Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:Punctuality and Promptness
Do people know that you will be prompt and on time for your appointments? Do people know that they can depend on you to be there when you state your expected time of arrival? Or are you perpetually late and need to make excuses for your tardiness?
The virtue of punctuality is practical and important in our life in Christ. Punctual means arriving, acting, or happening at the time or times appointed; prompt.[i] It denotes acting or arriving exactly at the time appointed; prompt.[ii] Prompt may be defined as being on time; punctual, and carried out or performed without delay.[iii]
One source asks these questions to prick our conscience and determine whether we are punctual in our life: (1) Do you arrive punctually for mealtimes and other family gatherings? (2) Do you arrive early at your place of employment? (3) Do you keep appointments that you make with others? (4) Do you promptly pay your bills? (5) Do you write thank-you letters and notes in a timely fashion? (6) Do you punctually return books and other items that you borrow? (7) Do you fulfill the promises you have made to others?[iv] These questions may convict us of our need to pursue punctuality with greater effort and diligence.
Paul writes, Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16). Do we make the most of our time? Someone has said, Time is the passing of life. Redeeming the time means rescuing it from going to waste.[v] As we have a sober view of time, we will apply all of our resources to use our time well. Punctuality is saying yes to wise planning and no to delightful distractions.[vi] Paul says, Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity (Colossians 4:5).
It has been pointed out that punctuality rests on two points. First, as believers, we need to have a reverence for time. Motivation to make the most of every minute comes by realizing how short life truly is.[vii] Moses wrote, So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). Job said that man is short-lived (Job 14:1). Life is compared to a vapor (James 4:14), a sigh (Psalm 90:9), a shadow (Ecclesiastes 6:12; Job 14:2; 8:9; Psalm 102:11), a thread cut by a weaver (Isaiah 38:12), a flower that soon fades (Job. 14:2; Psalm 103:15-16), grass (1 Peter 1:24; Psalm 90:5-6; 103:15; Isaiah 40:6-8), breath (Job 7:7), a mere handbreadth (Psalm 38:4-5), and water spilled on the ground (2 Samuel 14:14). Life is so brief. It is swifter than a weavers shuttle (Job. 7:6), and swifter than a runner, a boat, or an eagle (Job 9:25-26). It is fleeting (Ecclesiastes 11:10) and a vanishing cloud (Job 7:9). The psalmist prays, LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am (Psalm 39:4-5).
Because life is so brief, we need to use every moment wisely. Our moments must be used as God would want and for His glory. Punctuality is being present, prepared, and alert for appointed times and seasons. Being punctual is living in harmony with the nature of God (Who is always precisely on time). Failing to be punctual hinders Gods purposes in our lives and offends those who are then forced to wait for us.[viii] Since every moment is important to God and we are accountable to Him for how we use our life (2 Corinthians 5:10; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14), we should use our timeeven every minutewisely and according to Gods will.
Do we give God the time that He is due? Do we meet God punctually when we plan to do so? Do you go to bed early so that you can get up early? Do you meet with other Christians for fellowship, teaching, and worship in a timely way, so that the gathering can begin at the appointed time? Do you punctually do all that needs to be done when you know that God would want you to do something? Do you seize opportunities to share the Gospel as God directs you?[ix]
The second reason why we should be punctual in our use of time and the fulfillment of our appointments is that we are to respect and love other people. Jesus said, You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). If we love others, we would not want to cause them to wait for us. Spurgeon said, I ought not to insult any one by supposing that his time is worth nothing, and that he himself is a nobody, who may as well wait for me as not.[x] Jesus also said, Treat others the same way you want them to treat you (Luke 6:31). Do we want others to be timely in their appointments with us? Then we need to be on time for appointments with others.
When we keep other people waiting, we actually rob them of their time and hinder them from accomplishing Gods will.[xi] We know that robbery or stealing must be eradicated from our life. Paul says, He who steals must steal no longer (Ephesians 4:28). Lets not steal other peoples time by making them wait on us. If you have robbed others of time by your lack of punctuality, make a list of those whom you have wronged and ask for their forgiveness. Fulfill the promises that you have made to others, and design ways for others to hold you accountable for punctuality. Make this a priority until punctuality is a consistent discipline in your life.[xii]
[i] Random House Websters College Dictionary.
[ii] The American Heritage College Dictionary.
[iv] The Power of True Success, pp. 148-149.
[v] Ibid., p. 149.
[vii] Ibid., p. 148.
[viii] The Power of True Success, p. 148.
[xi] Ibid., p. 149.