[We often begin the year with a flurry of activity. We make plans and start new projects until our schedules nearly burst. If we are not careful we can become busy without becoming better. Today’s post is intended to help us be busy with better things.]
Are you busy? Me too. Some days I feel like a thoroughbred race horse bursting out of the gate, running around in circles, only to end up at the same place at the end of the day and somehow further behind.
Life is a whirl of activity, and to some extent it should be. After all, the Bible never honors laziness. Solomon wrote, “The desire of the lazy man kills him” (Prov. 21:25). We are not put here to live a life of leisure. The New Testament tells us, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23). Jesus had an active schedule which got Him up early in the morning and took Him late into the night. The demands of His day were sometimes so pressing He didn’t even have time to eat.
No, we are not placed on this earth for lounging around. God created us to work, be fruitful and helpful. Yes, life is busy, but disciples of Jesus are busy with different things and for different reasons than most people. Here are two steps for doing busy, better.
To do busy better we must first examine the reasons behind our busyness.
This can be an ugly task, because we often discover our weary pace is driven by a sinful pride. Do you ever wear your busyness as a badge of self-importance? Do you ever hear that insidious voice which whispers, “I must be an important person, just look at how busy I am.” We become involved in a dizzying array of activities so we can fit in with the other people at work, and not be left out of what the other children are doing in school. So we put in the extra time and sign up for the new activity to establish our place in this world.
At other times our exhausting pace is driven by our selfish pleasures. Truly, how much of your day is devoured by activities that are merely focused on yourself? Certainly you are important. Your growth is essential. However, your comfort, nor mine, is the goal of life.
Technology is the greatest tool of selfish pleasure today. The big screen, small screen, and palm screen all conspire to waste our time and fill our minds with trash and trivia, leaving us further behind on the things that matter. Our electronic devises are the first things we check in the morning and the last things we consult at night. They are enshrined as the idols of our day, and they drain our lives of time and energy.
The other day I heard a man describe his life as “crazy busy.” I thought, “Yes, some of our busyness is crazy.” Yet, Jesus doesn’t call us to live a life of leisure, but to a better way of doing “busy.” That leads to…
Step 2: Install A Filter
There is one verse that has realigned my schedule more times than I can count. Oh, I’m not perfect in its application, but I’ve seen how this verse filters out the activities that clutter up your schedule and allows you to be busy with better things. Here it is:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33)
Jesus calls us to a life of “seeking,” which is a “wear-you-out” kind of busy. But busy with what?
God’s Right Way… We are to be busy with “His righteousness.” We are constantly faced with choices, and Jesus says, “Pursue what God says is right for you.” Ah, all of a sudden my schedule isn’t filled with my pleasures, but with God’s values!
In the context of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus speaks these words, righteousness is all about loving your neighbor and God. Jesus told His disciples, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19). Then Jesus illustrates that righteousness is expressed in your love for other people (Matt. 5:20-48, even when they don’t deserve it!), and in your genuine devotion to God (Matt. 6:1-32).
Now, look at your schedule. Is it full of love for others and devotion to God?
Ruling My Life… Now, this standard of righteousness is not just something I can treat lightly. It issues forth from my King, and I seek “the kingdom of God” to be the rule of my life.
I find this to be very helpful! When I hear a hundred voices shouting at me – “Do this! Go there! Buy that!” Everything seeks to jump into the driver’s seat of my life. I can hush all the noise by asking, “What does my King want me to do?” How liberating! How healthy! I can listen to the One who knows me, loves me, and can guide me better than anyone else.
Is My Main Concern… Many of us are willing to accept the Kingship of God on occasion, but then Jesus ratchets up the intensity with the word “first.” “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Disciples do not have several priorities, of which God is one. We have one single ambition – to make God’s way the rule of my life.
The word “first” makes you face the reason behind your busyness. It compels you to consider why you are buying that thing, signing up for that activity, going to that place, or attracted to that person. It causes you to ask, “Does this reflect that my main concern is that God’s ways govern my life?”
Which I Passionately Pursue! This is not always a pleasant examination, so Jesus adds a word to ratchet up the importance once more, “seek.” The word “seek” describes your ambition, what you are passionate about. Jesus is recommending that you make God’s way your first concern in every decision because that is what you are passionate about. In other words, your schedule reflects your joy. What does yours say?
Disciples of Jesus are not “crazy busy,” we are “kingdom busy!” We evaluate each activity by asking, “Does this show that my main concern which I passionately pursue is God’s right way ruling in my life?” That’s a filter that will help you do busy better.
“Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Cor. 16:14).
Below is a short article about priorities which centers around Matthew 6:33. It contains an illustration about “coffee filters” that might be helpful to you.
THE Disciple’s Priority
Yet, I am convinced that most of us do not examine our priorities. We mindlessly plug into the flow of life and go where circumstances take us. We are so busy meeting the responsibilities of the day we fail to consider the destiny of our lives. We’re like a man who hurriedly fixes his car just to drive it off a cliff!
As citizens of heaven we know where we are going, and we constantly examine our values to ensure we arrive. We determine not to mindlessly plug into the flow of this world, because we know it is destined for destruction. We believe God has saved us for a greater purpose than just living a “busy life.” He wants us to live a meaningful life.
We must recognize that busyness does not equal godliness. There are all kinds of people who are out of their minds busy, but they are spiritually stagnate. Some of us seem to wear our busyness as a badge of importance, when, in fact, our schedules simply reveal a deep preoccupation with self!
Jesus gave His disciples a statement that rights the ship and sets the sails to living a life of joyful significance, He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). This statement complements what Jesus called the “first and greatest commandment,” “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). There is an “all-ness” and a “foremost” to living for the Lord. We want His rule to be evident in every part of our lives.
The Lord’s people do not have a top 10 list of priorities, of which God is one. We have one overarching priority through which we filter everything. When we see our priorities in terms of a list it is easy for us to think of the Lord as an important part of our lives, but not the whole of our lives. For example we might say, “I put God at the top of my priority list. That is why I go to worship on Sunday. But, the rest of the week I’ve got to get to my other priorities.” No!
“Seek first the kingdom of God” is more like a coffee filter for living. You know how a coffee filter works. You put all this “stuff” on top of the filter. Then you run water through it, and only what is suitable for consumption is allowed through. That is what Matthew 6:33 is for our daily lives. It is THE priority through which we filter everything. We constantly ask ourselves, “Is what I’m thinking, saying, doing, and planning demonstrating that I value God’s kingdom above anything else?” If the answer is “yes,” we do it. If the answer is “no” then leave it. There should be a kingdom reason for all of living!
This week write Matthew 6:33 on a piece of paper (or better yet on a coffee filter) and carry it around with you. Whenever you make your schedule, spend your money, or dream your dreams, ask yourself, “Does this show I value God’s kingdom above all else?” It is THE priority which will set your sails toward a meaningful life.