Teach Us to Number Our Hours
In my early thirties I came to love the only psalm in Scripture written by Moses–Psalm 90.
The phrase in that chapter that stood out is verse twelve:
So, teach us to number our days that we may become wise (Psalm 90:12).
It means: Don’t waste time. Use your short stay on earth wisely. Be thoughtful, intentional.
Now, I am asking God to number my hours.
Teach Us to Number our Hours
Recently I’ve been analyzing my time. Decades ago I stumbled onto Psalm 90:12 and began to keep track in my journal of the days I had lived (currently 25,609) and the days I might have left in an 85-year lifespan (6,206).
Seeing that “hourglass” empty motivates me to use each day wisely.
Recently, I ‘ve been thinking about hours. We each enjoy 24 hours a day and 168 hours a week. I am living in the last “third” of my life–which could end today or possibly go another three decades. (I’m aiming realistically at seventeen years.) But I am ready to die today or go into my nineties.
The point is I have a plan.
I don’t suppose Moses thought in hours because he didn’t have a watch and lived in a much slower paced world. But he understood the importance of using time wisely. He served as a faithful steward in God’s house (Hebrews 3:5).
I, too, want to be faithful–and so should you. We are commanded in the New Testament to redeem the time “because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
I have written extensively on what we should live for as Jesus’ followers. They include the cultural trinity (truth, goodness, and beauty), our God-given assignments, and serving the Great Commission. Jesus put it this way:
Seek first His kingdom and his righteousness and all these things (earthly needs) will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).
So, how can we accomplish this each hour of the day?
First, an important caveat. I realize some people are more relational (even free spirited), and others are time/project oriented (disciplined and intentional). I know this because I am one of the latter and I married the former.
Marriage, and life in general, teach you to understand and appreciate differences. Otherwise, you will always be mad or impatient with people (and vice versa).
I took a leadership test years ago that helped me understand my make-up. The facilitator said that I was very creative (a free-spirited) person. They called it being “divergent.” I knew that about me, but most people didn’t. Here’s the reason. On the other side of my personality, I scored off the chart in being disciplined. They called that “convergence.”
In other words, my disciplined side usually swallowed up my free spirit. (I knew that too.)
My thoughts on time usage will primarily strike a chord with those of you who are like me–disciplined and time/project oriented. You relational folks might groan at my schedule, but there are still things you can adapt to your friendships and free flow.
Here is how I’m numbering my hours in this last stage of life.
Let’s start by looking through a biblical lens (Creation) which states “there was evening and morning, the first day” (Genesis 1:5). A day, in God’s view begins with “night.”
I try to go to bed between 10:30 and 11 :00 PM and sleep until 6:30 AM–7-8 hours. I’m not a good sleeper, so just “resting” is better than being sleep deprived. This is good stewardship of the body. My dad suffered a heart attack at seventy (I’m sixty-eight) and heart disease runs in the family. I need to do my best to replenish the flesh.
For the past fifty years, I spend time with God for 30-45 minutes after rising. “God first” seems appropriate–even better than coffee. I read the Bible from cover-to cover annually and have a morning prayer time. Then I do my outside chores (feed chickens, serve the family) and eat a healthy breakfast (“Kona birdseed”–invented by Graham Kerr).
About 9 AM I go to one of my two offices until about 2:30 PM. On Mondays and Thursdays, I travel to Tacoma to Faith International University. I send out a Discipleship Email to my students every Monday, and other days I grade papers, have student conferences, and encourage and meet with staff and faculty. Yesterday I met an Ethiopian student who has a church in Seattle and others in East Africa.
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays I drive to First Christian Church in Port Orchard where I also have an office and library (and a forty-year missionary relationship). I’m here during the same hours working on YWAM projects, seeing people, and writing my blog (like today).
At both FIU and FCC, I do a thirty-minute prayer walk around the properties (three laps) about noon. I pray for world concerns on the first lap, students/disciples on the second, and personal things on the third. We helped set up a prayer room at both sites where I often spend another half hour interceding.
Recently I started going home about 3 PM to take a half hour “rest.” It dawned on me that I usually work about fifteen hours a day and am approaching seventy. I need to pace myself better.
After dinner I watch forty minutes of news, do chores and garden during the summertime (God’s beauty). Then I work on future books between 7:30 and 9 PM. Shirley and I spend the last hour-or-so of the day together after her mom goes to bed (Shirley cares for her 24-7 in our home). We enjoy watching Hallmark and other wholesome entertainment.
I also have some weekly patterns. We have scheduled a “family dinner” every Monday night for decades for those nearby. Tuesday nights I mentor/enjoy friendship with a businessman friend for the past seven years. Friday nights I mentor by SKYPE the head of Youth For Christ in Mongolia. He’s been a disciple for fifteen years. Twice a month on Monday nights I participate in a church elder’s meeting.
Saturday mornings Shirley and I have a breakfast date out (to get her out of the house). Every day at 4 PM I spend time with my mom at her home (a ten-year practice which included dad before he passed). Sundays are for worship and preaching. Afternoons for reading and rest. Then the new week begins.
When I travel and speak, I also try to use every hour productively.
There is not an hour in a day I do not consciously use for God’s purposes. That may seem extreme, but I think it’s simply “redeeming the time” and “numbering my hours.”
May God show you how to number yours. You have one life to live. Do it with purpose.
In a November 29, 1994 journal entry–when I had lived 14,476 days with 15,065 left—I shared this perspective nearly thirty years ago:
The sayings in 2 Timothy 2:1-7 really jump out at me. There seem to be four simple keys to an effective life: 1) Live to please God, 2) Don’t waste time, 3) Obey in everything, and 4) Work hard. What a great recipe for success. No wonder Paul told Timothy to “think about these things.” God’s keys to life are so simple, yet profound. Help me to live these truths, Lord. Once again today, I lay my life at your feet and ask that you would glorify your name in me.
How do children spell love? T-I-M-E.
How does God spell love for Him? Using our TIME wisely for His glory and Kingdom.
The thief on the cross used his final hours wisely.
Let’s do the same with every hour God gives us.
Hi Ron, thanks for sharing your routine. I love hearing how people I admire structure their inner world, because that is really the key for sustained effectiveness in all areas of life. Living life with a full cup is the secret to success. A couple of years ago I added an element to my quiet time with God that has proven to be transformative. I’d always been disciplined in reading the Word, journaling and praying for needs. The missing element, I found, was silence and contemplation. I began spending up to an hour a day (had to get up much earlier to do this) sitting in silence and simply enjoying His Presence. It quickly became my favorite part of the day. I found that it created an undercurrent of awareness that followed me throughout my day. I began changing from the inside out, in ways I’d never experienced before. His Presence became very tangible to me, something I could literally feel. These days, I don’t always get in an hour of silence but I do try for at least 30 minutes. It’s a spiritual rhythm that has made my life so rich.
What a wonderful secret. I do that same thing on my daily prayer walks (incorporate it in) and also the “rest” time.
Time alone with God. What a life-changing treat!
0Dr. Ron, you are still a “youngster” During the residency I kept hearing people in their 50’s as being old. A 54-year-old student stated that they are probably the oldest in the class until they read my introduction. This past year there was a 74-year-old that received her doctorate. She was the oldest until…
My Mom once again completed 1 to 2 mile walks along creeks and cliffs. God has continued to sustain her. Ultimately, that is all we have. God calls us home when we have completed our designated mission and reached the end of a uniquely designed pathway.
Beneath His wing,
Exactly right, Naomi. Moses lived to be 120!
I hope I follow in your footsteps–and fulfill all of my assignments.