Helping Disciples Become Disciplers

Planning Our Days

How to spend our time, biblically

Thinkers of antiquity understood time as a necessity in the created world, for as they saw it, it is in time that we grow or change. Plato understood time as a process for growth towards some great, perfect climatic end in the Nous. Irenaeus of Lyons understood time as an essential component for man to reach the fullness of being like Christ. Origen of Alexandria likewise saw time as an institution God created to make us like himself. The passage of time, if used wisely, is meant for our sanctification. The Christian has joy in knowing his end, or all of time’s end, at the return of Christ, the work of sanctification will be completed, and we shall be like our Lord and Savior (Romans 8:30).

Since the telos of time is Christ-likeness for individuals, it is worth briefly noting how time is understood today. My intentions here are to illustrate how our time is being used and how we should use our time by looking at Christ. Finally, I will briefly provide a few practical applications for redeeming our days.

First, the worldly wisdom regarding time. 19th-century philosopher and polemicist Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” English thinker Charles Richards said, “Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” Lord Chesterfield noted that if we “take care of the minutes,” then “the hours will take care of themselves.” Dante provided an eschatological component to wisdom regarding time when he said, “He who knows most grieves most for wasted time.” Lastly, Mother Teresa’s life could be encompassed by her statement, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”1 If anything can be appreciated about these quotes, it is the fact that the world understands that time is passing by. There is great wisdom in this, but these quotes also reflect the reality that wasted time is a pity. In the 21st century, Dante’s comments ring loudly, for this generation has more information available than before, yet time is wasted in unprecedented ways.

When it comes to discipling the next generation of believers, we must understand how they use their time. Here, I do not seek to strictly condemn the youth; instead, I offer an exposé of how time is being used broadly. In order to provide a remedy, we must first see the illness.

There is no doubt that when we first speak of wasting time, many immediately jump to cellphone usage. The smartphone has introduced an entirely new way to interact with the world, but this may not be a good thing. After all, the average time spent on the phone is three hours and fifteen minutes, with one in five users spending four and a half hours on their phone each day. GenZers recognize the detrimental consequences of this usage, as three out of four say they spend too much time on their phones. While these numbers may be staggering for some, they are only the tip of the iceberg when understanding phone usage today. For example, Americans average 58 phone pickups daily. Nearly 70% of those pickups are for less than two minutes. If that were not enough, almost 50% of those pickups are during the workday.2 We do not need to be told it per se, but inevitably it must be said; we are wasting too much time on our phones checking e-mails, texts, and social media. This constant checking of our phones is robbing us of living in the moment.

It is not enough to state something about our smartphone usage, for many other areas in our lives deserve to be challenged. For example, the amount of time we spend on leisure activities. On average, Americans spend nearly five hours daily on leisure activities and annually spend $3,000 per household on entertainment.3 Based on how we spend our time and what our money goes to, it can clearly be stated; Americans enjoy their leisure and entertainment. Entertainment and leisure are not bad things; yet, outside the biblical model, they are nothing but vain activities.

Now that we have seen where our time, and money, are spent, we shall proceed to look at how we should spend our days given the biblical model. The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for everything. In chapter three, the preacher says,

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV).

This biblical pronouncement, in many ways, gives us the Christian liberty to live our lives to the fullest as long as we perform every action to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is not a wrong model to follow. However, one cannot help but wonder, “Is there more we can do?” Paul answers that question with a warning in his letter to the Ephesians, writing, “make the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). Such a statement is a call for us to consider the life of Jesus and how we are to emulate his example.

Jesus’s example of using time can be encompassed in four categories. The first category is work. I am not merely speaking of Jesus’s work in ministry; if that were the case, Jesus spent thirty years before his public ministry being lazy. Since Jesus lived the perfect life in all ways, we can rest assured that he was not lazy or wasteful with the time he was given. Mark six gives us some insight into the life of Jesus prior to his public ministry. As the Lord was preaching, his listeners asked, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3). Jesus’s listeners rightly identify him with his trade, moreover, his father’s trade. Jesus was not just wasting time prior to his ministry; he was working hard alongside Joseph. Since this is the Son of God we are talking about, we can assume that the work Jesus put forth was the best. Jesus was not five years old and the world’s greatest carpenter; rather, he became this through hard work and practice. The pattern for us to follow here clearly indicates that work is a normal part of our daily lives and that it is good for us to work. After all, Paul exhorts his readers to work hard to provide for their families (1 Timothy 5:8). Thus, the first pattern for the Christian life is to work.

The second pattern that Jesus gives us is the example of public and private worship. Across the Gospels, we see a continual pattern in Jesus’s life: he often snuck away to pray by himself. Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:46, and Luke 6:12 all describe accounts of Jesus going away and seeking the Father in solitude. This key component of Jesus’s worship is a clear example, that we should not waste our time nor neglect our time with the Triune God in private. If Jesus, the God-Man, saw time with his Father as a necessary part of his day, should we not also set aside time where we are just with our great God?

Jesus’s worship was also public. Luke records, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read” (Luke 4:16 ESV). We must acknowledge that the synagogue visitation was Jesus’s custom. Jesus did not go once a month or once a quarter; no, he went weekly on the Sabbath day. Jesus understood the necessity of corporate worship of God. Thus, it should be rightly deduced that we should not neglect corporate worship. In an age where extracurriculars often take place on Sunday mornings, we must ask ourselves, “What is important to me?” or “What is the best use of my time?” A brief note to parents on this matter; skipping church for your children’s activities is noticed by your children, and you are teaching them how to spend their time. May we follow the second pattern of Jesus and live a life that rightly uses our time for private and public worship.

Given that much of Jesus’s public ministry was spent preaching and living the gospel, it is appropriate that we recognize this as the third pattern. Jesus perfectly exhibited a life on mission. The story of the woman at the well, practically speaking, illustrates Jesus at his best when it comes to sharing the hope of everlasting life with others. The account in John 4 depicts Jesus calling out the woman’s sin, offering her life, and giving her confidence that she will be raised to life everlasting. It is important to note that Jesus sought to share the gospel with this woman, and everything about his interaction with her makes it evident that he was looking to share the good news with her. The example to follow here is that we should spend our time looking to share the gospel and sharing the gospel.

It is worth noting that Jesus’s life was a picture of the gospel, and Jesus’s life appears to be a life of hospitality, even to sinners. Thus, it is worth knowing that Jesus’s life calls us to open our homes to those who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior. This time use is difficult for individualistic Americans, yet his model is straightforward. So much so that he was charged with regularly feasting with sinners.4 So, this third pattern calls us to spend our time sharing and living the gospel by opening our homes to those rebelling against God.

The last pattern of time usage seen in Jesus’s life is focused on discipleship. Jesus’s discipleship happened with his family and with his friends. When we hear that our time must be spent discipling we often jump straight to a formal account for discipleship, which is the case. Jesus sits and teaches his disciples several times in the Gospels; we should spend our time doing the same. However, the incarnation of the Son of God illustrates incarnational disciples or life-on-life discipleship. This time of discipleship extends beyond sitting down and teaching. Incarnational disciplers invite disciples to participate in their life. For example, look at the times that Jesus ate meals with his disciples. Are we to believe that the only recorded meals are during these times? Of course not. When Jesus was traveling, who was with him? When Jesus was at the wedding in Cana, who was there? Jesus models that discipleship is so much more than just sitting and listening to someone teach for an hour. No, discipleship is spending time with one another so that a life pattern may be exhibited. True incarnational discipleship would teach a disciple to work hard, worship God in private and public, live the gospel and proclaim it to non-believers,  and disciple younger believers. This final pattern for how we should spend our time may be the most difficult, yet it is the one most explicitly seen across the Gospels, for if anything can be known about Jesus’s life outside of the cross, it is that he was a disciple-maker.

Hopefully, it is evident that Jesus’s time was spent well and that we, too, should seek to spend our days the way he did. The reality is that recognizing Jesus’s pattern is not difficult. The personal application is the challenge, so I would like to provide a handful of aids for using our time well. First, be okay with not picking up the phone. This presents unprecedented challenges in an age where our phones are always at our fingertips. This is not a simple task, which is why the second application is to set screen time limits on your phone. Most smartphones today allow users to set up restrictions for how long users can spend on certain apps. Users can override this, which is why I offer a third application of accountability. Slothfulness in the technological age is often overlooked. However, if we are to begin taking the wasting of time seriously, we must attack it the same way we would pornography use, by cutting it off with confession, repentance, and accountability. Of course, this extends beyond phone usage and applies to all areas of how we use our time. Accountability will allow another brother or sister in Christ to push you to use your time wisely and in accordance with the pattern of Jesus Christ himself. These few applications are not the only ones, but they will suffice now. I leave with you a simple question, are you willing to cut off the wasteful things in your life so that you may redeem your time and live more like Jesus?

  1. Quotes are taken from Dan Scalco, “22 Time Management Quotes to Inspire You to Reach Your Goals,”, Mansueto Ventures, September 28, 2017,
  2. All statistics come from Josh Howarth, “Time Spent Using Smartphones (2022 Statistics),”, Exploding Topics, September 16, 2022,
  3. Natasha Gabrielle, “American Households Spend $2,900 Per Year on Entertainment. 5 Ways to Have Fun Without Breaking the Bank,” The Ascent, March 25, 2022,
  4. See Matthew 9:10-17, Mark 2:15-22, and Luke 5:29-39.

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