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How To Tell If You're Too Busy.

Nearly ten million Americans worked more than sixty hours a week last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics found. We’ve outpaced the famously productive Japanese in hours worked. We’re the only developed nation without mandatory vacation time. And, according to the Expedia.com’s annual vacation poll, one-third of us will take no vacation this year.

Too many people move at an insane pace and work too many hours. They love to work and, in many cases, get their sense of self-worth through their work. In John Grisham’s novel The Broker, one of the characters says, “I’ve been there (Washington D.C.). I’ve never seen so many people racing around, going nowhere. I don’t understand the desire for such a hectic life. Everything has to be so fast—work, food, sex.” That’s us in the good old USA—going at breakneck speed and not always sure why. One of the results is that we are slowly, but surely, becoming addicted to speed and busyness; and sometimes we’re not even capable of slowing down.

This isn't necessarily a new phenomenon. Take a look:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Martha had a problem.  She had the incarnated-God in her living room but was too busy to notice. Jesus was in her peripheral while the chaos of her busy to-do's was central. How about you? Can you honestly say that Jesus and His mission are central in your life? Or are they a mere peripheral afterthought once your task list is complete? Is "the one thing that is necessary" getting the bulk of your energy or the left-overs? Are you so busy, that like Martha, you are missing the good portion of life? Don't kid yourself...faithful church-attenders, ministry leaders and pastors can be so entrenched in the task of ministry, they too can miss the good portion. Often, we blame our schedules for our lack of devotion. And there is certainly some legitimacy to this charge. Life assigns us tasks that must be completed, and tasks that must be completed immediately. Few people finish everything on their daily list.

So unless we appreciate the importance and the urgency of prayer, call to mission and meditation on God’s word, we will leave it until tomorrow. When tomorrow comes we will leave it until the next day. Soon we find that days and weeks have passed without rich time in the word and prayer. As D. A. Carson writes,

We don’t drift into spiritual life; we do not drift into disciplined prayer. We do not grow in prayer unless we plan to pray. That means we must set aside time to do nothing but pray. What we actually do reflects our highest priorities. That means that we can proclaim our commitment to prayer until the cows come home, but unless we actually pray, our actions disown our words.

For as much as we blame life’s busyness, we must understand that it’s not merely our short-term commitments that relegate our devotions; something more is happening. We must not just fall back on the busyness excuse, but realize that we are under attack. Those that are on mission are targets for busyness. Why? To get you off mission. To make things that should be peripheral, central. Strikingly, in Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus, he does not tell us how to engage in spiritual warfare as much as how to prepare for spiritual warfare. He tells us to put on the full armor of God today so that when the battle is waged, we will be prepared. This includes practical things like busyness.

Dave Kraft notes:

I believe the solution to the epidemic of tiredness (busyness) is not all that complicated.

  • Learn to say no.
  • Intentionally slow down.
  • Think strategically when you make decisions as to what you will do or not do.
  • Simplify your life by de-cluttering your busy schedule.

Charles Swindoll had this observation about our supreme example, Jesus:

"Somehow Jesus mastered the art of maintaining a clear perspective while accomplishing every single one of his objectives (John 17:4). A major reason for his being able to say he finished all the father had in mind for him is that he simplified his life.

He followed his own agenda instead of everyone else’s. He also set predetermined limits. He chose twelve (not twelve hundred) whom he trained to carry on in his absence. He stayed with his set of priorities without apology, which means he must have said no a score of times every month. He balanced work and rest, accomplishment and refreshment, never feeling the need to ask permission for spending time in quietness and solitude. He refused to get sidetracked by tempting opportunities that drained energy and time. He was a servant of his father, not a slave of the people. Even though misunderstood, maligned, misquoted, and opposed by numerous enemies and even a few friends, he stayed at it. His simplicity kept him balanced."

So what will you do? Read this, agree apathetically, but make no changes? Or will you seek the "good portion" and realize that Jesus is right in front of you? This is a call to move Jesus back out of the peripheral and make Him central.  This is what our King deserves. He calls us first and foremost to His mission and not ours. Amazingly, this is the peace that transcends understanding amidst a culture of busyness.

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