There is something about being busy that gives us a quick psychological high. Yes, as we work incredibly long hours, as we negotiate our never-ending calls, texts, emails, and alerts, as we go to church and prop-up one ministry program after another, as we read book after book and write blog after blog, and finally as we get to open our calendar and check off our to-do lists, we flatter ourselves and deem ourselves to be of great importance. For a moment, we pat ourselves on the back and imagine we are quite accomplished. After all, we were very busy and are incredibly weary.
There is also something about pleasing people that gives us a quick psychological high. As we learn of the expectations of others, do that which they desire, keep their to-do lists for us, see their smiles, avoid their frowns, feel their backslaps, and hear their applause, we again enjoy a quick ego-boost. For a moment, we feel valuable and of some significance. We are great, and we must be, for people have told us so.
However, too often at the end of the day, or at the end of a life, while we did enjoy quick psychological highs, we come crashing down realizing we were not so successful in the end. Why is this? Because in our quieter moments of self-reflection, we realize that though we were incredibly busy, and though we were very pleasing to others, and though we were somewhat pleased with ourselves, we were truly ineffective in serving our Lord and achieving that which was most important.
We were busy. We were applauded. We were temporarily satisfied. However, we were ultimately unsuccessful because we did not live life on purpose — in accordance with the purposes of God.
How about a seasonal example?
Sometimes, during this time of year, I feel sorry for my mother or my wife. If they are not careful, they can busy themselves putting on a huge Thanksgiving feast and end up missing the joy of Thanksgiving. If they are not careful, they can work for hours making the beds, vacuuming the floors, washing the windows, sweeping the porch, polishing the silver, preparing the table, cooking the bird, garnishing the salads, stirring the gravy, and baking the cakes. Then, in love, they can serve the main course, keep the glasses filled, remove the dirty dishes, and serve their guests their dessert of choice. Then they can excuse everyone to the den while they clear the table, put the bird away, hand-wash the china, stack the linens, blow out the candles, and make the kitchen look as if it had hardly been touched. Some of their guests will find delight in watching football. And all this can be initially deemed a success if their chief desire was to put on a great presentation, serve a grand meal, and keep a pristine house. However, if their desire was to spend quantity and quality time with family — especially those returning from college, warmly interact in deep meaningful conversation with friends, enjoy their home, spend sweet moments reflecting in thankfulness to God, and have a “vacation day” in any regard, then their crazy-busy meal was not so successful. Oh, they pleased people. Oh, they looked good — Paula Dean and Martha Stewart could do no better. Beyond a shadow of a doubt they were incredibly busy, and they selfishly served us well. However, in the end it might be possible for them to lay their head on their pillow and find themselves exhausted and frustrated — especially when the kids are heading back to college in the morning.
Parents, do you ever feel this way in regards to your family? Do you sense you are keeping your agenda, putting serious miles on your minivans, but as the years are going by you are missing your key objectives?
Business men and women, do you feel you are missing the mark? Oh, you are putting the hours in. You are sacrificing much. You are keeping your job. But are you missing out on life? You do know it has often been said, “No one gets to the end of their life and wishes they had spent more time at the office.”
Christian saint, do you sometimes sense a lack of purpose in regards to your personal disciplines? Are you having your quiet time, always attending church, but never really enjoying sweet communion with your Heavenly Father? Are you one sitting in church and looking at your watch?
Pastor, elder, and church leader, is this the case with you and your congregation? Are you keeping your ministries going? Are your programs making it from one year to another? Are you laboring to maintain good attendance at your traditional offerings? However, despite all your labors, are you really ministering on purpose? Oh, I know you are busy. I know you are pleasing people. I know you are somewhat pleased with yourself? But are you really and truly making disciples?
Oh friends, I think it is time for us to slow down, have a Sabbath moment, and ask ourselves a few key questions:
- What is God’s purpose? Upon what would he have me really focus?
- Is God’s purpose my purpose? Am I truly interested in seeking his will and kingdom?
- What are the means, practices, or programs by which I might best accomplish God’s purpose for and through me?
- What are the means, practices, or programs that I need to pass on because they do not best accomplish God’s purpose for and through me?
It is time for us to live, work, parent, personally commune with God, and do church on purpose.
It is more important to ask, “What are we trying to accomplish?” than “How do we do better at what we are doing?”
Oh friends, it is not good enough for us to remain busy; sweat does not equal success.
It is not good enough for us to please others, for pleasing God and serving others trumps all.
And it is certainly not good enough for us to get to the end of the day having pleased ourselves.
Brothers and sisters, our purpose is to “glorify and enjoy the Lord” when “we eat, drink, or whatever we do.” We each have gifts, personalities, platforms, and responsibilities. Today, we must say “No” to some really good people, practices, and programs in order to say “Yes” to that which helps us accomplish God’s purposes for our life. Today we must live on purpose, for this is pleasing to God and ultimately satisfying for us who care most about God’s will and kingdom.
Let us not keep the Thanksgiving tradition and miss out on being thankful.
Let us not live life and miss out on living.
Let us not do church and miss out on communing with God and our fellow saints.