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About this series
Balancing Life's Demands
Biblical Priorities for a Busy Life
Are you busy, tired, stressed out, and stretched to the limit? Does life seem a little out of control? Are you running long on "to do's" and short on time? In the series, Balancing Life's Demands, you will learn how to put "first things first" and find peace in the midst of pressure and adversity. This isn't about cliches or quick fixes, just practical biblical insights to help you order your personal world.More from this series
Well, let me give you two tools. There are two things we have to do to get a hold of our priorities. Two ways.
Number one: In order to get a hold of your priorities, you must start with your time. T-I-M-E. I’ll give you an Old and New Testament passage. First, it’s the only psalm that Moses wrote. Toward the end, he says, “The length of . . . days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due You.” Application: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” If we were doing some quick Bible study, verse 10, he says, basically, life’s brevity – it’s gonna be short. Verse 11: There’s coming judgment. You’re gonna give an account for what you do in this life. Verse 12: Therefore, pray, “God, give me wisdom. Show me how to live this life.” I mean, this is written by Moses, who did, – I’m not sure how it all worked out, but he probably did about a million or a million and a half funerals. That’s sobering. You get a little perspective on what matters. Right? I mean, I’ve done a lot of funerals. I’ve never done one, to date, that I didn’t just get a gut check about my own mortality.
I have a friend I was doing a little mentoring with – and he’s a very zealous guy – and his boss couldn’t do something, so he got this project. And his project was to interview – at first, I didn’t know what he meant – centenarians. And he said, “I have five or ten of these centenarians, and I’m gonna travel around and interview them.” And so, I just acted like, “Oh, yeah. Yeah. Boy, that sounds exciting.” You know, it’s people that were a hundred years old or older.
And so, I saw him later, and I said, “Well, hey, how’d it go?” He said, “It was really amazing. They all had one thing in common.” They said, universally, two things. Number one, “We way overemphasized our accomplishments, and all the things that we thought were such big accomplishments, after four or five or six decades, we realized they weren’t such a big deal. And we underestimated the value of our families and relationships.” Now, former workaholic, driven, focused, disciplined – why? ‘Cause I gotta impact, I gotta make a difference, I gotta prove to me, probably, and maybe to God, or to someone, that I’m worthwhile, that I’m significant, and you ought to like me, and my life matters, and I’m gonna make a difference.
And God wants us to make a difference. But He wants us to make a difference according to His calling. He wants us to use our time wisely. He wants us to discern and to number our days. And you know, Moses is a guy, too, that, for – at about 40, with a lot of zeal, said, “You know what? I think I know God’s will. He wants me to deliver.” And Moses, and his great strength and his flesh, killed one Egyptian and didn’t have the wherewithal to even bury him well. Really? And so, he went on – you know, sometimes we think, Well, life’s passing by. I’ll never accomplish what God wants me to. Forty years of training about learning how to trust God and discover who He was, and then out of trust, God says, “Moses, watch this. I can bury them all, the entire army, and no one comes up afterwards.”
And a lot of us have to discover, are you gonna live your life and seek to do – and by the way, with people like us, it’s not like we’re usually out doing all these bad things. It’s all these good things that are killing you, that you’re doing good things for the wrong reasons that aren’t God’s unique calling for you.
And so, you’re multitasking, and you’re overloaded, and you’re overextended, and you’re all – all those meals and those cars and going to all those practices and doing all that stuff and attending stuff you don’t even like, that you just feel you ought/should, ought/should, ought/should, expectation, visible – where’s it come from? I don’t know. You just do it. Just do it. Just do it. Just do it. You know? And then you – you crash, and then you’re tired, and so you put on the TV, and, you know, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.
My wife watched me watch TV one time, and she goes, “You make me dizzy.” This is before they had letters behind your names and talked about what you were like. I said, “You know, honey, what I’ve realized is, when I get tired, when I lose focus, and when I don’t want to think, when a commercial comes, I’m bored. So, I’ll watch part of this, part of this, part of this, part of this. You know what? It drains me.”
One of the disciplines I’m going into right now is realizing, one, I have to limit even really good media, and I have to realize, I’m trying to control everything. Part of – quarter one of this, part of one of this, part of an old movie. Hey – and in my brain, hey, I’m kind of watching them all. Wonder how that one’s coming over here? Now, the reason you’re laughing is, there are other people that are as wacko as me! This is true, in this room! He says, “Our time.”
Notice what the apostle Paul would say. He says, “Therefore” – he’s talked about who we are in Christ. He’s talked about being different from the world. Verse 15 of Ephesians 5: “Therefore be careful how you walk.” It’s that metaphor for the way you live, or your whole life.
Negatively, “Not as [an] unwise men but as wise.” Do you get that idea? Wisdom. Discerning God’s will and doing it God’s way. “Making the most of your time” – circle the word time in your notes. Why? “Because the days are evil.” And he thought it was evil then, what do you think about now? “So then do not be foolish.”
When you have misplaced priorities and you’re spending your life, instead of investing it, it’s foolish. “[Don’t] be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
You know, that word, time – in the New Testament, there’s a couple of different words for it. One is – we get our word chronology – chronos. You know, it’s time, like, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 11 minutes. The other is a different word, called kairos, and it has the idea of a window of opportunity. It’s, like, during this window of opportunity.
Do you know what? There’s a window of opportunity, when your kids are between about two and six or seven, of unique spirituality of training. I text my boys, they all have little kids, and you know, I try not to be too pushy, but it’s like, “Hey, guys, I just want you to know, whatever you do, keep reading those Bible stories at night. Tuck your kids in; don’t let your wife have all the fun. Tell them stories about you.” And then there’s a window of time in pre-teens and teens. There’s a window of time in early adulthood. There’s a window in time in your life, and you’re in it.
There are certain things that happen in this season – some that are in the 20s, some in the 30s, some in the 40s, some in the 50s, some in the 60s, some in the 70s, and beyond. But there’s a window. There’s a window for activity; there’s a window for mentoring. There’s a window for risk. There’s a window of time. Buy up the opportunity. And what we tend to do is have some success in the last window and hang on to it, and God is always asking us, “Take risks. Trust Me.” So, you’ve gotta get your time under control.
I was at a banquet last night, and I spoke on a title called “Good to Great, in God’s Eyes,” and it was a group of people that had been successful in their endeavors, and I was encouraging them that the temptation, when you have done some things that have come out pretty well, is to rest on your laurels, instead of, you know, that your best days are out of your windshield, instead of your rear view mirror. When you find yourself always talking about what you did, what you did, what you did, what you did – you know, pinch yourself. That ain’t now. Faith is always futuristic. What are you trusting God for? You’re here. What can you do today, so that . . .?
And, you know, I didn’t mean it to be all that challenging, but it was really fun. They were really warm. And I love it. This couple came up, and they said, “You know, man, God really spoke to me.” And I said, “Well, great,” you know, and we talked a little bit – five, ten minutes – and then the guy goes, “Well, how?” I said, “Well, what do you mean?” He said, “Well, how?” He said, “You know, I own my own business; she’s doing this. We got so much stuff, so many people, so many commitments, so many committees, so much stuff.” I mean, they’re just pillar kind of people, you know? They’re on this committee, and they’re doing this in the church, doing this, doing this, dzzzzzz. I said, “You gotta hear from God.” “Well, I don’t have time to hear from God.” I said, “Did you just hear yourself?”
I’m gonna give you a very brief – and this may be elementary. The greatest single gift God gave me, as a early Christian, was a bricklayer with a high school education. More than anything I’ve learned in seminary, more than any travel I’ve had, any book that I’ve ever read, any mentor I’ve ever known – the single greatest gift God has ever given me was a bricklayer, who came on Tuesday morning, after I was a Christian for three months. I did not usually want to meet with him early on.
And he knocked on my door, and he taught me how to have what he called a “quiet time.” It sounded kind of weird to me, but nobody else was up at 7:00 in my dorm, so I guess it was quiet.
And I struggled, and I couldn’t get up, and finally, my roommate set an alarm and, you know, I got to where I could get up in the morning. And, unlike many people, I like breakfast. And so, I just made a rule, not legalistically, but just ‘cause I wanted to, because I was so undisciplined – I just said, “No Bible, no breakfast.” And I developed the habit – and it was only, like, 10, 15 minutes, early on.
And then, after a year or so, it was fun. And God was speaking to me. And all of a sudden, I thought, He knows everything, and I could ask Him about that test at 1:00, and I could ask Him about, you know, this relationship’s not going so well. I think I’ll check in with Him on that. And pretty soon, I started talking to Him, and no one told me, but I went and got, at the bookstore, one of those little simple, spiral notebook things, like, 89 cents, and then I started just writing stuff down. You know, I’d never read the Bible before – “Hey, God, this is Chip. What do You think about –” And I would write these things down, and, “Would You help me with this?” And then I would go back and read it. I started checking them off.
I started doing that about 30 years ago, and it was hard, at first, and then, probably 15, maybe 18 years or so ago, I just remember saying, “God, I don’t know how much time we need. I just love being with You now.” It was diligence, diligence, duty, duty, “I’m gonna meet with You when I don’t feel like it; I’ll meet You when I do, and sometimes it’s really good, and sometimes okay, but God –” And I remember just going to be a little early, “You wake me up.” And He woke me up pretty early. And I got up and made a pot of coffee, and I found a corner, and I just said, “Thank You. What would make You happy today? You want me to sing to You? Want me to thank You? You got something for me?” And I just had a little plan. And for 30 years, the first hour or so of my day has been meeting with God.
And all I can tell you people is, it just clears the junk away. All those pressures, all those demands, all that dysfunction, all that expectation, all that list of “got-tos.” Most of my list of “got-tos” – literally, in my journal, and sometimes I can’t pray ‘cause there are all these things to do, and I’ll just start writing them up, and I put a little box. And so, instead of “I got to do,” “God, will You please help me with the following this day, and show me how to . . .” And then I list the 11 things that come – least that come to my mind – Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And then I take those, and I give them to God. And then I pray. And then, instead of the “to-dos,” God will bring to my mind some of the “to-bes”: How’s Theresa being in this area? What about that guy that you met on that trip, how’s he being?”
And here’s all I want to say: If you will give the first portion of your time to God, He will clear away and show you what to do and what not to do, where to go and where not to go, what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to, and give you the courage to say “no” to it.
And so, I put in here, actually, a simple little way. I don’t believe you need to meet with God in the morning, first. I know some of you are night owls, and you just really turn it on at midnight, when I’ve been in bed for a while. So, I don’t mean this legalistically. But I will say, if you have a hard time, and you’re really inconsistent, my theory was, do what matters most, first. Do what matters most, first. No matter what happens in the day, if I meet with the God of the universe, I’ve had a pretty good day. Get hit by a car later? Okay, you know, I’ve had a good day. To me, when I stop, when I pray, when I discipline myself and say, “God, I’m gonna be here, and I want to be with You first,” what I’m saying is, “I’m humble. I can’t do it. I can’t make the decisions.”
Checking my email, checking the stock market, making sure this is done, making sure that is done – wait a second, what’s that about? I don’t control the world. All that stuff’ll be there an hour later, or a half hour later. Stop! Cease striving. Literally. My translation of that one is, “Knock it off!” I mean, that’s kind of – that’s the Chip Hebrew: “Knock it off! Quit trying to make so much happen and orchestrate everything, and know that I’m God. I’m in control. And by the way, I’m not only in control, I love you. And I’m good, and I’m for you. And I miss you.”
And so, there are a lot of ways to study the Bible, but one of the early ways that gets you in the text – because my fear, in our day, is, we have everybody eating predigested, Gerber’s spiritual food. That means someone else studied real hard, and you read what they say, and there’s a little verse at the end, and you say, “Praise the Lord, amen.” And you know what? It’s not that it’s bad. It’s a great appetizer. Strength and convictions and power and courage to do the will of God is when your nose gets in the Word for yourself, and the Spirit of God takes it off that page and does something in your heart and gives you the strength to say, “Yes! Thus says the Lord for me.” Not, He said it through some other person – and God bless all the great teachers and all the great ways, I love them all - but there’s no substitute.
And so, this little 2PROAPT . . . You know, I put it here, if you’re a newer Christian, I encourage you to start in the Book of Mark, and if you’re an older Christian – just ‘cause it’s so application oriented – James. And the two PROAPT – you know those initials? What do they call them, acronyms or something? You know, the two “Ps,” “R,” “O” – so are you ready? I’ll just go through it real quickly.
You start, and you pray, “Dear God, will You speak to me today?” And then I don’t want you to read a whole lot, maybe a couple of paragraphs, at the most, and then the “R” – the first one is “R.” You read it quickly. You just read it real quickly to get the general idea. Then, second “R” is, you read it slowly, and preferably out loud. It’s amazing what happens the second time.
And then the “O” is for observation. You read it a third time. See, you don’t take so much. You slow it down, and you dig into it. And this time, if there’s a word that’s repeated, you underline it, or if something sticks out to you, you might circle it.
And so, you’ve previewed it, then you’ve read it slowly out loud, and then you read it real slowly, making some observations, and then the “A” is for application. And it’s only a couple of paragraphs, but you say, “God, speak to me.” And then, just think, Well, let’s see, this is a letter of encouragement. Nothing really stuck out, but it was encouraging... Hold it, do I know anybody that needs encouragement? Before I go, I tell you what – I’m gonna jot a note to Bob. I haven’t seen him in . . . And do something. Spiritual growth is not about getting more Bible knowledge in your head; it’s about responding to the truth and the light that He gives you.
Isn’t that what Jesus said at the parable of the seed and the sowers? Here’s how life works. You respond to the truth God gives you, He gives you more truth. You don’t respond to the truth and the light that He gives you, then even what you have’ll be taken away. We’ve got a generation of people that know so much about God but don’t have an “epiginosko” – an intense, personal, relational knowledge of Him - because that doesn’t come through the head. That comes through application and the heart. At the end of the day, you want to hear God. You want to hear His voice. What’s He want to say to you from the Word?
And then the “T” is, you tell somebody. ‘Cause there’s just something – and you don’t have to go, “Hey, everybody, I want you to know I spent 15 minutes in God’s Word today. I did the 2PROAPT method – dut, dut, dut. Now, here’s what I want to tell you.” You know, they’ll just run you off the job. But you know, in a casual way, to people that you know – and it might be – you know, there’s a guy lives in Texas; he’s a good buddy, we speak couple of times a week.
And we’ll just say, “Hey, what’d you read? Where’s God speaking to you?” And he’ll share, and I’ll share. Or, often, in the car, I’ll say, “Honey, where’d you read this morning?” And she’ll tell me, and I’ll tell her. And it’s not like I’m checking up on her. You kidding? She’s way further down the road than me. But it’s just, when you tell, it kind of seals it.
So that’s a little method that’s been very helpful for me.
So, tool number one – and this is just to get you started. Tool number one: If you’re gonna get a hold of your time, I believe you’ve gotta start by saying, “God, I got all these pulls, all these demands. I’m gonna give the first block, or the best block, of my time” – whenever that is, for me it’s the morning – “to You, and I’m gonna ask You to start sorting out my life.” And I will tell you, it’ll be dramatic.
The second tool that will help you get a hold of your priorities is your money. Jesus spoke more about money than heaven and hell, combined, and I think He could actually care less about your money. He needs none of it. But your money reflects your values. Your money reflects your heart. Wherever your money goes – imagine, just every time you put that credit card down, every time you write a check, every time you spend money, every time you invest money, what you’re saying is – here’s your heart. There’s a little chain connected to it. And wherever your money goes – your treasure – that’s where your heart goes.
Your heart always follows the money.
And that’s why, sometimes, when I’ve wanted God to change my heart – I’ve actually had a problem with someone, you know, they kind of did something bad to me, and I didn’t like them very well, and I’m having trouble forgiving them, and they were involved in ministry, I started giving a little to their ministry. I’ll tell you what, your heart always has to follow your money!
And so, what He wants is, He wants your heart. “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops. Then” – notice, this isn’t a – prohibitive – “then your barns will be filled [with] overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9 and 10. You all know, probably, many, many verses, and by the way, the giving is not about just giving. God owns it all, correct? The earth and all thereof is the Lord’s.
So, He evaluates the 10 or 15 or 20 or 80 percent that I give away – wherever you’re at in your life – and all that I keep. I’m a steward of it. I’m just the manager. Your money will tell you – I will tell you this, if we didn’t know each other at all, you give me your PDA for a half hour, or your calendar, your canceled checks – however you work it – you let me see your time and see your money, and I will give you a diagnosis of where you’re at in your life, that, if you were honest, you’d say, “Oh, my lands, that is so true.”
And that’s why, what we’re gonna talk a little bit later about – the need to have relationships where people – it’s amazing to me – where people can really talk about this with one another. I mean, I’ve done a couple of these big men movement things, you know.
Now, we’re secure men. We’re talking about accountability like never before. “Hey, hey, Jim! Let’s all get around here and be real men. Let’s share, you know? So, how’s your sex life? You been on the ‘Net? No, I –” I mean, guys’ll talk about sex, struggles, all kind of things now, but you look at a guy and say, “Excuse me, we’ve been friends for quite a while. What percent of your income do you give, and where do you give it?”
You know what? Next year – you know what’d be helpful in our Bible study? Let’s do this: Let’s all bring our tax statements, and we’ll pass them . . . I’m dead serious. I’m dead serious. Let’s pass them to the left and let the other person give an evaluation of how – you tell me why that is off limits. It’s ‘cause it reveals the very heart and the very values of who we really are.
One of the biggest steps for me was, there’s a guy in California that just – he’s funny. He kind of has this picture of how things might develop. And so, he says, “Chip, this is what’s gonna happen to you.” He says, “Someday, if that happens, some books are gonna sell, and you might get some money.” And he said, “Okay, I’m helping you start this radio ministry” – he was the first guy, and one other guy – “and I really believe in it. But here’s part of the deal. I want you to tell me, so what are you doing with your money?”
And about every other time I go to California, Ron and I get together, and we met in San Jose. We got coffee, talk – and I mean, he’s – “So, how’re you and Theresa really doing? Hmm? You know, you out there? You – you – you –” And he talks to me like this. “So, you’re not thinking you’re some big shot now, are you, and all this jazz, right? Right? I mean, you’re not believing all that press, okay? Just us chickens here.” He said, “So, how much you make last year? I mean, include if there’s any book sales. Now, remember, you predecided to give away, that big chunk of anything that ever comes in. Are you still doing that? So, how much, total? How much – now, where are you giving it? What are you – Chip, that’s stupid. Hey, that’s, you know – look, I got a guy . . . If you keep doing that, your retirement – your wife’s gonna kill you.”
And – I mean – but he’s direct with me. And you know how safe it is to open up my finances to someone? And you know how scary it is, knowing I’m gonna meet with him in California, probably, every, nine or ten months? You know what? It’s a good thing! I want to have a good report! But the heart is – what? Deceitful. And that is where a lot of us… you have to get a hold of your time; you have to get a hold of your money. And this is not a legalistic, “I’m now giving ‘X’ percent, and now –” No, I’m talking about your money, as it relates to your heart.
You know, it’d be interesting – some of you, you know, have your nice, black American Express, or your Platinum Express, your Gold Express, your lead or your mileage or … Have I got everyone in the room yet, or should I keep going? Right?
And then, at the end of the year, they give you that list of, “Okay, here’s your end-of-the-year credit card statement,” unless you have sworn them off and are free and liberated and debt free and figured out other ways to do it, which is a good idea, too. But have you ever seen where they have the categories? So much in food, so much in travel, so much in . . . You know, if you just looked at that and said, “Wow! Exactly right! Can you eat that much in one year? I mean, can you shop that much? I mean, how much . . .”
And all I’m saying is, let’s get off of being down on ourselves. Let’s try just getting real with ourselves, getting honest with God. He loves you so much that He wants you to learn to give, so that He can give – good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, back into your lap. He wants you to learn to budget and say, “This is Yours, and I want to be a good steward.” And He wants you – are you ready for this? ‘Cause some of you are looking so serious. First Timothy 6:18 – He wants you not to fix your hope on the uncertainty of riches, but – are you ready? – He wants you to richly enjoy every good thing He gives you. He wants you to take a great vacation and have a great steak, and have some real fun and have your priorities in order, so instead of going, “Oh, I feel guilty about this,” where you enjoy it. ‘Cause, you know, it’s the blessed hand of God upon your life.
And you’re not making excuses. ‘Cause I’m just so tired of someone saying, “Oh, well, you know, I got it on sale.” Or, you know, “The only reason we got that swimming pool – that swimming pool is for baptisms. Baptisms… you know? And, you know, that house in the mountains – our pastor – our pastor’s really tired. The house in the mountman, it has nothing to do with, you know, it’s a good real estate investment and I like to get away, and God’s blessed me. I’m giving a ton of money away, and I love the mountains, and my family’s there, and it’s really wonderful, and I just have a blast there. No, it’s uh, pastoral staff, we felt that they needed a place to get away a couple of times a year.” By the way, let him go there, though, okay? I have benefited greatly from some of you doing that. God loves you, guys. He wants you to look at those six areas and be honest. How you doing?
So, how do you get your money under control? Four steps. Number one, give the first portion of each paycheck to the Lord. And for some of you, you gotta have a really hard talk, and you’re gonna say, “Oh, my, and how can we do it?” It’s a faith step. Give the first portion to the Lord.
Second, pay your bills next. Don’t take a vacation. Don’t spend your money. Don’t go to Costco. Don’t buy something on sale. Okay? Money comes in. Here are all your bills, in one spot. Give to God the first; pay all your bills next. Novel idea: Live on the rest. You don’t have it, don’t spend it.
I mean, we can well afford it now, but we have a blue folder that Theresa and I – we do the bills together, ‘cause we both don’t like it. And every two weeks, I get a paycheck. We open a blue folder. In one pocket is all the bills that have come in. We pull them out and put them in the middle. We have a wonderful cup of coffee to make it fun. I write out all the checks. She puts them in the envelope, and she does the little ledger so that it’s accurate, because I’m … not as accurate. And then, we give first, we pay all of our bills, and then we talk: How much is left? And then I write a check that has our gas money, our recreation, and two or three other things, and she goes to the bank later, and we put that money in an envelope that says “Budget.” And we put it under the duck. So, if you ever want to rob my house, it’s under the duck, all right?
And you know what? When there’s no money in the envelope, you don’t go out to eat. Now, can I still afford to go out to eat? Of course, I can, at this stage of my life. But do you understand that the average person in America is spending about 17 percent more than they bring in every month? Do you understand, last year, more college students – I heard this on the radio, so don’t ask me to quote it, but, I mean, if it’s on the radio, you know it’s true. I mean, it’s almost as reliable as the Internet. I mean, if it’s on the Internet, it’s gotta be true! You know. But seriously, it was one of those Dave Ramsey programs - more college students went bankrupt than graduated from college last year. So, give to the Lord first, pay your bills, live on the rest, and then get out of debt.
The very busiest day of Jesus’ life is recorded in Mark 1:35, and He has healed, and there are demands and there are pressures, and you think you’ve got a tough life. He’s pulled on from everyone. And it says, “A great while before dawn, He went out and found a solitary place, and there, He prayed.” I believe Jesus is modeling for us the demands to keep your life in focus.
I believe I think I know what He prayed. I think He prayed, “Lord, I’m being pulled, and everybody wants Me to do everything. They want Me to go to these towns, and everyone is sick, and they have these demands, and they’re pulling on Me. They Me to heal them. They want Me to feed them. They want Me to do everything. Will You please remind Me while I’m here?” You know how I know that? Because the disciples came and said, “Jesus, You were a hit last night. It was awesome! All those healings. It’s going crazy. There’s a big crowd. I mean, we are big time, and we’re glad to be on Your team.” And remember what He said to them? “I must” – and in the Greek, it’s a must of Dei, it’s a divine necessity – “I must preach the Gospel, and we must go to other villages, for the Son of Man” – Luke will tell us later – “came to seek and to save that which is lost.” Jesus prayed to remember, “Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? I need to hear the Father’s voice in the midst of all the noise.”
That’s God’s will for you and me, and we’re on a journey and a process. It’s not gonna happen all at once. Six symptoms, two tools – time, money – an open heart. Let’s go there together, okay?