Is your spiritual walk in a rut?
Are you looking for change in your life?
Do you feel stuck in a job or relationship that’s sucking the joy out of your existence?
Fifteen minutes could change all that.
And no, I’m not talking about that Geico commercial.
In a normal year we each get around 24,000 fifteen-minute increments in our waking hours. That’s a lot of time chunks.
My question: But how do we maximize all the fifteen-minute increments in our lives?
Fifteen minutes in the spotlight
It’s often quoted that everyone will get fifteen minutes in the spotlight. You never know when that’s going to happen, but sometimes it can radically accelerate your career (like for an actor or musician). Other times it can lead to public humiliation and demise (like for the leader caught cheating or embezzling).
I could provide some tips on how to be ready for your fifteen minutes of fame, but that’s not my point.
Fifteen minutes alone
If you’ve been around the church very long, you’ve heard pastors, teachers and leaders talk about the importance of a quiet time. Fifteen minutes alone with God in prayer and study can transform your perspective on life’s circumstances. In times like these, God will meet with us to instill confidence, peace, purpose and power.
Just as we need food and water for daily sustenance, our souls were made to receive spiritual food daily. There is no substitute for communing daily with God through devotions. Fifteen minutes is a good place to start.
But that’s still not what I mean by fifteen minutes, even though that’s very important.
Fifteen minutes at the gym
When I go to the gym, the personal trainers tell me that spending fifteen minutes intensely exercising daily can lead to major health improvements. Even taking a 15-minute walk during the day can be very helpful. But guess what? That’s not what I mean either!
I’ve also learned that breaking large tasks down into fifteen-minute chunks makes them seem less insurmountable and more achievable. Most of us can focus for fifteen minutes on one thing. The Fly Lady teaches people how do this with house cleaning, making a mundane task almost fun.
Communication researchers have learned the adult attention span is ten to fifteen minutes; after that we need some kind of change in visual or auditory stimulus.
Preachers, teachers and public speakers need to keep this in mind. I know some seminaries now teach pastors to prepare 15-minute messages. Personally, I feel that’s a bit light. Instead, good communicators need to introduce variety in their preaching to offset the tendency toward mental dozing.
Research shows that most parents spend far less than fifteen minutes in daily focused conversation with their children once they reach school age. Many men can go weeks without having meaningful conversations with their spouses or peers.
But none of these are the fifteen minutes I’m talking about. However, I encourage you to allow each one of these fifteen minutes perspectives to change the way you look at devotions, exercise, task management, communication or relationships.
Steven Curtis Chapman addressed this question in his song “Next Five Minutes”:
So, here’s how 15 minutes can change you life…
When I was first out of seminary, I was talking to my professor, Dr. Steve Brown, about finding a church to serve. He encouraged me by saying, “Phil, remain patient and do your work with excellence. You never know when 15 minutes will change your life.” I asked him what he meant and he explained that it only takes one conversation to change everything. It could be a job interview, a date, a lunch with a friend, a phone call or an encounter at the grocery store or cemetery.
I’ve been thinking about that for the last decade and I’ve seen how true that can be. We just need eyes to see and ears to hear when that 15 minutes is happening.
I think it’s much like the life of a pilot. Pilots describe their job as hundreds of hours of routine boredom and fifteen minutes of pure adrenaline producing terror. They train and prepare for those terror-filled moments, but diligently go about their daily task.
While most pilots prefer to avoid those terror-filled events entirely, the Christian is looking for those divine appointments–those times when God opens the door we seek; those times when God allows us to speak into someone else’s life and circumstances.
I remember soon after talking to Steve Brown, I was going through some emails in an account I rarely checked. I read an email that led to a fifteen-minute phone call that led to a career change.
I also remember going on a prayer retreat concerning an impending job change. We needed to find a new job in less than three months. While I was praying, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I ignored the call since I was praying (being so spiritual that I missed God’s voice coming over a cell phone). But I took a break fifteen minutes later (go with me here, it might have been longer) and listened to the message. That voicemail led to a fifteen-minute conversation that led to another career change.
I’m reminded of Acts 12 when Peter was released from prison in answer to the church’s prayers. The church didn’t really believe God would answer their prayer, so they didn’t have eyes to see God’s deliverance.
Recently, my mother-in-law was visiting her husband’s gravesite. While there she encountered a distraught young man who couldn’t find his father’s tombstone. As she helped him find it, she learned from his story that his father had died in his arms when he was only 11 years old and now it had been over year since he last visited the gravesite. Through that conversation she was able to bring hope, friendship and purpose to this young man. She blessed him by helping him clean his dad’s tombstone and sharing the flowers she had brought. That young man left having not only found his father, but with a new friend and a smile on his face.
Be on the lookout. You never know when the next fifteen minutes will change your life or someone else’s life through you. In the meantime, make the most of every fifteen minutes you have.