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Busy-ness: Busy Means Meaningful
Scripture: Proverbs 4:23
Track 6 of 13 in the American Idols series
Running time: 34 minutes, 24 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

I really hate to start. Feels like I've rushed into something, and what I really was enjoying is just being still and confessionally I'm probably not the person to be preaching this sermon. So it makes it a little difficult to be clear and honest without you sitting there saying you really ought to practice what you preach. My wife has already said that, by the way. About this topic in particular, I won't tell you about the other things.

I need for you to understand something, this is not about time management. In fact it was fascinating to me as I was looking at material about this sermon and getting ready for this over the last several weeks now. Everything I have run into, in my opinion, missed the point. Because everything was about time management, how to get a handle on how you spend your time, how to be more efficient on what you do. How to multi-task effectively--which by the way has been proven to be totally ineffective, it's not possible. But I'm not really concerned about time management in that since of the word I'm really concerned about who you are. And who you view yourself to be.

I'm really fascinated by the writings of Marva Dann, she's written some absolutely brilliant material, about the Sabbath and about wholeness as a believer in Jesus. In one of her writings in a book in which I have not had time to read--you can catch the subtlety in that if you want--about a Sabbath way of life, she makes a comment then quotes Eugene Peterson. She says, "We are often not present to people because we are basically slothful, this is basically what our culture thinks. Business in our culture seems to be a badge of honor though we are so busy proves how important we are. But Eugene Peterson calls it an enemy of spirituality and essentially laziness. For it is doing the easy thing and not the hard thing, it is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God's actions."

I'm really wanting you to wrestle why you take such pride in the answer, "I'm busy." I find myself finding my own value in my schedule. There something really kind of self building when somebody says how are you and you can say I'm really busy, or they say to you. Wow, you sure do keep a busy schedule. And you feel to yourself thinking, "That's because I'm so important." Do you ever notice how often when you speak to somebody who is retired and you ask them this question, "Are you retired?" And they say, "Yes but I'm busier than before." It's almost as if we're embarrassed to say..."Yes." As if that's ok. Or you talk to somebody and we're just deafly afraid to ask the question, "Are you a stay at home mom?" Because what that sounds like is, "Do you work?" And every mom that stays at home knows how much work that is. But it's almost as if admitting that we stay at home is kind of equated with "Well, I'm just not very important." I want for you to struggle with me over a cultural dictation that says the fatter your daytimer the more important you are.

See business is actually dangerous. It's dangerous to you physically but it's also dangerous in lots of other ways, it's harmful to you in a variety of ways. It may be harmful to other people, by the way. Did you happen to see this in the USA Today on Thursday? Right here on the front page--which tells you something about its importance I suppose if USA Today decides to make it a front page news. Law makers in a dozen states try to ban drivers from using computers, video games and fax machines in their cars. They better not do that because I-72 is boring. I mean what else would you do if you couldn't put a computer in the front seat and try to get some work done? Or read a good chapter in a book. Video games, fax machines, computers, DVD's, TV monitors, and I just read this morning you can get satellite television in your car. But nobody has been able to prove how many accidents are actually cause by that. Because nobody wants to admit, yes I was watching TV while I ran over that person.

But more important than the idea of just being physically harmful writing in the Herald Times in Bloomington, Indiana one of the political science professors says, "We have instant coffee, instant replay, instant polls, instant messaging. There are products galore helping us save those precious milliseconds. In your car you can read your e-mail on your high speed palm pilot while checking some faxes while you wolf down some pop tarts that you heat up in the microwave and if you're still hungry you can grab some frozen waffles at the drive-thru at McDonalds while barking orders to subordinates on your cell phone. At the office you punch the elevator dozens of times in vain hoping that the elevator will arrive more quickly." Or as I notice at 24th and Maine street one morning, when the crossing guard was trying to get children across the roads standing there hitting the button to change the light and I'm thinking it doesn't help, I tried. What time reflects is your priorities, the way you use your time is what's really important to me. Right? You gotta decide, what are you going to do?

Several years ago, my daughter and I were training to run the Chicago marathon together and she was working nights at the hospital and so our agreement was I would wake her up in the mornings. Well, on one of those mornings it was one of those last long training run of 24 miles and we left the house at 3:30a.m. I'm thinking, "Who in their right mind runs at 3:30 in the morning?" And you're thinking the same thing. I'll tell you who runs at 3:30 in the morning, people who make that their priority. Because that's how we run our lives, based on what we think is really important. And when I look at my calendar it doesn't take me very long to figure out what I have valued in my life. Remember Proverbs suggests four catagories of things for us to think about. One of them is just reflection, and the reflection is just basically what are some of the best questions you can ask about these cultural conditions we find ourselves in. And the culture really is a demanding task-master when it comes to time and business.

In fact in an article from 2003 called Outrunning time, it has become a popular form of excercise. Benjamin Hunicut, a professor of leisure. I still can't get my head to grasp, to get that, a professor of leisure. And what is your schedule? "Oh I rest." I'm thinking about applying for that actually. Says work is the central value of our culture, a way we astablish our identity and find meaning and purpose and we look at it and ask ourself this questiion. What are the consequences of being in a hurry? What does being busy do to you? Oh, among other things it creates an adrenaline addiction, literally, physically. People get addicted to the adrenaline that flows through their system that keeps them moving at that rapid pace. There is a sense of abandonment.

Now I won't go here, frankly I'm just not into this kind of thing much, but one of the things that I ran into which just fascinates me is pets being abandoned by busy people, by the thousands, if not by the millions. They can't take care of them so they just dump them. They got too busy for their furry friends. Not to say anything to what we have done to our children. We give them an xBox or a remote control, or a computer then you leave them cause you got things to do that matter.

Workaholism, did you know that there is a movement now? Called take back your time? It's actually a national corroborative. It's a fascinating thing, it's at www.timeday.org take back your time, it's an innituitive. And they say that time stress hurts all of us in different ways. For example, time stress threatens our health, time stress threatens our marriages. It weakens our communities, because we don't have time to invest in our neighbors, it reduces employment, because fewer people are hired and required to work longer hours, rather than employing more people. It leaves many of us with little time to be active citizens. It leaves a lilttle time for ourselves, it leads to growing neglect and abuse. It even contributes to the destruction of our environment because we want everything to be throw-away.

I would come back to that and say, well, Proverbs also says, is there something we can learn from each other . . . is there some instruction that we might gain from other people? I've mentioned this to you before, I have a deep appreciation for my collegue at Lincoln, Neil Windham, he and I shared a spiritual formation group for years. Every Thursday afternoon for several years. Neil would leave campus and go to Weldun Lake over by Clinton, and he would spend about three hours in solitude. I could never figure out how he had the time. But, boy do I envy him. That spirit that says, "I need this." And then the will to actually do it. Because I have met a hundred of you who need some time to yourself to just reflect and react to respond to God . . . to just quiet yourself . . . to just take a deep breath. But you like me, don't have the will to make it happen.

I listen to Vince Antenushie, a church planter from Virginia Beach at the convention this week and their staff is required to take one day a month and spend it in solitude. To just go by themselves with their bibles and God and be alone, and quiet, before God. What they figured out is staff members would never do that on their own time. So they require it as part of their schedule, now that's sad, but yet good all at the same time. I think about Proverbs saying, "Is there anything for which we need to be corrected?" And what that really means is, "Are we humble enough to listen to people when they try to correct us? Do we recognize, are we willing to just reconize what's going on in our souls?" And I have to confess to you, I'm envious.

I don't know how to explain this to you, because it's a conflict for me. But every Sunday morning I am rushing to church. I don't know how you feel when you're getting up on Sunday mornings? But my day starts long before the sun comes up because I've got so much to do to get ready for right now. I'm just confessing to you. And I'm envious, because when I drive down Maine street--you can go check this out if you want to--at the corner of 24th and Maine, there's a little grey house on the corner with a front porch and every Sunday morning I drive by there, there's this older couple sitting on the front step, they've got coffee cups in their hands and they're reading the Sunday paper. And I envy that. Just some time, to sit down and say...ahhhh! I think I need to learn something from them, I think I need to be corrected by two people I've never met, but whose life I envy at least at that level. I don't know anything about the rest of their life maybe it's a mess.

There is a conference actually, I found this facinating, there is a conference that you can go to and it was held in July so you missed it--sorry--though one of the workshops was balancing work ministry and rest, discovering the joy of sabbath-keeping and...here's the description: "In today's society with all of it's relentless emphasis on business success and productivity weve lost touch with the inherent rhythm of life a rhythm that balances activity and rest. As a result we often end up feeling hurried, overly busy, exhausted. In this session participants will explore the idea of incorporating sabbath pauses into their life as an antidote to the consequences of business and the stress associated with daily life. Sabbath pauses are regular periods of time whether they be shorter or longer that may bring refreshment, renewal, and blessing."

Well, I find myself asking, am I humble enough to hear correction about finding my importance in my relationship with God and with people rather than in my schedule? Oh, the last thing that Proverbs says is what about revelation? We've been looking at a cycle of reflection and instruction and correction in revelation, and you know what we need to do? We need to look at our text and just ask, what in the world does God say about this, and there is so much in scripture about this issue of our identity in our relationship with God. Let's just look at our text here in Proverbs and then we're going to reflect on a couple of other texts just briefly.

Proverbs chapter 4, so hurry up and find it. Proverbs chapter 4, I want to start with verse 20. We're actually going to focus in on verse 23. But I want to start with verse 20. And what I would want you to do, is just listen for the body language here. Just notice how much reference there is to the physical body and how he connects it to various things. My son, pay attention to what I say. Listen closely to my words, do not let them out of your sight, keep them in your heart, for they are life for those who find them unhealthy to a man's whole body. Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth keep corrupt talk from your lips, let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you, make level paths for your feet, and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or to the left, keep your foot from evil.

Do you hear? In the context of all things that our body gets tied up in. He focuses his attention right in the center of this paragraph, guard your heart, for it is the source of your life. That word guard, literally means to put something in prison, it means to be absolutely diligent about focusing your attention on that particular part. Guard your heart, imprison your heart, protect your heart, be faithful to your heart. Now he's not talking about this thing, although I wouldn't do you harm to take care of this one. But for in scripture the heart is the source the focal point of your intellect and emotion . . . it's your being. And he's just simply reminding us that with careful attention and with diligence we have to guard this thing that controls who we are and be careful of what we let in. Be careful where its focus goes. I've got a question or two or three for you and I just want to ask you to think about this with me. What's gonna get your attention? What's gonna have your focus? Because I really believe that there is a business that is driven by a sense of anxiety about life.

Look at a text over here in Matthew 6, just as a reflection on guarding your heart, against the anxieties of life. Matthew chapter 6 in the sermon on the mount. Jesus has so many good things to say and right in the midst of all this conversation, he says in chapter 6 verse 25, "I tell you, don't worry about your life, what you're going to eat, drink, about your body, what your going to wear." I was five minutes late for church this morning because I couldn't find a tie to match. I finally took the shirt off and traded. Now I'm not sure I've succeeded yet, but it's got to be better than what it was. Who cares? "Is not life more important than food? The body more important than clothes? Look at the birds in the air, they don't sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying about your life can add a single hour? And why do you worry about clothes? Look at the lillies of the field, they don't labor or spin and yet I tell you not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, won't he take care of you? So don't worry asking what shall we eat, or what shall we drink or what shall we wear? The pagans run after these things and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom, his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well."

Don't worry about tomorrow, tomorrow has got enough of itself to worry about, each day has enough trouble of its own. Sometimes we just get so caught up in the anxieties of life making sure all the bases are covered making sure we have enough food in the pantry, and enough clothes in the closet, we have enough money in the bank. The next thing we know we have just forced God out of the picture entirely because we are so focused on making sure we do our part. And nobody you've ever met went to their death bed saying, "I wish I'd spent more time in the office." So let me ask you a second question, "To what will you give your energies?"

See I know this is a tough question, and I don't have a good answer for it, but I'm going to ask you to look at another text in Luke, just a couple of books over. Luke chapter 9, because I think there is a business that is created because we have allowed our focus to get split in so many different directions we have forgotten what really matters. And I'm not suggesting that your job is not important; I'm not suggesting that any of this is unimportant stuff. That's the problem isn't it? We're dealing with all of these important things and trying to figure out where we all going to put our energies?

In Luke chapter 9, verse 57, Luke chapter 9, verse 57. As they were walking along the road a man said to him I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus replied, foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head. And he said to another man follow me, and the man replied Lord first let me go and bury my father. And Jesus said, let the dead bury their dead, and you go and proclaim the kingdom. Still another said, I will follow you Lord but, first let me go back and say goodbye to my family, and Jesus said, no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.

Do you hear the single focus of this thing? He's not suggesting that your family is not important or your career's not important or the other things are not important. He's just trying to say you gotta have one focus in your life if you don't have that focus in your life your life is going to be a mess. And if that focus is not God. Your life is going to be a disaster in the end. Because the only organizing principle for a disciple of Jesus is their focus on God, to get yourself brought around, or whatever it is that you're in the midst of doing, whatever it is that your career is calling for, whatever it is that you're expending your time in if it doesn't somehow find its meaning and it's origin in God then you need to take another look and ask if its worth focusing that much attention on.

Let me ask you a third question. Where are you going to find your identity? Just go one more chapter to Luke chapter 10, this is the verse that Lacey made reference to earlier this morning. In Luke chapter 10. Verse 38, Jesus and his desciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him and she had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what he said. Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked "Lord don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me." "Martha" the Lord said. "You are worried and upset about many things but only one thing is needed, Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her." Martha found her meaning in being busy and Mary found her meaning in a relationship with Jesus, and settling down long enough to listen. And I'm just asking, where are you finding your identity?

Have you ever noticed how we introduce ourselves by what we do? And not who we are? We don't really know each other. We know what we do. We know what our job is, we know what our schedule is, we know what our time is, but we really don't know "us" because we've learned to be identified by what we do. Can I just, at the risk of really stepping off the deep end here and having you just totally ignore everything I am saying because you know I can't live up to this. Can I just make some quick recommendations? Slow down. Stop running red lights. Slow down. Choose the longest line in the store. And then live with it. Start to enjoy it. Or to borrow from those who've been through the 201 class around here on the devotional life, John Ortberg's statement, "ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."

Now we will rush from here to class. but somehow we got to figure out how to ruthlessly and I'm gonna run out of time and I'm gonna have to hurry. And you know the feeling, don't you? And so you're saying to me, you don't know what you're talking about I cannot do that, and I'm telling you I know what I'm talking about, and I know you can't do it. But we have to try. We just have to. Can I just ask you to just begin to pull your focus down some, quit being so distracted by all the other stuff. And just ask yourself what really matters. In twenty five years if your career is a flying success but you've lost your children, have you really accomplished what you wanted to accomplish? If you live in the best house in Quincy, but none of your friends want to come visit, have you done what you wanted to do? If you got a bankroll that let's you retire at 50, but you've lost your relatiionship with Jesus is it really gonna have been worth it in the long run? Can I ask you to do one thing? Because it's the center of what I'm about to suggest. Memorize Proverbs 3, verses 5 & 6, and then practice it. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understandings but in all your ways acknowledge him. And he will direct your paths.

See that's the fundamental problem, isn't it? Because we trust in our career, we trust in our job, we trust in our paycheck, we trust in our bank account, we trust in our retirement funds, we trust in, we trust in everything, except the Lord. Can I encourage you to withdraw, I mean to just get back and spend time with God to just find a time when you can be alone with God. I hate to tell you that can be done as you multi task. But you can, it will not be as effective, I'm here to tell you by personal experience. I listen to sermons and I listen to scripture when I drive, and I pat myself on the back for using my time so well. I find myself sometimes saying, "You know I need to take a trip some place because I need to read a book, and an airplane is a good place to read, and I can get two things done at once."

I'm talking about just pulling back and saying "I need some time with God alone and nothing else happening." Can I recommend to you some sabbath rest. Where you just find pauses in your life to make some space for God. Marva Dawn has some wonderful material, and when I get time I'm gonna read it. Can you imagine, can you imagine what it would be like to have time for your family? Can you imagine a life where you have shut down some of the imput and you haven't checked your blackberry in the last three and a half minutes? And you didn't look at your computer every time you walked by? And you weren't constantly reaching down and checking your phone for messages? Can you imagine what it would just be like to just be still for a little while? Can you imagine, what it would be like to actually have time for friends to come over to your house and spend a leisurely evening together around the table without turning on a television, without watching a ball game, to just actually talk? Can you imagine just sitting still for a little while? And some of you are saying no, I honestly can't, cause I'd be bored out of my mind. That's the problem, we have so conditioned ourselves to have sensory input, we don't know how to slow down. We don't know how to sit back, and let God be God and just to fill us. To enjoy his presence. Just to reflect on him.

You know that one of my very favorite texts is this statement from Jesus, "Come onto me, all of you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you" he says. "Come to me, let me help you carry this thing, and I will give you rest." Have you noticed we tried to slow things down a little this morning? Not try to rush you. We're going to come to what many people say is the most important part of our service. And I'm encouraging you to not hurry. To come to Jesus, to take upon his yoke but let him give you a little respite in your life right now. We're going to come to the table and we're going to hold in our hands the elements that represent the life of Jesus and his death for us. And it was God's way of saying "I really do know what I'm talking about, and I want to engage you in your life. Will you take the time to listen to me?" Father we repent at our ruthless pursuit of activity. We repent in finding our meaning in our schedule and we come to you seeking a single focus, at least for these next few minutes. When all of our attention should be placed on you. So root out from us the distractions of our world, quiet our spirit, speak to us through Jesus and we'll celebrate this time together. In Jesus name, Amen.

[Transcribed by AM3]