By Elias Ayala
(M.A.T. & Mdiv)
Time is a funny thing. We can wake up with our daily check list filled with things we want to accomplish for the day, and before we know it, the day has escaped, often leaving us with many unfinished tasks. It seems as though there is never enough time in the day to finish the chores, fix the car, and take the kids to the park. Especially for parents, finding time to do many things we wish to do is often overshadowed by our duties and obligations to our family. As a parent of two small children, even my attempts at waking up at the crack of dawn to read my bible or write articles is often thwarted by the sound of my daughter…Daddy, is it morning yet? The reality is that all of us struggle to find the time to do many of the things that we desire to do because we are being pulled in every other direction by other really important things. Thus, how does the believer in Christ, who desires to grow spiritually and intellectually, find the time to dedicate to prayer and the studying of scripture, such that they fulfill the biblical mandate of “always being ready” (1 Peter 3:15)?
In truth, as difficult as it may sound, there is always “time” in the day to give to our spiritual and intellectual growth. Furthermore, living in our modern era provides many creative ways to do things that people in prior times just would not be able to do. So let us consider a few things that can help us in our spiritual and intellectual growth as we seek be equipped to engage a world that needs to hear the Gospel.
- Priorities: Setting our priorities in the proper order is vital to accomplishing our spiritual and intellectual goals. If one does not see spiritual and intellectual growth as something of utmost importance to a healthy and vibrant Christian life, than little will be done to make the proper provisions for such a lifestyle. We need to remember that for one who professes the name of Christ, we cannot have Jesus “fit” into our busy lives. Rather, Christ must be the center of gravity. He is the foundation upon which everything else is built. Our lives is Jesus, and we fit everything else into our relationship with him. Scripture clearly teaches us: “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and everything else will be added” (Matthew 6:33).
- Waking Up Early: This is a hard one, but it reaps great benefits. Jesus often woke up early while it was still dark to find a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35). While this is not always possible (Kids sometimes wake up earlier than we do), it is a great time to quiet the mind and concentrate on the things of God. I have found that when I wake up early and I have my morning cup of coffee, I can think clearly and my mind is ready to absorb whatever I am studying. Early morning prayer and scripture study also provides us with the benefit of starting our day with God on our mind. This helps guide our thinking and sets the pace for the rest of the day.
- Note Taking Short Cuts: For those who wish to get some of that hardcore study done, the following short cut has proved to be immensely helpful. I study theology, apologetics, and the Bible with my iPad by my side. I have found that when I read and take notes, writing in a notebook an important point that I read or learned can be so time consuming such that after a half hour, I barely made it halfway through the chapter. Thus, I have learned to utilize the dictation feature on my iPad. I open up a blank page on the notepad (on my iPad), and I type out the title and reference information of what I am reading. As I read and come across an important point or an amazing quote, I will speak it out loud and my dictator feature types it our for me so that I do not lose the flow of my reading. When I am finished, I will go back and correct any mistakes that might have creeped in. I save my notes and I have all the information I need for a later time.
- Audiobooks: As I mentioned before, I have two small children, so finding “extra” time to read and study can be quite difficult. That it is why I have no shame in listening to books on audio. I can read entire books while still accomplishing many of the other really important things that I have to do. I must admit that amidst my busy schedule, I listen to the Bible much more than I sit down and actually read it. This is not ideal, for there is simply no substitute for sitting down with the Bible opened right in front of you and engaging the text in depth, but for those with little time, listening to an audio bible can make a great supplement throughout the day.
- Podcasts: Listening to apologetics and theologically based podcasts have also provided me with much information and food for thought so as to be equipped to “always be ready”. When I go on road trips with my family, our van literally becomes a seminary on wheels. Podcasts provide great teaching, new information, debates, and helps with critical thinking. Here are some good apologetics podcasts to download: 1) Reasonable Faith 2) Carm 3) Unbelievable 4) Sermon Audio 5) Apologia.
There are many other ways to engage the mind amidst a busy schedule, but hopefully what has been provided is a start. However, always remember that while listening to theological and apologetical material can prove very helpful, there is simply no substitute for reading, mastering, and applying the scripture themselves. The Bible is foundational to everything that we do as budding apologists.