At Bible study yesterday, a sweet sister said, “I need this time! I’d rather come to this than get a massage.” We laughed but concurred that the group time of discussion ministered to our spirits in ways that nothing else that week did. In our time of community we are prioritizing the need for discipleship, encouragement, and group prayer. Unfortunately, about halfway through our Bible study semesters, we drop to about half in our attendance as well. Yes, the lack of commitment indicates a predicament in our culture to “keep our options open,” but what I want to focus on more involves priorities. What we think is vital to our schedules often falls superfluous in light of eternity. And the aspects of life we truly need (Bible study, community fellowship, prayer, and rest) get pushed out and overwhelmed by the busyness of our culture. Sadly, many of our churches embrace this mentality of “more is better,” integrating a dozen programs and activities into the weekly schedule, implying that if you really want to be a true follower of Jesus, you will do it all. The irony comes when what we are doing for God overshadows any time we actual have to rest in His presence.
This mindset is not only rooted in pride but resists the biblical example of the New-Testament church (and yes, even the life of Jesus Himself). Despite the impact of His ministry, Jesus left this Earth with people still sick and broken. He didn’t see everyone or heal every person in Israel. He did completely fulfill His mission though. And despite the numerous expectations and demands placed on Him, He often got away by himself for quiet prayer with the Father.
Busyness is not a fruit of the Spirit. Just as “doing for God” doesn’t equate “being with God” or even “following God.”
First and foremost, we prioritize time with the Father; through the sacrifice of Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit, we have the privilege of constant interaction with our Creator and Sustainer. He is our Life, and every deed and act should flow from that relationship. We don’t act to prove the relationship worthy; our righteous acts are the overflow of God’s love poured into our life. When we act to receive accolades, we are ministering out of a dry spirit that requires the recipient to acknowledge and affirm our status (e.g. “Isn’t she amazing? What a servant! Etc.). When we don’t get the response we desire, our pride is bruised, and sometimes, we realize we weren’t really doing it for God in the first place.
Our busyness can be indicative of a misplaced identity. Who am I if I don’t do this? Who am I if I am not involved and people don’t see me serving in this way? Will people accept me and like me? Do I have to say ‘yes’ to be a good Christian? And the questions go on. However, when I say God is my Source, I am freed up to hear His voice and go where He leads me (whether the job or service brings adoration or not). I am also freed up to say “no” and not feel the guilt and trap of people pleasing.
So, we ask ourselves, am I doing this unto the Lord or for men? Am I doing this out of the overflow of my time with Him or am I doing it to somehow restore myself? Also, it’s worth distinguishing our choices in light of better and best. When we need to make decisions, most of the time, we aren’t confronting good vs. bad choices, but maybe several “good” things. Through prayer and discernment of His Spirit, we can prioritize what’s the best choice for us (and our families).
Although I mentioned this concept in a post last week, it’s worth noting again: God established Sabbath rest before the fall of man. We need it–not just because we are sinful–to remind us of our dependence on an Almighty God.
Today I heard this podcast interview with Adam Howell and Ryan Hanley (my bro-in-law), and it fit so well with our discussion today.
“Rest is an intentional act of faith. Rest is a discipline. And a gift from God.” –Ryan Hanley
[Original podcast taken from Oaks of Righteousness]