I love the Buffalo Bills. My father (a native of Western New York), brother and I have watched nearly every Bills football game together since 2003—maybe a bit later than that for Micah, who was only two years old back then. We screamed for joy, ran laps around my home, and held our heads in disbelief when they clinched a playoff berth last season for the first time since 1999.
Naturally, our fading hopes and middling expectations were restored with that solitary playoff appearance, which ended quickly in the first round with a 10-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Recently, I watched an episode of Buffalo Bills: Embedded titled “The Standard” in preparation for my devoted fandom throughout the 2018-19 season.
Amid clips of the Bills defense running drills, discussing game plans, and scrimmaging, one moment stood out, at least to me: new Bills defensive end Trent Murphy telling a roomful of fellow defenders his tragic experience prior to last season, his fourth as a member of the Washington Redskins. He said:
Going into my contract year having—really, honestly—the training camp of my life. Like, can’t be blocked, beating everybody, contract year—going to be great. I’m going to get double digits [quarterback sacks]. Sixth play of the first preseason game, somebody does their job and basically just blasts the fullback into my knee—tears everything. … Just heartbroken, like, Man, I was going to help my family, do all these things. So, you just can’t take it for granted. You never know what play’s going to be your last. That wasn’t my last play, but it could have been if it was worse. And so, we’ve got an opportunity today, got an opportunity tomorrow. Do it for the guy next to you. Do it for your family, the name on your back, for the team. Just enjoy it.
This is a common sentiment among athletes who have suffered major injuries. Oftentimes, I’m corrected by the intense devotion that athletes exhibit for achieving greatness in their sport. The message from Murphy’s pep talk to Bills defenders was clear: Seize the moment. Make the most of every day because this life is temporary and can change quickly.
The Bible says something similar: “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).
As a young person in God’s Church, you may think of yourself as practically invincible. Surely, you have about 70 years left to live! You’re healthy and strong; you ace your classes; you have lots of friends. You even know more than your parents! (This paragraph is a joke.)
When we’re young, it can be easy to look at life like a smooth and wide path that stretches far beyond the horizon. The possibilities seem endless, as does the duration of this temporary existence. You probably don’t think of your life as a vapor that disappears in an instant, but that’s how God describes it.
With that in mind, how should God’s young people approach day-to-day life? Let us examine the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them” (Ecclesiastes 9:10-12).
Since we don’t know when we will be ensnared by the grave, we ought to pursue every opportunity wholeheartedly—even the ones we don’t particularly enjoy. I have taught several math classes at Imperial Academy. Many times each academic year, students asked me why they had to learn a particular method for solving a math problem. They wondered about the point of learning a skill they would never use in real life.
Yet, Philadelphia Church of God Pastor General Gerald Flurry has told me there is no better way to develop critical thinking and logic skills than by solving math problems. Among many other benefits, having these skills is essential in proving God’s truth for ourselves—in understanding why we believe and live the way we do.
There can be tremendous value to some of the tasks and responsibilities that we find the most mundane or loathsome; we just aren’t viewing these assignments from the right perspective. The more we strive to excel in our tedious chores, the more we will gain from them—and the more God will bless us for squeezing out the extra effort.
We live in a dangerous age just before the return of Jesus Christ to Earth to establish the perfect, loving government of God. The Apostle Paul admonishes us to be urgent and to use our time wisely: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). The Greek word for redeeming here means “to buy up.” Are we buying up every last moment of time that we possibly can each day?
Recently, I was struggling with time management. Every week seemed to evaporate like a vapor. I always wondered how the time had slipped by before I could accomplish my goals. So, I wrote out a plan for how I would use all 168 hours each week. Eight hours of sleep each night adds up to 56 hours in a week. Eight hours of work five days of the week totals 40 more hours. Three meals a day, one hour for each, for seven days a week makes 21 hours. According to this analysis of my average week, sleeping, work and eating take up 117 of the 168 hours. These are automatic, recurring events. I don’t have much choice over whether to continue these activities. I suppose I could sleep less, but that becomes highly undesirable once you exit the teenage years.
However, I do have a lot of choices when it comes to dividing the other 51 hours. Taking into account spiritual priorities, family time, reading good books, exercise, Spokesman Club, choir practice, and keeping up with pcg publications, websites and radio and TV programs, there isn’t much time left over each week for distractions and diversions.
Especially when you’re young, it’s important to pack your schedule. Try dividing your weekly hours like I just outlined, then crunch those hours into a daily schedule. God begins each day at sunset, so you can try to do the same with your routine. Usually, your days will be different, depending on extracurricular activities and other interchangeable responsibilities. Factor in time needed to complete homework assignments, which I don’t have to worry about these days. Consider allotting time to developing musical, athletic or other kinds of talents. Be specific with what you intend to accomplish during each block of time in your schedule.
Once you have literally written down a plan of action for each day and week, it becomes simpler to set and meet challenging longer-term goals. Buying up your time this way also helps to ensure that you stay out of trouble.
As a youth in God’s Church, you are expected to develop and progress toward eventual conversion as a Spirit-begotten true Christian. By incorporating an urgency-fueled schedule, you will advance toward this worthy goal at a pace you wouldn’t believe.