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  • Adam Schell

Way Too Busy

There’s a story that’s been circulating around the internet for years about a philosophy professor who walked up to the lectern in front of his class with an empty glass jar in his hands. And the students in his class that day couldn’t help but wonder why the professor had the jar. But before anyone could raise their hand and ask the professor what was going on, the professor reached under his lectern and pulled out a box filled with several large rocks. And then he began placing the rocks inside the once-empty jar. 

After he finished, the professor asked his students, “Is this jar full?” Somewhat puzzled the students stared at the jar before slowly responding, “Yes.”

But then the professor’s hands crept back under the lectern, and he pulled out another box filled with pebbles. The professor began pouring the pebbles into the jar and, when he finished, he once again asked his students, “Is the jar full?”

After falling for his initial trick, the students thought about their professor’s question a little longer this time. But they couldn’t see a way for any more rocks to fit into the jar. So they tentatively answered, “Yes.”

With a slight smile on his face, the professor reached back under his lectern and pulled out a bag of sand, which he then poured into the jar. With the jar overflowing, the professor asked his students a different question. He asked them, “What can this jar teach us about our lives?”

What can this jar teach us about our lives? Now, that’s a pretty good question. And the philosophy professor had a specific lesson he wanted to teach his students. But we’re not going to talk about the lesson the professor really wanted his students to learn today…we’ll get to that later in this sermon series.

What I want us to talk about today is the way that one of the students responded to this question. When the professor asked, “What can this jar teach us about our lives?” one eager student’s hand shot up. When the student was called on he responded, “No matter how full your life seems, you can always fit more in.”

Now, I’ll go ahead and tell you that wasn’t the answer the professor was looking for. But this is as far as I want to go into this story today. And the reason that I want to stop right here is that this student’s answer has become a way of life for a lot of us. A lot of us have come to believe that no matter how full our lives seem, we can always fit more in.

No matter how full our lives seem, we can always fit more in.

I know that’s how I act. When it comes to the jar that is my life it doesn’t matter how many rocks, or pebbles, or grains of sand are in it; I always try to fit in just a little bit more. And the season that we all just came out of, the Christmas season is the perfect example of this.

Now, as you’re all aware, I’m a pastor. And as a pastor, my typical week is pretty busy. I spend hours every week researching and writing sermons. I meet with our staff for a couple of hours every Tuesday, and spend a few more hours every month meeting with our Deacons and our Leadership Team. I spend time every week making phone calls and responding to emails. I make updates to our website and schedule things to go out on social media. And depending on what’s happening in your lives, I can spend time making visits at the hospital or funeral home. So let me tell you, the jar that is my life is pretty full.

But when Christmas rolls around, I find a way to cram more things into my jar. Back in November, I had to find time to go out shopping for Angels from the Angel Tree – and that took a handful of trips to Kohl’s and a couple of trips to Target. Then we had to decorate the church for the Christmas season, and those decorations didn’t just magically appear out of nowhere. And once the calendar turned to December,  we had some sort of special event or activity happening every single week. And we couldn’t just throw open our doors for a craft day or our Christmas banquet, no, all of those things had to be planned out and set up. And that’s just the extra work stuff I had to find time for.

I also had to do some Christmas shopping for my family and friends, and help decorate my house, and get everything ready to host one of my family’s Christmas celebrations. So by the time Christmas Day came to an end, I don’t know if I could’ve fit one more grain of sand into my jar…but, if I had to, I would’ve tried. 

But as busy as my life has been over the last couple of months, your life has been every bit as busy. You’ve had responsibilities at work and at home that have kept you going all hours of the day. You’ve had to make trips to the doctor or the dentist. You’ve taken your kids to extracurricular activities. You’ve spent time every evening cooking dinner and packing lunches. And you’ve done everything you had to do to celebrate Christmas.

So even though the rocks, and pebbles, and sand in your life may look a little different than mine, your jar is every bit as full as mine. Or, to put it another way, all of our lives are overbooked.

Our lives are overbooked.

We all try to cram more events and activities, more plans and responsibilities into our lives than we can actually fit.

About this time last year, H&R Block commissioned a survey to find out just how busy we are. They found that the average person has just 4 hours and 26 minutes of free time each week. 4 hours and 26 minutes of free time a week. That breaks down to 38 minutes a day--that’s not even enough time to watch the latest episode of Loki on Disney+.

And you’d think that since we have such little free time that would mean that we’re busy getting everything on our to-do list done. But this same survey learned that the average person still has 14 items left on their to-do list at the end of the week...and that 1 out of every five of us has more than 20 things we didn’t get done last week.

So what kind of things are we putting off each week? Well, 48% of us put off doing chores. And 40% can’t find the time to take our cars in to get serviced. And 27% aren’t able to see their doctor regularly.

And whether we realize it or not, all of this busyness is taking a toll on us. Jodi Clarke, who’s a licensed counselor who specializes in the effects of chronic busyness, tells us that our busyness leaves us feeling stressed out and overwhelmed because we know that there is always another job or task waiting to be done. 

So something’s got to give. There has to be a way for us to stop trying to cram so much into our lives. Well, that’s what we’re going to be talking about to kick off the new year here at Melbourne Heights. Today, we’re starting a new series of sermons called “Overbooked.” And throughout this series, we want to help you find ways to slow down and clear your calendar so you have time for what really matters the most in your life.

So how do we do that? How do we stop trying to cram so much into our lives so that we have time for what really matters? Well, I don’t think there’s a better way for us to answer that question than to take a look at what Jesus did when his life got extremely busy. So, if you’ve got a Bible close by or a Bible app on your phone, go ahead and open it to Matthew 14. Matthew 14. Now, as a quick reminder, the book of Matthew is essentially a biography of Jesus. So Matthew tells us about Jesus’ life…including what Jesus does when life gets busy.

But before we dive in and see what Jesus did when his life was busy, let me take just a minute to recap everything that has been going on in Jesus’ life leading up to this story. So leading up to this story, Jesus has just spent a little time in his hometown. He’s gone to the synagogue there and spent some time trying to teach the people who came to worship. But they weren’t listening. And it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to teach your five-year-old how to tie their shoes, or a class of seventh graders the intricacies of a Punnett square, or a synagogue full of people about who God is...if the people you’re trying to teach aren’t listening it raises your stress level.

On top of this, not long after he finishes teaching in the synagogue, Jesus finds out that his cousin – John the Baptist – has been murdered. So at that point, Jesus’ jar had to be feeling pretty full. So he tries to sneak off for a few minutes by himself to mourn his loss...but as soon as people find out where he is, they start flocking to him.

And Jesus can’t bear to turn all of these people away, so he puts a little more into his jar. He spends time with them teaching them and healing their sick. And then, knowing that they’re in a remote place, Jesus takes five loaves of bread and two small fish and he miraculously feeds the five thousand people in the crowd.

So Jesus has been busy. And it’s only going to get worse. Because right after the passage we’re going to read today, there’s a huge storm that’s about to hit the area...and Jesus’ disciples are going to get caught out in the middle of the sea while the storm is raging. And they’re going to need Jesus to help them.

So, with all of this in mind, let’s look at Matthew 14:22-23, and see what Jesus does. Matthew tells us:

22 Right then, [after he finished feeding the 5,000] Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 

Matthew 14:22-23 (Common English Bible)

So what does Jesus do when his life was getting way too busy? Right after he fed the 5,000, right before his disciples get caught in a storm; Jesus goes off by himself to rest and to pray. 

And this shouldn’t be surprising to us. Remember, this is Jesus we’re talking about. This is the son of God. This is God made human. And what does he do when his life gets too busy? He does the same thing that God does at the very beginning of the Bible after God finished creating the heavens and the earth. God rested. And Jesus rested. So when our lives get too busy, we need to rest too.

When our lives get too busy, we need to rest too.

And that’s probably not a groundbreaking revelation for you. I mean, after I told you that the average person has 4 hours and 26 minutes of free time each week, you probably realized we all need a little more downtime.

But how can you actually do that? What can we do to help us take a break and rest?

Well, in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel Pink writes about some of the guiding principles behind taking breaks. So here are four things that he tells us that can help all of us take a break from our busyness and find a little time to rest.

The first thing Pink says is that when it comes to taking a break, something beats nothing. Something beats nothing, so even a small break can make a big difference. As a matter of fact, DeskTime – which is a company that specializes in productivity – has found that their highest performers will work for 52 minutes and then take a short seven-minute break. And that seven-minute break is enough to refresh them and re-energize them so they can get back to the task at hand.

Second, Pink says that moving beats stationary. Moving beats stationary. And as little as a five-minute walk can boost our energy levels, sharpen our focus, and improve our mood.

Third, he says that outside beats inside. Outside beats inside. There’s just something about being in nature that reinvigorates us even more than we might expect.

And finally, Pink says that being fully detached beats being semi-detached. What he means is that taking a break doesn’t do us much good when we’re still thinking about the next item on our to-do list. We have to take a mental break as well as a physical break.

And believe it or not, Jesus does every one of these things in the story we just read. Right after he feeds the 5,000 and right before a huge storm comes rolling in, Jesus takes advantage of the time that he has and takes a break. Because something is better than nothing. So even if you can only sneak in 5, or 10, or 15 minutes; it’s worth it.

Next, Jesus gets active. Matthew tells us he went up onto a mountain. So Jesus didn’t just plop down on the couch and veg out. He got moving to make the most of the break that he had. And where did Jesus go when he got moving? He went outside onto a mountain because being outside for a break beats being inside for a break.

And then how did Jesus spend the little bit of downtime that he had? Was he thinking about how his disciples could’ve been more efficient in their food distribution so they could feed even more people the next time? Did he have out his smartphone checking the weather forecast to know exactly when the storm was going to come rolling in?

No, Jesus spent his time detached from his to-do list. Instead, he spent his time in prayer.

So, when you feel overbooked – when your life gets too busy – find a little time to take a break and rest. And obviously the more time you can find to rest the better – I mean, God did take a whole day off when he finished creating the heavens and the earth – but just starting somewhere can make a big difference.

So let me challenge you to find some time every day this week and take a break. But here’s the thing, I don’t want you to try to cram this break into your overflowing jar or your overbooked calendar. I want you to clear a couple of things off of your calendar each day so that you can take a break.

So I want to challenge you to clear 15 minutes each day where you can get up and go for a walk outside and let your mind wander. Forget about everything that you need to do. Because your life is way too busy so you need a break.

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