Overlooked Scripture No. 6: “The tyranny of the urgent.”

“Now, in the morning, having risen a long time before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place, and there He prayed.  And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’  But He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth'” (Mark 1:35-38).

“I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late!” So said the white rabbit as he plunged into the hole.–  From the Walt Disney movie “Alice in Wonderland.” 

I have a hard time turning off my inner engine.

A typical situation looks like this:  I’m packing the car in order to leave as soon as possible for a long drive to a preaching assignment.  Do I have everything? Have I canceled the newspaper for the days I’ll be gone? Do my children know where I’ll be? Am I taking my laptop? Do I have the phone charger? My extra dress shoes?  Enough shirts?

All the while, I’m keeping an eye on the clock. I know how long the drive will take and when I’m expected. The first meeting is tonight. I’d sure like to get there in time to check into the hotel and rest for an hour.

Hurry. Hurry, and hurry some more.

In the car finally and heading out of town, my inner engine is still at warp speed.

“Relax,” I keep saying to myself.  “This is no way to be driving.  You’re not paying attention to the traffic. Slow down.”

Finally, I begin to pray, “Father, help me to be still.  Help me to rest in Thee.”

Sound familiar?

Or, try this scenario.  As a pastor, it’s one thing after another.  The phone rings constantly, your staff needs something from you, and the secretary asks about your column for the bulletin. Your next appointment waits in the reception office and your wife left word for you to pick up the child at school.  You’re supposed to preach tonight and the sermon is nowhere ready.

Ask any pastor. That is far more typical than it should be.

The tyranny of the urgent is a real phenomenon.

It helps–perhaps not as much as it should, but it helps a little–to remember that Jesus walked away from important needs in order to stay on the agenda of the Father.

He had spent a long day healing and teaching.  Then, after a night’s rest (we assume He rested!), Jesus was up early and out the door while it was yet dark.  This was the only way He could have solitude, the only way to find time to pray.

The disciples searched everywhere for Him. “Master!” we can hear them saying. “You don’t have time for this!  People have gathered back at the house, bringing their sick and infirmed. You have your day’s work laid out before you.  You don’t have time to be out here praying! Let’s go.”

Jesus said calmly, “Let us go into the next town also, that I may preach God’s good news to them. For that is why I have come.”

He walked away from important, urgent, needs in order to stay with HIs purpose.

That. Is. Why. I. Have. Come.

It helps to know why you have come.  Or, put another way, why you were sent.

Only by knowing why you are there can you cull the secondary things and stay on focus.

The speaker in seminary chapel that day was a distinguished veteran missionary statesman of our denomination.  Even today, a half century later, his name is still honored.  But that day, he gave the student body some awful advice, even if his intentions were pure and well-meant.

“Wherever there is a need,” he said, “there is a mission field. And the nearest Christian is the missionary.”

Consider what that means.

Every Christian must meet every need he encounters.

This would be as certain a recipe for burnout as one could hope to find.

No one obeying such a mandate–to meet every need he/she encounters–will last long before burnout sets in.

That is one reason why I have often admired someone who can tell me “No.”  I invited them to speak for a meeting or to serve on a board, and they replied, “Thank you. I’d love to do that, but I can’t. The Lord has me on something else now and I should stay with that. But thank you.”

I hang up the phone initially disappointed. But the admiration arrives quickly.

“I wish I were more that way,” I say to myself.

Dear Lord, help Your servants to get this straight, to be willing to disappoint some people who can be demanding in order to please Thee.  Amen.

 

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