Monday, April 4, 2011

The Busy Christian... Chapter 8

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness
Chapter 8: I’m busy because of other people’s expectations – the liberating fear of God

We feel expectations from other people – our bosses, our friends, our family, our church. We have a mental list of all the things we should be doing, and we feel either guilty or too busy (and most likely both).

Chester refers to the 80/20 rule – that is, we get 80% of our output from 20% of our input. Why not settle for most things being 80% fine, instead of spending a lot more time increasing things to 90 or 100%.

He issues a challenge for the preachers amongst us. Let’s say you take 4 hours to get a sermon 80% as good as it could be. Yes, more time will be a better sermon, but it make take another 4 hours to get it to 90%, and even longer to get to 100% (if you could get there!).
Why not settle for 80% and spend those hour hours doing something else? We should give God 100% of our lives, but that doesn’t mean every sermon has to be 100%. We need to view the ministry as a whole and think about how our time is best used. The point is we are finite and cannot do everything at 100%.... So, why don’t we settle for 80%? Because we fear other people’s disapproval. And so we become perfectionists and perfectionism makes you very busy. (p102)
What do you think about this? I’m not sure I fully agree, but I do see his point. I would not be keen for my husband or the other preachers at our church to consistently think that 80% good is good enough. Not all the time anyway. But note he only say 80% as good as it can be, not 80% as true or biblical as it can be! I suspect each would have to analyse your own reaction to this. If one tends to perfectionism, this could be exactly what they need to hear. If one tends toward under-preparing sermons, this would not be for them!

The lie: other people matter more than God

If I am doing more that I can to meet other people’s expectations then we are saying that other people’s approval matters more to me than God’s.

The bible calls this the fear of man.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. (Prov 29:25)
Fear of man can have many symptoms including susceptibility to peer pressure, a concern with self-esteem, comparing yourself to others, fear of being exposed and telling small lies to make yourself look good. But another symptom can be over-commitment and finding it hard to say ‘no’ when wisdom suggests you should.

What is the real lie here? The underlying idol is self – when we need approval and affirmation from other people, in effect we are wanting them to worship us.

Do you worry about what others think about you?
Do you say ‘yes’ because people expect you to? Do you do so that that people might like you, respect you and trust you? Do you do it to feel important?

The truth: God alone is my master
The answer is repent of our idolatry and turn to God… We need to fear God… To hear God is to respect, worship, trust and submit to God. The fear of God is the response to his glory, holiness, power and wrath. The fear of the Lord is recognising that he is so awesome, powerful, holy and good that we should serve and worship him more than anything else or anyone. (p104)
The fear of God is actually liberating:
  1. When faced with a choice between pleasing a person and pleasing God, we know that we will want to please God. (Matthew 10:28). We are no longer controlled by other’s expectations, but the expectation of God. Of course we still serve other people, but we are not slaves to them.
  2. God promises to care for those who fear him (Psalm 34:7-9, Psalm 27:1-3). No one is bigger than God.

A victorious heart

The Psalm for this chapter is Psalm 18 – a meditation on a victorious heart. This Psalm helps to remind us that the Lord is our rock (v1-3), that God is a powerful and amazing (v6-15) and he cares for us (v16-19), and that, in the end, we are on the side of victory (v28-50).
God can set you free from the tyranny of other people’s expectations. He can set you free to live with him alone as your Master. (p111)

Do you fear men more than you fear God?

Next week – Chapter 9: I’m busy because otherwise things get out of control.

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