Are we too busy?

Hammock on a tropical island

Thanks to Amanda Sutherland for the use of her photo.

Here’s a guest post by Michael Packer, who retired from the CCCC board in September. This was his devotional at that meeting, and it is an important message that all leaders need to hear!

In Michael’s words:

In 2002, after completing 44 years salaried employment, I took early retirement at age 61 to volunteer with various Christian charities. I had experienced a life and death struggle in hospital early in 2001 with severe pancreatitis, so I intended to limit my volunteer activities to daytime Monday through Friday, so that I would have the evenings and weekends free for our church and my family. I tell people that I am not retired, but refocused.

Well, over these last ten years my charity and church volunteer involvement has become deeper. Not only that, but God has given us seven young grandchildren, all in Calgary. As the only grandparent available during the day on those occasions when child care is needed, I am finding myself at the computer in the evenings and on weekends, trying to keep up with my charity commitments. My wife frequently reminds me that I am getting as busy now as when I was employed.

Are we too busy?

Lately, though, I have started to notice that emails coming in from some friends and coworkers are being sent late at night. Two weeks ago a friend who is a chaplain sent us his weekly prayer requests at 1:05 am Pacific Time. Then another friend whom I volunteer for, on the same day sends me an email at 1:11 am Calgary time! This is not unusual for these people. Just this summer, I have noticed that some of you have been sending me emails late at night or on weekends. So my devotional topic today is Are We Too Busy?

Biblical people who were too busy

Moses

The next day, Moses took his place to judge the people. People were standing before him all day long, from morning to night. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, Jethro said, “What’s going on here? Why are you doing all this, and all by yourself, letting everybody line up before you from morning to night?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me with questions about God. When something comes up, they come to me. I judge between a man and his neighbor, and teach them God’s laws and instructions.”

Moses’ father-in-law said, “This is no way to go about it. You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you—you can’t do this alone. Now listen to me. Let me tell you how to do this, so that God will be in this with you.”
Exodus 18:12-23 The Message

Moses’ problem seems so easy to see.

Martha

It’s also pretty easy for us to play the part of Jethro and criticize Martha’s reaction to her sister Mary’s attention to Jesus:

As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him, and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging onto every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.” The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much, and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and it won’t be taken from her.”
Luke 10:38-42 The Message

Jesus had it right

We can learn a lot from Jesus, and how he cared for his disciples when they had a busy period:

Then, because so many people were coming and going, that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place, and get some rest.”
Mark 6:31 TNIV

How appealing are his words, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place, and get some rest.”

Was Jesus ever too busy?

Just a few chapters before he recommended rest for the disciples, Jesus himself appeared to be too busy:

Jesus came home and, as usual, a crowd gathered—so many making demands on him, that there wasn’t even time to eat. His friends heard what was going on, and went to rescue him, by force if necessary. They suspected he was getting carried away with himself.
Mark 3:20-21

That’s Chapter 3. Obviously by chapter 6 Jesus has learned his lesson.

The challenge

So, my question of you, and me, is “When are we going to learn the lesson of our need for adequate rest – for a more balanced life?”

Is this you?

I have a dear friend who is a youth worker in the United Kingdom. He is one of those amazing people who think big, and whom God uses to accomplish great things. When he ministered here in Canada he wasn’t satisfied with taking a van load of teens to build houses in Mexico. He would take two charter bus loads! Now he is responsible for the oversight and development of twelve youth ministries in the UK. But at the same time, he is also raising funds for and building a new fully-equipped Youth Camp. In addition, each year he and his wife take large groups of teens and adults to South Africa, where he is converting large used shipping containers into homes and a school in a major city slum area. My friend is a workaholic. The only way he slows down is when God puts him in hospital, or lays him flat on his back at home. That is where he is right now – in bed. This is the message his supporters received just last week:

Since coming back from Camp Sept 2nd, I have not been able to get out of bed in any way shape or form, as I have pinched a sciatic nerve. Though I am enjoying the rest to a degree, it is becoming very difficult to finalize the Africa Mission Trip for the 3rd week in October. Please pray that I get mobility back soon, as I am not sure how to do life on my back…..

Do you only rest when God forces you to?

I am not going to tell you this morning how best to discipline yourself to work more reasonable hours. The only person who got all his work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe! You have to make that decision to be more disciplined in your work habits. You know your commitments, and the time available. Personally, I think workaholics become their own god, and I was one in my employment years. (An aside from John – My post on the slippery slope to loss of integrity reports research that shows that workaholism is a key leading indicator of an upcoming loss of integrity.)

A solution to workaholism

I believe one solution is having the right attitude toward our Lord Jesus. Is Jesus really your Lord? If so, you may be CEO for your ministry, but if Jesus is your Lord, He is your real boss. I need to remind myself constantly, “Am I acting as Jesus’ servant?” The work standards for a servant are set by the master – the task, the place, the time. Jesus said in John 12:26 (TNIV) “Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am My servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves Me.”

This is the same Lord who says to you:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me, and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

Your Lord and Master also says He is your Shepherd. He, not you, is in charge of the flock. Psalm 23 (TNIV) assures us that:

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

As a servant of the Living God, remember daily these words:

I will show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me, and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:29-30 The Message

Remember that the work standards for a servant are set by the master – the task, the quality, the place, the time. Jesus said “Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am My servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves Me.” (TNIV)

God honours those who put His Son’s wishes first. He will honour us when you and I do this.

Let Jesus plan your day

So, throughout each day, I suggest that you submit your developing schedule to the Lord. It will make a difference to the quality of your work, and of your life that day. Let me share something with you that since September 13 is helping me. I stop often and say, “Lord, this is what I still have to do today. Is this OK with you?” I wait briefly, and if a different plan comes to mind, I adjust — otherwise I continue with the schedule.

During these last ten days, in addition to my usual daily volunteer work, I have had to prepare documentation for four board meetings, and work with our church’s lawyer on updating its incorporation, plus five child care assignments. But my evening and weekend time spent on this charity work has significantly reduced, and I feel much less pressure. I feel good!

Now, I am not going to claim that this schedule referral to Jesus will solve your problems. All I want to do today is to encourage you to let Jesus be Lord of your daily schedule – to check with Him throughout each day what He wants you to accomplish this day.

Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am My servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves Me.
John 12;26 TNIV

God honours those who put His Son’s wishes first. He will honour us when you and I do this.

Amen!

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Thoughts on Are we too busy?

  1. Rollin A. Van Broekhoven

    John, what a handy reminder of life in the 21st century for too many of us. I liked the thought of your quest commentator who answers the question of retirement, as being refocused. When I retired from the Bench, I thought that either I had finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. or realized just what God was calling me to be. I still think we have the habits of taking in too many things and being too busy. Your post is a good reminder of that, and a reminder that even some of the Biblical characters had the problem. Take a look at Psalm 23 in the Geneva Bible. Rollin

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