I have always found myself to be a bit of a taskmaster. It has served me quite well when things were hectic, when my list seemed endless, or there didn’t seem to be enough hours in a day to complete everything I needed to do. It is also help me to remain humble. Because I was so focused on the next thing on my list, I never let my accomplishments go to my head. Every mountaintop once coming over the precipice was immediately a footnote in my journey. Having this type of mindset helped me to accomplish quite a bit in a small amount of time. It also help me to become a great problem solver. No matter what came my way or the surmountable circumstances I found myself faced with, I never let them deter me from accomplishing what I set out to do. It also helped me to be driven to never be satisfied. Always looking for the next mountain to climb tends to keep you hungry. I became somewhat of a beast in the gauntlet of life. But as the saying goes, there are two sides to every coin.
There are so many things I could concentrate on and tell you about the other end of the spectrum. However, I will just concentrate on my own personal experience and hope you can grab something from this. No life ever falls into ruins with one step. There are several dominoes which have to fall before it gets to that point. Though some people may think they had everything one day and just woke up the next with nothing , it is simply not the case. It always starts with something small. As the dominoes begin to fall, they often make a bigger scene. For me, that first domino was being too goal oriented. Sure there are times when having that mindset can help you through troubled times when you have to schedule time to breathe. However for most of us, that is not a state we live in. For most of us, these times for us are only seasons we are going through. There are often slower times following these chaotic times. It was during the slower times that having the mindset I did became my first domino to fall.
In the Old Testament every time the Israelites overcame something or something monumental happened, they built an altar. The altar was to serve dual purpose. It was to remind them of the thing they accomplished. It was also there to keep them mindful God was with them in the victory or trialing time. In some instances, it was to help them remember a time when God gave provision when there was none to be had. Other times, it served as a reminder of a great victory. On either end of the spectrum, it warranted praising God. The altars will remind us that even in the rough times, God will be there. In addition, these altars will call out to us to dream big and take God’s hand. Nothing is impossible when God is in it. However being a goal oriented person, you never really take time to build those alters. It’s always the next thing. The next mountain. The next task. The next obstacle. There is value to be had in taking time to build these alters. When you don’t take time to build those alters, you are cheating yourself. You are also cheating God. You are cheating yourself out of lessons learned, faith stretched, and awe in the Almighty. You are also cheating God out of His praise and adoration He clearly deserves for whatever thing you crossed off your list.
Have you ever had someone in your life who was never grateful? Maybe you continue to do things for them because that is the type of person you are. You don’t do it for the gratitude or the pats on the back. You just like to help. However, if their attitude persists, you may be a little bit more reluctant to do things for them because you know they will not appreciate it. Now I am not saying God works on a quid pro quo attitude but it has been my experience that God will withdraw His hand of blessing not just to teach us a lesson but because He wants us to seek His face. He intended for us to seek the God of the blessing not the blessings of God. He wants to have a relationship with us that is personal and not seeker friendly. For those of you who have children, isn’t it better and more well received when our children tell us they love us not because they want something but because they want us to know they love us? God wants to lavish His love upon us in the form of purpose, giftings, and blessings but He didn’t empty heavens treasury, Jesus on the cross, to simply give us gifts. He did it so we could have a relationship with Him despite our sinful natures.
So maybe doors stop opening for us as often as they once did. Maybe it’s because we haven’t been grateful and God is trying to instill a spirit of gratitude in us. I know as a father, I try to instill gratefulness in my children and how much better of a father is the Abba Father than that of myself. Or maybe He is simply trying to give us a season of rest. Nobody no matter how devoted, single-minded, or driven can fight on the front lines of fierce battles day after day after day and not become weary. If we are honest, we are not our best when we are depleted. There will be times when it seems those battles keep coming. However, God in His sovereignty also allows for seasons of rest and restoration. God is not an evil taskmaster who simply burdens His children for the sake of accomplishing something. A hard but wise lesson to learn as someone who is and has been in ministry is that God doesn’t need us. It is a blessing and honor that God allows us to enter into the work with Him but His plans are not dependent upon our willingness or ability. That fact should be both humbling and uplifting. Humbling because it is an honor to work with God though we are undeserving. Uplifting because our shortcomings will not derail what God has planned for us. I read the end of the book. Jesus wins!
As the saying goes, idle hands are the devil’s playground. I used to find that quote quite amusing. I always had something to do. It seemed I was never idle. I always had something I was working on or working towards. However, just because we are busy doesn’t always and we are productive. It’s a tough place to be in, a taskmaster with no task to do. Whatever will we busy ourselves with when no one is handing us a list? The possibilities are endless and they can deliver us into a pit that is just as deep. Just because something is a good thing doesn’t always mean it is a God thing. I would wager most of us, especially those in ministry, have things WE have placed upon our plates God never intended to be there. The inability to say no can be quite damning for those who have a servant’s heart. We can become overwhelmed with everything that’s going on. The waves of life keep crashing in upon us and take our vision away from Jesus. Then we cry out to God asking where He is in our turmoil. We shout why have You forsaken us. But often we are standing in a place God never intended us to stand. He saw our workload and the things we had accomplished with Him and in His grace, He tried to give us the rest. So He put us on vacation in a small pool to try to relax. He wanted us to be still and know He is God. He wanted us to take time to reflect on the things we had done with Him. He was giving us time to stretch our faith yet we were so busy running this way and that way and in circles just trying to find something to do. We didn’t even realize all those waves which took our vision off of Jesus and all those currents that pulled us under were of our own making.
I remember when I was a small child going to a friend’s house who had a small pool. We had such a great time running around in a circle. If we did it long enough, all of the water in the pool would go one direction and it would create a current. If there were enough of us who did it, the current would make it hard to even stand on your own two feet without being swept away. And so it is when God places us in a pool meant for reflection, and relaxation. Instead of being still, knowing God is God, and being wrapped in His arms, we were too busy running around creating a vortex in our lives at a time when God was bringing us across still waters for reflection. And then we wonder why we are being sucked under in life.
Luke 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me. “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
As people who are very goal oriented if Jesus had said that to us, we would be forced to have one of two reactions: you can listen to what Jesus is saying and change your course of action or you can allow it to upset you and in your anger say “that’s fine if she’s not going to do anything, then neither will I.” If you sit down with an attitude, you will totally miss out on the life-giving things Jesus has to say. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a season for everything and a time for every purpose under heaven. There are times when it will be beneficial for us to be taskmasters, but there is also a time for reflection, rest, worship, and being still. It is never healthy to have one approach for every day of life. It is one thing to specialize in something. It is something altogether to approach everything like it is that one thing you specialize in. God has so much in store for us. Every one of us! We don’t need to add to His plan. It is been perfectly tailored for us lacking nothing. He is a good father. We should be able to trust Him to do the things which are best for us.
I’m not a patient person, and I have been a list scratcher, but it has cost me more than I even know. I have missed blessings of the Lord. I have walked off course simply looking for something to do. However, I also know God still has a plan for me and we can still get there together if I allow Him to be the one who orders my footsteps. So all of you Marthas out there, put the list down. Quit making footnotes of your mountaintop experiences. Let someone else write your biography. Live your life. The life God has intended for you. I guarantee what He has planned for us, will blow our minds away and be far more fulfilling and rewarding than we ever could think, want, or imagine.