I saw some pithy sayings the other day to do with being busy and I thought they might resonate with you as they did with me.
‘The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.’ John C. Maxwell
‘Never confuse activity with productivity.’ Rick Warren
….Hmm, food for thought in both of those for sure, but then this one really struck a chord:
‘When the fire of prayer goes out, the barrenness of busyness takes over.’ George Carey
It made me think how often this may be true, not just individually but as a church too. Of course, if we did not have people ‘being busy’ in our church then many of the activities that we are engaged in – from worship to outreach to fellowship to service – would not happen, so I for one am very grateful to all those who give of their time, often sacrificially and uncelebrated.
It is, though, rather like the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, when Jesus came to visit them at their home in Bethany. You will recall of course how Martha, busy preparing the meal, got so frustrated with her sister for sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him, that she demanded that Jesus tell Mary to come and help her. Yet Jesus took Mary’s side, telling Martha that Mary had chosen the better course. I am sure that many of us have felt a good deal of sympathy for Martha and puzzled at just how Jesus and his friends would have been fed if someone hadn’t been working away in the kitchen!
The point is there are characteristics of Martha and Mary in each one of us (yes, gentlemen, you too!) – the practical side of us that sees something needs doing and rolls up our sleeves to get it done, and the side that yearns to receive the blessing of Jesus’ presence in our lives. Too often we subjugate the latter – that God-given desire – to the demands of the immediate moment, the urgent need, the stranglehold of our diaries.
People will always need feeding, churches will always need 1001 things doing, but the reason Mary had chosen the better part is because she made being with Jesus and listening to him her first priority.
We must not let the ‘fire of prayer’ go out, not in our own lives and not in the life of the church. It is only through prayer that we will discover what it is that God wants us to do. What are we engaged in that he wants to bless and grow? Is there something new which he wants to bring us to? Is there something that needs to change or even be laid down because though it was good it has now served its purpose?
I have no hidden agenda here. I am not thinking of particular activities as I write. I am not about to suggest we stop this or start that or change the other. You, my dear friends, are the people to whom God will reveal his vision for this church – but only if you seek him first and foremost.
So, to those of you who are constantly ‘doing,’ I urge you to pause and pray. Put God first and everything else will fall into place, all that is needful will be done.
And to those who have reached a stage of life when the pace is a little slower, who maybe miss those days when you were busy and felt needed, well, you are needed now just as much. If prayer is the fire, you are the ones who have the greatest opportunity to stoke it!
As I write this we will soon be sharing in our annual Covenant Service, where we individually and corporately renew our covenantal promise. As we say the words (below) which declare our intention to put God first in our lives, may he grant us the strength of his Holy Spirit to live them out.
With every blessing,
I am no longer my own but yours.
Your will, not mine, be done in all things,
wherever you may place me,
in all that I do and in all that I may endure;
when there is work for me and when there is none;
when I am troubled and when I am at peace.
Your will be done
when I am valued and when I am disregarded;
when I find fulfilment and when it is lacking;
when I have all things, and when I have nothing.
I willingly offer all I have and am
to serve you, as and where you choose.
Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
May it be so for ever.
Let this covenant now made on earth
be fulfilled in heaven. Amen.