Take This Job and Love It!
#5—Burned Out, Stressed Out, Tired Out
The Office Clip/Introduction
With guys like Stanley in the workplace, it’s no wonder
we get burned out, stressed out, and tired out by our work.
Good day! I’m Michael Hockett, the Pastor of Adult Ministries.
Joe will be back with us next week to kick off the next series, Filling
the Hole in Our Gospel, which expands on this topic from last year.
But in the interim I’ll take us through the conclusion
of our current series: Take This Job and Love It!
Go ahead and take your seats and settle in a little.
Of all the insanely busy times of the year, the start of fall
tends to be the craziest of all for me and my family.
How many of you can relate to that right now?
Most of us have periods in our lives that seem to push our schedules over the edge.
For some of us it’s not just a period, but a way of life!
If we stay there, we end up feeling burned out, stressed out and tired out. . . .
And ultimately we end up being no good to God,
to others, or even to ourselves.
Now there are periods of our lives when we’re called to flat-out sprint
in order to go after a God-honoring purpose that He’s called us to.
And there’s often a fierce kind of joy that accompanies such a pursuit.
I remember when my wife, Leslie, and I were both doing graduate work.
Leslie’s physical therapy program was intense, requiring her
to be in class all day every weekday and do homework nights and weekends.
And I was working fulltime in the Air Force while also going to school.
So we hardly saw each other those two years!
One night when we both flopped into bed exhausted,
I reached over, shook her hand, and said,
“Hi. I’m Michael Hockett. Who are you?”
We could sustain this pace for that two-year period
because we felt God had called us to pursue this education,
and we knew it was a temporary state.
God wasn’t asking us to sustain it as a lifestyle indefinitely.
Now it’s many years later, and we’re older and have a young family.
And I’m back at it again taking this master’s in theology at Whitworth
that Joe has cajoled a few of us on staff into taking with him!
Something I’ve realized this time is that I have to watch the gauges
to make sure I’m not burning out my family’s engine.
During the summer term my then 5-year-old son, Ethan,
prayed this during our family bedtime routine one night:
“Dear Lord, thank you for the good day and for the sunshine
and the trampoline and for Grandma.
And please help Daddy be nice again.”…
Leslie and I took a good long look at that gauge
and decided I’d be taking this fall off from school!
I’m confident God is leading me to finish the degree.
But He’s also leading me to pursue it in a way and a time
that allows me to live out the other purposes
He has for me in this stage of my life.
God has good and worthy plans for all of our lives.
We just need to ensure we’re listening to Him
so that we’re not getting off course
or way out in front of Him and burning out.
So that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Let’s begin in prayer.
Prayer (please be seated)
We’ve been acknowledging and praying for people working in various fields the last few weeks: health care, education, volunteers, and business & labor. We’ll wrap up this week by honoring those who work in the service sector, which is probably the single largest category. They include those in
Public utilities, including garbage collection
Waiters and waitresses
Bus drivers, airline pilots and flight attendants
Barbers and beauticians
Habitat for Humanity
(I’d say the Marine Corps, but we’ve already covered military!)
Church and local and international missions
These lists could go on and on! If you work in the service sector
—or if you work in any field and haven’t stood yet in this series—
please stand and be recognized….
Let’s take a few moments now to pray for God’s blessing on these folks
as they work in partnership with Him to His glory.
If you brought a tithe or offering, you may prepare that now,
and the ushers will come as I start my talk.
Many of you noted in the introduction that you’ve been feeling
the stress of the fall season settling back in. That’s not all bad….
A little stress proves you are still alive!
The only people who feel no stress are the ones in the cemetery!
Some stress is actually good for you;
a little pressure can increase your performance;
a challenge is exciting and adds zest to life.
But too much stress can blow your engine.
So what we want to talk about today is not
eliminating stress (you’d have to die),
but managing it so that it doesn’t overwhelm you.
This is the final message of this series about our work life,
and the reason we decided to close on stress management
in the context of our work is that we all hear
the types of things people say,
and we probably even say them ourselves from time to time:
“Man, I’m just burned out.”
“The stress at work is killing me and my family.”
“I’m so busy all the time … I’m just plain exhausted!”
Burned out, stressed out, tired out. We hear it all the time!
And many of you have used those phrases about yourself this past week.
There’s no simple solution, but that doesn’t mean
God hasn’t provided us with some guidance and help.
Joe’s contention in this series is that God cares deeply about our work,
about the tasks that consume much of our time and attention all week.
We’ve talked about
rethinking your work as a calling instead of a curse,
finding your calling and doing what your were made to do,
juggling family, work, self, and God by putting God first,
and living Christianly in the marketplace.
Today we’ll wrap up by looking at how the Lord cares about your weariness,
about your stress, and considering some ideas that might
help you live more fully and happily.
Let’s begin by looking at some of the reasons that we get burned out.
1. Why do we get burned out, stressed out and tired out?
Here are four very common causes of burnout:
a. Priorities: we have the wrong ones or none at all.
We talked about this topic in depth two weeks ago,
and what we noted is that
work is worship when we do it wholeheartedly for the Lord,
but God didn’t create us to worship our work.
When we do—when we make our work
the most important thing in our lives—
we’re setting ourselves up for burnout and stress.
ILL: The Bent Screwdriver
How many of you have ever attempted to use a tool for something
it wasn’t created for, and have destroyed the tool in the process?
Most of us have grabbed a screwdriver sometime
and used it to pry something, and we’ve bent the screwdriver,
just like this!
It wasn’t made for that, and the stress ruined it.
You weren’t made to worship your work.
You weren’t made to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You weren’t made to go without Sabbaths, without times of R&R.
You weren’t made to neglect family relationships to pursue career success.
And when you do what you weren’t made to do, the stress will bend you!
What were you made to do?
Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-39 that the first and greatest commandment—
the most important thing you can do—is love God with all you’ve got.
And the second is like it: love people like you love yourself.
Love God and love people.
It’s easy to dump both of these priorities for what seem to be
the urgent demands of work.
But don’t ever be fooled into thinking that what seems to be urgent
in the moment is necessarily of any enduring or eternal value.
People don’t lie on their death beds
wishing they had been at the office more.
What they wish is that they had spent more time
developing and enjoying their relationships
with God, family and friends.
If we put God first, He’ll help us make His priorities for our lives
truly our priorities, and then we’ll live life to the full.
When we get those priorities inverted or turned around,
We’re like a screwdriver being used as a crowbar:
the stress will bend us.
Trans: A second cause of stress and burnout is pride, which is point b.
b. Pride: we think we’re indispensable, and we can’t say no.
Pride causes us to respond in a couple of ways:
1. It makes us think we’re indispensable.
2. It keeps us from being able to say no to others.
So we end up over-committing and doing far more than we ought.
We don’t tend to think of it as pride, but as self-sacrifice.
“Hey, I’m taking one for the team!”
But when we boil it all down,
over-commitment is often due to an inflated sense of ego
or a driving need for the approval of others.
If you think about it, it’s really arrogant to imagine
that the world won’t keep on spinning without us….
Nevertheless, we’re often so specialized in our work roles
that we really do start to think we’re indispensible
and things will fall apart or go undone without us.
ILL: I have a boatload of specialized education and training.
But I learned just how dispensable I am when my last two children
were born early, and I had to drop out of work
with essentially no notice.
Other people—good and capable people—
jumped right in to fill the gap, and they did great!
After those experiences, I got over myself … at least to some degree …
and I started delegating and asking for help and partnerships
much more often. I realized that although my work does
help carry a load and make other people’s lives easier,
I’m far from indispensible. And it’s good and proper
to recognize that others not only can help carry the load,
they often want to help carry it. The work gives them
a sense of purpose and fulfillment, too.
Sometimes the problem isn’t with feeling indispensible,
but with being unable to say no.
How many of you feel guilty or like you’re letting someone down
when you say no?
Here’s some good news that many of you need to embrace:
God has never intended for you to do it all!
He does have something for you to do…. say yes to that,…
and no to the rest. And say no without guilt!
Jesus was very busy. He had incredible demands on His time.
Everywhere He went, there were crowds of needy people begging
to be healed and helped, crowding around Him, wanting to touch Him.
But Jesus often took time to go away alone,
far from the crowds and their pressing needs.
If you’re burned out, stressed out, and tired out,
you’ve got to love Mark 6:31.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Jesus didn’t feel guilty or apologize for putting some people off,
for putting their needs on hold to take care of His own. Get this…
He’s God, and He’s humble. He knew His limits as a man
and when to say “enough is enough.”
And He also knew how to say no in person.
Just after feeding the 4,000, some Jewish leaders asked Jesus
to prove His credentials with a miraculous sign.
11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
Talk about pressure to perform! Here’s Jesus’ big chance!
He had these leaders’ attention, and He certainly had the ability
to prove His credentials right then and there
through an irrefutable miracle.
But He knew it would have simply been pride and wasted energy.
So He said no, and He left.
So regarding work, all of us need to learn at some point …
that we’re not indispensable.
how and when to say no.
Sometimes directness is required as in this case with Jesus.
Sometimes we need to be gracious. But either way,
we need to learn how to exercise the “no muscle” when needed.
Trans: A related reason we get stressed is that we are too passive,
we let others dictate our time—which is letter c on our outline: passivity.
c. Passivity: we let others dictate our time.
Stressed-out people feel that their lives are spinning out of control,
that they never have time to do what they want to do.
They complain that other people’s demands and interruptions
keep them from their own agendas and goals.
ILL: You know how this works.
If my wife, Leslie, asks what’s on the TV, and I say “dust,”
that’s when the fight’s going to start!
I’m just making an innocent little observation,
and she reads it as just one more demand on her time.
ILL: Here’s a test:
When your cell phone rings or your email chimes, how many of you
interrupt what you’re currently engaged in to check it?
Yeah. I do it too. Why do we do that?
Why do we let someone else determine what we’re focused on
in a given moment, particularly when we’re already
engaged with someone or something
that ought to have our full attention?
When Leslie and I are eating dinner or putting our kids to bed,
we generally won’t answer the phone.
We don’t want our kids to think that whoever is calling
is more important than they are.
And we don’t want someone else
determining how our time is used.
Likewise, if I’m in the middle of a conversation with someone,
I fight that impulse to grab the cell phone when it rings.
If it’s important, they’ll leave a message or call back.
The one exception is if Leslie calls:
with kids 3, 6 and 8, it’s usually because one of
them has broken an arm, scratched an eye,
or swallowed a rubber worm.
So I answer just out of pure curiosity.
The phone and email are just two small examples
of how often we allow others to dictate our use of time.
Many of us live our lives reactively rather than proactively.
We react to everyone and everything around us,
rather than actively seeking God’s direction beforehand
and choosing to spend our time accordingly.
ILL: Jesus is a great example of someone who knew
what He was supposed to do,
so He knew how to respond to other people’s agendas and demands.
In Matthew 4:1-11, Satan tempted Jesus and tried to deflect Him
from His mission. Jesus refused each temptation by reminding Satan
and Himself of what God had called Him to do.
In Matthew 16:21-26, when Jesus announced His upcoming death,
Peter tried to stop Him; but Jesus wouldn’t be shaken
from what He knew He had come to do.
Tellingly, in Luke 18:35-43, when Jesus knew full well He was
on His way to His own crucifixion and resurrection—
the two most important events in all of human history—
He allowed Himself to be interrupted by a common beggar,
a blind man. He stopped to heal him as he was crying out ….
By spending time with His Father and seeking His will,
Jesus knew when an interruption was just an interruption,
and when an interruption was a divine appointment.
So neither the temptations of an adversary nor the protests of a friend
could derail Jesus from His mission….
But He also knew when to allow Himself to be interrupted
because that interruption was part of His Father’s purpose.
Trans: The last stressor we’ll cover in letter d is probably the most significant,
and I’m going to spend the least amount of time on it
because most of us experience the weight of it nearly every day!
Nothing can be more draining on our time and energy than people.
d. People: these problems are the most draining!
When our relationships aren’t working, life is stressful; it’s pretty much awful.
Even when relationships are working, they take consistent effort and tending.
The pressures of projects, deadlines, tight finances, tight schedules,
heavy workloads…none of these come even close to the pressure
of not getting along with your boss, colleagues, spouse or kids.
So the worst kind of job-related stress is aggravation from
the people you work with.
Even meaningful work can quickly become a misery.
Trans: So we’ve looked at how misplaced priorities, pride, passivity, and people
are major stressors in our lives.
How many of you can you relate right now
to at least one of these four causes of burnout?
Let’s look at some practical suggestions for preventing them.
2. How do we prevent getting burned, stressed and tired out? [~12 min.]
a. Make Jesus Lord. [Communion distribution is at the end of this point.]
Other people can’t hog your ride if Jesus is in the driver’s seat!
All the issues in our life really come down to just one issue:
Lordship: who or what is controlling your life?
If it’s Jesus, you won’t burn out.
Listen to what Jesus says in
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened [all you who are burned out, stressed out and tired out], and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
When Jesus is Lord, He does have work to give you—a yoke to put on you—
but His work won’t burn you out. In fact, His work will fit you so well,
it will feel like rest. You’ll have peace and satisfaction in it
even when you have to throw your weight into it
and pull with everything you’ve got.
Jesus is using a common image of His day:
animals were yoked together for work, a strong one with a weaker one.
Jesus’ yoke is easy because He is in the yoke with you,
and He is the strong one who pulls most of the load.
When you’re stressed out, burned out and tired out,
you’re wearing someone else’s yoke.
You’ve made someone or something else lord.
Jesus’ yoke is easy. His burden is light.
He will give you rest.
ILL: It took me years to realize my career
isn’t my only or even my primary priority from God …
and I work for the church!
I do better in every endeavor of life,
including my work in the church,
when I look to God for His guidance
and partnership in all things.
It’s not about getting Him to join me;
it’s about me joining Him in what He’s doing.
Look at Moses’ prayer recorded in
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.
When you have the wrong lord, work will always become
just another burden you have to bear.
Having the right Lord makes all the difference.
Let God establish the work of your hands.
Look at how Isaiah and God contrast our pursuit of false gods
instead of the only true God who can ever satisfy us.
Isaiah starts out:
Isaiah 46:1-4 (NLT)
1 Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon,
bow as they are lowered to the ground.
They are being hauled away on ox carts.
The poor beasts stagger under the weight.
2 Both the idols and their owners are bowed down.
The gods cannot protect the people,
and the people cannot protect the gods.
They go off into captivity together.
[Then the Lord chimes in…]
3 “Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,
all you who remain in Israel.
I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.
4 I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.”
What’s true for Israel is still true for us today as God’s people in Jesus Christ.
When we worship the wrong gods— material wealth and goods,
prestige, power, sex, drugs and alcohol,
or even good things such as family, friendship, education,
ministry, and social causes—
we’ll end up carrying them, and they will be a burden to us.
When we worship God alone, we discover the truth of His promise:
“I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.”
When we orient our lives towards Him,
then He’ll help us order all our other priorities
so that they’re fruitful and satisfying.
This is why it’s necessary to make Jesus Lord of your life.
As God the Son, He wants to carry you, sustain you, and give you rest.
But when you worship other things,
when someone or something else controls you,
you’ll carry it,… and you will be burdened and burned out by it,
no matter what it is.
DISTRIBUTION OF THE COMMUNION ELEMENTS [~18 min.]
This is one of the reasons we take Communion regularly at Life Center,
and the universal church has taken it regularly throughout her history.
Christ knew we’d need a constant reminder that we need Him in us
to guide us and sustain us.
So the ushers are going to come and start distributing
the communion elements at this point in our talk.
We use two cups, with the bread located under the juice.
Please hang onto them until a later point in the talk,
and then I’ll guide us in taking them together.
Ushers, thank you for coming to distribute the elements at this time.
Trans: So how do you know when you’re becoming an idolater,
when you’re prioritizing someone or something over God,
and you’re becoming burdened by your idol?
That’s letter b: you need to
b. Monitor your gauges: physical, emotional, spiritual.
ILL: When Leslie and I moved up here from Texas the summer of 1995,
I had to cross some mountain ranges in my little 4-banger Ford Ranger.
I had grossly overloaded it with stuff we didn’t put on the moving truck,
and as you can imagine, when I was climbing those mountain passes,
I watched the gauges closely!
I could almost hear that poor little engine chugging,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think can.”
Even though I kept the little Ranger well maintained
and it was generally trouble free,
I was definitely overstressing it!
Whenever the water temp gauge would move towards max,
I’d use the highway pullouts to let the engine idle and cool.
I’d make sure the water gauge got back to normal
before continuing up the mountain. If I hadn’t done that,
I probably would have burned the engine out!
You need to keep your own eye on three important gauges
God has given you so that you won’t burn up.
Let’s look first at …
1) your physical gauge.
Burnout often happens when you abuse yourself physically:
Are you getting enough sleep?
Something I’ve learned with military training and higher education
is that it’s human nature to want to get up early and stay up late
when our lists pile up and we’re stressed about getting stuff done.
Over the years I’ve read numerous studies that show
we actually get more done with better quality
if we’ll simply allow ourselves to sleep—
if we’ll go to bed and get up at our regular times.
In fact, when we’re under stress, we’d do even better
if we’d allow ourselves to get
an extra hour of sleep each night.
Not only would we be able to do more in less time,
everyone around us would thank us
because we wouldn’t be so grumpy…
or at least not any grumpier than usual!
Again, we need to look to the Lord
to both establish the work we choose to do
and give us rest, including sleep.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Along with getting adequate sleep,
Are you eating properly?
Many busy people fail to eat properly, like skipping breakfast.
Because we live at the speed of life in America,
we also tend to be fast-food, processed-food, and snack-food junkies.
Poor nutrition lowers your resistance to stress and illness.
Are you exercising regularly?
Regular rigorous exercise produces stress-reducing hormones
in your body. All of us have walked off stress before,
and we ought to do that and other forms of exercise
far more than we do, especially when we’re under stress.
Regular exercise kicks up our metabolism and energy,
and it helps us have the reserve strength to
absorb unexpected loads, both physical and mental.
ILL: Just the other day I was in a staff meeting, and I was chowing down
on the chips and cookies and other snacks that seem to perpetually
breed around the office. As I kept munching and munching,
Kristi Burns, who was leading the meeting and was probably sick
of hearing all my crunching, said, “Michael,
how do you eat like that and keep your girlish figure?”
I said, “Easy. I run 4-5 times a week.”
A decade ago when I was in my mid-30s, I didn’t,
and I was 10-15 pounds heavier and in poor health.
Now I’m older, but much healthier.
So exercise really does matter.
Pick things you enjoy and can do consistently with pleasure.
I jog while listening to books on MP3 because I enjoy that.
I hop on the rowing machine while watching movies with the kids.
I take walks with my Leslie and the kids.
Do forms of exercise you enjoy—at least to some degree!—
and you’ll be able to sustain them.
So you get the picture: monitor your physical gauge
and do what you need to do to build yourself up and get recharged.
You also need to watch …
2) your emotional gauge.
Are your emotions at low ebb?
Are you unusually touchy and irritable?
Are you depressed and don’t know why?
Burnout happens when your emotional gas tank is on empty.
You need to do something to refill it.
So what kinds of things can you do?
It will be different for everyone,
and it will vary depending on what’s been causing you stress.
A common mistake we make is thinking that if we’re busy at work,
we should slow down and become couch potatoes at home.
But that’s not what’s actually best for you.
When I was in the military, our maxim was
“work hard, play hard!”
And Pastor Wayne Cordiero confirms
the truth of this philosophy.
He says when work is charging along, that’s exactly the time
to go on a fun date, to play racquetball or go golfing,
to catch a movie you’ve been wanting to see.
You need some mental and emotional release,
something to take your mind off your work.
Just sitting around won’t do that.
It just leads to a sulking pity party.
All work and no play makes Jack …
Now, of course, if your work is people intensive,
sometimes it’s perfectly legitimate to plan some solitude.
But don’t make that solitude just sitting around
watching the flat screen and eating Bon Bons
or sucking down a bear and chips.
That’ll just shrink your brain
and expand your belly.
Read a good book. Work on a hobby or in the garden.
Watch a sunrise or sunset or the stars at night.
Get out into nature. Go kayaking and fishing.
You get the idea.
Monitor your emotional gauge carefully,
and do what you need to do to keep your tank filled….
The last gauge we’ll look at is the most important of all.
3) your spiritual gauge. [Take communion together at the end of this point.]
How current is your relationship with God?
Are you still trying to run on last year’s … or last decade’s … inspiration?
ILL: Think about how God gave the Israelites the manna in the desert:
it came fresh every morning.
They weren’t allowed to gather more than one day’s supply;
if they did, it simply spoiled by the next day.
There’s a lesson in how God met their daily needs:
God wants to supply us anew each day.
He wants to be an active part of our daily lives.
He wants our relationship to be current.
Some of us aren’t living on today’s manna, or even yesterday’s;
some of us are trying to live on old manna, and it’s gotten stale and rancid.
So how do you know when your spiritual gauge is on empty?
Ask yourself this: is there anything fresh or current happening
in my relationship with God?
Does anything excite me about coming to Him
in His word and prayer?
God, the uncreated Creator of everything,
is by definition the Prime Mover of everything.
Anything that’s good and exciting was first imagined by God.
Nothing can be more interesting and exhilarating than God,
and nothing can be more meaningful than the fact
that He takes interest in you.
If you aren’t taking any interest in Him,
it’s obvious your spiritual tank … has tanked!
So whether you’re currently full or empty, it’s important to monitor whether
you’re regularly practicing what theologians call “spiritual disciplines.”
Do you have a daily quiet time when you make space in your life
to be with God by reading the Bible, praying,
and perhaps journaling a bit to hear what God has to say to you?
Unlike the theologians who use phrases like “spiritual discipline,”
we call this “PBJ time”: Prayer, Bible study, and Journaling.
Along with PBJ, do you ever fast or take a solitary retreat somewhere
to remind yourself that you do not live on bread alone,
but ultimately by God’s presence in your life?
Also, are you worshiping God regularly?
It’s good to worship Him both corporately, as we do here,
and individually, such as when you’re listening
to worship music either at home or in the car.
Leslie and I sing hymns we love with our kids at bedtime.
Jesus taught us to worship as part of our daily prayer life.
“Our Father in heaven … hallowed …”
Even if you don’t lean into singing your praise individually,
speak works of praise to God as part of daily worship.
The point isn’t to stroke God’s ego—God’s God!
He doesn’t need our strokes.
The point is to remind ourselves of why we want
Him as Lord rather than ourselves.
We don’t do well as our own personal tyrants.
We thrive under God’s loving rule.
Worship reminds us that Jesus is our daily resource for abundant living.
And He reminds us of this fact through the Lord’s Supper, or communion,
which John Calvin, one of the key leaders of the Protestant Reformation,
says is an outward sign of an inward grace.
Jesus told the disciples, “This is my body, which is for you;
Do this in remembrance of me’” (1 Cor. 11:24; Luke 22:19).
He’s saying, “Take me into yourself.
Let me nourish and sustain you with my Spirit.”
It’s telling that Jesus chose an everyday activity for this sacrament:
a meal, which during His time always included bread and wine.
Neglecting the spiritual gauge in your daily life
is a sure road to stressful living.
The truth is it’s the highway to hell.
So monitor this gauge above all others.
Let’s take the bread and the cup together now,
in remembrance that Christ gave His life—
His body and His blood on the cross—
so that each of us can be united with Him
and enjoy life to the full. [Take the elements.] [~27 mins.]
Let’s take a moment to pray: Lord, thank you for loving us so much that you’d give your life for ours, so that we’re now able to give our lives back to you. Amen.
Trans: So we’ve looked at monitoring our physical, emotional, and spiritual gauges.
Let’s move onto letter c:
c. Make plans based on your priorities.
We’ve already talked about having the right priorities
by having a clear sense of purpose, or mission, from the Lord.
Once you have that sense, then make plans based on those priorities.
By making plans, you stop living passively, reactively,
and you start living obediently, proactively.
ILL: When Joe first starting inviting me to preach
back towards the turn of the century
(isn’t it funny to say “the turn of the century,” but it’s true!),
I was already fully occupied with being the Couples Pastor
and also learning to take care of Sarah, my first child.
I’d ask my immediate supervisor, what should I do?
He’d say, “Say no. Preaching isn’t your first priority.”
I followed his counsel, and Joe handled it graciously,
even though I’m sure it had to frustrate him a little.
The point is this: I had work that had been planned that needed to get done.
It was my God-given responsibility and priority, and it kept me focused.
Some Christians think that planning one’s time is unspiritual,
that such planning doesn’t allow for the Holy Spirit to move.
It’s actually just the opposite:
planning while seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance is obedience.
When I know what God wants me to do,
when I have a clear sense of purpose and mission,
then I can choose to do what He asks.
I can invest my time in the things He’s given me to do
rather than burning it all up on things He hasn’t,
even if they’re very good things!
That’s what planning is:
obediently investing your time in God’s mission for you.
Here’s a simple suggestion:
if you don’t feel like you’re in control of your life,
get yourself some kind of a day planner,
and sit down before you go to bed each night
or when you wake up each morning,
and prayerfully plan your day.
Determine what’s important for you to get done,
and block out a reasonable amount of time to do it.
Even block out time for devotions, family, dates, and exercise.
Then try planning for several days in advance.
Then do it seasonally, and block out vacations in advance.
When you have planned your priorities,
you’ll be able to say no to other things that are good,
but not God’s purposes for you at this time.
Then you can honestly tell others, “I’m sorry,
but I already have another engagement.”
ILL: I generally work Sunday through Thursday,
and Leslie works 2-3 Fridays a month as a home-health physical therapist.
So you can bet we block off our Saturdays—our Sabbaths—
and we protect them as much as possible
as one of God’s priorities for our time.
Planning lets you take charge of your schedule,
and it significantly reduces the chance of burnout.
So make plans based on God’s priorities for your life.
d. Make time for your priorities.
This is really an extension of the last point.
All the great plans in the world won’t amount to diddly
if you don’t intentionally choose to implement them.
How many times a week do you hear someone or even yourself say,
“There just aren’t enough hours in the day”?
It’s actually true: there aren’t!
If you haven’t noticed, the game’s been rigged.
Because of the curse, we really can’t do everything we’d like.
We’re finite and fallen, and our desires outrun our capacities.
If we had trusted God at the beginning, our desires and capacities
would have always been perfectly matched.
But now we’re out of balance, and the material world,
including time, is no longer perfectly congenial to us
the way it was meant to be. Look at
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
Well… that seems a bit harsh.
It was just a stinkin’ little piece of fruit!
What’s going on here?
Notice that God’s the one who implemented the curse.
Part of the reason He did it is so we couldn’t just “happily” carry on
our own way … farther and farther from Him.
That’s the real issue as I’ve noted throughout the talk:
do we want ourselves as lord,
or do we want God as Lord?
What the curse does is make us look to His priorities
if we want to find any real, abiding satisfaction and joy in life.
These aren’t just going to come to us automatically anymore.
So what must we make time for?
Make time for rest. God’s the one who thought of the Sabbath.
Schedule some time to relax, and don’t let other things steal it from you.
Make time for your friends. The riches of life are relationships;
make time to build lifelong friendships. Eat lunch with them,
recreate with them, take family vacations with them.
Make time for your family. For some of you, the idea of scheduling time
with your family seems like a cheat: where’s the spontaneity in that?!
But if you are so busy that you’re not seeing them, then do it!
Schedule! Don’t miss your children growing up,
or the joy of really knowing your spouse, or a sibling,
or your parents as lifelong friends.
Make time for God. I’m sure I’m sounding like a broken record here,
but we’ve been saying that God is our highest priority,
and that priority ought to be reflected in the way we spend our time.
If our nation suddenly decided to persecute Christians,
would your lawyer be able to get you off the charge
due to the total lack of evidence in your daily schedule?
Luke 5:16 says that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
If Jesus needed time with God the Father,
how much more do we need it for strength, direction and love?
Consider Isaiah’s encouragement across the ages:
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Those who wait on the Lord … will renew their strength;
No matter the type or intensity of their activity,
whether soaring, running, or walking, they will not be weary.
The best thing you can do to prevent burnout is wait on the Lord.
Make time for God!
We’ve covered a lot of territory today.
Some of you may benefit by getting the CD at the Info Center
and listening to it a few times.
Then try to implement one thing each week
until your life slows down and the stress eases.
But if you want to begin this week,
start by making time for God, each day.