How to Recover from “Busy, Busy, Busy” Part Two
What a powerful message conveyed to us last week through the story of Martha and Mary! I hope that this week as you wrestled with busyness and priorities, that you were reminded of Jesus’ words to Martha in Luke 10:42 “but only one thing is necessary.” That one thing is our relationship with Jesus, sitting at His feet, allowing Him to work on us- instead of us focusing on us working for Him and focusing on working for all the other demands that life has on us. Sure, we still have to tend to life’s demands, but the emphasis is on what we make our number 1 priority. In prioritizing our relationship with Jesus, I believe we’ll have greater capacity to do the other things in life that need to be done, and we’ll also have greater wisdom in how to do the other things in life that need to be done.
I sense that God isn’t done speaking to us on this subject, and this morning’s passage is going to allow us to dig a little deeper into how to recover from being busy, busy, busy. Let’s read together Luke 11:1-4… Now many of us are familiar with this prayer, termed as the “Lord’s Prayer.” Most often we hear quoted a slightly longer version that Jesus stated in His sermon on the mount, which took place earlier in Jesus’ ministry. (Matthew 6:9-15)
Ok, so Jesus had previously taught this prayer to His disciples on the shores of the Galilee, and now He is down south either still in Bethany, or perhaps another village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, teaching a similar version of this prayer to the disciples of that region. When He stated the prayer in Matthew- to those in Galilee- He followed up with some comments emphasizing the forgiveness part (that part being: “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”). He stated: For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15) But here in Luke, after giving the prayer example to the disciples there near Jerusalem, He goes on in the following verses to emphasize the goodness of God as our Father, as we persist in prayer. We’re going to look at this passage next week, but for this morning I want us to focus on and emphasize a different portion of the prayer, in verse 3: “Give us each day our daily bread.”
I had mentioned last week that in the midst of 5,000 men, perhaps 20,000 including all the women and children, Jesus said to His disciples “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37) He told them to do what was completely impossible. Then He told them to go look and see what they did have, and they were forced to face the fact that with their 5 loaves and 2 fish they were still completely inadequate to do what Jesus had commanded them to do. Only after the presentation of their inadequacy did Jesus step in and multiply the food in order to do the impossible task He had given them. His adequacy made up for their inadequacy. Then immediately Jesus tested them to see if they had learned this lesson- He immediately sent them out in the boat and they wrestled with the storm most of the night. They again were attempting an impossible feat in their own strength instead of crying out to God in their inadequacy. They just paddled harder, but Jesus came at the last minute and, walking on water, He rescued them. At the end of the passage Mark tells us why the disciples had missed this lesson, He says “for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” (Mark 6:52) In the following two chapters, Jesus talked more on the issue of the heart, and then gave them a third chance to learn the lesson of our inadequacy and His adequacy by again presenting them with hungry mouths to feed, this time 4,000 men. They still didn’t get it, and immediately afterward were discussing the fact that they didn’t bring bread with them after Jesus fed the 4,000. Again, they didn’t get it because of an issue of the heart. Jesus asked as they were arguing over not bringing bread, in Mark 8:17 “… Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?”
The disciples weren’t able to admit their inadequacy and Jesus’ adequacy because their hearts were hard. Last week I presented that step 1 in recovering from busy, busy, busy, and becoming more like Mary less like Martha, was to admit to Jesus that you are inadequate. I challenged us each to audibly, verbally confess this before Jesus. This is our first step, and I believe this is the lesson that Jesus wanted His disciples to learn with the feeding of the 5,000, the storm, and then the feeding of the 4,000. I believe that what He did to His disciples then, is also what He does to His disciples today. We are presented with impossible tasks to do as singles, as spouses, as parents, as care takers, as employees, as grandparents, as ministers of His Gospel. And He allows life at times to break us in ways that force us to say “Oh yeah, I can’t do this. I need you Jesus.” For some reason, there’s a voice inside of us telling us that we should be able to perform in a manner that meets everyone’s expectations. We say to ourselves “I think I can handle this.” How often do we really take seriously what Jesus says in John 15:5 “apart from me you can do nothing?” We have a hard time believing this- “surely I can do something on my own”- is what we want to say. Every now and then our circumstances force us to admit this, and we call out for His help, and He comes through. But what usually happens, is that we wind up again believing that we are able to accomplish things in our own strength, and we end up back in the place of stress, not being able to keep up, frustrated with our performance. We have to realize that on our own we are completely inadequate. Dr. Bill Lawrence, in his book Leader Formation states “You must do what you cannot do with what you do not have for the rest of your life.” That’s basically what Jesus is asking of us- “You feed them.” Life is full of circumstance after circumstance that gives us opportunity to realize our inadequacy, and then acknowledge Jesus’ adequacy. Dr. Lawrence goes on to state “Jesus can do what you cannot do for the rest of your life.”
This is what I see in verse 3 of Luke 11. Jesus says pray like this: “Ask God to give you each day your daily bread.” Contained in this piece of the prayer, is the idea that I could each day not ask for my bread- I could ignore that need in my life. And I could potentially attempt in my own strength to go out and get it for myself. Or I could look to someone else to provide my daily needs. Or I could just on one particular day ask God for the provision of bread. Or I could ask Him to give me all at once enough bread to supply all my needs for the days to come. But no- Jesus doesn’t say it like that. The idea is to each day, every day, ask for that day’s bread. Each day- “Jesus I am inadequate, You are adequate. I look to you (not me or anyone else) for your provision, and I’m not getting ahead of myself worrying about and asking for tomorrow’s provision- today’s bread is all I need to worry about today.” Remember also Jesus saying in the sermon on the mount “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”- Matt 6:34)
If we depend on ourselves- on our own strength for our daily bread, we will eventually face burn out, discouragement, stress and frustration. On your own, you aren’t designed to handle this life in a healthy way. You are designed to need Jesus. If we look to others for our daily bread, then we will become hurt, disappointed, and perhaps even threatened. Your parents, your friends, your spouse, people at church- are not able to provide for your every need, every day of your life. That is asking too much of them, they are sinners like all of us- our Father in Heaven is the one and only person we are to look to for our provision. You are secure and significant in Him alone!
We all have needs. Dr. Larry Crab in his book The Marriage Builder describes 4 options we have for dealing with our needs. Option 1: We can ignore our needs. This is ignoring the fact that you need the daily bread. If you ignore your physical needs long enough, eventually that will lead to physical death, and the scenario is the same with personal needs. You ignore your personal needs long enough, eventually that will lead to personal death. And by personal needs I mean the needs of security and significance- validation as a person. You might say there are other personal needs, but probably outside of security and significance we’re actually talking about personal wants. So, you can attempt to ignore these needs, but that’s not a viable solution.
Option 2: Find satisfaction in achievement. This is relying on ourselves for our daily bread. Finding fulfillment and life’s provision through what you do, your work, your ministry, your efforts. This option can provide for a time, but eventually it will fall short in meeting your needs. It’s only a matter of time, eventually what you’re able to do won’t measure up in some way, eventually your efforts to achieve will fail.
Option 3: Attempt to meet our needs in each other. This sounds good, after all we are the body of Christ and are to minister to each other’s needs, but this can only be realized by first prioritizing what our step number 2 from last week was- in making “sitting at Jesus’ feet” our number 1 priority. We find fulfilment, provision, security, significance at His feet. We ask Him alone for our daily bread, and only in His provision, in the capacity of sitting at His feet, are we then able to attempt to minister to one another in His strength. We probably see this 3rd option played out in it’s worst form in marriages. The husband is relying heavily on the wife to meet all his needs, and the wife is relying heavily on the husband to meet all her needs. The wedding day feels so great- I have finally found this one person who is going to fulfil all the needs I have. The groom is thinking: “my wife will affirm my every decision, making me feel important, she will respect me, I will lead and feel significant in her support and esteeming me as man.” The bride is thinking “I have finally found the one who will love me in the way I have always wanted to be loved. He will always comfort me, be sensitive to me, thoughtful and romantic, and will deeply fulfil my emotional needs.” The reality is, that both could more accurately be compared to 2 bankrupt business owners relying on each other for capital to build a business together. Or perhaps it’s like a tick on a dog, but really there’s just 2 ticks and no dog! Inevitably, eventually each spouse will experience unmet expectations and disappointment in the other person not fulfilling their needs. And then perhaps even a feeling of rejection is experienced, and what often happens is that each spouse ends up adding a protective layer to prevent further hurt from taking place. These protective layers can look like an unwillingness to share heart matters, responding in anger, shutting down, keeping oneself preoccupied with busyness so that there’s never time for authentic, intimate, deep relationship.
But this doesn’t just happen in marriage relationships. We often look to friends, family, fellow Christians to meet our needs as well. And often we experience the same feeling of unmet expectations- “Aww, I was thinking Pastor Wes was going to do more of such and such…” and we experience the same type of disappointment in each other- “I can’t believe ‘Brother so and so’ in the church did that,” and we experience the same feeling of rejection- “Oh, they didn’t like my idea about the such and such program.” And we each begin building our protective layers- the very enemy of authentic, Kingdom focused community- or worse yet, some just leave the community all together.
We could be much healthier in our personal life, our family life, our church life, with friend and work relationships, if we could instead go for Option 4: Depend on the Lord to meet our needs. If we could daily confess our inadequacy, and the inadequacy of our achievements, friends, family, work, church, spouses- and instead, profess the sufficiency and adequacy of our Lord Jesus- then life would be so much more manageable. If we could just realize we are completely secure, and completely significant IN HIM- that we are to look to Him and Him alone daily for His provision- then the stress of meeting others’ expectations would be gone, the disappointment we experience in others would be gone, and perhaps we’d feel less of a burden to accomplish a million things in a day. We could lose the feeling of rejection, and let go of our protective layer, and live life as authentic forgiven followers of Jesus whose hope for security and significance is completely satisfied in Him alone.
Now I do want to offer you a warning. Jesus says to ask each day for our daily bread. He doesn’t say our daily steak, fried chicken, gourmet pizza, and chocolate cake. But often that’s what we want, right? Now I’m probably on the edge of reading too much into Jesus’ use of the word bread, but hear me out. My point it that as easily as we can be disappointed by others through unmet expectations, we can be similarly disappointed with God through unmet expectations, if we place the wrong expectations on Him. Again, pulling from some of what Dr. Bill Lawrence wrote, I have here some examples of expectations that many of us as Christians might have: I will be successful, because I am obeying Jesus. Jesus owes me because I’ve given up so much for Him. Because I married a Christian, my marriage will be tension-free. My children will never suffer. My children will make me look good in the Christian community. God is supposed to answer all my prayers, according to how I feel they should be answered. Because I follow Jesus, I will have no financial concerns. I will be free from illness. Dr. Lawrence goes on to say that these expectations are about control, not trust. In admitting our inadequacy, we are admitting that we are not in control. We cannot control life, and when we try to, we become discouraged, disappointed, stressed, and angry. One day, we will rejoice at the marriage supper of the lamb, and will no longer have to ask for our daily bread, rather we’ll wine and dine like we’ve never even imaged in His very presence, not in a daily state, but an eternal state- but for now, we are to ask for and live off of the bread that our Captain rations.
“Lord, please give us today, our bread for today.” This perspective, this attitude is an issue of the heart. When I mentioned earlier the disciples missing it, again Jesus said they missed it because their hearts were hardened. And if the disciples, who walked daily with Jesus and listened daily to His teaching coming directly out of His mouth- if they missed it because of a hard heart- what are the chances you and I might be missing it because of a hard heart? I fear that often, as much as we dislike the busyness of life, we choose to stay there and focus on our to do lists rather than do the hard word of looking into our hearts. It’s more comfortable to just continue the cycle of stress, busyness, not being able to keep up, rather than to admit to Jesus we have a heart problem. After all, everyone else is busy too, and they seem to be ok, so we continue on, failing to realize that Jesus wants us to admit our inadequacy, and admit our dependency on His sufficiency. And what happens, is that sooner or later we’ll hit a wall, and we’ll attempt to dig deeper and suffer it out for Jesus- we’ll try to paddle harder in the storm, we’ll keep wearing our Christian smile, and struggle on- instead of coming to sit at His feet and humbly acknowledging our dependency on Him. If we could just say- “My heart is not right Jesus. I’m ignoring that I need your bread. I’m trying to provide my own bread. I’ve been looking to others for my provision of bread. And it has been exhausting. Forgive me. Now I’m coming to you instead, asking for YOU- You alone- to give the provision needed for today. And I’m going to ask the same thing tomorrow, because I know that by the time tomorrow comes, I will have already forgotten this moment today, and I’m going to come to you the next day, and the next- each day- daily seeking you for that day’s bread.”
Hopefully our “to be” list that we started working on last week will help us with some of our heart issues. As we aim to be men and women of integrity and character, may we realize that those qualities we aspire to be, are qualities of the heart. They are a result of aligning our heart with Jesus in our time with Him at His feet. Don’t miss this. Prioritize the one thing that is necessary, don’t skimp on this time with Him. Place it at the top of your list, and then I would encourage you to find ways to sit at His feet through and in (during) the other activities of your day. Find ways to rest, focus, and trust in Him in every activity you engage in, in life. And then at the end of the day, instead of looking at how much we did or didn’t get done, and feeling stressed as a result- what if instead we looked to our Father and asked “Did I please you today?” “Did I do all that You wanted me to do?” May we be able to look back, and say, “Lord- I asked You for my bread today, and I did the best I could with what you rationed out to me, so I trust you and leave the results completely in your hands. May You do with the bread that which I am unable to do.”