By Craig Etheredge
Busyness can choke out your effectiveness!
It was the only time I’ve ever hit my mother-in-law. She was busily preparing a special luncheon, and I could tell she was a bit nervous. Her son was bringing home the girl he planned to marry, and this was going to be their first meeting. Suddenly the doorbell rang, followed by introductions and hugs. Everyone settled around the perfectly decorated table for lunch.
Then it happened–I noticed my mother-in-law take a bite of bread and her eyes widened. I knew that something was wrong. She was smiling on the outside, but there was desperation in her eyes. I leaned over and asked her, “Can you breathe?” She just shook her head, no. So I quickly stood up and gave her a firm strike across the shoulder blades, dislodging the bread to restore her airflow. Since then, I’ve often reminded her of how I saved her life! (It’s great leverage to have on your mother-in-law.)
Choking is a scary thing. When you can’t breathe, everything stops. Nothing else matters, only air.
It’s interesting to me that Jesus uses the analogy of choking to describe a person who allows busyness to control his life. In His parable of the sower, Jesus said the farmer cast some seed among thorns and weeds. These weeds grew up and choked out the young tender plant, rendering it unfruitful. Jesus later explained, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful,” (Matthew 13:22 ESV).
Another version says that the cares of life and desire for money choke out God’s Word— “and he does less and less for God,” (Matthew 13:22 TlB). Jesus was saying that when you allow worries, concerns, deadlines, and pleasures to consume you, they will choke out any desire or ability to bear spiritual fruit. You simply lose the time and the desire to serve God by sharing the Gospel with others. All the good things God wants to do in you and through you get choked out.
This is especially true in the United States of America. We live in a busy culture. There are so many demands on our time, so many people and problems pulling at us, vying for our attention, that the things that matter most are often overlooked. I can’t tell you how many businessmen have told me: “I really want to grow spiritually, and I want to share my faith, but I’m so busy at work.” “My kids have got so much on their plate.” “We are just too stretched as a family to spend time reaching out.”
It’s a sad day when you are too busy to tell people about Jesus. The very passion for reaching people, which is the reason God has you on this planet, is being choked out by the stranglehold of an overloaded schedule. So what can you do to remove this excuse?
Well, it may take a strong strike across the shoulder blades to dislodge this thing called busyness, but it can be done. First, set some priorities. Let’s look at the principle of the big rocks. Suppose you are trying to fit stones in a glass jar. The stones are various sizes, some large, others medium and then lots of gravel. If you pour the gravel and small stones in first, there will be no room left for the large rocks. But if you strategically place the big rocks in first, followed by the medium and then fill in the gaps with the gravel, you can get it all in. The same is true with your schedule. The big rocks represent the things that are most important. You must put the big rocks on your calendar first. Spending time in God’s Word, attending worship, working on your family relationships, building time to spend with people you know who are far from God—these things need to be your top priorities. Then you can fill the remaining spaces with other activities.
Just remember that 100 years from now, no one will care about the PTA meeting or the softball tournament, but people will certainly care if you told them about Jesus. The Gospel will be the only thing that matters then!
Second, leverage the time you already spend for kingdom purposes. My guess is that you eat every day. Most of us actually have breakfast, lunch and dinner. So why not use those time blocks for building relationships with people on your “Top Five” list? If you are intentional, you can plan ahead and book special lunch or breakfast appointments to make room for spiritual conversations. Or, if you are already going to a ball game, invite your lost friend to come along with you. If you are planning a Sunday lunch, set an extra plate for someone who needs Jesus.
Just look for ways to involve spiritual seekers in the normal pace of your everyday life. Don’t let busyness choke out your spiritual influence. Ask God to give you a fresh vision of how you can share Christ in the midst of your fast-paced life.
This post was written by Craig Etheredge and first appeared at disciplefirst.com/busyness-2/. Used by permission.