Bible Study, Spiritual Disciplines

Finding Time to Listen: A Lesson in Time Management

Like the big red “X” on a treasure map which indicates that “You Are Here,” the search for genuine satisfaction in the workplace (and everywhere else) begins with God’s written Word.  When we listen carefully and follow the path laid out within its pages, we find the treasure we seek.

Unfortunately, for many Christians, this is where the difficulty truly begins. While we deeply desire the fulfillment which accompanies a relationship with God, finding time to develop that relationship is a struggle. Between school, drama team, basketball, grocery shopping, and our job(s), we barely have time to breathe… let alone actually sit down and read the Bible! It’s not that we lack interest or dedication, but rather that we lack time.

Learning to balance this particularly limited resource can be a challenge for even the most mature of believers. Fortunately, there is nothing in the Scripture that says we have to read lengthy passages in a single sitting or immerse ourselves in an in-depth study of the book of Revelation. God is looking for our attention, not brilliant acts of scholarly prowess. The result is that a commitment of few minutes a day is all that is necessary to form a habit that will benefit you for a lifetime.

If you aren’t sure where to start with this habit, here are a few ideas:

  • Connect with an online reading program like YouVersion or Through the Word to help you remember to read the Bible daily. Select the devotion or reading plan which best fits your busy schedule and join with a community of believers who are also working to develop a more intimate relationship with God.
  • Set aside a specific time to read. To get the most from a regular devotional habit, you need to be able to pray about and carefully consider the text. Choose a time for your study when you won’t be distracted or will, at least, be less distracted than the rest of the time. (Keep in mind that this may not be the same from summer to winter, week to week, or even day to day. You may require a different program for different seasons, but keep in mind that the more varied that program becomes, the more difficult it will be to remember.)
  • Set aside a specific place to read. Pick a location that will allow you to focus on what you’re reading and use it as your “reading refuge”.
  • If you really don’t have time to read (or a good place to read), consider an alternative like audio Bible disks or a daily podcast that can be listened to through headphones. (You’ll find a few of my favorite programs at the following links: Daily Audio Bible, Our Daily Bread, and Early Light.)

Next week, we’ll take a look at a few more ideas to help you establish a habit of listening to God through His Word. For now, feel free to share your own time management tips and tricks in the comment box below.

Understanding the Job, Workplace Skills

Obedience and the Art of Hearing

During my early days in retail, I discovered that I had been given a valuable gift: I could look at any workplace situation and, without further instruction, know exactly what needed to be done. Without managerial instruction (or sometimes in spite of it), I could tackle and resolve nearly any problem. My managerial skills were evident and were outweighed only by my ability to take the initiative.

The difficulty, of course, was that what appeared from my perspective to be the obvious course of action was not always the course which my boss had previously plotted. More than once, I found myself redoing a project simply because I had failed to carry out her instructions… or even hear them correctly in the first place. I may have shown great talent, but she was not seeking any special innovation on my part: just the careful attention which leads to obedience.

Sadly, many of us face a similar dilemma when it comes to following God’s instructions; especially when those instructions are designed to govern our conduct in the workplace. Looking at the immediate context of a situation, we make our best guess as to the “right” answer. Unfortunately, that “right” answer isn’t always the Biblical answer and, more often than not, we find ourselves embroiled in conflicts and frustrations which might have been avoided if only we hadn’t been so keen to show off our spiritual “managerial” skills.

As with my manager, God is not impressed with our attempts to follow Him if those attempts are not based upon the clear instruction of His Word.  A perfect example of this may be found in Leviticus 10:1-3, “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’ So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.” While God’s decision to incinerate the priests may seem a bit extreme, we need to keep in mind that Nadab and Abihu were in direct violation of God’s direct orders. In approaching Him without regard to His commands, they dishonored Him. They thought they were smarter than God. God reminded them that they weren’t.

While God isn’t likely to use any of us as human barbeque (He did it just once to make a point), Scripture still places a great deal of emphasis upon the need to both hear and obey God’s Word. For example, in Luke 6:46-49 we read Jesus’ familiar words, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” And again, in Luke 11:28 we read that, “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Our ability to obey both God and our earthy boss is directly linked to our willingness to hear.