Is Busyness a Hindrance to Discipleship?

In light of Kevin DeYoung’s new book Crazy Busy (which I have not read yet, but here is  reviewers thoughts) I wanted to do some meditation on my life, schedule, and busyness. Here are a couple thoughts I had, maybe they will be helpful.

The Irrevocability of Time

You only have 24 hours in a day and once you subtract some for sleep and a few for eating, there is only a bit left. Time is our most precious resource because it is our most scarce, or better put by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

As time is the most valuable thing that we have because it is the most irrevocable, time lost is time in which we have failed to live a full human life, gain experience, learn, create, enjoy, and suffer; it is time that has not been filled up, but left empty.

Unlike money, time—once it is gone—is gone forever. I can lose my wallet with $20 dollars in it, but maybe I will find it again or maybe the wallet will be returned and the money regained. Time is not like that if I lose time there is no getting it back. All this is to say that we have very limited time—in fact in the long run, not only do we have limited time, but we really have no idea how much time we have anyway—thus what we choose to do with our time is very important. Questions about time (how much to spend at work or at home, how much to put into a certain task, how much to leave free, etc.) are crucial. Too often we fail to think critically about time and end up over booking ourselves to the point where if we wrote down all our appointments and to do’s, a glance over them would probably yield the feeling that we thought we were omnipresent.

Busyness and Communion with God

The problem is not that we live in some kind of delusion about space-time limitations, but rather that in choosing to be busy we limit our ability to do other things. Specifically, we limit our ability to commune with God.

Have you ever tried to fit in a fifteen minute quiet time and noticed how often God seems to leave you hanging. You throw up a prayer, crack open your Bible and power skim a paragraph, and at the end of it all you don’t feel any less stressed and tempted or any more peaceful and spiritual. You don’t feel like you connected with God.

God does not operate how we operate. He doesn’t call and make an appointment. He shows up and gets to work often when he is least expected (and wanted). In this way busyness hinders our discipleship. It doesn’t stop God from doing what he wants to do, but it does stop us from having a meaningful connection to our Heavenly Father through his word and prayer.

There is much more that could be said here, but I don’t want to take too much time so I want to move on to a second issue busyness causes.

Busyness and Being the Body

A while back I easily fell into the first pattern. I found myself spending time in the word and prayer and becoming disillusioned with it because it had no meaning, I was rushed, I put God on the clock. After he convicted me of that and began to work in my heart as I slowed down and opened his word with intentionality and patience. However I fell into another error. I gave God as much time as he needed, but I reserved nothing for his people. I spent little time in my church community and had no availability to serve as part of the body.

This is all too common of an issue in our churches. We are not saved to become individualistic, me-and-Jesus Christians. Rather we are saved as individuals into a community and we must exist as both. We do this first and foremost because it pleases our Father and our savior. But also because it is commanded for our good. Part of discipleship is wrapped up in the service of one another as the body of Christ. Francis Schaeffer puts it this way:

We cannot have God’s power and deliberately place the Me in the center of our lives.  We cannot know much about walking in the Spirit until we realize and implement the washing of feet and the humility of the cross.

Without understanding and imitating Jesus stripping down and taking on the role of a servant for his disciples, we cannot gain the power of God (salvation and sanctification). I think Schaeffer hit the primary reason we fail to serve in and with the body on the head. We have placed the ME at the center of our lives. We are all ME Monsters.

The Root Cause

Here is where I want to close, because we have found the root cause of our struggles with busyness. Busy people are ultimately selfish people (there are a few exceptions: single mom, self supported college student, young newly wed couple, etc.). The things they fill their time with are about them. This then is the primary reason busyness hinders discipleship, because discipleship is ultimately about Jesus. After having read Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship (or Cost of Discipleship), I developed this definition:

Discipleship is a gift of grace given (by God) and received (by the elect) at a high cost, and is only offered through the call of (and by) Jesus Christ to follow, believe, and simply obey his commands—which are inseparable from suffering—as an individual, but which is worked out in the body of Christ—the church.

Thanks for reading,

t.d.h.

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