I was just thinking about the Lord Jesus and the fact that he spent only 3 years of his life in “the ministry”, i.e., preaching and teaching. Most of his life (I guess around 20 years) were spent as a carpenter. That translates to only around 10 % of his life spent directly in “ministry” activities.
Most of his life then was spent concentrating on his “secular” vocation: carpentry. We even hear nothing of him devoting his spare time to preaching or teaching. This teaches me that one’s “secular” vocation is important and God-glorifying in its own way, and should not be looked down on as something inferior to so called “sacred” activities.
Next, I could say that Jesus wasn’t that in a hurry to be directly involved in “ministry”. One of his favorite lines was “My time has not yet come.” He probably had a different idea of “usefulness” and “stewardship of time and life” than many evangelical Christians have. He could have started preaching at, say, age 20, but he didn’t. This teaches me that what is important is not what I want to do for God, but what God wants me to do. I might think in a particular instance that the best use of my time is to preach the gospel, whereas God’s will is for me to do an excellent job preparing that position paper – in a labor case – which I have to submit tomorrow!
Having said that, I wonder how he spent his spare time. Based on the fact that he confounded the experts on the Bible with his knowledge of the Scriptures, it’s reasonable to assume that during that time when he concentrated on his vocation as a carpenter, he spent his spare time mastering the Scriptures. And that reminds me of an interview with Billy Graham that I read somewhere. He said something like if he could do it all over again, he would spend more time studying and less preaching. Again, that’s something to think about!
One more thing: Jesus didn’t have a degree in theology, he didn’t found a school, he didn’t write a book, we have no record of him composing a song or poem and he didn’t travel beyond the borders of his nation. He preached primarily to the common people rather than to the high and mighty. And his sermons were not deep and sophisticated philosophical lectures but simple stories! He more or less eschewed politics and he concentrated on developing a most unpromising band of 12 men to carry on his work. And he felt satisfied with what he had accomplished after a 3-year stint, so that he was all set to go and let others carry on the job. Surely he had a very different idea of success in ministry! All in all, both as a carpenter and as a preacher, he didn’t seem to be that gung-ho to become as widely influential as possible in the quickest time possible.
Of course, every Christian ought to be concerned about being useful and not wasting his life. But let’s be careful that our understanding of what that means is shaped by the Bible and Jesus’ example, rather than by the world’s standards of success and influence (the mostest at the fustest). Not living a wasted life means being where God wants you to be and doing what God wants you to do in the way he wants and at the time he wants.