For seven weeks we have been on a mission: to deal with the problem of overload in our lives. Our desire has been to stop the madness and gain a measure of control in our lives. As believers in Jesus Christ we know that there is more to life than the mad pursuit of the material. We know that God wants more from us than simply to work and worry. We are trying to find time for the things that matter. We want to live with wisdom.
Over the weeks we have listed a number of different principles. Here are a few reminders,
- We need to simplify our lives
- We need to confront the fallacy that newer is better
- We need to realize that running faster is not the same as being more productive.
- Margin is a requirement for health and for healthy relationships
- The best way to lower our stress factor is by truly trusting God’s Providence and wisdom.
- We must weigh every opportunity by ‘the price tag’ it contains
- We must defend our boundaries and make certain areas of our lives off-limits to the pressures of work
- Being debt free reduces stress and gives us financial margin
- The best way to break the hold of money is by being generous rather than selfish
- Our goal should be to be content with what we have rather than pining for the life we wish we had.
- In our spiritual lives we must continually pursue Christ and not be sucked in by those who measure us by their rules or experiences.
If you are working on these things then I hope you are beginning to see some daylight in your schedules. Hopefully you are a little less stressed, a little less “driven”, and a little more content.
If we are diligent in restoring some margin to our life the question we then must ask is: What do we do with the margin we develop? I suppose you could use your margin to watch TV and to have money for a bigger television. However, remember that the whole point of the series was to help us find time for the things that matter. Simply having more time doesn’t mean we will be living better.
This morning we turn our attention to the instruction of the Apostle Paul. In Ephesians 5 he wrote,
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
There is a similar passage in the book of Colossians,
Col. 2:5-6 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Both texts use the phrase “make the most of every opportunity”. The Greek word has the idea of buying up all that is around. It means: and don’t allow a moment to pass by without making the best of it. So, as Christians our desire is to be productive and transformational members of society.
LIFE IS FILLED WITH CHOICES
Life is a series of choices. We choose whether to worry or to trust; we choose whether to be content or to be dissatisfied; we choose whether we will allow other people to set the agenda for our lives or whether we will take responsibility for our own lives. Paul tells us that we choose whether we will live lives based on God’s wisdom or whether we follow the foolish and evil ways of the world.
We are responsible for the way we choose to live our lives. We can’t blame what we do with our lives on others. We don’t always choose our circumstances, but we do choose what we do with those circumstances.
J.I. Packer wrote,
Satan wants to see every minute misused; it is for us to make every minute count for God.
How? Not by a frenzied rushing to pack a quart of activity into a pint pot of time (a common present-day error), but by an ordered life-style in which, within the set rhythm of toil and rest, work and worship, due time is allotted to sleep, family, wage-earning, homemaking, prayer, recreation, and so on, so that we master time instead of being mastered by it.
OUR CHALLENGE IS TO REDEEM THE TIME WE HAVE
So what are wise uses of our discretionary time and income?
Gain Physical Restoration
One of the ways to use our margin is to use it to gain physical restoration. For some, we simply need some downtime. We need a Sabbath rest so we can sleep and restore our weary bodies. I know that if I have had a particularly draining week I don’t want to go out with a crowd of people. What I need is quiet. I need to be with those who energize me rather than drain me.
Others are isolated all day and may need to get out with a group of people and interact once again. How many young mothers tell their spouse that they need to talk to some adults? It’s not that they don’t love their children, they need a different kind of stimulation.
The point is that many people are miserable and unhappy because they are physically or mentally exhausted. They keep pushing but their productivity drops. They become discouraged and push harder only to meet more frustration. This leads some to become mired in depression and others into thoughts of suicide. The real problem is that they need to rest and recharge.
Practically this may mean you need to,
- Get some extra sleep
- Go for a walk, bicycle ride or (if you must) a run
- Lose yourself in a good book
- Put on the headphones and allow the music to sweep you away
- Invite some friends over and play a game together
To Build Relationships
Second, we should use our margin to build relationships. One of the most damaging effects of overload is the impact it has on our relationships. We don’t have time for each other. We don’t have time to build lasting relationships because we are too busy trying to conquer the world. Max Lucado gives us a quiz.
- Name the ten wealthiest men in the world.
- Name the last ten Heisman trophy winners.
- Name the last ten winners of the Miss America contest.
- Name eight people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
- How about the last ten Academy Award winners for best picture or the last decade’s worth of World Series winners?
How did you do? I didn’t do well either. With the exception of you trivia hounds, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday too well. Surprising how quickly we forget, isn’t it? And what I’ve mentioned above are no second-rate achievements. These are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one.
- Think of three people you enjoy spending time with.
- Name ten people who have taught you something worthwhile.
- Name five friends who have helped you in a difficult time.
- List a few teachers who have aided your journey through school.
- Name half-a-dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.
Easier? It was for me, too. The lesson? The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern.
[AND THE ANGELS WERE SILENT]
We should use our margin to invest more of our lives in the lives of the people around us. We should give more of ourselves to our spouse, our kids, our family, our neighbors, our friends, and the hurting people of the world. Too many of us wake up and realize that our kids are grown and we haven’t taken the time to get to know them. We too often let friendships die from neglect. All to often we fail to help someone who is in need, because we are too busy. I see it in my life and I suspect you see it in yours.
We need to invest ourselves sin people. The only thing we can take from this world to Heaven with us is other people. People are the true treasures. Our mission is to share God’s love with people. So, practically
- We should take time to go on family outings
- Get away with your spouse
- Be available to stop and talk to someone in need
- Read a book with your children
- Walk slower so you can at least make eye contact with people you meet
- Look for an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus
- Make a phone call to a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in awhile.
To Honor God and invest in Eternity
The final and most important thing to do with our margin is to use it to know and serve the Lord. Too many people are pursuing what I would call a “drive-through” Christianity. Most of us choose a drive-thru window at a restaurant because we want our food fast, easy, with as little effort or interaction as possible. We do the same thing with our faith. We want it fast, easy, and with as little effort as possible. The idea of truly developing a love relationship with God is not something that comes to us naturally.
There are many ways to develop your relationship with God but let me zero in on three. First use your margin to Take time to Study and Ponder God. We need to take time to think about the things of God. We need to read His Word, and then we also need to meditate on that Word. We need to allow God’s Word to get deep into our soul. To do this we need to stop and really listen to what the Bible is saying.
Let me draw you a picture. Suppose you are married. You come home from work and your spouse is there. You smile, exchange pleasantries and your mate says, “I need to talk to you.” You say, “Sure, I’m listening.” Your mate talks for a period of time and you listen. You are not really sure what your spouse wants you to understand, but you have listened. When they finish you (feeling quite proud of your listening skills) say, “I’m going to go watch some television.” What is likely to happen?
You’re right! You may actually get clunked with a frying pan. Listening and hearing are not the same thing. We need to work at understanding. We need to ask questions, we need to ponder the implications of what is being said. At times we might have to ask for some time to “think about what was just said”. It’s true in marriage and it is also true when listening to God.
Too often, when we set out to read the Bible we have a tendency to read the words, close the book, and then go on with our day. We feel we have done our duty and we feel pretty good about ourselves for doing so. Pondering God means reading the Bible and asking, “What does this really mean?” or “What is God saying to me here?” It is being still so you can understand what God is saying.
Talk to God. We need to use some of our margin to pray. Prayer is about sharing our hearts with God. Yes, we should lift up other people but we should also lift ourselves before the Mighty One. We should confess our sin, our anxiety, and our foolishness. We need to discuss our plans and seek His wisdom.
Many of us struggle with prayer. I’ve used the excuse and maybe you have also, “I just can’t concentrate.” We excuse this as a personality flaw. But here’s the problem: We can focus on a good movie for 2 hours. We can be intensely involved in a sporting event on television. We can sit up with a friend half the night talking about the good old days. We can focus. However we can only focus when something is of interest to us.
Think about the implications of what I’ve just said. Is it really true that we have trouble with prayer because we just really aren’t all that interested in developing our relationship with God? Are we really bored by the Creator of the Universe?
Here’s a challenge. If you are not spending any regular time in prayer in the next few weeks determine that you are going to spend 5 minutes a day in prayer. Just 5 minutes. You know as well as I do that we have 5 minutes we could give to God. My challenge to you is that you actually give God those 5 minutes. Don’t worry about spending more time with God in prayer at first. As you develop a relationship with Him, more time will be a natural outgrowth of your time of prayer. Share your life, your friends, your calendar, your dreams and your frustrations with God.
Serve God James tells us that faith without works is dead. The person who really is changed by God’s grace is a person who will show that in the things they do. We can serve God in many different ways.
- We could serve on a committee, teach a class, or contribute to worship
- We could extend mercy in the name of Christ by helping provide food for the grieving or for new mothers. You could visit those who are sick or shut-in.
- You can help with repairs around the church
- You can pray for those who are hurting
- You can share your faith with those who are outside the Kingdom
- You can use your financial margin to cover a budget shortfall, underwrite a ministry, ease a burden, or make something great happen.
Find a way to honor God in the way you live your life. Who knows what God could do through this one little church if we were available for God to use?
Many of you over the last seven weeks have told me that this series seemed to be aimed right at you. You feel overloaded and you need to get some margin into your life. You now have information. What are you going to do with it? I know some of you are making changes in your life. May God bless you and help you as you bring some order and enjoyment back into your life. For those who haven’t started making changes may I ask with all sincerity: “What are you waiting for?”
Life is all about decisions. The enjoyment of life is directly related to the decisions we make. If we make our decisions based on living for the moment, we will find our lives are empty and filled with frustration. We will never have enough and we will always be worn out. On the other hand, If we learn to live simply trusting God’s wisdom, we will discover that God knows what He is talking about. We will smile as the world races by. We will see beauty that others miss. We will be free from the anxiety that others endure. We will have relationships that are strong and fulfilling. We will make an impact on those around us. We will serve and honor God in life-changing ways. I think it is worth the effort. I hope you do too.