by Dale Bannon
A few of months ago, I found myself in meetings all day. The kind of meetings where lists are made and tasks are assigned. As I am taking meeting notes, an anxious thought overwhelmed me—“When will I have time to get to these new tasks on my plate?” I returned to my desk around 4:15 p.m. to find that while I was away over one hundred emails flooded my inbox. I went to the bottom of the emails to view the last one received and found that the sender wanted to know why I had not responded to their previous email sent earlier in the day. The voicemail light on my phone was glowing with five messages (apparently from those that don’t use email). A stack of mail and documents awaited me (from those that still use U.S.P.S. and paper). To top it all off, I had forgotten that I promised my family I would be home early for dinner before my son’s early baseball game. Thus, began the text messages from my wife! I looked at my calendar for the next day to find myself booked all day with, you guessed it, meetings!
Does any of this sound familiar to you? I’m sure you struggle as I do with competing demands on your time. Most of the emails, phone calls, and mail could be labeled “URGENT” (in fact, several emails have that word in the header!). We even hire and value employees that have the “sense of urgency” competency.
There are some days when I am so caught up with the urgent I forget that work and life are supposed to have eternal significance. All Christians share the same eternal calling—we are called by Christ to model The Great Commandment (Matthew 22: 38) and to advance The Great Commission (Matthew 28: 18-20). This eternal calling should guide me daily at work, at home, and in my corps or place of worship.
How can I ensure that all my work, family, and church activities are grounded with His eternal purpose and calling?
Charles Hummel authored a brief essay and pamphlet entitled Tyranny of the Urgent to remind Christians that Christ was the ultimate example of balancing the urgent with His eternal purpose. Hummel writes that a good friend’s words were timely and haunted him, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” In the essay, Hummel looks to Christ as the answer for our dilemma. Christ was not exempt from urgent matters (not one of us could keep his demanding schedule!). He encountered hundreds of people on a daily basis that wanted His attention, His Word, and His healing touch. The Gospels records thousands that He taught and healed. Yet, there were some who would be disappointed because not everyone would have a face-to-face encounter with Christ. Not all would receive an immediate answer to their urgent need during his earthly ministry. His ministry only lasted three brief years. After the three years and the night before his death on the cross, Christ proclaimed “I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17: 4 NIV). His entire walk consisted of fulfilling God’s will and purpose. He was not consumed by the urgent; he was consumed by his Father’s eternal plan of salvation for the whole world.
What consumes you and me—the urgent or eternal matters? Being consumed by the urgent will eventually lead to a purposeless life. I won’t be able to ignore all the urgent demands of this earthly life. I can, however, make sure the urgent doesn’t overshadow the important. Here are six questions and practical suggestions to ensure our days are built on an eternal foundation (from Hummel and my own experience):
- Do my days begin in His presence? Christ was an early riser and he communed with the Heavenly Father (Mark 1:35). A wonderful retired officer, Major Dan Boyer, once told me that he begins his day with a simple prayer (paraphrased)—“Thank you God for yesterday, but I sure do need your help today.” What a way to begin your day, asking for His help and presence.
- When is the last time I’ve truly rested? If the urgent matters of the day make you tired and weary, take a day to rest physically and spiritually. Christ gave us this invitation (Matthew 11:28-30). Try a “no screen” day in your home once a week—free from your iPhone, computer and television. Fill the time with Scripture, prayer and sharing His blessings.
- Does my work today have eternal significance? Write out a “to do” list before you begin your work each day. Make sure there are at least one or two items that are mission-focused. Ask God to use you for His good work and purpose (Philippians 2: 13).
- Are there conflicts that cause me anxiety today that need to be released? Disagreements and strife should be viewed in light of eternity. Will this tension and strife matter when we get to Heaven? If not, then reconcile and let it go! (Ephesians 4:32)
- Have I witnessed to someone about Christ this week? Pray for God to give you opportunities in your circle of influence to witness and advance the Kingdom of Heaven (Acts 1: 8 & Roman 10:13-14).
- When all is said and done, and it’s my privilege to be in the physical presence of Jesus, will He say “well done, thou good and faithful servant?” The Apostle Paul outlined a great eternal perspective regarding his time on earth— “…The time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4: 5-6 NIV).
I can’t ignore the urgent matters of the day. However, my days can and will be dedicated for His eternal purpose and glory. Let each of us finish the work God called us to do!
Hummel, C. (1967). Tyranny of the Urgent. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship.