Let the Word Speak!

Get Rid of the Junk

Step One: Get rid of the junk

If God has a plan for us, and if God is leading us into new ways of service, and if this is indeed the same God that designed the earth to have 24-hour days… then we must know that God has already given us the time to do what we are being called to do—once we clean out some junk.

Luke 9:59-62 (NRSV):
To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father .” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Each of these two men had “junk” in their lives that kept them from following Jesus’ call. The first one was a matter of priority, for what he wanted to put ahead of Jesus’ call was waiting until after his father died and the estate was settled before he followed Jesus. The second one was a matter of focus; he wasn’t truly ready to follow Jesus because he kept going back to attempt to settle more of his affairs before he left. There was a sense of regret in his request as well, for the words he used were as if he were going to die, not follow and study with Jesus.

So, there has always been “junk” lining the Way that would divert our focus or hinder our effectiveness in serving God. What do we mean by junk?

  • Activities that consume our time without providing us with some benefit or value.
  • Activities that disrupt our focus, create negative stress, and hinder our effectiveness in other areas.
  • Activities, even noble and worthy ones, from which God is nudging us, so that we can answer other callings.

The following sections discuss some of this “junk,” and how we can clean it out of our lives so we can serve God unencumbered.

1.A) Beware the trap of “the Urgent”

We commonly confuse what is critical and needs to take priority in our lives, with what is urgent and is due in the near future. Stephen Covey in his milestone book, Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, notes that many of the urgent things we do are not critical, and divert our focus from those things that are critical but not urgent. Don’t allow time pressures to put “junk” in your way.

1.B) Cut down the “noise”

One of our big challenges is fatigue. Often this truly is physical exhaustion, but frequently what we experience is emotional exhaustion; we are worn down needlessly by our environment. Here are some ways to ease our emotional exhaustion:

Cut down physical noise from time to time. Even Jesus regularly got away from crowds and noise for “peace and quiet.”

Cut down the barrage of information. Cable news channels replay the same bomb blast in Baghdad every 30 minutes, in case we need to be reminded. In Florida, we hear the same inaccurate hurricane forecast so often we can recite it. Most of us can mimic the TV personalities selling automobiles and appliances. And why do you change TV channels every 30 seconds? Unplug!

Cut out the need for people to repeat themselves. Get important information the first time you hear it, so those around you will trust you to hear them. Succeeding with this may be a matter of focus or organization, and both are covered in later sections.

Don’t create your own “noise.” We do things that add to the cacophony and stress of our lives, and we need to stop this. Do we keep the TV on constantly in the background, and why? Do we drive aggressively, increasing our level of stress? Are we “surprised” when the doctor’s office is running late for our appointment, or do we anticipate the possibility, and bring something engaging to do while we wait?

This lesson goes along with a sermon on how to develop “Passionate Spirituality”, and one of the biggest barriers to passionate spirituality is interference that interrupts our conversations with God, distracts our focus on God, and pulls us down into the irritations of daily life. Start developing these habits today to curb that interference and open yourself for a stronger relationship with God.

1.C) Question yourself: “So what?”

Some things don’t need to be done—don’t do them.

Some things don’t need to be done carefully—do them quickly.

It takes practice to question ourselves effectively with a “so what” question, because reconsidering our comfortable routines is unnerving, and it takes mental effort to confirm we really do understand what we’re doing before we do it. One good question that can help this process along was included in the message on overcoming worry not long ago: “Will this matter a year from now?”

One exercise to help you sort through your time is to keep a time log for several days—but I must warn you, it’s a difficult exercise!

Make up a paper form that has a line for every 15-minute interval in the period of time you want to track. If you want to apply this approach to a typical office job, for example, that would be between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., with forty different time intervals defined. While you are going through the day, fill out the time log; don’t wait until the end of the day, or even wait for several hours, because you are likely to forget time-wasters. You also need to commit to do this for at least three days, because the first day will probably not accurately reflect how you usually work.

Once you complete the three days, analyze what you recorded, and vigorously apply the “so what” test. Look for improvements you can make to your practices that will save you time in the future, and particularly watch to see if there are bad habits that you can identify and eliminate.

1.D) Develop better habits

We “set” priorities, but we’re more likely to follow habits. Or, in other words:

”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
— Aristotle

We will not increase our effectiveness in serving God solely by what we learn, no matter how practical the teaching, if we do not put that knowledge into repeated use by breaking old, counterproductive habits and learning new, effective habits.

Be warned! Developing new habits, or breaking old ones, requires:
Commitment,
Discipline, and
Repetition.

These habit changes are going to take time and demand patience of us.

In another accompanying sermon, the message focus is “Worship as Lifestyle,” and a lifestyle is more about the habits and practices we use than it is the principles we embrace. What habits might you need to develop to live a lifestyle that worships God at all times? How often and how regularly do you pray and study God’s Word?

1.E) Set expectations

Developing better habits takes time and practice, and experiencing set-backs are a normal part of that effort. Most adults fail when attempting changes because they set their expectations unreasonably high, then abandon the effort completely when expectations aren’t met.

Here’s a favorite joke of musicians that speaks to this challenge. It seems a famous musician was walking down the street in Manhattan when he was approached by a lost tourist. The tourist asked him, “Excuse me, but could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”

The famous musician stood up straighter and, with sternness in his voice, lectured the tourist, “Practice, practice, practice!”

Power of prayer: perspective and simplicity

As you are “getting rid of the junk,” pray about it.

  • Ask God to help you develop a perspective that is more like God’s perspective and less like your own.
  • Ask God to guide you to follow, with increasing faith, the profound simplicity of God’s Way, rather than the confused complexity of our human ways.


 

The best book I have read for arranging priorities so God can work in us is Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. It is a secular, not a religious book, although Covey is a devout Mormon.

Scriptures designated by “NSRV” are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, Copyright © 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Jonathan Morris
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