every instance. Making a lane change on the freeway requires quick action, not a meeting of the board of elders. But in many of our daily decisions and ministry challenges, I’m guessing we have allowed ourselves to be so hurried by technology and the expectations of others that we have relinquished the supremely enriching benefits of taking time to carefully navigate through life. So, in the interest of saving us from ourselves, I share four great reasons to allow more time to make the decisions required of us every day:
Time enables us to identify issues
“The one who gives an answer before he listens – this is foolishness and disgrace for him” (Proverbs 18:13, HCSB). You may recall the incident in 1 Samuel 8 where Israel is demanding a king to rule over them like the rest of the nations. Samuel’s first inclination is to believe that they are rejecting him personally (v. 7). He may be assuming it because of his age (v.1), or his out-of-control sons (v. 3.).
These are potential reasons, but God reveals the truth: “they have rejected me as their king” (v. 7). A rush to judgment led to a wrong conclusion, while a bit of time and prayer unveiled the underlying issue at hand. How much perspective was gained by those moments of reflection and prayer! Which leads to a second reward for those who slow down:
Time invites us to pray
Have you ever caught yourself well into a decision, only to realize you haven’t laid the situation before the throne of God? Among pastors, this is commonplace. The ebb and flow of ministry hurries us as we increasingly depend on our growing familiarity with the daily routine of shepherding God’s flock. But we forget to check in with the Master, the Great Shepherd of the sheep. And we and our flock suffer for it.
One of the persistent struggles in my Christian life is right here. I am a doer – a "get it done" kind of guy. Seasons of prayer are too infrequent. There’s too much to do, and I’ll pray later when the dust settles. I tell myself that I pray as I go along, having conversations with the Lord throughout the day. And while that’s usually true, the rush of the day keeps me from lingering times of communion with the One who made me, forgave me, and “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ;” (Ephesians 1:3).
Time affords the peace of God
One of my dad’s pastors once gave him some sage advice. He said, ‘"Bob, when in doubt, don’t." It was this minister’s street-level version of Philippians 4:6 & 7. Instead of worry, taking the time “through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Time invested in prayer rewards us with a peace that comes from above.
This is challenging for me. I want peace to come quickly, but if history is any teacher, the process takes longer than we like and requires the powerful working of the Lord in our heart. First of all, it takes time to figure out what we really need from God. Our motives are often mixed, and our self-centeredness clouds our perspective. Then there’s the challenge of developing a thankful heart. There are lots of reasons to be thankful, even for the hard things of life, but it takes awhile for us to listen to the Spirit and see as He sees.
Time encourages an honest and enriching study of the Word
The Bereans impressed Paul because they examined the message he and Silas were bringing in light of their own life-long study of the scriptures (Acts 17:11). When we’re in a hurry, we get sloppy with our handling of the Word, but taking time to do the careful exegesis we were taught by our seminary professors assures integrity in our thinking and actions.
As a young pastor I made a habit of reading the word every morning just for me, before I started my sermon preparation. Allowing my mind and heart to soak in the wisdom, works and words of God gave me perspective that nothing else could. The hours spent in this pursuit were most likely more valuable than any other part of my schedule.
When the psalmist (119) describes the excellencies of God’s law, the idea of time spent in it is inherent. “Teach me, Lord, the meaning of your statutes, and I will always keep them. Help me understand your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart. Help me stay on the path of your commands, for I take pleasure in it” (vv. 33-35). These are not the words of one who is feverishly texting or tweeting through life, but the inspired musings of a believer who has taken long walks with God, wrestled with His call to true discipleship, and knows the joy of a life ever conforming to the holiness of the One he loves.
I kept that VW for 33 years. Even today it still sits in the parking lot at Talbot, now proudly owned by my friend and colleague, Dr. Kevin Lawson. Waiting two weeks back in 1969 saved me thousands of dollars and has given my friend a great ride for years to come.