Busyness In The Service Of The King
We live in a world that rushes like a car with the accelerator jammed to the floor and the body thrown back in the seat. Life exists at a high rate of speed, a dizzy blur to the passengers on board. The extreme pressures of demanding schedules touch our jobs, our homes, and our churches, at times threatening to shear the very rivets of our beings.
Unrelenting busyness is the norm for life. There is always one more deadline, one more appointment, and never enough time. Does it ever end? Our schedules fill up – our responsibilities increase – the pressures mount. We reach a point of overload, feeling as helpless as a falling leaf swirling in a storm, as hopeless as a flaming meteor rocketing downward to earth.
Our schedules for the Lord are no exceptions. They experience the same time demands. We have lesson preparation, Sunday School class, morning worship service, children’s church, carry-in dinners, Sunday School picnics, rest-home ministry, church softball league, evening church, after-church fellowships, youth group activities, mid-week services, weekly Bible studies, committee meetings, deacon meetings, missionary groups, choir practice, prayer meetings, prayer breakfasts, visitation programs, hospital calls, Bible clubs, Vacation Bible School, work nights, discipleship sessions and counselling – Phew! But all are very valuable in the life of the committed believer.
But, strange as it may seem, this very service for the Lord can come between us and our God when we allow our busy schedules to become the driving force in our lives instead of His Spirit. Service ceases to be a sweet offering to the King but becomes merely an end in itself, another commitment in an all-too-busy schedule, crowding out our relationships with God, family, other believers, and extinguishing the joy of our salvation.
Our situation is not unique. Moses faced the same fierce battles for his time, the urgency of the immediate, the pressure in the service of his God.
Pressure In The Service Of The King
THE CRISIS – Exodus 18: 13-16
For Moses the situation was dire. He was woefully overcommitted and on the brink of burnout. Moses was God’s chosen leader for Israel, the lone judge among the millions of Jacob. Every question, every controversy, was brought before him, as God’s mouthpiece to the people, so he could inquire of God and decide the matter. He was exclusively responsible, as God’s representative, for the spiritual and political welfare of the nation – an awesome task few would covet.
Picture the mayor of Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles or any other large city without the aid of city council, state or federal authorities, courts or police. Then compound the situation by placing a people accustomed to living in civilized areas out in a wilderness with periodic shortages in food, water and shelter. This situation would be very similar to what Moses had on his hands. Every problem, every decision stopped at the feet of one man – Moses.
What a crushing weight of responsibility. The task was enormous, the needs of the people urgent, the time pressures acute with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel for the backlog.
Verse 13 tells us “that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.” Moses had stretched as far as one could humanly stretch without breaking. He was working 16 hours a day, six days a week, 96 hours a week, literally every waking hour with no headway. He was on the downward spiral of impending disaster.
While in the wilderness, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought Moses’ wife and children to meet him. Jethro was shocked at the situation. In verse 14 he asked, “What is this thing that thou doest to the people? Why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto evening?” In other words, Why the 90 hour work week? What are you doing?”
In defense, Moses gave the best of reasons – he was God’s servant, and this was the Lord’s work. “Because the people come unto me to inquire of God… and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws” (vv. 15-16). It was paramount that the people understand the laws of God. This was the ministry and job of Moses. What could be wrong with that?
THE SOLUTION – Exodus 18:17-22
Jethro was an up-front kind of guy, not mincing words. He told Moses, “The thing that thou doest is not good” (v. 17). He was careful not to criticize Moses’ calling, or his ministry, or even Moses’ reasoning. He simply objected to his extreme busyness and overcommitment.
He warned in verse 18, “Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that are with thee; for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.” Jethro told Moses he was headed for personal disaster and burnout. He was on a downward spiral, hurling like a stone in the night with the only uncertainty being when, not if, impact would occur. Jethro argued that the people would follow Moses down as well since the weight rested solely on him.
Jethro suggested that Moses share the burden of work more efficiently. He envisioned a system of godly judges under Moses, freeing Moses to decide only the most difficult matters. Jethro’s warning brought Moses to a full realization that he was not the only godly man in Israel, that he was not the only man capable of making a right decision, and that getting an ulcer, losing his family or going to an early grave would not bring honor to the God he served. He knew he could not handle it alone and that the people needed more.
THE RESULT – Exodus 18:23-26
One must always be careful to evaluate human counsel in the light of God’s Word and to seek the Lord’s will in all matters. Jethro carefully conditioned his solution to the problem upon the Lord’s guidance: “If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so” (v. 23).
It is apparent that the Lord did guide Moses to follow this path of time management, with invaluable results. There was peace for the people; their needs were met. There was peace for Moses; he no longer lived on the pale of existence with his back against the wall, falling further and further behind. Time management produced greater effectiveness in his ministry and service for the Lord.
Perspective In The Service Of The King
It is very significant in Psalm 90 (the only known psalm by Moses) that the Spirit directed him to write on the subject of time.
From the 40 laid back years tending sheep to the 40 grueling years judging God’s people, Moses had both extremes. He had gained a perspective of time and service for the Lord that perhaps few others had. In Psalm 90, which is actually a prayer, Moses details a godly perspective of time through a number of simplistic, yet profound, thoughts.
GOD IS NOT BOUNDED BY TIME – Psalm 90:1-4
Moses was overwhelmed with a sense of awe that God is not bounded nor affected by time. In verse one he affirms that Jehovah was the same God who had protected and guided their fathers – the God of his ancestors. “LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations” (v. 1).
Moses proceeds to ascribe the work of creation to Jehovah, the God of creation. The mountains, the land and the world – these physical things with great age had all been created by God who preexisted them all.
According to verse two, not only did God preexist them, but He has no beginning or ending – the God of all eternity: “even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” He is the infinite One, an attribute unique to God and attested to repeatedly in Scripture (Ps. 41:13; 93:2; Hab. 1:12; Mic. 5:2).
In verse three He is the God who controls time, specifically the lifespan of man: “Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Return, ye children of men.”
Finally in verse four, He is the God to whom time is meaningless. It is nothing in His sight. To illustrate this truth, using Hebrew poetry Moses says, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” One thousand years is an incredibly long time to man’s way of thinking, yet to God it is as yesterday. From today’s perspective, yesterday seems to have passed so quickly. It is also like a watch in the night, just a few hours that come and go very quickly.
MAN IS FINITE – Psalm 90:5-11
At the same time, Moses is reminded that we are finite creatures with only a few short years on this earth to serve God. God is not limited by time, but man is. Moses pounds this truth home like the surf on the shore, using illustrations from his familiar surroundings.
In verse five, he compares the duration of men’s lives to the stubble washed away by a flash flood – gone in an instant. The wilderness soil forms a coating of mud slime on the surface when it rains, making water saturation nearly impossible. As a result, even small amounts of rainfall collect rapidly and produce a flash flood that unexpectedly sweeps away everything in its path.
He also likens the lives of men to a night’s sleep. By morning, the whole night seems like an instant, as if it had never occurred.
He continues by comparing men’s lives to the wilderness grass, which has a very short growing season. The winter rains come. The grass is green for a short time, but the first dry wind of late spring causes it to wither. Any glory the grass had was a false glory. It quickly faded, leaving nothing behind. Likewise, in verses seven and eight sinful man’s life is consumed by the heat of God’s judgment. The very fact that all men face death is proof of God’s Judgment on sin because of the fall.
In verse 9 Moses compares “our years as a tale that is told.” In a brief moment it is told and then the mystique and wonder is gone, never again to be repeated. Yet, by God’s grace, man lives an average of 70 years upon the face of this earth, sometimes even 80 years, although neither are guaranteed. Death is certain, and soon “we fly away.” Just as a bird bursts into flight and is quickly out of sight, so too are our lives like a brief flight. Man is finite and governed by time.
LIFE MUST NOT BE WASTED – Psalm 90:12
Finally, Moses is so moved by the brevity of life that he cries out, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” As God’s servant he had to account for each moment as to whether it was wisely spent in the light of eternity. Life from God’s perspective is too brief, too valuable to be wasted.
Productivity In The Service Of the King
Productivity, known as stewardship, has a vital place in the life of the believer.
Most would shudder at the thought of unmanaged finances. Balancing the checkbook may be an unpleasant and tedious task, but it is necessary to avoid severe financial straits. God-given resources must rightfully be managed as part of good stewardship. Yet, most people give only fleeting thought toward managing their God-given time, risking far greater consequences.
The one who always cries, Too busy, but never manages his time is like the one who constantly bounces checks but refuses to look at his bank statement. It is suicidal, no matter how you look at it. No plan – no management – come what may. When the pressure is on, we begin to steal time from the rest of our lives. Like Moses, we start the long spiral downward, like a plane hit in the crossfire of overcommitment, ready to crash and burn. Every area of our life suffers, particularly our walk with God. Meaning in life ceases to be found in the presence of the King but is sought rather in the business of the King.
What is the solution? Do we sit tight, hoping life will get easier? Do we pull back from serving the Lord? Often it is not that we are really too busy but too wasteful. We are masters at wasting our God-given time.
It is staggering to realize that only 20 minutes used more effectively each day would give us three 40-hour work weeks each year. Not that every moment must be work – there is a time for everything: a time to work, a time to relax, a time to worship, a time to be with family. Proper stewardship of our time allows us to enjoy it to its fullest.
In the area of time stewardship there are many fallacies that darken our minds – fallacies which we may embrace as if they were foundational universal truths.
Fallacy # 1 – “If I only had more time…”
God has given us all the time we need to do His will in His way. This type of attitude may indicate that we are either in areas He never desired or, more often, are wasting the time He has given us.
Fallacy #2 – “If I had the time that someone else has…”
God gave each of us 24 hours yesterday, seven days last week, and 12 months last year. The use of time is a decision process, not a product of fate.
Fallacy #3 – “I will make up the time.”
Time is a nonrenewable resource, a gift from our God. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. We cannot produce it nor can we control it. We can only manage our lives within it.
Fallacy #4 – “Time is money.”
Time and money are not synonymous. Lost wealth can be regained; not so with time. With time one can earn money, but all the finances in the world cannot buy even one second of time. More accurately, time is life – a God-given opportunity to serve Him – and time is in God’s control.
Fallacy #5 – “Busyness is next to godliness.”
This is the unspoken battle cry of our day. Scripture strongly rebukes slothfulness, yet busyness is not the road to godliness. Our Lord corrected Martha when she was more concerned with busyness than with godliness (Lk. 10:38-42). It is better said that obedience is next to godliness. Only obedience to our King can bring godliness and the balance needed in our busy lives.
Our God has entrusted to each of us a precious amount of time here on earth – time to serve Him and bring honor to His name. Misuse of our time is a sin, just as is wasting the Lord’s money. May the prayer of Moses be our prayer:
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps. 90-12).
May we be reminded that the wisest and greatest use of our time is to use it for that which will outlast time – the things of God. Servanthood is our highest privilege, yet busyness in the service of the King is not excuse for neglecting the King.
Kevin Howard trusted the Savior through the influence of his godly parents. He is a graduate of Cedarville College. For the past three years, he has served on the staff of The Friends of Israel as Director of Data Processing and Assistant to the Director.