Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Are you too busy?  I can’t remember the last time anyone said to me that they were not busy enough–can you?  Everybody is busy these days.  Is it a curse or a blessing?  I want to probe this question from a biblical perspective; it could be eye-opening for you.
Do you like being busy?  I have to confess that for the most part, I much prefer to be busy.  Having nothing interesting or important to do is not where I want to be, and I find that a full schedule forces me to be efficient, to manage my time more carefully, and therefore to get more accomplished.
Frankly, I would be miserable if I were not busy.  God designed us to be busy.  Jesus was busy; the disciples were busy.  They were no doubt stressed out at times.  I don’t believe you’ll ever meet or know anyone whom you admire who is not a busy person.
But I want to take a look at the downside of busyness; the potential bondage of busyness; the traps that are ready to swallow us up if we don’t know how to set boundaries on busyness.
As I see it–at least for myself–busyness issues come down to six questions we need to ask ourselves:

  1. Am I busy for the right reasons?

This causes us to look at what we’re doing and make sure we are doing what God wants us to do.  It will cause us to examine our priorities.  It should cause us to pray more about our activities and where we’re expending our time and energy.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

God’s to-do list for you will use the gifts he has given you.  Do you know your spiritual gifts?  That doesn’t mean, however, that we never do anything outside our gifting.  God is always stretching us and, like the parable of the talents teaches, when we use what he gives us, he gives us more.
If I’m busy just to achieve some personal success, or to prove something, or because I need to win the approval of someone else, then I’m busy for the wrong reasons.  That kind of busyness will lead to burnout and stress, and never give the satisfaction we’re looking for. 

  1. Has busyness become my identity?

We live in a world that honors busyness, that judges people based on how busy they are, and it is very easy to get caught up in this busy cycle as a sense of who we are.  Since I tend to over-schedule at times, and setting boundaries on my own busyness continues to be a challenge, I often do a self-check and make sure my self-worth is not based on my busyness.  For me, that means offering up to God all I’m doing and once again acknowledging that I am not my own, my schedule is not my own.  My heavenly Father has a perfect right to change my schedule, to slow me down, to put me in another place, with a totally different agenda. 
If you frequently talk about how busy you are and you’re uncomfortable or feel guilty when you have a free moment to yourself, it could be that you’ve allowed busyness to become your identity, your sense of well-being, and that is not a good place to be.

  1. Do I take pride in my busyness?

Have you noticed how some people play one-upsmanship about how busy they are?  They seem to be in competition to win the prize as the busiest person.
Some years ago God began to reveal to me that I actually could be addicted to busyness, and I did take pride in it.  People would make comments about my busyness, and I would take that as a compliment.  But then I began to see that being recognized for being busy was not necessarily a good thing.  Did I really want that kind of image, so that people just thought of me as busy? 
So I began to pray about this tendency, and I became intentional about not talking about how busy I was.  Now, honestly I really cringe if anyone says something about how busy I am.  Number one, I’m not that much busier than anyone else, but more importantly, that’s not how I want to be seen. 
In fact, I worked at changing my attitude toward my busyness.  Instead of thinking of all I had to do and giving a litany of my to-do list, as a point of pride and/or a complaint, I began to say to myself, “Aren’t you blessed to have a lot to do today?  Wouldn’t you be miserable if you had nothing of value to do today?  It is a blessing that you have more to do than you’ll get done.”
It really does change your attitude and releases a lot of the stress of busyness to change your thinking in that way.

  1. Do I set appropriate boundaries on my busyness?

We are not called to meet everyone’s need.  If we don’t learn how to set boundaries on our busyness, we will heap lots of stress on ourselves and our busyness will be way out of bounds.  Jesus knew how to say, “It’s not my job.”  When asked to settle an argument between two brothers, he informed them that he was not called to do that.  When the disciples urged him to go speak to a certain town that had gathered to hear him, he insisted that his call for that day was to go to another town, so he walked away and I’m sure many of those people were disappointed.
While on earth Jesus was limited to a human body, and he knew how to set boundaries on his busyness.  He knew when he needed some down time with his disciples.  He understood he needed a Sabbath rest–a day of down time.  And because he set boundaries, he was able to do what the Father sent him to do, and at the end of his short ministry could say he had accomplished everything the Father intended for him to do.  There were no regrets.
Setting boundaries on our busyness requires prayer and wisdom from above.  And we’ll need to learn how to say no!  But that’s the only way we can live with no regrets.

  1. Do I stay busy in order to avoid issues that need to be confronted?

For ten years of my life, I ran from the lordship of Jesus in my life, doing my own thing, seeking what I thought I had to have in order to be happy, trying to be very successful, etc.  And in order to avoid the convicting voice of God in my life, I used busyness as my escape hatch.  I simply programmed every minute of my days to avoid thinking time, to avoid any confrontation with my conscience and with God’s Spirit.
Thankfully, God’s Spirit hounded me and never gave up, and even though it took far too long for me to realize how harmful and stupid my lifestyle was, God gave me a second chance and has restored to me the years the locust have eaten, as we read in the book of Joel.  I want to urge you not to do what I did.  If busyness is your way of running from God, I can tell you that you can’t run fast enough or far enough.  The smartest thing you can do is stop where you are and come back into the open and forgiving arms of the Lord Jesus.

  1. Is my busyness an obstacle to my spiritual growth?

My guess is that busyness is the most common excuse we Christians use for not spending quality time with the eternal God, reading and studying his word and making prayer a very high priority everyday.  Are you too busy for time with God?  Is that what falls through the cracks when the schedule gets heavy?
If we’re too busy to spend time with God, we’re simply too busy.  It’s my belief that we generally manage to do what we really want to do, so if knowing God is a passion of your heart, you will make time for personal time with God each day.  It won’t just happen; you have to plan it and be disciplined about it.
So these are the six questions that will help you determine if you are too busy, or you’re busy for the wrong reasons.  Now, in addition, there may be other things that are exacerbating your busyness which need to be addressed:

Poor Time Management
If you’re not disciplined and wise in the management of your time, it could be you’re just not organized well enough to get done what you should do.  Here are some simple disciplines that will help you improve your time management:

Ø  Whatever you have to do today that you don’t want to do, do it first.
Ø  Eliminate as many interruptions as possible.
Ø  Finish one job before you start another, if possible.
Ø  Always have a plan for your day.  You may not be able to follow it exactly, but if you start with a plan, prioritizing your activities for the day, you’re much more likely to get things done faster and more orderly.

This is probably one of the main enemies of getting things done–putting off until later what could and should be done now.  Procrastination will get you every time.  One simple motto can help you overcome this very bad habit.  Here it is:

Ø  “Do it right and do it now!”  If there’s no good reason to put it off, you will realize great benefits from simply doing it right and doing it now.

Perfectionistic Tendencies
Trying to do everything to total perfection is rarely necessary, often time consuming, and not worth the time and effort involved.  Working with excellence is our standard, but total perfection can be a real pitfall—a time-consuming addiction that makes us feel good perhaps, but doesn’t add needed value.

Here are two verses that give us some important guidelines for our busy lives:

Therefore, my dear sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4)

There is a tension in Scripture between abounding in the work God has given us to do, while at the same time abiding in the vine, resting in the Lord, and finding rest for our souls.  I think it is a tension we will struggle with until we are in heaven, in resurrected bodies, with endless time and perfect understanding.  Until then, as we grow up in Jesus, we must begin to learn how to keep the tension at the right level.
From an article by John Ortberg entitled “To Abide or To Abound?”, he gives principles to help us keep the right tension between these two directives:

·         Focus on what matters most.

·         Be fully present in what God is calling you to do at any given moment.

·         Enjoy the journey. Smell all the roses along the way.

·         Establish rhythm in your life.  Work then rest.  Work then play.  Schedule times of solitude and meditation.

·         Embrace your gifts and your limitations.  God didn’t design you to do everything well; just certain things.  Be willing to admit you are not good at something and let someone else do it.

I hope these thoughts on busyness will help you to answer the question:  Am I too busy?