We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. Psalms 39:6 NLT
I just completed a series, “Simplify Your Life”, on how to simplify your life by seeking first the kingdom of God. I felt led by the Holy Spirit to do this follow up because too many of us are overwhelmed with the busyness of our lives. That includes doing “kingdom work”. Here’s a quote I’ve used in a number of my posts from the book “Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry” by Pastor Perry Nobel; “We are always in a hurry working for God. When somebody criticizes us or pulls our coat tail about our pace we get angry and say, “The devil never takes a day off”. I’m not sure the devil is supposed to be your example.”
Sometimes We Think That Our Being Busy Somehow Pleases God
We think that when our calendars are full with lots of stuff--deadlines to meet, commitments to keep, and responsibilities-- we are indispensable and others should be impressed. We are proud to say, “I’m super busy”, when our friends ask “How are you doing?" On the other hand we may be looking for the sympathy we think we deserve because of all the chaos we’ve created.
But what’s the point of it all?
Read my opening scripture again.
Psalm 39:6 (NLT) We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.
All of this busyness is just moving shadows and ends in nothing. Look what Solomon, the world’s wisest man said;
Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 (NLT)18 I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.19 And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless!20 So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.21 Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy.22 So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety?23 Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.
We are always rushing from one thing to another, deadline after another, with a big to-do list, and everything has to get done today. When we are operating at an unrealistic pace we have no intimacy in our relationship with God, because we are not spending time alone with Him.
If we really desire to know what God has done for us, what He wants for us and from us, we must slow down. The more things on our schedule, the more time we need to be in His Presence, spending time conversing with Him through prayer and His Word.
Being busy by itself isn't wrong, however we need to pray that God will guard you from pointless busyness and that if you are busy, you’ll be busy with a purpose.
There Aren’t Enough Hours in the Day.....
I’ve said that a lot and I bet you have too. Sometimes life feels like you’re running on a treadmill and somebody keeps increasing the speed. We keep saying, "I just need a little more time". If it’s left up to us we will never have enough time. We can wish for more time but we’re not going to get it.
It was God who came up with the 24 hour day, the 28, 29, 30, or 31 day month, and the 365 and 356 day year. That’s all the time there is, and if God thinks it’s enough, then it is enough. God knows what He’s doing. All we can do is all we can do. Then we need to put it in God’s hands. His hands are much bigger than ours. The truth is that God will accomplish through you what he needs to accomplish in the time available.
I Don’t Have Time to Rest
The Bible calls those who will not work lazy;
Proverbs 6:6-11 (NLT)6 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!7 Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work,8 they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.9 But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up?10 A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest--11 then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.
Proverbs 13:4 (NLT) Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.
But it calls those who will not rest disobedient;
Leviticus 23:1-8 (NLT)1 The LORD said to Moses,2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. These are the LORD’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as official days for holy assembly.3 “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of complete rest, an official day for holy assembly. It is the LORD’s Sabbath day, and it must be observed wherever you live.4 “In addition to the Sabbath, these are the LORD’s appointed festivals, the official days for holy assembly that are to be celebrated at their proper times each year.5 “The LORD’s Passover begins at sundown on the fourteenth day of the first month.6 On the next day, the fifteenth day of the month, you must begin celebrating the Festival of Unleavened Bread. This festival to the LORD continues for seven days, and during that time the bread you eat must be made without yeast.7 On the first day of the festival, all the people must stop their ordinary work and observe an official day for holy assembly.8 For seven days you must present special gifts to the LORD. On the seventh day the people must again stop all their ordinary work to observe an official day for holy assembly.”
Rest was important enough to God that He commanded us to do it. In fact in the Ten Commandments the one that God spent the most time addressing was the one on rest.
Exodus 20:8-11 (HCSB)8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. 11 For the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.
The Hebrew root word for Sabbath is shābat. It’s definition from the Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary is “ a primitive root; to repose, i.e. desist from exertion; used in many implication relations (causative, figurative or specific) :- (cause to, let, make to) cease, celebrate, cause (make) to fail, keep (sabbath), suffer to be lacking, leave, put away (down), (make to) rest, rid, still, take away.”
Jesus said that God created the Sabbath for our good.
Mark 2:27 (NLT) Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.
Many books and articles point out the need for consistent, weekly rest. It seems to me that maybe God actually designed our bodies to need a day off each week. The scientific evidence seems to indicate that mental and physical rest for one day a week actually causes people to get more done in six days than in seven days without rest.
We need to be refreshed.
We need to stop and pause and spend time with God. It doesn’t have to be on Sunday, and although a full day is best it doesn’t even need to be a full day. In order to be used by God to the fullest we can’t be too busy for Him. Making time to rest in the Lord can be really challenging, but the benefits of that rest are worth the effort.
Work and Ambition Aren’t Wrong
You may be getting the idea that I think that work and ambition are wrong. I don’t. My goal isn’t to make you feel guilty because you're busy. My goal is to make you aware that with all your busyness you may be too busy for God...too busy to spend intimate time with Him.
Work is a God-given function.
Genesis 1:26 (NKJV) Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
Genesis 2:15 (NLT) The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.
We praise God through hard work. God has given man the the intellect and energy to preach, teach, build companies, raise families, etc.
The Bible urges a strong work ethic.
Proverbs 14:23 (NLT) Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!
Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NLT) Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.
Colossians 3:23 (NLT) Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Work or ambition isn’t the problem. The problem is priority, motivation, and what’s in the heart. If our motivation is to serve God with our work but also make time with him our #1 priority, we’re on the right track. There’s a time to be still and to be in God's presence, and there’s also a time to work and get stuff done.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NLT) 1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. 5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. 6 A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. 7 A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. 8 A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.
Listen to what Jesus told Martha when she complained that Mary wasn’t helping her when she was working preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples.
Luke 10:38-42 (NLT)38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home.39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
You Can’t Fix It On Your Own
If after reading this post and my “Simplify Your Life” series you feel that there are some areas in your life that need changing, I’ve done my job. You may think that the solution is to find better ways of doing what you’re doing now--to set goals to spend your time more wisely, changes in the way you think, a change in your priorities, or your motivation. Trying to figure out how to do all this may seem like a daunting task and may feel overwhelming to the point of stressing you, but believe me, I know how you feel. I’ve been there many times.
Don’t underestimate God’s role in changes you want to make. You can do a lot of reading on strategic prioritization and time-management but you are still going to need God’s help. God tells us over and over, in His Word, to come to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
Philippians 4:6 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Ask Him for His guidance as to how to make the changes that will allow you to be able to spend more time in His presence. You don’t have to be perfect.
Listen To God
You may think that you are too busy to wait and listen for God’s guidance, but no amount of busyness will satisfy you if you don’t take the time to listen to God. Here's something that I read in "Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry", “If I were the devil, I would invent a device you could hold in your hands that would ensure you’d always have your schedule in front of you and give people access to you anytime they wanted”.
To think that you're too busy to spend time with God is an absolute lie and trick of the enemy of your soul. He knows you are powerless alone...and he knows you are a force to be reckoned with when you are totally dependent on God! Stop, slow down and listen to God. He's always speaking to you.
Let me close with this devotion written by Pastor Rick Warren.
A lot of us think we’re too busy to listen for God’s response. But we have to take the time to tune in and listen, because God is speaking. Job 33:14 says, “God does speak — sometimes one way and sometimes another — even though people may not understand it” (NCV).
The question is, “How do I understand it? How do I tune in so that I can hear God’s voice?”
Here are four of the channels that God uses:
1. God speaks to us through the Bible. It’s your guidebook for life. It shows you the right step to take. That is why you need to read God’s Word every day. If you’re not having a daily quiet time and reading the Bible, God is getting a busy signal when he wants to speak to you. You have to keep a constant connection, because God’s will is found in God’s Word.
2. God speaks to us through teachers. Have you ever been in a church service and felt like what the teacher was saying was a direct message from God to you? There’s no way I or any other teacher could figure out exactly what to say to meet every need. But God knows. So before every service I pray, “God, you know the people and the needs out there. Give me the right things to say.” Somehow, in the way only he can, God uses my teaching and the teaching of other pastors to meet the needs of people who are listening.
3. God speaks to us through impressions. There are two extremes to this. One extreme is the rationalist who believes no impression can be from God; it all has to be logical. At the other extreme is the mystical belief that every impression is from God. You need to get in the middle and realize that every impression has to match God’s Word.
4. God speaks to us through our circumstances. If we’re going to live a life of significance, God’s got to make constant course corrections, and one of the things he uses to do that is the circumstances that come into our lives. When you start to listen to God through circumstances, impressions, teachers, or the Bible, sometimes he’s going to lead you in ways that you don’t understand. Hang in there! Following God is not always easy, but it will reap more blessing in your life than you can imagine.
This blog is for you! If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address please use the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.