Have you ever felt like the more you do the more there is to do? It seems as if the pile keeps getting higher rather than lower; the working hours get longer and longer although you’re working harder and harder? All of us have probably been there and some of you may be there now. You have gotten yourself on a treadmill and you’re running at an unrealistic and unsustainable pace. If you continue you will burnout, pass out, stress out, and probably become depressed. How do you get off the treadmill? The answer is to simplify your life by seeking first the kingdom of God. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well it’s not. This series of posts, “Simplify Your Life by Seeking First the Kingdom of God,” is as much for me as they are for you. I justify overdoing it by saying, “after all I’m doing God’s work, work for the Kingdom”. Notice I said “working for the Kingdom,” not “seeking the Kingdom.”
From Exhausted to Energized
Think about the times when you’re exhausted or completely drained and empty; during those times you have nothing else to give to anyone or anything.. What does that feel like? My guess is that you feel resentment. You resent something or someone. Martha resented her sister Mary when Jesus was visiting their home. Martha was busy being the perfect hostess making sure that everybody had everything that they needed, running around making sure that everybody was happy. Mary, on the other hand was spending time listening to Jesus. Martha was upset.
Luke 10:38-40 (NKJV) 38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me."
To Martha it was like “Jesus, don’t you care that my sister isn’t helping me? After all I’m trying to prepare for you and your disciples.”
How does Jesus respond?
Luke 10:41-42 (NKJV) 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."
Instead of shaking your fist at the world and those around you because you have worked yourself into a lather or continuing to complain that you don’t have any help, maybe it’s time to sit and spend some time with God meditating on His word. We all, me included, want to get it all done right now and if nobody is there to help us we become resentful, not realizing that we are the ones putting the pressure on ourselves to get it all done. The answer may just be to let whatever it is you’re doing wait or even go undone until you spend some time in a quite undisturbed conversation with Jesus.
Psalm 119:15 (NKJV) I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV) 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Think back to a time when your life was simpler. You were rested, creative, playful, and prayerful. It’s possible to recapture that time.
Stop Overscheduling and Organize
We say these things all the time often bragging. We pack our schedules so tight that we don’t have any time to spare for God, although we say “we’re doing His work.” It makes us feel important to be so busy and it often makes us oblivious to the damage it’s doing to our relationships with family and friends, and yes, even with God. It can become unhealthy both physically and emotionally – the cost can be severe.
Your calendar can hold you hostage to stuff—meetings, appointments, projects, and keep you from more important things like your relationships with God, family and friends. What would it look like to seek God’s Kingdom first in your life?
Matthew 6:33 (NLT) Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
One way you can start is by redrafting your schedule and filling it up the way God would fill it if He were in charge of your time, your schedule, your calendar. If you put God first—if you start by plugging in the time slots on your calendar that determine who you want to become—and then fill in everything else around it, you’ll gradually become the kind of person you want to be.
Joshua 1:8 (NLT) Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.
From Overwhelmed to Content
Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT) 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Paul gives us the key to contentment. It’s to live within God’s provision. Yes, there may be some ups and downs; economic downturns, loss of a job, bad decisions by you or others, operating on your timing rather than on God’s. God always provides but sometimes we have to make adjustments in order to stay content.
When God increases someone else’s provision do you become envious or jealous? Do you get mad at God and ask why not me? Or are you able to congratulate them. Tell them that you’re happy for them? When you see others blessed can you say “I’m content with God’s provision for me? You can only have peace when you learn to live a life of thanksgiving for God’s provisions for you. Whether you’re in a season of plenty or in a season of lack, you can live with contentment and peace.
Matthew 6:31-32 (NKJV) 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV) Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Fulfill Your Day
Every new day is an opportunity to either build yourself up or break yourself down. Forget about yesterday and don’t worry about tomorrow because it will only add to the stress of today.
Philippians 3:13-14 (NKJV) 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (NKJV) 18 "Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.
Matthew 6:34 (NKJV) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Here’s a suggestion that I read about that works as you start your day;
We ask our Willow staff members to be culture builders. We ask them to spend at least fifteen minutes of “chair time” with God before they drive onto our campus. We ask them to be filled with the Holy Spirit and eager to display the fruit of the Spirit, so their interactions throughout the day will be a blessing to their teammates. I make the same challenge to you. No matter how healthy or dysfunctional your work culture is today, you can choose, by the power of Christ, to become a culture builder. You can be someone who blesses every person who crosses your path, from senior executives to entry-level workers.
Start each day committed to building yourself and others up. What if all of your interactions with others built them up? How much more fulfilled and stress free would your day be if everything that you did honored Christ.
2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Give It to God
A friend who is going through a very overwhelming time confided in me, even asking if she was losing it. What she is going through would probably cause most of us, even those of us who consider ourselves people of great faith, to lose it. I’ll end this post with some of what I said to her, as we seek first the kingdom of God in order to simplify our lives.
“You are right we don't get to make the call between life and death. God has the final say. What we have control over is how we respond to His decision and His will. We also have control over how we respond to those times of doubt. We must remember that God is bigger than anything we encounter. He is able to keep us. His ways are not ours.”
Isaiah 55:8 (NKJV) "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
“We must release everything to Him. We can't keep anything.”
Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV) Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
“That's hard and we can't do that within ourselves. We can only do it through the Holy Spirit. I'm praying that you can continue to stay strong. That you really allow the Holy Spirit to hold you. Let go and trust everything to God.”
1 Peter 5:10 (NKJV) But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
Simplicity is a gift of God. A gift given so that we might see the value in seeking Him first in all things.
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.