In college, every hour of my life was scheduled in a color-coded planner, made and kept with meticulous precision.
Senior year, I worked a full-time job, took 23 credit hours per semester, and made the Dean’s list for the eighth consecutive semester. Purple designated “free time” in my planner, which was immediately assigned a task so that no “free time” actually existed. Therefore, purple meant I was meeting with girls for discipleship, prayer, and Bible studies, cooking for other discipleship groups, and serving at church or on campus ministry teams.
People praised me for my capacity. But I was a slave to my schedule. I kept it excessively full and pushed myself beyond human capabilities. For I believed saying “No” to people meant I was being lazy, and therefore dishonoring God, and wasting my season of life.
Six years post-graduation, I no longer have a color-coded planner, but my default continues to be overstretching, overexhausting, and overestimating my limitations. In my head, my capacity should be bigger. I’ve walked with the Lord longer. Shouldn’t I be able to handle a fuller schedule? Shouldn’t I be able to sleep less and squeeze more into a 24-hour period while never losing traction, or joy, or having even the tiniest twinge of exhaustion? No, that’s insanity—and I fall for it almost every time.
Three Searching Questions to Ask Concerning Your Schedule
It’s so easy to believe the lie that busyness equals productivity. Or, that keeping a schedule full of good things proves we’re contributing to the kingdom of God.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe your life is filled with constant motion—sports, academic obligations, church, work, meetings, cleaning, keeping tiny humans alive, chauffeuring kids, or managing a home or office. Our hectic, fast-paced, Energizer-Bunny lives of constant going and going and going can fool us into believing we’re doing something for “the greater good”—and maybe we are.
Or maybe we’re blinded by the tyranny of “doing.” Either way, a hurried life is not what Jesus died for.
So, brothers and sisters, let’s take a look at our schedules. Let’s hit the pause button of our lives, take a deep breath, and ask three searching questions.
1. What does your schedule reflect about your Lord?
Our activity flows directly from our view of God. What do our schedules say about the God we claim to follow?
Do they say that he is sovereign, omnipotent, and all-sufficient? Do they demonstrate that he is full of mercy, joy, and rest? And do they affirm that Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross, and that we work in response to what Christ has completed?
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25)
Does our lifestyle display Christ’s lordship and greatness (Psalm 145:2-3)? Can we really maintain hectic busyness for the glory of God? Can we honestly evaluate our present pace of life and say, “This is a schedule made to him, and through him, and for him, to him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36)?
If not, our eyes and calendars may need to be recalibrated to better see (and therefore worship) the Lord in the splendor of his holiness (Psalm 29:2).
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Are we constantly rushing? Perhaps we need to be reminded that God never sleeps so we can (Psalm 121:3-4).
Are we constantly maxing out our schedules? Perhaps we need to be reminded God spins the world by himself (Isaiah 44:24).
Are we constantly feeling pressure to go and do for the kingdom? Perhaps we need to be reminded that our security, approval, worth, and value are not determined by what we can accomplish, but in what Jesus has accomplished (Galatians 3:12-14).
We cannot reflect the beauty of our limitless God if we’re too busy trying to be him, or too busy in general. Though followers of Jesus are not to be lazy (may it never be), we should be the most at-rest people, as we serve the God who has complete sovereignty over every atom in the universe.
The gospel frees us from relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through work…for we are already proven and secure. (Tim Keller)
2. Are you being faithful?
There are always more committees to join, things to do, and people to meet with. But what have you been called to right now? Maybe you can’t say yes to as many things in this season as you could the last, or maybe you can say it more. But what is priority? Essential? What has God called you to be immediately faithful in?
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)
We are to be found faithful; not smart, cool, rich, clever, famous, creative, or always-exhausted-because-they-do-so-much. Faithful. God is looking for faithfulness to himself and to the tasks he has currently assigned us (Ephesians 2:10).
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5)
Did you hear that? Fulfill your ministry. Not someone else’s. Not everyone else’s.
Run the race marked out for you. Learn from men of God but don’t try to be them—be you. (Matt Chandler)
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you don’t want to waste your life. You want to spend and be spent for the glory of God and the joy of others. But staying busy does not ensure that happening. We can be spread so thin that we become unfaithful in the most important areas of our calling. One of my best friends is constantly preaching that we must learn to say no to good things in order to say yes to the best things.
3. Have you surrendered your schedule to Christ?
The core of our frenetic lives is not dependence on God, but a desperate urge to control every detail of our lives. We don’t like depending on his sufficiency, but rather, flexing our muscles to show our worth.
In “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” Tim Kreider shares the following quote:
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. (David Murray, Reset)
But we know that instead of bowing to the god of productivity and basing our worth in how much we do, we must slay the sinful idol of self-sufficiency. We bow to the crucified King, whose resurrection cut the chains of our slavery to sin. When we confess to the Lord our arrogance and our failure to submit to the limitations he has set for us, by his grace, his Spirit heats our iron will to flexibility. Then, he bends us into the shape of our Master, who exemplifies a life not of busyness, but surrender.
“For I [Jesus] have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)
A surrendered schedule demonstrates dependence on the Holy Spirit, who is to lead and govern our days. Not having a jam-packed day creates availability to go, do, and be, as the Lord intended for his ambassadors.
The Answer to Ungodly Busyness
The answer to ungodly busyness is the message of the gospel: Repent from rebelling against your God-given limitations and his lordship. Submit to the Sovereign One who secures our righteous standing not by our works, but by his blood shed on the cross in love, and by his resurrection from the dead.
And in response to what he has done, let’s intentionally walk in the good works he prepared for us in order to glorify him, live with his full joy, and spread that joy to others (Ephesians 2:10, John 15:11, Psalm 67:4).