How to Number Our Days Aright By Jon Lewis
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
It’s good to consider just what it means to number our days aright. How do we become a good steward of time. A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated my 70th birthday! On such a life milestone as that, it was a good time to review with gratitude the phenomenal opportunities God has packed into my life and then ponder what He might still have in mind for me in the years ahead.
The Size of Our Box
I have enjoyed teaching about the stewardship of time in my Africa Steward Leader seminars during the past decade, and I have often used the analogy of looking at the squares on a calendar as a series of empty cardboard boxes. God gives every single person the same-sized box each day of our lives—a twenty-four-hour-sized box.
No favoritism here! It doesn’t matter if you are wealthy or poor, healthy or weak, from the Global North or Global South—we all get the same size box every day of our lives. But even though God is involved in determining the size of our box, He allows us to decide much of what goes in it. There are times, of course, when He will direct us through circumstances He brings our way, but for the most part, how we choose to invest those twenty-four hours each day is up to us. Making those choices is where good time stewardship fits in.
I have never found a more useful tool for making wise, daily stewardship choices than the “Time Management Matrix” presented in Steven Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The simplicity of breaking down what we do into four quadrants defined by Important, Not Important and Urgent, Not Urgent is what makes it so powerful. Anyone glancing at the matrix can immediately see the wisdom of not allowing the less important things of Quadrants 3 and 4 to crowd out the urgent things of Quadrant 1 or the most important parts of our life in Quadrant 2.
However, as much as I have taught this tool for daily decision-making, I admit that the discipline of actually applying it on a daily basis is not easy. Nevertheless, my own challenge (and my challenge to you) is to make this discipline as much a part of daily practice as possible. In my mind, it is definitely one way to “number our days aright.”
How to fill up each daily box is one level of time stewardship—call it the micro level of seconds, minutes, hours, and days. But the verse says, “Teach us to number our days” (plural), which also calls for a macro level of time stewardship that deals with weeks, months, years, and possibly even seasons of life.
In this case, I have found another extremely valuable tool that has helped my own assessment of where I am in life and what my focus should be. It comes from Dr. Robert (Bobby) Clinton’s “Leadership Emergence Theory” first described in his book The Making of a Leader. Not only does Clinton propose six distinct life phases that most godly leaders experience, but he also says that the most effective leaders are those who perceive their lives with increasing perspective of how God is leading and guiding them.
At least twice in my life, I experienced a sudden and somewhat traumatic career change. Being able to overlay Clinton’s life-phase map over my own timeline was a huge help at those transition moments and helped me gain the perspective I needed to embrace the new phase with purposeful intention and, most importantly, personal peace. Looking back, I can’t help but think it was exactly what I needed to “number my days aright”—to develop appreciation for the new season of life God had led me to, to be better and not bitter. To this day, I am grateful for Bobby Clinton’s wisdom in providing such a useful tool as well as his own personal words of counsel.
So now, I feel like I am standing at the threshold of another important life phase. What exactly the future will hold for a 70-year-old guy like me, I can’t be sure.
There’s nothing like this past year of COVID-19 to teach me that life will always have unexpected surprises. However, I am actually excited about this next season of life, regardless of the unknowns. What I am sure about is that this is no time to stop “numbering my days aright,” both at the micro (daily) level as well as the macro (life-season) level because I know this is how God will keep transforming my heart with His truth, His love, and His wisdom.
Jon Lewis is a Senior Associate for Partnership Advancement with OC International and focuses on encouraging global Christian leaders towards greater ministry effectiveness. With over 40-years of experience, he also served as a MAF mission pilot in Africa and CEO of Partners International.
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