Too busy for God?

 

Sermon for Epiphany 5 (8 February 2009)

Isaiah 40.21-31

Mark 1.29-39

Are you too busy for God? Lots of Christians are.

The Obstacles to Growth Survey was five-year study whose finding suggested that Christians worldwide are simply too busy for God. The survey collected data from over 20,000 Christians aged 15 to 88 across 139 countries. It found that on average, more than four in ten Christian people say they ‘often’ or ‘always’ rush from task to task. Busy-ness proved to be the greatest challenges in Japan, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Indonesia. Christians in Uganda, Nigeria, Malaysia and Kenya were least likely to rush from task to task. But even in the less-hurried cultures, around one in three Christians report that they rush from task to task. In Japan, apparently where the busiest Christians live, 57 per cent agreed. 

I don’t know how Aussie Christians would rate, but I imagine we’d be rating pretty high. And I don’t know how accurate this survey is, but it certainly fits my impressions of the way many believers live. 

So let me ask: are you too busy for God?

Think about it. Let’s not go too quickly; let’s just stop for a while. Let’s be quiet for a couple of minutes, and really ask ourselves: Am I too busy? Too busy for God?

*************

If you need to, talk about it quietly with a friend.

If you can, simply keep your silence before God.

*************

The prophet Isaiah says,

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. (Isaiah 40.31)

I was a chaplain once at NCYC, the Uniting Church’s National Christian Youth Convention. A young man came to see me because he had a problem. He had got into the habit of swimming for half an hour every day after work, and it made him feel guilty. 

You see, his church taught him that we should be ready at all times to witness for Jesus, to tell others about our Saviour and Lord. His problem was that he couldn’t do that while swimming laps. 

As I spoke with him, it was clear to me that this young man was a real introvert. He got his energy back, he recharged his batteries, when he was alone. Swimming was a way to recharge, a very healthy way.

I put it to him that he could pray while he was swimming. I put it to him that what he was doing was good, that it would help him to be a better witness for Christ. He would have none of it. He would not allow himself to be healed of his burden of guilt.

The prophet Isaiah says,

Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted; 
but those who wait for the Lord 
shall renew their strength. (Isaiah 40.34-35)

When it comes to being too busy, ministers are among the worst offenders. When I go to Synod meetings, and see ministers I haven’t seen since the last Synod, the greeting is often, “’Owya goin’? Busy?” To which the only acceptable reply is “Yeah, flat out like a lizard drinkin’!” (Or is it flat out like a nun in a bath full of custard? I never know!) For years now, I have answered the question with a “No, I’m never busy.” I have received some horrified looks from fellow ministers. We ministers pride ourselves on our busy-ness: almost 2/3 of the ministers interviewed in the Obstacles to Growth Survey said busy-ness interfered with their relationship with God.

Am I telling the truth when I say I’m not busy? (I’ve got to be careful here!) Let me put it this way—I believe that busy-ness is a state of mind. I can be doing much, but if I am operating out of the gifts and passions that God has planted in me, then I am still energised by what I do. Busy-ness isn’t having lots to do; busy-ness is being overwhelmed by things, and not acknowledging the source of our life, which is in God the Holy Trinity.

The source of our life is God. God didn’t just kick your life off; God’s Spirit is sustaining you at every moment. We need to listen to God. Jesus, the eternal Son in human form, knew this. He needed to listen to his Father; he went away from others to pray. It was his spiritual practice.

I don’t believe Jesus had that busy state of mind, but nevertheless he needed time out with God. Our Gospel reading today tells us that clearly:

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

It is so sad that the young man I told you about couldn’t feel free to be alone. Even sadder that it was because of what he’d been taught in church about being a witness for Jesus.

Isaiah tells us

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. (Isaiah 40.31)

This is the promise of God to those who take time out to pray. To those who spend time with God, listening to God and speaking with God. To those who take on the spiritual practice of prayer. They shall renew their strength.

Giving out all the time causes exhaustion, it brings that busy mindset. We know how to value those who do things all the time. But we forget that God doesn’t value us for what we do. God values us for who we are. Sometimes, we forget and we prize others for what they do. We need to take time to get in touch with what God values.

God values us for being God’s children. Our loving Father wants us to spend time with him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

This is an example for us to follow. It doesn’t have to be in the morning, or while it’s still dark; but the spiritual practice of prayer is central to the Christian life.

The quiet day on 21st will be a time when we can pray. Perhaps it might be a time to give our prayer life a boost. Perhaps we might be able to learn what it means to pray. Whatever the case, it’s an opportunity to follow the example of Jesus—draw aside from the rush and bustle of life, and reconnect with our Father God. Amen.

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8 Comments

Filed under RCL, sermon

8 responses to “Too busy for God?

  1. truthofexistence

    Have you ever heard of Charles Darwin?. If you have how do you still believe in something that cannot be explained as intangible and incredulous, as it is gone even further every time some other mindlss sap believes in the best woven lie of all time. It is an unprecedente bloody farce which has killed millions. How can you explain that Charles Dawin’s work is tosh and there is a God?

  2. I suspect this is a comment from a troll; it has nothing to do with the post at all, and probably just wants an argument. It won’t happen here.

    It’s a badly timed comment, on a day in which we have discovered that 108 + people have died in bushfires in Victoria, many deliberately lit. The people affected need help and hope. Chaplains are giving hope to hundreds today in Victoria, and those in need don’t care what they think of Charles Darwin. They want help and hope. Your words give them neither.

    I accept that blood has been spilt by those who call themselves followers of a god, yet I also accept that most blood spilt in the past 100 years has been by Marxist and fascist regimes, not by Christian people. In fact, Christians are being persecuted in many parts of the world today.

    Finally, you are making assumptions about me, prejudging me, i.e., showing a prejudice. I said nothing about Charles Darwin’s work. It’s not tosh, and I have every respect for his work as a biologist. However, I sometimes do have a problem with what some Darwinists make of it.

    As I said above, I don’t want an argument and may delete future comments that have nothing to do with the post itself.

  3. midnightpusrise

    well isn’t god bloody brilliant i mean look he regulates the world in such a brilliant way, i just love it.

  4. truthofexistence

    ‘Nice’ inclusion of the italics, but you are prejudging that a troll (if this was posted by such an entity) would not know of these linguistic devices and are presupposing that they are boorishly uncultivated. I do not want to become embroiled in an argument with somebdy who harps on about such nonsense like your post. I know the inclusion of Darwin was deviating from your post but what do you expect when you submit such tripe?

  5. midnightpusrise

    Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; Give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.

    Lets clear this up shall we?

    Faith of course is belief, belief in something without proof so cannot be described as reality. You go on to declare ‘there is a truth’, then after a little thought add that ‘there has to be a truth’. I think reality is dawning on you. Stop reading the crazy book and invest in some more worthwhile ones, you owe it to yourself.

  6. If I had a greenback for each time I came to terce.wordpress.com! Great article.

  7. This is a good post, thank you. It is something the Lord keeps showing me. I am too busy. Even though I do have a “quiet time” in the morning before the household awakes, it is not long enough! The truth is I am too tired to get up earlier and that is what I need to do. I am a mature Christian and I need to make more time for God.
    Last night I was mulling this over, and the Lord said clearly to me….” if you have time for face book, then you have time for God. Ain’t that the truth!

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