Time is a faithful servant but a fearsome master. Dr. Seuss illustrates this in his delightful book, Oh, The Places You Go. It’s a story about life’s journey, which doesn’t always take you to the places you want to go—like “The Waiting Place,” where people are

Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for wind to fly a kite

or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, or their Uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting. [1]

Isn’t this the way life is? For most of us opportunities abound and time is plentiful. But we live in a time-wasting culture—we don’t know how to make the most of our opportunities, the most of our time. We feel like we’re waiting for something magical to happen—for life to really begin.

SparklerIt’s in the waiting period where life doesn’t seem to count for much, where time slips away and opportunities evaporate. But for the opportunities that do come along, which one’s should you go after? Saying yes to one is saying no to others. Opportunities are about priorities—which ones should I pursue? Priorities are about time—which ones are worth pursuing? And time is about life—will my pursuits make my life count for something important or something trivial?

Oscar Wilde wrote: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” [2] None of us wants to come to the end of our lives and look back with regret that we didn’t truly live, that our lives didn’t amount for much. All of us what to live lives of meaning—to make our lives count . . . everyday.

But to make our lives count everyday we must live wisely.

It’s that simple . . . and that difficult. Simple to say. Difficult to do.

“[Living wisely],” Samuel Butler wrote, “is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.” [3] It is the skill of putting theoretical knowledge into practical use. So let’s get practical.

First, live wisely by making the most of your time and opportunities.

Life is time. What consumes your thoughts, your attitudes, your actions? Whatever consumes your time consumes your life.

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor of the movie Gladiator, said, “When faced with a choice, remember: our business is with things that really matter.” [4] Or as Moses instructed in Psalm 90:12: “Lord . . . teach us to number our days, / That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

If we’re going to make our lives count we must learn to live wisely. And to live wisely we need to spend our time wisely—to make the most of our time and opportunities, buying them up and investing in them.

Life passes like a flash of lighting

Whose blaze barely lasts long enough to see.

While the earth and the sky stand still forever

How swiftly changing time flies across man’s face.

O you who sit over your full cup and do not drink,

Tell me, for whom are you still waiting? [5]

Make your life count. Live wisely by making the most of your time and opportunities.

Second, live wisely by following hard after your calling or passion.

The foolish person misunderstands his calling or passion, and lives recklessly—squandering time and missing opportunities. But a wise person understands his calling or passion, which becomes the motivation to seize opportunities and use time wisely.

The wise person understand that saying yes to one thing means saying no to many things. Knowing your passion or calling helps you say yes to the right things. And once you’ve said yes, doggedly pursue it. Missionary Jim Elliot, who gave his life pursuing his passion of reaching South American headhunters with the gospel, wrote in his diary: “Where ever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”[6]

Make your life count. Live wisely by making the most of your time and opportunities, and by following hard after your calling or passion.

Third, live wisely by guarding against stupidity.

Don’t be controlled by things that make you stupid, like addictions—drinking, drugs, food, sex, TV, video games, Facebook, and Twitter. Avoid anything that takes over your life and leads to wasted time because it will eventually lead to a wasted life. And what could more stupid than a wasted life?

In college, a friend made it a point to get drunk every Friday and Saturday night. She knew she’d feel terrible on Sunday morning, and often came to class on Monday with a splitting headache. But she wouldn’t change her behavior. She told me once how she threw up in her car late one Friday night, cleaned it up the next morning and then that evening went out and drank until she threw up again. She was the embodiment of Proverbs 26:11: “Like a dog that returns to its vomit / Is a fool who repeats his [or her] folly.” Stupid.

Make your life count. Live wisely by making the most of your time and opportunities, by following hard after your calling or passion, and by guarding against stupidity. If you do then your life will be marked by:

  • Gracious words
  • Big heartedness
  • A grateful spirit
  • A humble attitude

And you’ll be remember as one who lived life well.

[1] Theodor S. Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (New York: Random House, 1990), 24.

[2] Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism,” The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde: Stories, Plays, Poems & Essays, ed. J. B. Foreman (New York: Perennial Library, 1989), 1084.

[3] Samuel Butler, “Lord, What Is Man?, Life,” ix, in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (Middlesex: The Echo Library, 2006), 2.

[4] Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.58, trans. Gregory Hays (New York: The Modern Library, 2002), 95.

[5] Hermann Hesse, Klingsor’s Last Summer, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971), 166.

[6] Jim Elliot, quoted in Elizabeth Elliot, The Journals of Jim Elliot (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1978), 278.

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