“Above all, measure your progress by your experience of the love of God and its exercise before men.” – William Wilberforce
SCRIPTURE: PSALM 1:2-3
“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness .For His name’s sake.”
The world is more complex than ever.
Do more and more with less and less- and do it faster and faster.
This is the oft- heard management strategy in our profusely overloaded age.
But what would JESUS THINK?
How would He respond if smart phones went off within the assembled crowds at the Sermon on the Mount?
• Jesus had little tolerance for clutter or complexity.
• He would not be distracted from HIS MISSION.
• Jesus loved people and He Loved the truth.
There was an unyielding simplicity about his approach.
His SIMPLICITY was all about FOCUS. “One thing is needful….” Are the words we remember.
Jesus practiced disciplines like solitude, prayer, and Sabbath because He sought the things above rather than the unfocused distractions of the world He came to save. And even though He was discipline and focused.
He was winsome to those with spiritual need.
• He served.
• He healed.
• He taught.
• He showed compassion.
People saw, and responded to His simple message.
Friends, Does your spiritual life sometimes seem more like a BURDEN than a BLESSING?
Have your spiritual practices become “just another thing to do” in an already overcrowded, stress –filled schedule?
We should expect part of the true spirituality to exhaust us, for it exists not merely for our own edification, but to serve the glory and purposes of God.
Jesus spiritual labours occasionally so fatigued HIM that he could remain asleep in an open boat in the middle of a lake during a life- threatening storm.
Likewise, the apostle Paul knew the depletion of inner resources that results from the willingness to “spend and be spent” for the sake of the souls of others.
Friends, all aspects of externalized spirituality – serving people’s needs , doing good works , taking the gospel to the spiritually lost, working in church ministries- expend the reserves of both body and soul.
There’s a problem, when the INFLOW of spiritual renewal doesn’t replenish the outflow of spiritual ministry. Our spiritual life should be the SOURCE of inner RECREATION and RESTORATION because it is the way we most directly experience the Lord Himself in daily life.
Through spiritual disciplines (rightly motivated and practiced) come many of the most refreshing blessings of knowing Christ.
However, as everything else in our lives becomes more complex, so can our spirituality.
One writer observed: “The pattern of over involvement, clutter, and busyness that is a part of our lives at home and at work will follow us into our spiritual lives unless we are vigilant”
With increasing prosperity and technology come increasing opportunities and options- even in our spiritual practices- that weren’t available a short time ago.
For instance, instead of simply sitting in a comfortable chair by a sunny window with our Bible, journal, and pen, now we can;
• Receive devotional readings sent daily by automatic e-mail.
• Read the Bible in several of the many translations we possess, including those on our computer.
• Make journal entries on the computer by keyboard or voice recognition software, inserting interesting graphics along with the text.
• Develop our devotional experience with worship – enhancing audio and / or video.
Friends, the growing of hurry and complexity affect the PRACTICE not only of our PERSONAL SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES, but also of our congregational spiritual disciplines.
Our CALENDARS are FULL, but our SOULS are EMPTY.
We need to REDISCOVER THE DISCIPLINES that have skipped generations but now are dusted off. …And brought back into the LIGHT for such a muddled time as this.
The TIME has come to EVALUATE whether what we are DOING in our SPIRITUAL LIVES is taking us where we want to go.
SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES FOR THE OVERWHELMED
(1). BEWARE OF PROGRESS
One of the warnings in Richard A. Swenson’s Margin and “The Overload Syndrome” is about the unexpected consequences of “progress”.
Although it promises to make life simpler, progress invariably leads to more complexity and frustration.
Listen to Swenson: MARGIN had been stolen away, and PROGRESS is the thief.
PROGRESS always gives us more and more of everything faster and faster….
There are only so many details that can be comfortably managed in anybody’s life. Once this number has been exceeded, one of two things happens: disorganization or frustration. Yet progress gives us more and more details every year- often at exponential rates. We have to deal with more “things per person” than ever before in the history of humankind…. Every year we have more products , more information, more technology, more activities , more choices, more change, more traffic, more commitments, more work.
In short, more of everything. Faster. This ever-present overloading is a natural function of progress. It is automatic.
Progress automatically leads to increasing overload , marginlessness, speed, change, stress, and complexity.
Friends, if we want margin back, we will first have to do something about progress.
Progress is not going to slow down. We can count on more and more from here on out.
Solution- Contentment and simplicity …. will help.
Abiding by scriptures teaching concerning money, possessions, education and priorities will help.
ILLUSTRATION: The Wealthy Man and the Shoemaker
There was once an old shoemaker and his wife who believed they had the most happiest life they could ever imagine.
• Every day the old shoe maker would make his shoes and the children from the town would come in to his work shop and listen to him as he whistled his happy songs and told his happy stories.
Not far from the shoe makers work shop there lived a rich man who lived in a big dark mansion. He was not married and he was always alone.
• Every evening the old shoemaker would walk home and whistle his merry song. To get to his little cottage he had to walk past the big mansion and wonder.
• He would wonder how it was to be rich.
One day as he was walking home whistling his merry song he decided he would pop in and say hello to the lonely rich man. He opened the big gate and walked up the shiny marble stairs.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
He knocked on the big wooden door and it was answered by a man in a black tuxedo.
“Yes?”He said in a gloomy voice.
“Hello there. My name is Charlie.
I work as the local shoemaker. Please to meet you.”
“Oh,” he said again in a gloomy voice, “I guess you want to come in then?”
“I was only dropping by to introduce myself that’s all,” replied the shoe maker.
“Come on then,” said the man.
After a while the rich man and the shoemaker started talking.
When it was time to go the man gave the shoe maker a bag of gold.
“Thank you,” said the man.
Then the shoe maker went home.
• He counted all his money and he realized he had 1 million dollars.
• He became very moved and tried his best to look after his bag of gold.
• He would hide it under his pillow so no-one would steal it and because it was so uncomfortable he got no sleep and became very irritable for five days.
His wife became very sad that her husband was turning in to an old irritable soul.
• He would no longer whistle his merry songs or tell his happy stories and the local children no longer came to his work shop.
Finally on the fifth day he realized that he was being irritable and making life miserable for every one else.
• He took his million dollars back to the lonely rich man.
“I am sorry but I can’t take your money.”
He became once again a very happy soul and gradually the children came back to listen to his merry songs and his happy stories.” If I had a million dollars I would try to make peoples’ lives happy.
Swenson continues, “Progress’s biggest failure has been its inability to nurture and protect right relationships.”
…..including our relationships with family, friends, church, and most importantly, God.
Friends, let’s ENSURE that the NONSTOP SPIRAL of the world’s economic and technological progress doesn’t cause us to FORGET that GOD is more interested in the PROGRESS of our relationship with HIM and with PEOPLE.
William Wilberforce – nineteenth –century statesman said this:
“Above all, measure your progress by your experience of the love of God and its exercise before men.”