The Faith family has generously stroked my ego for being a hardworking pastor. Certainly, it feels good, but because I have tended toward workaholism in every area of my life, my work ethic may not have been as great as people thought it was. As I get older and hopefully a little wiser, I am at the place where I look back on my life and wonder, “Why was I so prone to focus on work?” “What need was I trying to fill in my life?” “How much harm has busyness brought to myself, my family and my church family?”
So, I try not to be judgmental toward others when I see them busy as beavers, because that is what I have done. One author put a neat label on this busy, busy, busy type of behavior when he wrote, “Using God to run from God!” What he means is we get so busy doing religious activities “for” God, that we have little time “being” with God.
I don’t think Jesus ever intended for us to be at the church building every time the doors are open or engaging in every ministry, Bible study, and opportunity available. I know he never intended for us to use busyness as an escape or rationalization for not spending time “being” with God. Yes, Jesus valued hard work. He sent the 72 disciples out two by two to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim that the Kingdom of God was near. Jesus commended these guys for their labors when they returned. However, Jesus also created space to talk with and listen to His Father. Jesus always prioritized “being” over “doing.”
You might be thinking, what is the difference? Well, doing is to be about busyness, hectic rushing to and fro ... activity. It is about never having enough time for self, family, or God. When doing squeezes out God, it becomes a sin. And yes, my workaholism, and yours, is a sin because our busyness becomes an idol we worship.
Recently, I read that the interior work of the soul is hard for us, because we are too busy. We don’t have the time or take the time to develop the soul. Stillness and silence scares us, because we are so used to doing. Being is about one’s interior life. While I have tended toward workaholism, I have also sought to balance it with a strong devotional life. For years, I have gotten up early to spend time with God, to listen, to learn, to capture a sense of His direction for my life. From my quietness before Him, I depart to labor.
The Psalmist counters our doing when he teaches us to “Be still to know God” (46:10). He talked about waiting patiently for God. Who me, you, be patient in our hectic world? He also described how his soul panted after God as a thirsty deer on a sweltering middle eastern day pants out of heat and thirst. (42:1-2). The prophets proclaimed that God is not as interested in our sacrifices and offerings (doing) as much as He desires our obedience to His voice (being) (1 Samuel 15:22-23). To hear from God is to quietly listen. While Joy Behar of The View can mock our vice president for saying he listens to Jesus, and anyone who does hear from Jesus is mentally ill, Jesus really does want to speak to us.
I fear many Christians are so caught up in the doing they haven’t really taken time to develop their relationship with Christ. They are so busy doing that if Christ spoke, would they even hear Him? They are so busy doing that if Jesus showed up, would they recognize Him? “Being” with God is to get into His presence and listen to His voice. We forget that who we are is more important than what we do.
You see, until we get the interior of our souls right, until we do the hard soul-work of encountering God, we will not be spiritually effective for God. Yes! We can brag about how much we are accomplishing for God, but Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). The spiritual life is a life lived in dependence on Christ to do in us what we cannot do. Being builds character, and character is developed in the interior life. When being is developed, it then works its way out of our lives into doing for God. We have reversed it spiritually. “Being” must precede “doing.”
Contrary to popular belief, I believe Jesus is offended by our busyness. A quick prayer on the way to work or a 4-minute “Our Daily Bread” reading or listening to Christian music or a sermon are all helpful, but it is not what Jesus really wants. He wants you and me to get quiet, to be still, to talk to Him and to listen for His voice.
Jesus modeled being. Let’s get back to basics and still our hearts before Him. Oh! By the way, we will have to shut down our cell phones, social media, gadgets and stop other activities for being to happen.