Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16 CSB)
Ask the Lord to prepare your heart and mind so you may hear His truth and obey His Word.
The sign that sat on my dad’s desk made an impression on me while growing up as a missionary kid in Indonesia—DO IT NOW. It served as a reminder to quit putting off what needed to be done today. When I find myself delaying work on a project or putting off a necessary phone call, that sign comes to mind. Do it now. Quit procrastinating. Focus on the work at hand.
But that isn’t the whole story. My dad and mom both had a regular practice that set the stage for DO IT NOW. I saw them spending daily time in prayer and the Word of God. I heard Dad memorizing Scripture, both in English and Indonesian. Abiding in Christ rooted them in God’s truth and informed the task at hand. Daily seeking the Lord taught them how to walk in wisdom and steward their time for the glory of God. And they set an example for those of us who were watching.
Paul was addressing the church, teaching them how to walk, or “live,” as it is translated elsewhere. The urgency communicated in Ephesians 5:15–16 resonates with us when we look at the current situation in our world. The church needs to pay careful attention to how we steward the time we’ve been given to navigate this day and age.
And setting the example? Paul wrote this letter and others while he sat in chains as a prisoner in Rome, stewarding his time wisely.
This letter is addressed to “the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus” (Eph. 1:1 CSB). However, it was most likely a circular letter intended for all the churches in that region of Asia Minor.
The letter can be divided into 2 sections. Chapters 1—3 cover doctrine, or what the body of Christ believes. Chapters 4—6 talk more about behavior and living out that belief in an environment hostile toward Christians. A primary theme of the letter is unity in the body of Christ.
In the first 3 chapters, Paul prayed 2 prayers for the church. These are prayers we may pray for the church today. They affirm how we can live out our faith in Christ: only by His power, through His Spirit. The last chapter details the spiritual armor needed as we stand firm in the ongoing spiritual battle of this world.
The context of my parents’ walk with Christ gave them the necessary perspective to DO IT NOW with wisdom. Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5:15–16 must also be studied in context to give us a proper perspective on “making the most of the time” wisely.
STUDY AND MEDITATE
- Prayerfully read through the Book of Ephesians. As you go, consider marking each place you see the phrase in Christ or in the Lord or in Him. Note any references to unity. What words did Paul use to describe the church?
- Read through chapter 5 again. Write out Ephesians 5:15–16 in your notebook, leaving wide margins for notes. Say these verses aloud, over and over. Emphasize a different word each time. Does practice give you any insights? If you have other Bible translations, then read these verses in those and note any differences that clarify the meaning of the verses.
- What are the key words in Ephesians 5:15–16? Circle them.
- Take time to consider each key word. Do any cross-references come to mind for that particular word? If your Bible includes a references column, are there any noted for that word? Read these and write a short summary of them in your notebook. Look the word up in a dictionary, and find the definition that helps you more fully understand the key word.
- Now focus and meditate on Ephesians 5:1. This verse sets the stage for how believers are to “walk” or “live” as outlined in this chapter. Who are we to imitate? What is the status we enjoy? Does this give you a different perspective on verses 15 and 16?
- Three times Paul gave directives in chapter 5, using the word peripateó. It is translated “walk” or “live” in verses 2, 8, and 15 and means to walk comprehensively around, giving a sense of completion, going full circle. List the 3 ways we are to walk/live, according to these 3 verses.
- In chapter 5 do you see the contrasts between the disobedient and the obedient? The light and the darkness? The fruitful and the fruitless? The wise and the foolish? List these to get a picture of why we must be careful to walk in His ways.
- Abiding in Christ through prayer and the Word is essential if we want to walk wisely and make the most of our time. Do you spend time each day in prayer and in the Word? If not, would you commit to begin today? You can find various Bible reading plans on the internet or on Bible apps. Ask the Lord to help you make this time the most important part of your day.
- In Colossians 4:17 (CSB), Paul had a message for Archippus, who served the church in Colossae: “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.” We cannot steward our time well if we take our eyes off the goal. What distracts you from your walk with the Lord? Ask Him to reveal anything hindering effective use of the time you’ve been given. Pay attention. Share what you discover with a friend.
- Rejoice that you are dearly loved by the God we are called to imitate. You may be in a new season of life that is different and disconcerting. Ask Him to teach you what it means to walk wisely and completely in this particular season. Ask Him how to steward the time you have today. Tomorrow. And the next day.
- Read Ephesians 1:15–23 or Ephesians 3:14–21 and pray it for your church or a fellow believer.
- For further study, read through the Book of Proverbs this month (a chapter per day) and note what wise people do and say. Note how they spend their time.
Entrust your time to the Lord. Ask Him for wisdom to order your days according to His will. Surrender your calendar to Him.
Scripture quotations marked CSB have been taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.
Susan Lafferty and her husband, Todd, have served with the IMB for more than 30 years. Susan writes weekly at susanlafferty.com.
This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Missions Mosaic. To subscribe to this monthly missions lifestyle magazine, visit wmustore.com.