It’s been over a month since Santa Clara County (CA) initiated its shelter in place order, requiring residents to remain in their houses or apartments unless engaged in essential business. For most of us, these new circumstances mean that we have been given a load of extra time at home. All of a sudden, our lives have changed.
The biblical calling to redeem the time (Eph 5:15) to shun idleness (Prov 19:15; 31:27; 2 Thess 3:6, 11) and pursue diligence (Prov 13:4), however, doesn’t change, even when circumstances throw us out of our regular routine or provide us with “extra” time. Time truly is the most precious commodity we possess, and we must reckon with its value so that we might walk in wisdom (Ps 90:12). If we’ve been given the gift of time during these next two (or more) weeks, Scripture calls us to make the most of it. “To whom much is given, much is required,” Jesus reminds us (Luke 12:48).
Here are ten suggestions on how make the most of your shelter in place.
(1) Work. If you are presently able to work from home, give thanks to God and pursue excellence in the tasks God has given you. If you are not used to working from home, it may be challenging, at first, to maintain the focus required for steady productivity. If this is your situation, ask God to help you through this initial difficulty so that you can maintain a pattern of faithfulness in your work (Col 3:23). Don’t allow flexibility in your schedule or work environment to draw you away from fruitfulness for your employer (Eph 6:5-9).
(2) Exercise Dominion. God originally created humans to exercise dominion over his world (Gen 1:26-31). In Christ, this assignment isn’t retracted: it is recreated (Col 3:10). Now forgiven and filled with the Spirit, Christians can serve the Lord with gladness (Ps 100:2) in exercising dominion in their little portion of the world God has entrusted to them. The word “dominion” in Hebrew carries the meaning of rulership. The idea conveyed in Genesis 1-2 is that Adam and Eve would impose order over the creation and make it useful for themselves and others.
If you find yourself with extra time over the next fourteen to twenty-one days, impose some much-needed order on your place of residence: organize the garage, prepare unneeded items for donation, weed your garden, mow your lawn, finish that repair project, clean out your closet. These aren’t merely chores that you have to do so that your home doesn’t resemble a unkempt barn; they are expressions of rulership that reflect our sovereign Creator. Maintaining a tidy living space also enables you to better serve others by removing the unnecessary friction that disorganization inevitably causes.
(3) Teach Your Children. If you are at home with children during these next couple of weeks, make the most of your time with them and proactively teach them the Word of God (Deut 6:5-9; Eph 6:4). I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t use this time for a little extra fun. We certainly have, and it has been a blessing for our family to enjoy some flexibility in our regular schedule. But when we look back in a few months, we will regret how we wasted our pandemic if we yield to the easy parenting solution of movies and electronic games all day long. This is a precious time to pour biblical truth into our children and enjoy that matchless practice of reading to them while they cozy next to us on the couch.
(4) Pray. Given the New Testament’s consistent refrain for believers to be regular in prayer (Matt 6:9-13; Eph 6:18; Col 4:2), a season when we are afforded extra time should be used to cultivate a deeper prayer life. Prayer should also be the first impulse of our soul during times of difficulty (Ps 50:15). God has ordained thankful prayer as one of the primary weapons against anxiety (Phil 4:6). Don’t let this time escape you; use it to commune with your merciful Savior who beckons you into his presence and encourages you to cry out to him when you are in need (Heb 4:14-16; cf. 1 Pet 5:7).
(5) Read. By God’s design, much of our sanctification and spiritual maturity is stimulated and sustained through reading (Rom 12:1-2; Eph 3:4.; 2 Tim 4:13). While you have spare time at home, spend a portion of it reading Scripture and other good Christian books. Many of us find it difficult to secure time for reading during our busy weeks; take advantage of this time and start digging into those books that have sat next to your bedside for the last few months. Use this time to strengthen yourself spiritually in preparation for more difficulty ahead if God so ordains.
(6) Keep Meeting with Others. While we are unable to see each other face-to-face, we can still maintain a sense of fellowship through the virtual means God has provided (Heb 10:24-25). But don’t wait for others to contact you; be proactive in scheduling times of online prayer, Bible study, fellowship, accountability, and simple conversation. Reach out to those who you know are struggling during this time because they so badly miss time with the body. Make use of the resources God has graciously given to keep meeting with each other while we are physically distant.
(7) Write. If you find yourself with extra time right now, I would encourage you to write. You might consider starting a journal or renewing a dormant discipline of journal-keeping. Maintaining a journal helps you meditate on and pray over the word of God (Ps 1:1-3; Ps 119), reflect on what you are reading in other books (2 Tim 2:7), and ponder your walk with the Lord (Prov 4:26). You can also use this time to craft hand-written letters to friends, family members, and neighbors for the sake of edification and evangelism. Start a blog and invite others to engage with your thoughts online.
(8) Glimpse God’s Glory. Our current shelter-in-place restrictions still allow residents to go outside for exercise. If you are comfortable with heading outdoors for a brief respite from being inside all day, take time to walk and enjoy the green trees and the blue skies and the glorious yellow sun. God has ordained the outdoors to refresh us because we are able to see his glory in what he has created (Ps 19:1-6; Rom 1:20).
(9) Prepare for Future Ministry. We don’t know what the future holds. We may be able to return to what we consider “normal” life in the next couple weeks, or we may find that our lifestyles have been altered significantly for the long-term. Whatever the case, we need to prepare now for future ministry. Begin to make plans of how you might serve the Lord better in a post-Corona world. What kind of ministry will you pursue for the glory of God and the good of your neighbor when our government finally eases their restrictions? How will this experience better prepare you for more effective ministry to people who have been directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic? Start working on those questions now so you will be ready to launch into ministry when the restrictions are lifted.
(10) Don’t Be Idle. Although this devotional piece is based on the premise that Christians must shun idleness, it is important to make this the last word as well. Idleness not only undermines our design as God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10); it also leads to sin (1 Tim 5:13). It is not an overstatement, then, to say that the pursuit of diligence is nothing less than spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-20).
Given how quickly the conditions around Covid-19 are changing, however, it will be easy to be ensnared by the pull to hover constantly over the computer, phone, or tablet, looking for more and more information about what is currently happening or what is projected to occur in the next few months. While it is wise to have a solid understanding of what is transpiring around us (1 Chron 12:32), it is also possible to be led into idleness because we are obsessing too much over our troubling circumstances.
Rather than checking the news or the S&P index every five minutes, make a commitment each morning to plan your day, do the work God has given you, and beware of being waylaid by incessant fixation on what is trending on social media. Remember, we don’t have time to kill; we have time to redeem for the glory of God and the good of our neighbor.