GUARDING YOUR SCHEDULE (AND SOUL) IN THE NEW YEAR
January 9, 2017
By Ted Cunningham
In Part 1 of “Guarding Your Schedule (and Soul) in the New Year” we saw how God wants us to pursue ministry and enjoy a life in which time is not the enemy. Hurry kills the soul and the family so we want to pace ourselves and redeem the time. Your longevity in your marriage, family and ministry depends on it!
There is one thing every marriage and family needs. Without it, our children crash and burn emotionally and physically. We are less productive when we don’t get enough of it. Too much of it and some might consider us lazy. Know what it is? It is rest – and we all need it.
Margin is a term we started using more often in the church a few years ago. It means room to breathe. It’s a reserve. We have all been there when we are driving on fumes and can’t find a gas station. Panic and anxiety set in, and we feel helpless. Smart drivers keep a little fuel in the tank at all times. It’s called a reserve. Margin is a lot like a car fueled with reserves. It’s when we refuse to run on fumes.
Margin is the space between your load and your limit. As a dad and pastor, I have often allowed my load to exceed my limit, saying “yes” to every request for a meeting or counseling appointment, “yes” to every invitation to speak, “yes” to every party or meal invite. It wasn’t until a much older and wiser pastor asked me, “Who is holding a gun to your head?” that I woke up to how I was living. He taught me that if I don’t get a hold of my schedule, someone else will. I am a much happier pastor, husband, and dad because I learned the big word “No!”
Being marginless is when you allow your load to exceed your limit. The key word there is you, not load or limit. Admit it, when you first read that line, load and limit jumped out at you. You missed the “you.” We must take personal responsibility for the way we invest our time, the amount of margin we allow, and the rest we get. We are responsible for our load. Don’t allow your load to be dictated by anyone else. After all, only you know your limit. There’s not another person on the planet who understands your limit. You feel when you’ve had enough people time. You know when you better get alone and re-center before you go all “postal.” No one knows you better than you. Your limit is what determines your necessary margin. Good “time redeeming” leaves a little margin in your daily plan. We all need margin and rest.
Since when did I start thinking I was better than God? He rested after creating for six days. Jesus ministered, and then he rested.
God knew we would rebel against the whole idea of rest, so he had to command it: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Holy means set apart. We are not to treat the Sabbath like every other day of the week. It needs a different rhythm. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (verse 9). For six days God says to work and provide for your family. He wants us to be productive. He has given us the Sabbath to make us more productive. “But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work” (verse 10). You need to slow down your pace and that of your spouse and your children, and you need to find rest and relax.
A Sabbath does not mean a day off. It means a day of rest. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, NLT). The Sabbath is a gift to us. This, my friend, is for your benefit.
Start by saying “No” to time robbers. The demands and expectations of others are the greatest of all time robbers. As a pastor I admit that the church can be quite guilty of this. Woodland Hills is a family church, and one of the things we have guarded more than anything else is family time. It would be crazy to say we support the family and then ask people to be at the church four or five times a week. But here’s the rub. Everything we ask our congregation to take part in involves great ministry opportunity. Feed the poor, attend a Bible study, serve the recovery program, teach kids on Sunday morning—all great opportunities, but not opportunities anyone needs to say “yes” to every time.
We say “no” to really great stuff. But we also say “no” to a bigger and better “yes.” No matter what your role, be careful of the time robbers. Time is the most precious commodity you have. Benjamin Franklin put it best when he said, “Do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of.”
How precious is your time? To realize the value of one year, ask a student who failed a grade. To realize the value of one month, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby. How valuable is an hour? Ask the man or woman whose flight was delayed by that much, causing him to miss an important business deal. How about one minute? Ask the man who had the heart attack in a restaurant and was saved by an EMT proficient in CPR who happened to be sitting at the next table. Does a second mean much to you? It does to the person who barely missed a head-on collision with an oncoming car. Surely a millisecond isn’t a big deal—unless you’re the Olympic swimmer who missed qualifying by six-tenths.
Time is precious. Let’s be careful with the number of times we say “Yes” in a week. Your family and church need a healthy pastor ministering from a healthy soul.