Clock or Compass?
While I do not consider myself to be a great fan of Stephen R. Covey, he has written some thought provoking books such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, and many others. In First Things First Covey states “WE”RE constantly making choices about the way we spend our time, from the major seasons to the individual moments in our lives. We’re also living with the consequences of those choices. And many of us don’t like the consequences — especially when we feel there’s a gap between how we’re spending our time and what we feel is deeply important in our lives.” He goes on to say “Our struggle to put first things first can be characterized by the contrast between two powerful tools that direct us: the clock and the compass. The clock represents our commitments, appointments, schedules, goals, activities – what we do with, and how we manage our time. The compass represents our vision, values, principles, mission, conscience, direction – what we feel is important and how we lead our lives.” Too many men find themselves victims of the clock and every one of them, at some point, find themselves questioning either the direction they have taken in life or the lack of direction they have in their lives. I think this applies to our spiritual life as well. Some of us are way too busy filling our spiritual appointment book rather than paying attention to our spiritual compass and making sure that we are on course with God’s plan for our lives.
While scripture makes numerous references to time, I think the most important application is Mark 13: 32-33 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” While we certainly cannot say time is not important, we can say that we need to be focused on the fact that Jesus is coming back but the timing is in God’s hands. So what do we do with the time before that happens? I think God gives us a good description of what He wants us to do in Jeremiah 29 . It states “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’ Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD. Quite simply God is saying we need to be productive right where we are. Time only has meaning if there are events tied to that time. So we are to use the element of time to minister and serve right where we are even if it is a place we don’t want to be. All too often men are in too big a hurry to get to the next thing instead of growing and developing right where we are. God also expects us to use time to grow and mature in our relationship with Him so that we have the wisdom to discern false prophets and false teachings.
The more important instrument in life’s journey is the compass. It is our internal compass that we have to fine tune to find God’s direction for our lives. It is this internal compass that God uses to guide or lead us in the direction He wants us to go. God repeatedly tells us that He wants to be our guide and lead us in His path but if we are paying more attention to the clock than the compass, He cannot accomplish what He desires for us. Once again Jeremiah 29 gives us a wonderful description of what God wants to do with our compass. “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.” While the word “captivity” is used in a different context in this passage, some of you are captive to the clock and you are missing many, if not all, of the things God is trying to lead you to receive. This passage also gives us a very important component to keeping your compass in good operating order when it says “when you seek me with all your heart.” To maintain the best results with the compass we have to be totally focused on the One who we seek to direct us. Another important comparison is the clock seems to be more head-focused and the compass is more heart-focused. It is when we let our head supersede our heart that we seem to lose our sense of direction and we get caught up in the time trap. Rather than maintaining commitment to the direction God is giving us we find ourselves battling the clock.
I want to close with a message written by Charles E. Hummel entitled “Tyranny of the Urgent.” Hummel says “Have you ever wished for a thirty-hour day? Surely this extra time would relieve the tremendous pressure under which we live. Our lives leave a trail of unfinished tasks. Nor will the passage of time help us catch up. Children grow in number and age to require more of our time. Greater experience in profession and church brings more exacting assignments. So we find ourselves working more and enjoying it less. We live in a constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today, or even this week…A man’s home is no longer his castle; it is no longer a place away from urgent tasks because the telephone breaches the walls with imperious demands. The momentary appeal of these tasks seems irresistible and important, and they devour our energy. But in light of time’s perspective their deceptive prominence fades; with a sense of loss we recall the important tasks pushed aside. We realize we’ve become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent.” Satan will use urgency (the clock) to draw us away from the important (the compass). I want to encourage you to get focused on your compass and evaluate your current direction. Use time as a resource for developing you direction rather than a distraction from your compass. With energy and focus on your compass being the priority, you can find yourself benefiting from what is described this way in Isaiah 58: 11 which says “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Sounds like a great reason to gain and sustain a focus on your compass!