As a full-time seminary student (ATS represent!), part-time pastor (no such thing if you’re doing it right), husband (guy who mows the yard, remembers birthdays and anniversaries, and honors his wife), father (provides spiritual guidance as well as embarrass his children in front of their friends), and a guy holding down a full-time secular career (amazed that he hasn’t gotten fired yet for missing work due to the previously listed items), to say I have demands on my time is an understatement! I list all of that not to brag or attempt to gain sympathy, but to illustrate a point…
I’m kind of busy.
I am not alone in this busyness; it is all around us. You’re probably sitting reading this there at your desk, kitchen counter, or in the drive-thru line at school right at this very moment… taking a breather between the next thing that requires your time. There are constant demands on our time, and each new request requires giving up time that can be spent on other needs. As I’m writing this blog post, I should be authoring a 10-page final paper for a class, but I’m taking the time to share a confession instead…
I don’t take enough time to spend with God.
There, I said it. It’s out in the open now. Whew!
Am I alone in this? I’m going to take a wild guess and say, “that’s a big NO there Jas-a-roon-oh.” (Sorry… I really shouldn’t do accents, especially in the written word.)
Here is where things get a little sad (but also exposes a glimmer of hope)…
We do this to ourselves.
I didn’t have to accept God’s call and take on the workload of graduate school (though I could not imagine all of the blessings that have come from it already). I didn’t have to accept God’s blessing and marry my wife (though I can’t imagine accomplishing all that I have without her). We don’t have to tell our children “yes” when they want to join a sports team. We don’t have to tell our pastor “yes” when he asks you to help lead a ministry (as much as he may want you to!). There are so many “good” things to which we could say no. Unfortunately, we don’t say it because we tell ourselves, “that will be good for me” or “it would be good for Bobby Sue to play on that travel team (name changed, my apologies if your child is named Bobby Sue).”
“If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”
Now we know that Satan can’t actually make us do anything, he, after all, was conquered by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He does, however, retain the power to tempt us to do all sorts of bad things. The crux being, as I’ve pointed out above, we can get busy doing many good things as well as bad. The point is, all of the things we do are distractions. They are distractions from being in a personal relationship with God.
Now here’s the hook… here’s the rub… here’s the application (as my preaching textbooks say)…
We can choose to take more time to be with God… wait… not take… give more time to God. Wait (again), how can I give God time, he’s God?! Spend time with God? Ehhh… forget it…
Whatever word or term you use, there must be more of it set aside for growing in our relationship with our creator. He, after all, has created all of this thing we call time.
I recently gave the most hypocritical sermon I have ever given. I stood in front of the congregation describing all of the important reasons we should be spending more time with God, knowing that I was not doing an adequate job of it myself. As I said the words, I could feel the Holy Spirit convicting me of the plank in my eye, and I may have even said something along the lines of, “your pastor needs to learn this message as much as anyone in the room.”
This convicting illuminated the hope that I alluded to earlier. I had the power to make my own decisions. I chose right then to grow and mature in my spiritual formation and set upon asking God for his help in this quest. You see, while you may have the blessing of free will, nothing is possible without God. With his help, I have embarked upon a series of practices that include; getting up at 5:00 am for an hour spent in the Word and intercessory prayer, meeting with and absorbing spiritual formation practices from other pastors, devotional readings from the saints that came before us, and I regularly pray throughout my day with a small leather notebook filled with the names of those for whom I pray (You’ll not find me without this important journal of praises and concerns). This list is not all-inclusive, nor is it an attempt on my part to “earn grace,” but merely tools to recognize the grace that is already being poured out in my life.
You’re probably thinking, “But Jason, you just listed all kinds of new demands on your time!” and you’d be half right. With the insight and strength gained during these times of devotion, I am better equipped to face my day and the challenges that it will present. I’m also more willing to say, “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to decline” to new requests and more accepting of less than perfect scores on coursework.
While I did add spiritual practices to my schedule, I now do not consider this a demand at all, but an invitation… an invitation to grow in my relationship with Christ.
This is an invitation that is open to all.
Every good relationship we have, or have had in the past, requires time spent with the other person. Real time. Real sharing. Real emotions. Real… love.
Please don’t neglect the most important relationship of your life.
God is love.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. – James 1:22-25