We live in a hyper-busy Christian culture. Someone once said: “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was – and always will be – yours to have. If you set it free and it never returns, it was never yours to begin with. And if you set it free and it just sits in your living room, messes up your stuff, eats your food, uses your telephone and takes your money – you have either married it or gave birth to it!” You know idleness, lethargy and inactivity aren’t attractive, especially when it directly affects us personally. There is something wholesome and good about being busy.
One of the biggest challenges we have – I believe – is time. In our culture, we are very, very busy, yet being a Christian takes time. In an article that came out on July 30, 2007, called “Survey: Christians Worldwide Too Busy for God,” author Audrey Barrick wrote:
Christians worldwide are simply becoming too busy for God, a newly released five-year study revealed. In data collected from over 20,000 Christians with ages ranging from 15 to 88 across 139 countries, The Obstacles to Growth Survey found that on average, more than 4 in 10 Christians around the world say they “often” or “always” rush from task to task… The busy life was found to be a distraction from God among Christians around the globe… About 6 in 10 Christians say that it’s “often” or “always” true that “the busyness of life gets in the way of developing my relationship with God….” The article continues, “While the study does not explain why Christians are so busy and distracted, Zigarelli [the author of the study] described the problem among Christians as ‘a vicious cycle’ prompted by cultural conformity.”
The article concludes by describing how busyness leads to a crazy “Christian” cycle. It states that “Christians are assimilating to a culture of busyness, hurry, and overload, which leads to, 1) God becoming more marginalized in Christians’ lives, which leads to, 2) A deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to, 3) Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to, 4) More conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry, and overload. And then the cycle begins again.”
This hyper-busyness reminds me of the parable of the sower: “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mk. 4:18–19) How many Christians do you know whose lives are characterized by spiritual fruitlessness? Of the four soils mentioned by our Lord, the thorny soil is the one that most threatens us as post-modern Christians living in America.
There are several things we need to embrace. First, this hyper-busyness that is so characteristic of our Christian culture is distracting and destructive. You can bet Satan is pleased. One will never reach his/her God-given potential while burdened down with an overextended life. In trying to keep all the plates spinning, although well-intentioned, we inevitably end up having to piece God into the cracks. Consequently, because of this distractedness and over-extension of time and money, we are left with a watered-down version of Christianity. We have a form of Christianity of which it seems we need to honestly ask, “Is this the path Jesus described?”
Second, the life of being hyper-busy is typically a self-imposed life. Is it not true that we end up in the rat race because of choices that put us there? Whether it be goals, or dreams, or bucket lists, or things we want to do, or places we want to go, or things we want to accomplish – many times it comes down to choices and priorities. Certainly, such aspirations are not inherently wrong. Most men that I know want and need another “mountain to climb,” so to speak. We don’t like to be idle. But if it’s all “this world-oriented,” how much is enough?
What’s concerning about our hyper-busy Christian culture is that we can become numb to it. We are being so inoculated by the American Dream that while we give lip service to “not laying up treasure upon the earth” and “being rich toward God,” the fact of the matter is such really isn’t what has center stage in our day to day lives. And again, we end up with a watered-down version of Christianity that is many times void of true, deep, heartfelt dedication.
So what is the answer? Just quit everything and live off the state? Hardly. And the answer isn’t for us to sit around and feel guilty for having been blessed. Certainly, there are times when each of us needs to feel guilt. We don’t want inappropriate guilt, or incessant guilt or overbearing guilt. Guilt, however, is like physical pain – pain says, “something’s wrong; fix it.” You lay your hand on the hot stove and you feel the burning pain. “Something’s wrong; fix it!” According to Scripture, a healthy perspective of this world’s blessings should bring joy, not guilt.
Paul said, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Ti. 6:17) We are given things of God to “enjoy.” However, Paul continues concerning our focus, “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Ti. 6:18-19) While we are truly blessed, God would have our lives to be about others, not self.
So what’s next? As I understand things, here’s what needs to happen. If you honestly look at your life and feel that your relationship with Christ or your ministry for Christ is suffering (is being neglected, taking a backseat, etc.) because your life is trapped in this hyper-busy Christian culture – then two things need to happen: First, they need to stop and make time for prayer. Pray for self-awareness. Pray for eyes to truly see your life for what it is. Pray for honesty, clarity, courage and determination to do something. Second, identify what needs to go and implement steps to take it off your plate. You will find you’ll have more peace, you’ll enjoy the Christian life more and, as you live to serve God and others, you will receive the blessing. (Acts 20:35)
To make that change, to shift one’s focus from the hyper-busy, rat race postured life to one of inner peace is to wade into things against the culture. But when has following Jesus ever been about going with the culture? I love how Psalm 73 puts things, “But for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (v. 28) For the Psalmist, being “near God” was good. For him, being “near God” was sufficient. For him, being “near God” was enough! How much is enough?