February 28, 2001
(Enter from left side of platform in apron carrying pots, pans, phone receiver, and pen. Have “ringers” ring-ring, three times, first time – mom, second time – pastor with a request, third time – God)
Have you become too busy to pray, to seek God? Do you find that your schedule and the demands of that schedule has become a barrier to the future, the plan that God has for you? If you do, do you wonder what can be done about?
I struggle with busyness as well and sometimes I have discovered that the only thing that I can do in overcoming this barrier is to let go (drop all but one of the pots and pans) of many things and hang onto the one thing that helps me refocus on my personal relationship with God – prayer. (Remove apron)
Aren’t we also glad God doesn’t have voice mail? Most of us have now learned to live with “voice mail,” as a necessary part of our daily lives.
But have you ever wondered what it would be like, if God decided to install voice mail?
Imagine praying and hearing the following: Thank you for calling Heaven.
For English, Press 1,
For Spanish, Press 2,
For all other languages, press “O.”
Please select one of the following options:
Press 1 for Requests
Press 2 for Thanksgiving
Press 3 for Complaints
Press 4 for all other inquires
I am sorry; all of our angels and saints are busy helping other sinners right now. However, your prayer is important to us and we will answer it in the order it was received. Please stay on the line. If you would like to speak to:
God, Press 1
Jesus, Press 2
Holy Spirit, Press 3
If you would like to hear King David sing a Psalm while you are holding, press 4.
For reservations at Heaven, please enter J-O-H-N, followed by the 3-1-6.
Our Computers show that you have already prayed today. Please hang up
And try again tomorrow.
The office is now closed for the weekend to observe a religious holiday.
Please pray again on Monday, after 9:30 a.m. If you are calling after hours and need emergency assistance, please contact your local Pastor.
In this sixth Sunday of our journey of discovering God’s plan and God’s future for us, we must confront a barrier that is a constant challenge and quite frankly, in my opinion, a social badge of honor – busyness.
I am not talking about involvement or commitment. The Bible is clear that as followers of Jesus Christ, we are to be involved in helping to fulfill the great commandment of loving God and others and the great commission of making disciples. These commitments, these involvements, require prayer. We cannot honor or fulfill them without being connected to God through prayer. Prayer is the power link to helping these commandments become reality.
What I am talking about is over involvement and overcommittment. I am speaking of a busyness that misses the point of our faith – a transformed life. A person who places a ladder on a wall and climbs up to the top, peers over the edge, and discovers, that the ladder is leaning on the wrong wall, characterizes such a life.
The Christian faith and life is not about busyness, but about faithfulness. It is not about filling our lives and calendars but about a fulfillment that satisfies.
As we survey our cultural landscape I think that is safe to say that there are several motivators, several fuels, to our busyness. Two obvious ones are fear and anxiety. But there is another fuel, one that is often driven by fear and anxiety, it is called significance.
Another word for importance is significance. There is a drive in us to be significant, to make a difference. We want to make a difference. We want to count for something. We want to be remembered as making a contribution to something or for something.
I see this tremendous need, this tremendous drive and hope in wanting to be significant, to be important, illustrated in a story that I received sometime ago.
Paul received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve when Paul came out of his office, a street kid was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it.
“Is this your car, Mister?” he asked. Paul nodded. “My brother gave it to me for Christmas.” The boy was astounded. “You mean your brother gave it to you and it didn’t cost you nothing? Boy, I wish…” He hesitated. Of course Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels.
“I wish,” the boy went on, “that I could be a brother like that.”
Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, and then impulsively he added, “Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?” “Oh yes, I’d love that.”
After a short ride, the boy turned and with his eyes aglow, said, “Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?” Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again.
“Will you stop where those two steps are?” the boy asked. He ran up the steps.
Then in a little while Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little crippled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car.
“There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn’t cost him a cent. And some day I’m gonna give you one just like it…then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I’ve been trying to tell you about.”
Paul got out and lifted the lad to the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride.
When I reread this story this week in the context of today’s message, I saw two sources of significance at work. One located his significance in what he had and the other located his significance in what he was.
I also noticed that busyness played a great role in one life than in the other one and that this busyness was challenged as he heard and observed a significance coming from an entirely different source.
I truly believe that this desire, this drive, for significance is God-given. It is one of the things that make us different from the rest of creation. We want to count. We want to matter. We want to make a difference in life.
The important question becomes, “How do we get significance and where do we find significance?” This is where prayer enters in because prayer, real and honest prayer to God, can help us located the true source of significance and keep busyness from controlling us. This “significance source” is found in a relationship and there is a Biblical story that illustrates this truth.
It is located in Luke 10:38-42 and it involves Jesus and two dear friends of His – Mary and Martha.
(READ THE TEXT)
Busyness is not a 21st Century problem. It has always been a problem and we see it illustrated in this passage.
Mary and Martha illustrate the two basic ways many people approach life. Some are like Mary; laid back and easy going. They do what they have to do but other things are more important to them and they enjoy those things more.
Others are like Martha. They are driven and full of energy. Sitting around drives them crazy. They get involved and off they go!
Jim, are you saying that being committed to or involved in something is wrong? No, I’m not. What I am saying and is that busyness or over commitment or over involvement can place us in danger of letting God go by.
In this passage we see that
Jesus himself has come to Mary and Martha’s. God is visible and humanly present in their home.
He is on His way to Jerusalem, not His final journey there, to be sure, but He is traveling and stops to visit them.
I wonder if Martha greeting Him with her arms full of pots and pans? Could she have dropped them when she saw Him, and the 12 twelve disciples as well, coming down the road? Dropped them not in joy but in shock? Here are 13 extra persons for dinner. How would you feel?
The text does not seem to give evidence of that kind of a response. In fact, the text says, “Martha welcomed them into her home.” Martha wanted them there.
But, the problem, and the source of tension in Martha’s heart are indicated in verse 40 and 41: “But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
Jesus Christ himself is in her very presence. He is standing right in front of her. I don’t know about you, but I would love to exchange places with Martha.
But, Martha is too worried, too busy perhaps? about dinner. She is in danger of letting God go by because she is involved in the wrong kind of way. She is committed to the wrong objective.
Jesus’ words in verses 41 and 42 are shock to Martha and to a lot of people, “you are so upset about all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it – and I won’t take it away from her.”
What is that one thing? That one thing that Jesus said Mary has discovered?
It is a relationship with God. And that is where prayer comes in. If we want our lives to count, to be significant, prayer is a very important and primary way to live that kind of life. Why? Because it is prayer that can help us stay away from the wrong kind of busyness that forces us onto a treadmill of larger and larger expectations that can take us farther and farther away from God.
In the opening paragraph of his book Too Busy Not To Pray, Bill Hybels says, “From birth we have been learning the rules of self-reliance as we strain and struggle to achieve self-sufficiency. Prayer flies in the face of those deep-seated values. It is an assault on human autonomy, an indictment of independent living. To people living in the fast lane, determined to make it on their own, prayer is an embarrassing interruption.”
If we dare to dream again and embrace God’s dreams for us, prayer must become an embarrassing interruption.
It must interrupt us in the throws of temptation. It must embarrass us when we think that we are able to do it all alone. It must challenge us when we start to seek a short cut in our fear and impatience that would end up leading us to a dead end.
Martha was in danger of letting God go by. We face the same danger – individually and congregationally.
Jesus had more for Martha that what she imagined. He wanted her to dream and realize the Father’s dream for her. God had a big plan, a wonderful plan, and a magnificent plan for Martha. But Martha was too busy; she was over committed to something that from Jesus’ point of view was not significant. She was focused on the wrong thing.
We face the same danger. There are so many choices for us. There are so many things crying out for our time, money, and loyalty.
Now many are worthy and important. But, they can suck us into to franticness of mind and soul that lead us away from God and His plan, His future, for us. There are plenty of things to keep us busy. There are a few things that will keep us fulfilled, as God would have us be.
For us to dream God’s dream and possess the future that He has for us, that is possible only through prayer and not a frantic busyness that causes us to lose sight of God.
As we pray, as we seek God’s purposes and will for us, we can begin to understand what God wants. And then, we are able to focus on what He requires of us and not the hundreds and thousands of other things that clamor for our attention.
I close this morning with this question; “If Jesus came to your house today, what room would he find you in?” Amen.