Employing Our Personal Assets
Up to this point we have studied the management of the elements of our being—such as the intellect, will, emotions, and body. Now we will study the management of two very personal assets which God has entrusted to us: time and abilities. They are personal in a very special sense, because they are intimately related to ourselves. For it is a fact that nobody can exist without having time and abilities.
As God’s steward you need to make the best use of the assets He has given you. This lesson has been prepared with the purpose of instructing you about this matter. The first part will give you some ideas on how to make good use of your time; the second part will teach you how to discover, develop, and use your abilities for God’s glory.
Time is an extremely strange thing. It is like a road, but with certain differences. Because while we can go backward and forward on a road, we can only go forward in time. We are always moving towards the future; we never return to the past. We may go back to the city where we lived as children, but we can’t go back to being children! We may stop a while on a road; but we can’t stop in time. You cannot keep being a young person; you must go on advancing towards old age . . . death . . . eternity.
Time is a very valuable possession. But in contrast to other possessions, we can’t buy more time from someone else nor can we sell ours. How many people would be willing to pay a fortune just to live a few more years! We can’t save time to use it later on either; if we don’t take advantage of it now, we lose it.
In some respects time seems to be relative. It is longer for the student than for the professor. It is longer too for the congregation than for the preacher.
God determines how much time we have to live our earthly life, as the experience of Hezekiah shows (2 Kings 20:1-6). Thus He is the owner of our time. He gives each one of us our time. And to think that some people say they have no time for God!
Every human being is responsible to God for the way he has used his lifetime. A life of years of service to the Lord is not the same as a few hours given to Him before one’s death. There is no comparison between Paul (2 Timothy 4:6-8) and the criminal who repented (Luke 23:41-43). Both of them were saved; but the first gave God the best years of his lifetime and the last, the leftovers. And God always deserves the first and the best!
God has promised a long life to those who obey Him (Exodus 20:12; 23:26; Deuteronomy 30:20; Psalm 91:16; Proverbs 4:10). But on the contrary, He shortens the life of the wicked (1 Samuel 2:31-33, Proverbs 10:27).
Organizing Your Time
Objective 2: Identify the strategy that will help a person to solve problems in using his or her time.
Objective 3. Following the examples given in the lesson, write down your responsibilities, your weekly appointments, a daily schedule, and a list of things to do.
Now that you understand that your lifetime is a trust that God has put in your hands, the most logical thing you can do is to use it according to His instructions (Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5). In order to do this, you must organize your time. Since the hours you spend at work are already taken up,
List Your Responsibilities
Do you remember Lesson 2 and the three categories of investments: God, others, and ourselves? And the strategy of goals, priorities, and plans of Lesson 3? Well, now you can apply them in order to set apart a portion of your time for each of your different responsibilities.
- Time for God. This is our principal responsibility and our first priority. God has established that a seventh of our time should be dedicated especially to Him (Exodus 20:9-10). But there is also the time that we need to dedicate to having private devotions. Note the example of Jesus in Mark 1:35. We need to set aside a time to be alone with God, praying and studying His Word. If we don’t do this or have stopped doing this, we owe God a debt of time. And we must pay it back to Him. Or shouldn’t we—what do you think?
- Time for others. In the first place, if we are married, we need to set aside a time to talk with our wife or husband about the interests we share. We are one flesh (Genesis 2:24). We both need each other. Sometimes it is possible for two people to live under the same roof as if they were total strangers. Not setting aside time for each other may be the first step that leads towards the breaking up of the marriage later
In the second place, we need to set aside a time for our children. They have their own needs and problems, and during this time we can find out about these and look for a solution. This is the time we can counsel them and let them know that we are interested in them.
Then comes a time for our brothers and sisters in the faith. A time for worshipping the Lord and studying the Bible together. A time for promoting our fellowship. A time for establishing warm friendships with other believers.
And last we need to set apart a time for other people. This is the time that we dedicate to the Lord’s work. It is the time when we testify, preach, teach, or counsel. It is the time in which we can do good to others.
- Time for yourself. This seems selfish, doesn’t it? But everyone needs to set aside a time for rest, recreation, or meditation—and for making plans! In this way we will be in a better position to serve the Lord.
Use an Appointment Book
Once you have listed your responsibilities, you need to write them down in an appointment book. Appointment books are small notebooks for writing down daily appointments. There are simple ones for writing down a person’s main appointments, and detailed ones for listing them by the half- hour. A simple appointment book isn’t as expensive, of course, and is adequate for the appointments a Christian worker is likely to have.
Make a Schedule
It may be that you think it unnecessary to write down in your appointment book the things you do as a matter of routine: pray, attend church, go to work, and so forth. In that case it might be helpful for you to prepare a schedule for a typical day. This schedule will help you to remember the things you need to do at a certain time each day. Your schedule will also help others to understand that you have certain times that are already set aside for a specific purpose. For example, nobody would come to see you at the same time you are leaving to go to work. But sometimes it happens that a friend or relative comes to visit you when you are ready to leave for church.
Have a List of Things to Do
A technique that will help us make good use of our time is to plan each day what we are going to do on the following one. This technique is especially helpful for the person who is self- employed, the full-time Christian worker, or the housewife. To do this you need to write down all the things you need to do the following day. Some people usually make just a simple list; but if there are several things to do, others prefer to divide them up by categories.
Having a list of things to do will help you do things on time. Why have to apologize for waiting too long to answer a letter? Or visiting a sick person when he is already well? Or paying a bill on the last day, having to wait in a long line with other people who have done the same thing? In addition, a list made by categories will help you not to forget something important you could do at the same time you take care of something like it. Why should you have to make another trip downtown for a letter you had forgotten to mail or something you had forgotten to buy?
Be on Time
There are some people who curse the man who invented the clock; they believe that this device has turned man into a slave. As a result, they always arrive late wherever they go. Others don’t organize their time and things aren’t done when they should be.
The habit of being late may very well be a result of the attitude we had before coming to know Christ. We thought, as many people still do, that there was plenty of time to settle our account with God. But it is important to realize that God does things on time (Galatians 4:4, Titus 1:2-3). Jesus also liked to do things at their proper time and wanted His hearers to do the same (Luke 22:14, John 7:6).
As stewards of our time, we also should do things punctually and arrive on time at appointments. This will also show that we are considerate of others. If we have an appointment with someone for 10:00 in the morning, why should we make him lose half an hour by arriving at 10:30? An employee tries to be on time to work. We should have the same kind of desire to start meetings on time and arrive on time to them.
Use the Times of Waiting
You can take advantage of the time you spend in a waiting room, riding the bus to work, or on a train taking a trip. You can read a book, study your lesson, witness about Christ to the person next to you, or think about something that is edifying. You could do the same kind of thing if you are waiting in line to buy stamps or pay a bill.
INVEST YOUR ABILITIES
Some Thoughts About Abilities
Objective 4. Recognize statements that are consistent with what Matthew 25:14-30 teaches us about stewardship of abilities.
As we said in Lesson 2, in Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus teaches us that every person is God’s steward. The parable He gives there is made up of three elements, which are: a) the man or owner, representing God; b) the servants or managers, representing every human being; and c) the silver coins, representing talents or abilities.
The parable also teaches four lessons:
- God gives each person talents or abilities. Every servant received a certain number of coins.
- Every person is different. Some may be very capable, perhaps even geniuses, we could say. Others, the majority, may be average, that is, they have a normal ability. And others may not be as capable as the
- God wants every human being to develop the abilities he has been given by God according to His plan. Every servant had to invest the money so that the owner would
- Every human being will have to give account to God for the way he has used the abilities God has given him. The servants who invested the money were rewarded; the servant who didn’t was
Some people have a special ability to draw, others have an ear for music, while still others are good mechanics. Some people are born teachers, whereas others have a good head for business. If we were to ask outstanding writers, composers, poets, professionals, and artists to tell us the secret of their success, many of them would say: “One part of it is due to untiring effort; but the other is due to the ability God has given me.”
Discovering Your Hidden Abilities
Objective 5. Choose examples of people who have discovered their abilities by following the steps given in the lesson.
Some people think that they don’t have any kind of talent. They lament the fact that they can’t do anything for the Lord. But according to the teaching of Jesus, there is no one who is absolutely incapable, no one who hasn’t received at least one ability. The truth of the matter is that these people haven’t yet discovered the abilities they have. Perhaps their talents are hidden deep inside them, dormant, waiting to be used. If you think you are a person like this, I recommend that you take these three steps:
- Ask the Lord. In Lesson 3 you studied the fact that God has a plan for your life. Without a doubt God has given you the ability that is necessary to carry out His plan. Ask Him, then, to guide you and help you discover those talents so you can use them for His
Look around you. When you do this you will see many needs in your church, your neighborhood, your city. As a result you will see many opportunities of doing good. These opportunities are one of the ways God uses to help us discover our talents and use them according to His will. It was because they saw great needs among the children that Robert Raikes established the first Sunday school and Robert Baden-Powell the Boy Scouts.A certain sister was upset by the thought that she had no ability. When she presented her problem to the Lord, she remembered that she knew how to make a certain kind of delicious pastries. She invited one of the Sunday school teachers to hold children’s meetings in her house. Then she made the pastries and some lemonade and invited the neighborhood children to a party. While the children were there, the teacher taught them some songs and a story from the Bible. The party was a great success, so much so that the sister continued to use her talent in this way. As time went on that sister’s house became an evangelistic center for that part of the city.
- Try new In my country we have a saying that goes: “He who won’t take a risk can’t cross the river.” That is to say you need to risk trying something different to see if you have the ability to do it or not. An elderly lady who was more than eighty years old learned to oil paint just to amuse herself. She never imagined that she would become world- famous because of her paintings. How many years she spent carrying around a dormant talent! In my own experience I had to risk crossing for the first time not a river but the Atlantic Ocean to come to write this course. I have always enjoyed teaching, but twenty years ago I never thought I would be writing books.
Do you have a special interest in a certain activity? Be bold!
Perhaps God has given you a talent for it.
Developing Your Abilities
Objective 6. Identify statements that explain what it means for a person to develop and dedicate his or her abilities.
Development Is Necessary
Everyone has an innate ability to do certain things; but if he or she doesn’t invest it, that is, doesn’t develop it, it may be lost (Matthew 25:28). The useless servant had a certain ability and for that reason his master entrusted him with some silver coins. You also have certain abilities that God has entrusted to you and is expecting you to develop.
Development Is Possible
You can develop your talents in two stages. The first is to carefully observe and listen to those who know how to do well what you want to learn and then imitate them and practice. Nobody was born knowing everything, but we were all born with the ability to learn many things. Of these many things the first ones were to walk and talk. And we learned how to do that, didn’t we? And so also if you have the ability to do something you will be able to learn how by this simple method. Do you want to learn to teach? Listen to a good teacher and imitate him or her. Do you want to learn how to play an instrument? You can do it without knowing how to read music! If you have a good ear, it would be enough to carefully observe how a good musician plays, listen to some of his instructions, and then practice and practice. Don’t be discouraged if what you play doesn’t sound too good at first. Keep practicing; in time you will be an expert.
A second stage in developing your talents could be to take a course so you can acquire more knowledge and skill in doing what you are already practicing. It may be that you want to begin the course without having had any previous practice. In such a case I would only point out that if you learn something that you are not going to use, it will be of very little value in helping you develop your talents. You learn to hammer by hammering, though at the beginning you may hit one of your fingers!
Dedicating Your Abilities
Some use the talents God gave them to promote evil causes. Others use them to promote their own interests. But how happy are those who dedicate them to the Lord to be used in His service! Did God give you a beautiful voice? Use it for His glory. Are you a carpenter or a mason? Your talent, if it were dedicated to God, could prove to be a blessing in church construction or repair.
A young Christian man noticed that there were all kinds of advertisements in the buses of his country, but none for Christ or the church. This made him decide to use for God the talent God Himself had given him. So he made gospel signs for display on the buses. As time went by, he dedicated himself entirely to this work. Today he directs a large business that distributes thousands of signs in many different parts of the world.
The example of Dorcas has inspired thousands of Christian women to dedicate their talents to the Lord’s work. Their hands and their needles and thread have served to advance the kingdom of God and to do good to others. This is the way God wants us to use the talents He has given us (1 Peter 4:10).
God can give special ability to those who dedicate their talents to Him. He can give them supernatural wisdom and skill in their work for Him. Notice in Exodus 31:1-11 and 35:30–36:1 how God filled two Israelite craftsmen with His Spirit. If you would ask the Lord, you could be blessed in the same way.