How to Recover from “Busy, Busy, Busy”
How many of you would describe your life as busy? We as Americans pride ourselves in productivity, in feeling useful, moving forward, having work that relies on us getting it done. Often, when you ask someone what they have been up to lately, you’ll get the answer “We’re busy, busy, busy.” And with that answer, perhaps there’s a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of “I’m important, I do things, my life matters, I’m validated in the thing I do.” Sometimes I wonder if people are really as busy as they say they are, or if “busy, busy, busy” just feels good to say in order to bring validation in one’s life. Or maybe it’s just a “catch all” phrase, a short simple answer to give someone so that you don’t have to go into detail describing what life has recently looked like. But probably more often than not, when we say we’ve been “busy, busy, busy,” we probably mean just that- life is pulling us in all different directions. Work, family, church, helping with this or that, getting kids to school and back, homework, sports, activities, clubs, ministries, house repairs, a car oil change and inspection, spending an hour at the Verizon store because the phone died.
Sometimes life’s busyness is created by our own doing, and sometimes life’s busyness is created by a series of events completely out of our hands- but usually it’s a combination of the two. And most often we’re busy doing things we feel that need to get done, good things, and things that we have deemed as worthy of being busy doing. If you’re like me, many of you can probably identify with being busy, busy, busy. Some of you perhaps have been busy, busy, busy for a long time now, and are looking for an answer, a way to not be so busy. You’ve felt the effects of stress, feeling overwhelmed, perhaps feeling inadequate in your attempt to keep up. On top of that, the busyness hasn’t translated into happiness, and you want help. Jesus has a message today for you. Others perhaps are too busy right now to even realize some of the negative effects that busyness is causing in your life. Jesus has a message today for you too. Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 10, and we’re going to read together from verse 38 to 42.
In this historical account, this true, real life story- Martha was feeling the weight of busyness. But before I talk about her busyness and paint perhaps a negative picture of her, there’s several things we need to commend her on. First off, Martha needs to be commended on her courage to agree to host Jesus and His followers in her own home, considering that those who supported Jesus during this time in His ministry, were being blacklisted by the religious leaders. The hostility against Jesus and His supporters was especially displayed in and around Jerusalem, and we know from scripture (John 11:1) that Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus (who we’ll later read about) were all from the village of Bethany, which is located right on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Martha was very bold and courageous to invite Jesus and his entourage into her home, knowing the persecution that might come as a result of His presence there.
Not only was Martha courageous, but it is obvious she is very giving and hospitable. It would be a magnificent feat to host Jesus and His twelve apostles, to cook for and serve everyone, especially in light of there not being a grocery store next door. You think about drawing water from the village well that was down the street, bringing heavy pitchers back and forth to supply enough water for washing and cooking with, rinsing hands, and drinking for all the guests. And she wasn’t able to pull a couple lamb roasts out of the freezer, she would have needed to run down to the market to purchase enough meat to feed everyone, or go outside and slaughter a cow, skin it, butcher up the meat, then gather wood for the fire. There would have been a lot of preparations to do. And I’m wondering if it wasn’t just Jesus and the 12, but also the 70 other disciples who had returned from being sent out? Either way, to take on hosting either crowd would have cost money, time, resources, and energy. But Martha must be commended in that, as verse 38 states, “she welcomed Him into her home.”
Martha must be commended that she was courageous, and very hospitable, and I also want to make sure you see that the things she was busy doing, were things stemming from good intentions. She was working for the Lord Jesus, attempting to honor Him. But she became overwhelmed with all there was to do. And notice in verse 40 what being overwhelmed caused her to do: she began to compare her life to someone else. “It’s not fair, Mary is relaxing while I do all the work!” She began to compare, which then led to resentment, discontentment, and anxiety. She couldn’t take it anymore, running a zillion different directions, distracted and overwhelmed, resentful and discontented, she blurts out: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Tell her to help me!” Have you ever been in that situation? “God, I have so much to do, I’m overwhelmed and my spouse just sits on the couch and watches TV, or has outings with friends, or is engrossed in their little project. God, can you get them to help out a little more?” “Lord, I’ve been tasked with a million things, and my co-worker and boss spend most of their day surfing the internet- isn’t this a little unfair?” “Jesus, you see how much has to be done for this family member of mine, why can’t my brother and sister help a little more in sharing the responsibility?” I have a feeling we’ve all felt like Martha at times.
Martha was honoring Jesus in her work. She was working for Him, doing good things, things that were expected of her, things that needed to be done logistically and culturally. I want you to think for a moment on all the good things that keep you busy. Even things that honor Jesus- things you do that could be categorized as working for Him. I want you to think of all the good things you do that are meeting a cultural requirement, perhaps a family expectation, a friend expectation, a work expectation. I want you to think about all the things you do to maintain and keep life going. Now, if these good things are taking a higher priority than sitting at Jesus’ feet, then you are going to end up finding yourself used up, stressed, and overwhelmed. You are working in your own strength.
Jesus says in verse 42 that there is only one thing necessary. He doesn’t say what that one thing is. What is it? Maybe it’s just one serving of food: “Martha, Martha you are worried and bothered with baking the bread, feeding the fire, roasting the meat, making cheese, quenching our thirst, setting the table, washing the dishes- but only one thing is necessary- we’ll be happy with just some bread.” I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant. But I think believers sometimes think that’s what Jesus is saying. “Man, I’m just too busy. Jesus- what’s the one thing necessary that I need to do to make you happy? Go to church? Ok, I’ll do that.”
No, I don’t think Jesus meant that there’s one thing to do above all the others. I think what Martha misunderstood, and what many Christians today misunderstand, is that Jesus is less concerned about doing, and more concerned about being. Mary was being in Jesus’ presence, listening to His words that would change her being. Hanging on every word that would bring about transformation in her life, meditating on His truth that would reset, renew, and recalibrate her mind to think on things above, not on things of earth. (Col. 3:2) While Martha was working on doing, Mary was working on being- and I think that this is what Jesus was referring to. The one thing necessary is the relationship with Jesus, the relationship that transforms not just what you do, but who you are. Mary was at the feet of Jesus, which was the culturally appropriate position of a student learning from their teacher. Instead of her working for Jesus, she was allowing Jesus to work on her- there’s a difference.
I believe there are Christians across the world, that need to stop focusing so much on working for Jesus, but rather allowing Jesus to work on them. I believe there’s some even today, right here, right now, listening or reading these words, who have been for a long time attempting to work for Jesus, without giving Him full access to work in you. You’re attempting to work for Him like Martha was doing, without letting Him first work in you- like Mary, sitting at His feet.
I learned this week something about submarines I had never heard before. Nuclear powered submarines have enough fuel to power them for up to 30 years, but typically they need to resurface to restock on food and supplies every 90 days. But they actually end up resurfacing more often than every 90 days- why? In the depths of the ocean, because of various factors- electronics, magnetic pulls, etc.- over time, their tracking system becomes less accurate. So, they come up to recalibrate their GPS to the satellites, or recalibrate the old fashion way to the stars or landmarks. Perhaps Jesus wants to use this passage as a wakeup call to many of us, saying that it’s time to resurface and to spend time at His feet, in order to recalibrate our lives. Come up from the busy, busy, busy- and realign with the one thing that is necessary.
We were reminded this week that, at funerals, you never hear people say things like: “He sure could accomplish so many errands in a day.” “Bless her, she was always working and her bank account was so full.” “If only I could live life as half as busy as him.” No- you don’t hear that! You hear things like “She was my best friend, I felt incredibly loved by her.” “He was so loving and generous.” “He was the one guy who gave me a chance.” The things you hear, are more focused on relationship, and less focused on the “doing of their life.” We celebrate who the person is more than the activities they accomplished. Author Dallas Willard says “Jesus does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was.” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God) If we make spending time at Jesus’ feet our highest priority (focusing more on being than doing), then we will become more like Him, and in that, I believe He will give us a greater capacity to do what life demands of us. How great would it be that no matter how many tasks life throws at us, that in place of answering “I’m busy, busy, busy,” we could instead say “I’m resting, resting, resting.” “I’m trusting, trusting, trusting.” “I’m believing, believing, believing.”
Many need to hear today that God will never love you more than He loves you now. Ofcourse there are blessings for obedience, and consequences for disobedience- but God’s heart for you will never be more full than it is for you right now. Stop living life as if you were having to earn God’s favor, and start living it as a celebration of who you have become because of His favor.
So, you ask- how do I start doing this? Where do I begin in becoming more like Mary, and less like Martha? I want to give you some practical steps to help you do this.
Step 1: Admit to Jesus that you are inadequate. You will never fully accomplish your to do list. Your efforts will never be enough, there will always be more you could do. Admit that the task of life, and the task of following Jesus, is more than you can handle in your own strength. Remember the fish and the loaves? In the midst of 5000 men, perhaps 20,000 people total including women and children, Jesus said to His disciples “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37) He charged them with an impossible task! And then what did He tell them? “Go look, see what you do have.” (Mark 6:38) They found 5 loaves and 2 fish, and He wanted them to see for themselves and show Him the inadequacy. Verbally, out load, admit to Jesus that you can’t do it all.
Step 2: Ask Jesus to help you make sitting at His feet your number 1 priority. Make a commitment to consistently spend time connecting with Him in relationship, letting Him work in you, prioritizing your recalibration time with Him.
Step 3: Ask Jesus for wisdom in how to prioritize the rest of your life- all the other things that are less important than your time with Him. James 1 verse 5 and 6 should help with this step. Verse 5 says “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” The Bible says here to ask, and that God will give without reproach, meaning He won’t condemn you for asking. He won’t bash you for making such a request, notice how tenderly Jesus responded to Martha in Luke 10:41- “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things”- I see you Martha, I see your worry and busyness- and I don’t condemn you, but since you asked, let me teach you… “only one thing is necessary…” She asked Jesus for an answer, and Jesus didn’t give her judgment, but tenderly gave her wisdom. But a word of caution to you, the promise of James 1:5 has a disclaimer in James 1:6, verse 6 says “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” Perhaps often we as believers say things to God like “Search me and give me wisdom about my issues, show me what it is I need to change in my life… so that I can decide whether or not I want to change it.” It doesn’t work like that, you are doubting that God knows what’s best for you. You are not trusting Him and exhibiting faith that He loves you and should be King in your heart and not just King in your words.
And lastly, step 4: I want you to make a “to be list.” Not a “to do list,” but a “to be list.” You’ll have an opportunity to start writing a few things on your bulletin here in a few moments, but perhaps when you get home and in the following days, you can begin putting together a more formal list. Or perhaps you might want to write some of your “to be” things on notecards that can be put on your bathroom mirror, your computer screen, the dashboard of your car. Things like, “I want to be a dad who my kids always feel comfortable talking to about anything.” “I want to be known as a man of God.” “I want to be more generous towards God and others.” “I want to be more thankful and joyful.” “I want to be more faithful in sharing Jesus with others.” “I want to be a grandparent whose grandchildren know for certain why I have lived life the way I have lived it.” What qualities and characteristics of Jesus do you desire to absorb through sitting at His feet? I believe that as we start to focus more on our “to be list,” the “to do list” will become less of a burden. We’ll have greater capacity to do, and we’ll have a better perspective of how to do. We’ll be focused on the one thing necessary. Instead of attempting to accomplish things in Wes’s strength, after sitting at the feet of Jesus, I can rise up with greater capacity to do things in Jesus’ strength.
Taking these 4 steps might involve a bit of a process, some thought and prayer- perhaps finding a quiet place where you can work through these one on one with God without any other distractions. But I want to give you some time even this morning to start that process. We’re going to open up this space right here at the front for you, if you are able and willing, to come forward and kneel- to sit- at Jesus’ feet. Or if you are unable to do that, remain seated and sit at Jesus’s feet from where you are. I want you to quietly, yet audibly, take the first step of admitting to Jesus your inadequacy- in your own words- confess to Him that you can’t do it all. And taking a pen and your bulletin notes, I want you to prayerfully write down some notes for the other steps. Somewhere under step 2 you might write down something like “before I began the “doing” part of my day, I will spend some time in prayer with Jesus.” Or “each day I will get up five minutes earlier in order to prayerfully read a chapter of the Bible.”
As you prayerfully ask for guidance on step 3, you might write down some ways in which you feel convicted in your daily priorities. You might write down something like “Before watching a TV show together, I want to spend time asking my spouse about what God is teaching them.” Or “I will limit my time online, and use the extra time to nourish my soul with Biblical teaching and worship music that encourages me.”
And then step 4, I’ve already given you several examples, but go ahead and jot down a few notes to give you a start on your “to be list.” I don’t want anyone to feel rushed in any way, I’ve given us plenty of time, we have at least the next 15 minutes to think, pray, and write down as God’s spirit leads us.