God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
In our last post from the book of Acts we saw how discrimination had crept into the early church and we also saw the brilliant way Jesus’ disciples prayerfully solved that problem. If you’re interested you can learn more here: A Solution to Discrimination Against Minorities: Acts 6:1-6. In today’s post we’ll look at the same passage but today we’ll focus specifically on a couple of ideas that will help us to truly follow Jesus closely, even though we’re busy.
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.Acts 6:1-6
When the group of disciples was smaller, it was probably possible for the Apostles to both teach the way of Jesus and also serve the widows. But as the church grew, time became compressed for the Apostles and that approach became undoable. So Jesus’ disciples, the leaders, the Apostles, they prayerfully decided how God wanted them to spend their time, and they realized passing along what they’d learned from Jesus was most important. The church was too big for them to continue doing things the old way. Something had to change. Something had to go.
As an aside, I just want to take this opportunity make a point to I’ve shared many times. For me, a key to success in serving Christ is to focus on what you can do and not concern yourself with what you can’t do. We see the disciples modeling that here.
The Apostles found a way to spend their time doing what God wanted them to do. The way they created margin for themselves so they could prioritize what God wanted them to do was to delegate. Jesus did this too. We see how Jesus himself didn’t baptize people but rather, he delegated that responsibility to his disciples. Jesus didn’t do the grocery shopping but he put the disciples in charge of that. Jesus didn’t row the boat when they traveled across the sea of Galilee, Jesus’ disciples did that too. And Jesus didn’t go into town himself to find the colt he would ride on Palm Sunday, he delegated that responsibility as well. It’s not that Jesus had an aversion to hands on labor, he was a carpenter after all. It’s just a matter of time. Jesus found ways to spend his time doing what God wanted him to do. Today, here in our text, we see Jesus’ disciples doing the same thing for the same reason. (John 4:2-8, Matthew 8:23-27, Matthew 21:1-11)
This is a great model for me and for you. It’s so easy to go with the flow of the busy-ness of life and let our habits and our calendars drive our day. The Apostles could have done that. They could have kept doing what they always did and wound up with their purpose from God diluted by things God didn’t intend for them to do — even good things. But instead they were intentional about spending their time the way God wanted them to. Drew Dyck in his excellent book Your Future Self Will Thank You wrote this about how we spend our time:
It’s easy to imagine your life’s outcome as the product of a few big decisions. We envision a lone hero showing extraordinary courage at a climactic moment. Or a tragic figure losing control at a critical juncture. That might be how things work in the movies.
In reality, our destinies are determined in a more mundane manner. As the writer Annie Dillard reminds us, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”Drew Dyck, Your Future Self Will Thank You
The truth is, while we might have some climactic or dramatic moments during our lifetimes, it’s the cumulative effect of how we spend our time each day that ultimately shapes the final product, the life each one of us will present to our Father after each one of us goes the way of all the earth as each one of us surely will.
So, like the Apostles, we too need to prayerfully decide how God wants us to spend our time and then delegate everything we can to someone else. But I think this goes way beyond delegation. What we’re really talking about here is spending time. It’s the most precious commodity we humans have. So many people become caught up in prioritizing money and spending time to make money. Of course we have to eat, so, most of us have to spend time to make money so we can pay the bills. But what I think too many of us don’t recognize is that when money is spent, you can recover that money. That is, it’s possible to make more money. But once time is spent, that’s it, it’s gone — forever. You can’t recover time. Unlike money, you can’t create more time for yourself than the next guy. When Frodo said to Gandalf: “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Gandalf famously replied,
So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.J. R. R. Tolkien
And each one of us is given the same twenty-four hours every day.
I think the most important part of what the disciples did in our text isn’t delegation specifically. I think the most important part of what the disciples did in our text is that they intentionally prioritized what’s most important.
Again from Drew Dyck’s Your Future Self . . . :
The fourth-century theologian Augustine knew a lot about sin. He’s the one who uttered the highly questionable prayer: “Grant me chastity and self-control, but please not yet.”
Ultimately, though, Augustine concluded that sin wasn’t merely about individual acts. It was about the heart. He believed that what you love is the most important thing about who you are.Drew Dyck, Your Future Self Will Thank You
How Then Can We Know What We Love?
So how can we know what we love? The answer is, we can look at how we spend our time. Bearing in mind we have to spend a given amount of time working to pay the rent or mortgage, where we spend the rest of our time is telling.
If God is ultimate in my life, as He was for Jesus and as He is for every Jesus follower, than how I spend my time will reflect that.
“But you don’t understand Kurt, I’m just too busy!” You might be thinking right now.
I get it. The job and the kids and the wife and by the time you squeeze in a few meals and some sleep, there’s just nothing left over.
We already talked about delegation. Here’s another idea that’s helped me pretty dramatically. You might find it helpful too.
What Do You Do When You First Open Your Eyes in the Morning?
So here it is: What do you do when you first open your eyes in the morning? Something that’s helped me is being intentional about what I do in the moments after I wake up. When I’m doing well, I give God those first moments. My two friends, Jay and Pat, and I are engaging in a YouVersion Bible study plan right now called New Testament Chronological. So as soon as my eyes are open I open that app and start to read that day’s passages. Or, as soon as my feet hit the floor I dress and go outside for a short walk and a prayer. Or, as soon as my feet hit the floor I walk over to Kathy and we pray together. Or, as soon as my feet hit the floor I go up to my office and pray.
What makes this work is that I’ve conditioned myself to behave a certain way in those very first moments after waking. It doesn’t look the same every morning but the very first thing I do is to move in the direction of Christ. Right away. Before I become distracted by the news feed on my phone or my to-do list or Reddit or a text thread or breakfast or coffee.
Beginnings are opportunities.
Every morning is a new beginning to a new day, and that day is so much better when I start it by making God my ultimate priority and giving him the first fruits of my day.
Am I Really A Christian?
I read something this morning from St. Ignatius of Antioch. Maybe you saw it on my Twitter or Facebook feed. St. Ignatius, requesting prayers from his brothers, wrote:
Pray “that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really be found to be one.”
I hope you’ll pray that prayer for me because that’s what I want. I don’t want to identify as a Christian. I want Jesus to identify me as a Christian, as one of those who belong to him.
For that to happen for you and for me, I think making God our ultimate and giving Him the first fruits of our day, moving toward Him in those first moments after we wake, might be one of the most important things we do.
Photo by Nicole Michalou on Pexels.com
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus) now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.