Over the past 25 years, I have watched college students navigate the often treacherous waters of the college campus. They are faced with numerous social, academic and spiritual challenges. Their faith is challenged by secular academia. They are faced with temptations through which only the Spirit of God will bring them. Their academic pursuits stretch their minds and demand their attention.
In the midst of all of these challenges, there is a silent challenge that affects every area of their lives. If not handled correctly, this challenge will keep them focused on wrong things. This challenge will divert their energy away from the things of God. This challenge can even sidetrack the most committed disciplemaker to an ineffective life.
What is this silent challenge?
It’s the challenge of time.
It is my observation that a collegian’s management of time affects every area of their life, particularly concerning foundational spiritual necessities and their living of the life of the disciplemaker.
More often than not, I have seen the mismanagement of this challenge lead to students not being able to live out their God-given calling on campus.
If we aren’t all careful, we will find ourselves face to face with God’s invitation to us to draw near to Him and His call to be disciples who make disciples and all we will be able to say is, “I just don’t have the time.”
To protect collegians (and all of us, really) from missing all that God desires for us, I believe that it is paramount to have a Biblical view of time – a view that reminds us of who rules over time, orders time and equips us to work within time.
Time Belongs to God
We often have to remind college students that time really doesn’t belong to them but to God. The Bible teaches us the foundational truth that God is Creator of all things, even time (Genesis 1:5). The letter to the Colossians further clarifies: “For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through him and for him” Colossians 1:16, CSB).
So, time was created by God through Jesus and for Jesus. The believer can no longer think that time belongs to them for their own preferences or to pursue their own agenda. When we grasp this truth, time and its management becomes a Lordship issue. Time was created by the Lord, is under His rule and is to be used for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
A college student (or any Christian) who misses the foundational truth that their time belongs to God and that He is Lord over their time will inevitably manage their time for their own comfort, desires and agenda. That sort of life will miss living out the desires that God has for their lives. A life that embraces the Lord’s ownership and rule over the time He has given them will begin to discover that God has desires concerning every moment of their lives.
There is no wasted time. Every moment is infused with the purposes of God. Every moment can be about obediently following God’s agenda. With this understanding we can truly live out the command of Ephesians 5:16 to make the most of our time (“redeeming the time” in the KJV). The college student can then face their busy lives with a conviction that if God desires it, then there is a time for it.
Time and Eternity
It is also important for the collegian to realize that life is to be lived (and time managed) in light of the eternal and not in light of the temporary. Our relationship with God in Christ is eternal. It goes on forever.
Therefore, the believer is not to look at temporary demands, pressures, situations or circumstances to guide their use of time. They are to first look to eternity – to the eternal rule of the Lord over all of creation and over our lives. The Word reminds the believer:
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3, CSB).
If they are not careful, collegians can be overwhelmed by the temporal – academic deadlines, relationships, work, papers, exams, classes, financial stresses and daily living. The tendency for all Christians is to let each of these things (at various times) define how we use our time.
A life that is driven by the temporal misses the joy, purpose and blessing of living for the eternal.
How does the collegian protect against getting overwhelmed by the temporary distractions of this world?
One of the first things I learned as a young believer (but have often forgotten throughout my life as a Christian) is that the Christian is to orient their lives towards God as a first priority. Jesus reminds us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matthew 6:33, CSB).
The college student rightly uses their time when their first priority is to look to the Lord on His throne. What does the Lord desire? What is of eternal value? How is the Lord desiring that I use my time? How is the Lord working in these temporal situations?
Looking at circumstances, situations, and daily demands as a first priority leads to a life that is overwhelmed by wasted opportunities and misplaced time.
Seeking the things of God first protects us from overvaluing the wrong things and misusing the time we have been given.
In making the eternal their priority, the college student can experience the joy, purpose, and blessings that the Lord desires for their time.
In fact, seeking God first in all of our academic and life pursuits is what helps college students discover God’s desires for these areas of their lives. God desires for college students to work, relate, rest and study but to do it for His glory and not their own.
Many times we will hear collegians say that they “don’t have time.”
Just recently I shared with some freshmen about how they can use their time wisely in college. I challenged them to embrace this final guiding principle: Jesus first, everything else in its place.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me” (John 15:5, CSB).
Jesus calls his followers into a close, abiding relationship with Him personally. This abiding relationship is connected to a particular outcome: fruitfulness. This is important for the college student managing their time.
Their time will be fruitful if that time is rooted in that abiding relationship with Christ. Jesus first, then fruitfulness. Vine first, then branch, then fruit. Jesus first.
When faced with the overwhelming crush of the demands of life, it is crucial for the college student to remember this: Jesus first. That is the only way to experience fruitfulness in our use of time.
A life that ignores abiding in Christ will see their time give forth selfish desires, self-focused agendas and sinfulness. A life that abides in Jesus gives forth God-given fruit. In other words, our time is being used for the proper purposes.
This abiding life looks like a college student beginning their semester, their month, their week or their day in time with Jesus as they plan and schedule. This abiding life is one of a college student developing a daily attitude of prayer that provides a framework for their academic pursuits. This abiding life is defaulting to time alone with the Lord instead of time alone with technology or entertainment. This abiding life is the collegian tenaciously scheduling time for the abiding disciplines of prayer, Bible study and personal worship before anything else is placed in their schedule. Here is where fruitfulness is experienced.
We do not have to exist with our calendars running our lives. Jesus is Lord – over our lives and our schedules. Every Christian college student and every Christian must begin to look at their time management from a lordship perspective, through the lens of eternal life and focused on a Jesus-first lifestyle.
It is there that we will experience the joy, purpose and fruitfulness in our use of our time as we are intended to live as believers. A moment lived for a personal agenda is a wasted moment. A moment lived for the Lord is a moment well used.