Sunday, January 25, 2009

Willem Teellinck on Time Management

Willem Teellinck, Sleutel Der Devotie Ons openende De Deure des Hemels (The Key of True Devotion Opens Heaven's Door), I.4.18, 395:

Worship God four hours a day,
Let three for food come into play,
Sleep seven more, less if you can,
Give eight others to the work of man,
And two to help the mind to understand.
If you, this way, your time so use,
You'll find your soul has none to lose!

Willem Teellinck, The Path of True Godliness, pp. 175-178:

If a Christian desires to practice true godliness faithfully and attain his real purpose in life, he should use the means referred to in a disciplined way. It is necessary for him to observe a good, established, firm, and regular rule of life. He must not live carelessly and haphazardly but follow this standard (Gal. 6:16). God's blessings are promised only to those who order their lives well (Ps. 50:23). Surely, it is easy to understand how fundamental this is because, as we have learned, the life of godliness involves many things of immense importance.

We all know that anyone who has important business matters that are crucial to him and demand detailed attention will have to go about his business in an orderly manner and act wisely, or he can expect little success. Can you imagine the executive of a large organization having no strategy but working haphazardly and without order? Can you imagine him starting one thing, then dropping it and flitting from one task to another without ever considering why he abandoned the task at hand? Can you imagine his failing to consider what he had achieved or to review and analyze his plan to determine its progress? Suppose he approached each task carelessly, without any objective, working one day on one project and another day on whatever might happen to turn up? Every competent businessman knows well that this man's business would soon be in shambles, and his money would rapidly disappear.

We find exactly the same thing with the daily practice of the godly life. It is impossible to live a godly life unless we begin and continue this life with direction and in a disciplined way. If we live casually, taking days as they come, paying no attention to rules or order, we will deceive ourselves, and, of course, we will inevitably fail. We will inevitably neglect something important here and forget something essential there, causing untold harm to true godliness. If we look at the reasons why many Christians who are sincere and highly value the godly life fail so badly among believers, make so little progress in holiness, and are so pitifully negligent -- or at least profit so little and grow so little in the practice of godliness -- we will discover that they lack a disciplined lifestyle. They live haphazardly and deal with whatever turns up and whatever suits them; thus, they forget and neglect many things that pertain to godliness. They become confused and entangle themselves in many things that cause untold harm to true godliness. Clearly, they could have prevented this if they had followed a well-regulated and ordered life. We ought to pay close attention to this.

A good, established, firm, and regular rule of life consists of three specific practices:

* establishing fixed times and hours for all our duties
* assigning priorities, or first doing those things that are most important and essential
* making it a daily practice to examine how we have conducted ourselves and how it is with our hearts

We will discuss each point, starting in this section with the first one.

Allocate Certain Times Each Day to Accomplish Our Duties

In order to lead a disciplined life, it is necessary to set aside specific times for those things that we know for certain need our attention. This will enable us to start our daily work in an orderly fashion and work at it diligently so that we will be able to accomplish these things well. We should pay close attention to our priorities at the start of the day, during the course of the day, and at the end of the day, giving all essential daily tasks their allocated time or hour. For example, Scripture tells us that it was the practice of David (Ps. 55:17) and Daniel (Dan. 6:10) to pray three times a day. Here are some of the priorities we should set.

1. Time for prayer and devotions. We should set aside a certain time at the beginning of each day to call upon the name of the Lord and to read God's Word, both personally and with the family. The head of the family may choose a time that suits him and his family best. He should see that this time is strictly adhered to but with some flexibility, should circumstances demand it, to prevent it from becoming a mere ritual or superstitious observance. These set hours and times ought to be chosen as an aid, not an obstacle, to faith. If circumstances offer a justifiable reason not to follow our usual practice, then we should willingly change the time with the understanding that our regular hours remain the norm. We simply have to make sure that by changing the order, the rule is not overlooked. If possible, we should make arrangements for an hour that better suits our circumstances.

2. Regular times for daily activities. We should then plan our days, assigning the most suitable and convenient times and hours for each daily task. For example, on workdays we should have a specific time to perform each of the ordinary duties of our occupation. We should set aside times to relax and enjoy ourselves and to have our meals. Then, too, it is a great blessing for us to set aside some free time to perform works of charity and frienship -- as much as we can and not only on the Lord's Day but also on other days. These acts including visiting, comforting, and helping others as the opportunities arise. Doing these things is virtuous not only on the Lord's Day but also during the entire week.

3. Ending the day with the Lord. We should set aside time at the end of the day for devotions with God, to personally read God's Word and to pray with our families. We should set aside as much time for this as we can without tiring ourselves. It would also be good for us to spend some time examining our conduct during the day that has just ended.

In short, our first priority is to follow certain sound and established rules in life that will enable us to lead a truly godly life. We really cannot express how much serenity, assurance, blessing, and comfort this will give to those who routinely observe this.

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