Monday, February 04, 2013

February 3, 2013 - The Harder I Go, The Behinder I Get: Catching Up On Our Time

James 4:13-15
Mark 6:30-32
Ephesians 5:15-16a

For the past two weeks I have added a disclaimer to my messages.  This week, I will add a disclaimer and a correction.  I realize the title of this message – Catching Up On Our Time – is incorrect.  It is impossible to catch up on time.  Once time has passed, it is gone.  That’s the correction.  The disclaimer is this – I am not preaching to you this morning.  I’m preaching to myself, but feel free to listen in on the conversation if you’d like.

This morning, I brought my 2012 calendar with me.  Look at the size of this thing.  It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?  Here’s this year’s calendar, which is much, much smaller.  I bought a really large calendar last year because I thought it would help me manage my time better and be more efficient.  I’m not sure it helped.

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly searching for ways to help me maximize my time or ways to save my time.  And I’m one of those people who is always wishing for more hours in a day.

Today is the third in our series of four messages on the topic The Harder I Go, the Behinder I Get. 

We all feel the pressure of time.  There are too few hours in the day for what we want to do and need to do.

This morning I will read our Scripture passages as we go through the message.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”                 James 4:13-15

1.  So let’s start with that common complaint – there aren’t enough hours in the day! 
Well, guess what?  Thank goodness there aren’t more hours in the day!  You aren’t getting any more hours.  You get 24 hours a day, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get another 24 tomorrow.  Sorry for that harsh reality, but that’s exactly what it is – reality.  Besides, do we really want more time in the day?  Do we really want a few more hours each day, hours that will only make us more exhausted and demand more of us?

The book of James reminds us that we have an allotted amount of time each day, and we should be grateful for the time we are given.

What we should be doing, instead of wishing for more time, is learning to avoid time traps.  In this day and age of social media, and 24/7 accessibility, it is tempting for us to believe everything must be dealt with in the moment it comes to us.  Because our phones are always with us, we believe we must answer whenever it rings.  I was preaching a funeral several years ago and a phone rang in the middle of my message – and the person took the call!  He was talking on his phone in the middle of a funeral!  What call is that important?  I kept on speaking and after a minute or so I heard him say well, I’ve got to go.  I’m at a funeral.  I wanted to say don’t answer that phone unless it’s the departed calling to tell you they are in a much better place and they are fine!

Because we spend a good deal of time in front of a computer screen we feel we must be constantly checking our email or facebook updates.  But is this really necessary?  Is it really necessary for me to take that call at this moment?  Do I need to answer that text immediately?  Do I need to check my email every five minutes?

In this electronic driven 24/7 world we often devalue what matters while elevating what doesn’t matter, and in doing so cast aside precious time.

Life is precious; it so very, very precious.  Life is exceedingly precious.  Immensely precious.

Life is also uncertain.  We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.  Savor every moment you are given, as each moment is a great gift.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.  Mark 6:30-32

2.  Take care of yourself. 
Many of us are driven by guilt.  Guilt makes it hard to take care of ourselves.  We find it hard to say no.  And then we drive ourselves into exhaustion, or worse.

A number of years ago I went to my doctor.  I was pretty stressed out and it was affecting my health.  He ran some tests and told me if you promise to go home and do absolutely nothing, I won’t call an ambulance to take you to the hospital right now.  He scheduled an appointment the next day for me to see a cardiologist, and I wondered if he was trying to scare me.  It worked.  Both of the doctors told me I needed to learn how to manage stress.  That was their solution.  It was also the same advice I could have received from my mom – for free.

Many of us struggle to properly care for ourselves.  We don’t rest enough.  We don’t eat properly.  We don’t exercise.  Instead, we run from one commitment to another, while our stress levels rise to a breaking point and our nerves begin to unravel.

I find great comfort in the passage from Mark’s gospel, when he tells us that Jesus led his disciples away from the crowds so that they might rest.  They were so busy, Mark says, they did not even have a chance to eat.  Now that’s busy!  If Jesus recognized the need to step away for a time and receive some much-needed rest, I think it’s safe to say we should do the same. Jesus knew his disciples could not continue without some rest; they had to have a break. 

We have to take care of ourselves, and we have to take care of one another.  We do so many things, and there are so many more things we know we could do or that we need to do.  But we can’t burn ourselves – or others – out.  I remember some years ago hearing a guy say he dreaded coming to church, because it was like going to work, he had so many responsibilities.  That’s terrible.  If you feel that way, drop some stuff.  You have to take care of yourself, physically and spiritually.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity. Ephesians 5:15-16a

3.  Redeem the time you have been given. 
When I was in seminary, my roommate and I were at church one evening and had a few minutes to speak to the minister.  It was a fairly large church, so there weren’t a lot of opportunities to speak to the minister for more than a few moments.  After he walked away my roommate said something very interesting – I always get the feeling when I’m around him that he has a clock ticking very loudly in is head, and he lets that clock run his life.

I often feel that clock ticking in my head.  Far too often, wherever I am, my mind is somewhere else.
The passage from Ephesians, in the King James Version, uses the phrase redeeming the time, in place of the NIV’s making the most of every opportunity.  I like the idea expressed by the word redeem.  Redeem means to buy back.  It means we reclaim our time, time that is often stolen away from us by the responsibilities that seek take control of our lives.

Redeeming our time means we are no longer bounced around by the countless demands that lay claim to our time.

When I was much younger – probably 2nd or 3rd grade – I thought time would never move on.  The school year seemed to be dragging on forever and I didn’t think summer would ever arrive.  I asked my mom one afternoon when I got home if time would always move so slowly.  She said time will go faster and faster, and one day you’ll wish it would slow down.

I feel my life speeding by so quickly, and I do wish it would slow down.  I find myself still waiting to do some of the things I said I would do ten, twenty, thirty or more years ago.  Some days I fear I will look back on my time on this earth and wonder what was I thinking? 

We cannot catch up on our time, but we can learn to see it as the great gift that it is.

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