“If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”
Ever heard that before? I have, and boy if it isn’t true…
Sometimes I can get so busy doing good things that I forget to do what I was supposed to be focusing on.
What about you?
Between work, taking the kids to practice, studying for the next test, trying to keep the lawn looking good, trying to exercise, catching up on laundry, church activities, and parent-teacher meetings, our schedules look less like a family plan and more like a complex algebraic equation.
If I have to be at x by y and then I have to take child 1 to location b, will I have time to go through the drive through or will we all be eating those gummy fruit snacks for dinner for the second time this week?
And we know we need to cut things out, but what? I mean, it’s not like I am running drugs or killing puppies. If I was, it would be a no-brainer to cut those things out. “Hey, honey, if we stop stalking the neighbors, I think we’ll have time for a date night.” Hopefully that’s not the text message you send. I say text because you don’t have time to talk to your spouse. In fact, if it wasn’t for the picture of the two of you on social media, you may forget what they look like.
We’re too busy. I know, you’ve heard it before. But what do you cut out? Our schedules are full of good things. Sports are good. Getting your kids to youth volleyball, dance, and the traveling basketball team is good. Actually showing up to work is good. Folding laundry, that’s’ good. Studying for the exam coming up is good. It’s good. It’s all good.
And I think that’s’ the problem. Let that sink in. The problem is our schedules are full of good things.
And that’s bad.
Confused yet? Do I have your attention?
Good. Perfect. Here’s the point: The Enemy of Great is Good.
The enemy of great is good. See, I believe that God has created us for great things that will bring Him glory (see Eph. 2:10). And if you’re a follower of Jesus, God has a task for you to do. And if the devil can’t cause you to walk away from faith, he’ll try to keep you so busy that you’ll be distracted from your faith.
Distraction. It’s a dirty word. It’s perhaps the most commonly committed sin in the North American Church today. In fact, it’s perhaps the root of almost any other sin we struggle with. What’s the first of the 10 Commandments? “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
When we’re distracted, we’re either putting something else ahead of God, or at the very least, we’re regulating God, and His call on our lives, to equal footing with all the other stuff we have going on.
You say: “Ok, Adam, since you seem to have all the answers, what am I supposed to do about it?”
Well, first of all, you’re not alone. I’m guilty of this too. I get distracted by good things. My schedule is full of good things; things that need done; needs that should be met; obligations that I signed up for. I’m in this too. This post is for me as much as for you, maybe even more so.
But here’s what I am learning: God has some simple steps to stop being so busy and refocus.
Nehemiah was a guy who got things done. And just a quick scan of the Book of Nehemiah gives us 3 steps we can take to reclaim our mission and focus on the great things God wants us to.
1. Realize the Need.
If you don’t see the need to do something different, then you’re not going to change, and the situation is simply going to get worse. In Nehemiah 1, we see how Nehemiah heard about the bad shape Jerusalem was in. The city wall was destroyed, the citizens were discouraged. It was a mockery of God.
We need to realize that there is a problem in our lives. It may be our schedule reveals some deep needs in our lives that we’re trying to meet apart from the redemptive work of Christ, like trying to earn acceptance or praise of others. Or it could be that we just need to realize we’re not making enough time for what really counts. And that’s what leads me to the next step.
2. Reflect on priorities.
The first thing Nehemiah did when he got to Jerusalem was he took a trip around the city to see for himself what was really going on. He checked out the city, inside and out. He did this in secret, not making a show, so he would get an unbiased outlook.
What are you really doing with your time? Have you ever added up the time each week you devote to each task? Have you identified the absolute essentials? We often say “I need to do this or go there…” But that’s not really accurate, is it? Is anyone holding a gun to your head saying you MUST sign the kids up for dance, intro to yoga, softball, and concert band at the same time, in the same week? Did anyone really force to you say yes to helping with the Committee to Appoint More Committees to Do Nothing?
I’m not saying those things are bad. In fact, I think there is a lot of value in those things. What I am saying is that you and I need to reflect on what is most important.
When Nehemiah went around Jerusalem, I’m sure he saw lots of things that needed attention. Streets needed cleaned of debris. Markets needed set up. Wells needed re-dug. Civic institutions needed revamped. But first and foremost, the walls needed built. It was only when Jerusalem was secure could they deal with other important things.
Focus on the priorities before you commit your time to lesser things.
3. Refuse to get distracted.
In Nehemiah 6, some bad dudes named Sanballat and Tobiah were trying to con Nehemiah out of finishing the work on the wall. They didn’t like what was happening. Because when Nehemiah realized the need, reflected on what needed to get done first, and started focusing on the most important things, amazing things happened.
Nehemiah 4:6 tells us that they had completed half of the work in what seemed like record time, because they were focused on it.
So Sandy and Toby didn’t like this. They thought, “Hey, lets get Nehemiah to come to a meeting. He’ll get distracted and then the work will stop.”
Satan and his minions will try to keep you from the most important things. Sure, take another meeting, it’s just one more night away from home. Yeah, sign up for the community group project, it’s just one thing. They need help with coaching Little League? Well, I mean, my kids on the team, so sign me up. Again, good things, but if they take us away from our main goal, they could be distractions.
Nehemiah told his tempters, “Sorry guys, I’m busy doing a GREAT work and I can’t come down and talk. If I stop now, I may not get back.” (Nehemiah 6:3, paraphrased).
It’s so difficult to do this. People will get disappointed. You will feel like you’re letting down your friends. But perhaps they just don’t understand how GREAT the work you’re doing really is.
Next post, I’ll outline some simple ideas to free up time in your schedule.