Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Tyranny of Busyness

It was many years ago that I first became aware of the tyranny of busyness. I was a missionary sitting at lunch in Mission HQ in Jos, Nigeria. Several other missionaries were in the room. Before very long I noticed a theme had settled among us.  Everyone seemed to want everyone else to know just how busy they were and how they were engaged in a multitude of tasks.

This is not to criticize their ministry nor the value of their work. They were all faithful Christian servants. Many of them put me to shame by their zeal. But it was the focus of their lives that perturbed me. Their work was important to them but it was also a badge of honor which they felt compelled to display for all to see.

Some years later, in a Presbytery meeting, once again the tyranny of business reared its ugly head, as I listened attentively to a catalog of just how busy my fellow ministers at the table were. Everyone seemed compelled to make sure that their lives were so full of things, of duties, and activities, that there was little room for leisure, for family, or for spiritual devotion and development. Life had become a whirlwind and they were being swept off their feet, or so it seemed.

I remember how the tyranny of busyness has entrapped me at different periods of my life. Often I have found prayer and the study of the Word squeezed out as I have rushed from duty to duty, always believing that my “doing” was more important than my “being.”

It was when I came to grips with the truth that the Lord would have me “be still and know that I am God,” that I returned to reality. I was no use to Him if I could not dwell deeply in Him, if He was not my primary focus. I was consumed in serving Him, when He was calling me, gently, to be consumed with Him – to seek first His Kingdom, and allow Him to add all the other things to me in His own way and in His own time.

Pilkington of Uganda was an ineffective missionary in his early days. He worked like a slave, learning a difficult language, relating to a resistant people, tiring himself endlessly and endangering his health almost to the point at which he would need repatriation to Britain if he continued on. An older and wiser missionary suggested that he take a few days off, go to an island on Lake Victoria, live alone, and be shut in with God.

It was there that he finally understood that he served the living God. Before anything else was allowed to take first place, this truth must be paramount. There he entered into a transaction with God that never left him. He wrote in his diary “no longer I but Christ.” He returned to the mainland refreshed and resolved that Jesus would be the focus of his life, “the Author and Finisher of his faith.”

And so it was that Pilkington, whose biography reveals an amazing life of service, became probably the most effective individual missionary in Uganda in his day. The tyranny of busyness was set aside. He continued to work hard but he knew where his priorities lay. Best of all, he knew joy in the service of the King!

Wilfred A. Bellamy, Ph.D.,

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