What you do with your time is what you do with your life. Is your life worth what consumes your time?
J.R.R. Tolkien tells a story about writing a story. He feared he would die before completing “Lord of the Rings” which he had been crafting for decades. He expressed his feelings in “Leaf by Niggle.” Niggle was a painter, and imagined a grand forest of trees. He started painting that vision but obsessed over the details of individual leaves and progress was slow. One day, he left on a one-way trip to a new country and saw in person that grand forest, real and vibrant. All that was left of his painting back home was a single leaf, placed in a museum.
Most of us want to be successful, and to enjoy and improve the world around us. In fact, we derive so much satisfaction from doing something well, accomplishment may be vital for our well-being. The problem is that success can seem just beyond reach, making drudgery of what you do every day. If you work only for wages, serve just for recognition, or seek simply a life of leisure, then you devise your own drudgery. Life is more than money, fame, or pleasure. The Bible says God created men and women in His own image (Gen. 1:27). Since He loves, creates, and works, so do we. Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17).
What’s amazing is that He invites us into that work. Note, that invitation does not apply only to “ministry,” like preaching, teaching, and witnessing. It says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:23-24). He is not just an imaginary boss. He actually orchestrates your daily assignments. John Calvin wrote, “No sacrifice is more pleasing to God than when every person applies diligently to his or her own calling.” The words vocation and calling share a Latin root. So your job, your work, is God’s calling to join Him, even if your part seems irrelevant, inconsequential, or incomplete. Do that, and you are already successful.
Niggle’s unfinished, small work pointed to a truth larger than himself. In “Every Good Endeavor” Tim Keller writes, “If the God of the Bible exists, then every good endeavor pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.” A famous tentmaker said the same, “Your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
“Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well” (Psa. 139:14). You may never know on this side how He uses your time to re-create a world that points people toward Him. But it is wonderful to know that He does, and that makes life worth it.