[EDITORIAL NOTE. The following article contains excellent suggestions for our Bible instructors. We regret that we cannot supply the writer's name. It was included in a bulletin of the Ministerial Association before we developed THE MINISTRY. Truth is truth wherever it is found, and good plans and methods are always up to date. The various points in the article suggest an acquaintance with the Bible instructor's problems. We admit, however, that during the last decade or so the city workers' program, living conditions, and dress and transportation problems have added an intensity that would also suggest that her health must be conserved while her time should be improved. On the whole, the suggestions in this article are still fresh ideas of value to all Bible instructors. L. c. K.]
Not long ago I spent an enjoyable hour with a woman with whom I had become acquainted through a mutual friend. She is a woman of pleasing personality, who started in life with a fair education and possessed of high ideals. Part of her life has been spent in service for others. In our conversation she revealed to me her deep regret of what she recognized to be a fact that she had been mentally standing still for years. She had a longing desire to advance and to keep abreast of the times; she had mental powers, and sufficient means to enable her to do so, and there were no family ties to hinder her. She talked of this and that which she would like to do, and mentioned books she would like to read, but as she advanced with one thought or another, each time she would come to a sudden stop, and say, "But I haven't the time!"
Every day we meet just such cases as this, and it is not always the other party in the case who laments the fact that there is not enough time for all the things he desires to do. The thought often haunts the Bible instructor, whose time so largely belongs to others, that time is slipping away, and she is not accomplishing all she should. Her work among the people, of course, comes first, and their needs must be met and cared for promptly; but how to find the necessary time for self-improvement and spiritual and mental development is a question that needs careful and thoughtful consideration.
When you say, "I haven't time," do you realize what you are saying? Since the day when God said, "Let there be light. . . . And the evening and the morning were the first day," there has been allotted to every living soul days of twenty-four hours each no more and no less. Some people are able to get more out of their twenty-four hours than others, but it should be the purpose of each to make the very most of the time allotted.
"The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly singular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as the commodity itself! For remark! No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive. ... In the realm of time there is no aristocracy of wealth, and no aristocracy of intellect. Genius is never rewarded by even an extra hour a day. And there is no punishment. Waste your infinitely precious commodity as much as you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. . . . Moreover, you cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste to-morrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you." ARNOLD BENNETT, How to Live on Twenty-jour Hours a Day, pp. 23, 24.
When the Bible instructor recognizes that her time comes fresh from the hand of God each morning, there is produced a keener sense of the responsibility of using it to the best advantage. In Christ's Object Lessons, page 342, we read:
"Our time belongs to God. Every moment is His, and we are under the most solemn obligation to improve it to His glory. Of no talent He has given will He require a more strict account than of our time. . . . We are admonished to redeem the time. But time squandered can never be recovered. We cannot call back even one moment. The only way in which we can redeem our time is by making the most of that which remains."
"They [the ministers and it has equal application to Bible instructors] should bend their minds to the acquisition of knowledge in connection with their labor, so that they may be 'workmen that need not be ashamed.' They can master one branch of science after another, while they are engaged in the work of preaching the truth, if they will wisely employ their time. Golden moments are thrown away in unimportant conversation, in indolence, and in doing those things which are of little con sequence, that ought to be used every day in useful employments that will fit us more nearly to approach the high standard. . . . Our ministers . . . might have done tenfold more work intelligently had they cared to become intellectual giants. Their whole experience in their high calling is cheapened because they are content to remain where they are. Their efforts to acquire knowledge will not in the least hinder their spiritual growth if they will study with right motives and proper aims. . . . Cultivated intellects are now needed in every part of the work of God; for novices cannot do the work acceptably in unfolding the hidden treasure to enrich souls. . . . The height man may reach by proper culture, has not hitherto been realized." Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 193-195.
No one can read the words just quoted without feeling that he or she should improve every moment of time. I venture to say that no one of the Bible instructors is, willingly or knowingly, wasting time, and that all would welcome any suggestion that would help in securing a few extra hours a day for the things now being left undone.
The Bible instructor may have books she fondles occasionally, and then slips back onto the shelf, saying, "I'm going to read this as soon as I have time!" She may have some good Bible outlines she means to study thoroughly and make them her own, when the few extra moments come. Clippings gleaned in her reading have not been arranged so she can put her fingers on them when she wants them, and she sighs, "Someday, when I have time, I will get them in shape." Thus week after week and month after month slips by, and still the extra time does not come. Instead, there conies more and more work to be done, and greater and heavier responsibilities to be borne. She goes on doing the best she can, yet conscious of the fact that she is unable to do justice to all her work because of lack of time. Many fret and worry over the situation. But fretting will not help the matter. Instead, it tends to make one less fit for work and eventually produces shattered nerves. This seems to be the prevailing situation; and yet as we face it in the light of our individual responsibility, we ask, "What can be done to remedy the situation?"
It would be vain to even hope to be able to give suggestions that would meet the universal need, and it is hardly probable that it is possible to give suggestions that will meet the entire need of even one Bible instructor. Yet it may be possible to afford some help in adjusting the daily program so as to be able to con serve a few of the precious moments to be used for the uplift of mental and spiritual powers; and in so doing, the Bible instructor will have started on the road to that high standard of efficiency that the Lord through His messenger set before her.
The field of Suggestion Now Opens Before Us
We are told that "golden moments are thrown away in unimportant conversation." Is it not possible to save a few moments by avoiding this? If the Bible instructor rooms alone, there is less temptation to while away time when she is at home. If she has a roommate, or lives as one of the family in the home of some of our good people, she can hardly avoid a chat when she comes in from the day's work, and almost before she is aware of it, an hour has gone to no profit. On the other hand, if she has a room to herself, the moment she enters that room she is mistress of the situation. A moment or two for relaxation, then undisturbed quiet for whatever study or work she must do, and no one will feel slighted because she does not talk and tell the happenings of the day.
The matter of the room work is another item to be considered in her economy of time. Bible instructors, as a rule, forgo the pleasure of home life. But in these days when there are so many cosy apartments, and even houses furnished as a comfortable home for just one per son, it is difficult sometimes to withstand the temptation to enjoy the comfort and privacy of such a place. There may be nothing wrong in doing so, and for many it is a matter of economy health wise. But there are those whose health does not require such arrangements; and, if she looks at the matter of conservation of time, cannot a one-room and kitchenette apartment serve her purpose as well as two or three rooms? By giving less time to keeping her home spot clean and tidy, she will have a few more minutes for other things.
Perhaps it will not be considered out of place to make mention of the matter of clothing. It is a big problem for the Bible instructor to keep always clean and tidy, and be careful of her personal appearance, when she is on the go most of the time, subjected to rain, dust, and sunshine, which fade her clothing and make it look old before she can afford to buy new garments. As a rule, her wardrobe must be limited, because of lack of means; and in order to make a good appearance, she must wash, press, and mend her clothing often. With a view to conserving time, the Bible instructor will not select clothing that can be worn only once before it must be laundered. Especially does this apply to dresses. Underclothing without laces and frills can be laundered in a very short time, and it will not be extravagant to have a fresh supply daily.
With these items as a beginning from which to start on a timesaving schedule, cannot each Bible instructor take an inventory of her daily program and see whether she does not find that she sometimes does things that bring little or no profit? Life is strenuous. It appeals to her from innumerable directions. She would like to attend to all of its demands, but she cannot possibly do so; and it becomes her first duty to face life as it comes, and each day and each hour to know how to discern between first and secondary things. She cannot act on the rule "First come, first served," for in doing so, some of the finer things will be left undone; for the finest things in life do not crowd. This is the most needy generation in history. The greatest responsibilities and opportunities rest upon this people, and surely the Bible instructor cannot afford to let even a moment of her time be filled with the nonessentials of life.
Conserving Time in Appointments
The regular work of meeting appointments should be planned with this timesaving thought in mind. Wherever possible, readers in the same district should be scheduled into the same day's program. Sometimes in making the appointment for readings it is appropriate to say, "I am working in this part of the city on Tuesday [or any other day], and can give you an hour, if you can arrange your work for that time." Usually our readers are glad to comply with the suggestion. If they cannot make arrangements, their needs must still be met, even at our inconvenience. When the instructor fills the appointment no time should be allowed to slip by in needless conversation. A Bible reading should never be given hurriedly. Give ample time for the Word of God to sink deep into the hearts of the hearers. But while maintaining the restful attitude with which the teacher wishes her readers to approach the study of the Word of God, she can also leave the impression that her time is too valuable to be spent in trifling conversation. It is not always possible to control the situation, however, and therefore the Bible instructor can only resolve, "As much as in me lies, I shall endeavor to do so."
It is not a bad idea for the Bible instructor to check up on her time. If she counts the actual hours she spends with the people, and the eight hours she should have for rest in each twenty- four, she still has a few hours left. What shall be done with the remaining hours? Is it not possible to use part of that time for self-improvement? In the larger cities the Bible instructor must often spend from thirty minutes to an hour on the streetcar in order to reach her readers' homes. Sometimes fifteen minutes are spent in waiting for a car, and on some days several waits are necessary. Thus an hour or more slips by unused, unless there is some definite plan to fill in the minutes. If you are reading a certain book, carry it with you to read on such occasions. Concentration of thought may be cultivated to the extent that the mind responds quickly and efficiently to study, even in the midst of confusion. If the book being read is a deep subject, keep a slip of paper in the book, and as you are interrupted by boarding the streetcar, or otherwise, the minute you can open the book again, jot down the thoughts gained from the preceding paragraph, and in doing so, you will be able to carry a connected line of thought throughout a chapter in spite of interruptions. Some people are apt at memorizing, and such will find it profitable to copy quotations and memorize them while traveling. Good poems or gems of prose can be committed to memory on such occasions. Such quotations may prove of three fold blessing they improve one's language, afford lofty thoughts, and can often be quoted to good advantage.
If you guard well the moments spent in traveling, the Ministerial Book Club selections can be read by every Bible instructor and other enticing lines of study be followed. It requires effort to get into the habit of studying on all occasions, but when the habit is formed it becomes interesting and enjoyable. You may have to drop the trend of thought to give way to the work of the hour, but do not let that dis courage you. Pick up the line of thought, and carry it a little further the next time; and after a few weeks or months you will find that you have really accomplished something.
Having once mastered the study habit, the Bible instructor will find rest rather than weariness in the pursuit of mental improvement. There is nothing that imparts inspiration for any work as does a new and live interest. As the Bible instructor steadily imbibes knowledge and comes into possession of new facts, she will want to incorporate the information into actual experience; and thus her work becomes an interesting laboratory through which, to formulate new outlines for teaching the Word of God, test new methods of approach to the people, prepare successful antidotes for the germs of prejudice, and provide effective stimuli for bringing souls to the point of right decision. Each day will find her meeting the tasks- with new interest, and the result will be increased courage and strength and larger returns- in souls.