Summary: Fifth and final in series Slowing Down. This message looks at the illusions and distortions we hold regarding the use of our time and how they keep us from being available.


Slowing Down, part 5

Wildwind Community Church

David Flowers

November 8, 2008

Today we’re in the last message in our series called Slowing Down. Last week I gave you five specific ways you can slow down your life. Today I want to talk to you not about your schedule but about your attitude towards time – what I want to call your “time-lies.”

Have you ever said, “I don’t have time”? Most of us tend to approach time them from an attitude of scarcity. “I only have so much time and my time is currently used up doing X and Y, therefore I do not have time for Z.” The problem is that this statement is false. Let me show you.

Have you ever had a lot going on in your life, when suddenly there is a crisis in your family? Like someone dies, or someone has a serious heart attack and has to have surgery, or a crime is committed against somebody. When your mom calls to tell you your dad may be dying, do you tell her you don’t have time to come to the hospital? Ever? Of course not. Somehow, no matter what it takes, you’ll be there. You find a way. And you always can when you need to.

The truth is that we can always find time (this applies to money as well) when not doing so will produce a consequence we don’t want to deal with. The truth is that we can always find time when not doing so will produce a consequence we don’t want to deal with. The truth is that we can always find time when not doing so will produce a consequence we don’t want to deal with.

The truth. The truth. The truth is that we always can find time when not doing so will produce a consequence we don’t want to deal with.

We know this is the truth because we have experienced how it works – we have said we didn’t have time for one more thing and then figured out a way to deal with a crisis that popped up in our life. Or we have said we didn’t have a single second left in our day for something, but then frittered away a few hours on the Internet. So we begin with the truth. The truth is that we can always find time when not doing so will produce a consequence we don’t want to deal with.

Some more truth is that it’s not about how much time we have. It’s about what we decide to do with it. It’s about how we use what we are given. That’s truth. Do you think we’d be better off in using our time according to the truth, or according to the fantasies we continually feed ourselves? When it comes to how we use our time, I call these time-lies. The big question for tonight isn’t whether we believe time-lies because most of us do, the question is what will we do with our time-lies starting now?

A few months ago I was at a conference when suddenly a phrase popped into my head that I have not been able to get rid of ever since. Here it is:

Wildwind is a community of people learning to find, face, and follow the truth.

Would you say that with me?

I’ve had you do this before, but let’s do it again because it’s fun. Let’s take stock of all the problems and difficulties, perhaps even disasters, we’ve encountered in our lives because we refused to get into a position to find, face, or follow the truth. What problems are you dealing with right now because of that refusal?

Let’s look at how this works in real life, because finding, facing, and following truth are each difficult, and they get harder as you go. Facing the truth is harder than finding it, and following the truth is harder than facing it.

Let’s say you are a person who is addicted to alcohol. For a long time you lie to yourself, telling yourself you could stop drinking if you wanted to, you just don’t want to. You keep yourself in the dark about what the reality is. You really don’t know the truth of the matter. You have not yet “found” it.

But after a while your friends and family start making comments about it – both direct and indirect. But you tune it out. You have found the truth – it’s right there in the statements of people who love you – but you refuse to face it. You are constantly defensive, constantly seeking to avoid a situation or person that might pressure you to face the truth about your problem. You blame others. You complain about being judged unfairly. You protest that this is your business. You have found the truth, but you have not faced it.

One day you come home from work and your entire family is sitting in the living room. They have staged an intervention. For the next 2 hours they tell you the truth about your addiction and how it affects them and that you are destroying yourself and the people you love. It’s intense, and humiliating, but by the end of the evening you have faced the truth about your problem. You say for the first time the words, “I’m an alcoholic.”

Two days later you are supposed to go to your first AA meeting. But you haven’t had a drink since the intervention and are feeling pretty confident you can deal with it on your own and don’t need a support group. So you don’t go to the meeting and within a week you are back to drinking like you used to. You had found the truth. You had faced it. But you didn’t follow it. You didn’t bring your decisions and actions in line with reality. Reality is that if you are an alcoholic, you need help. Period. You can find the truth. You can face it and admit you’re an alcoholic. But you have to follow it through and build a new life based on the truth you have found and faced. Say this with me.

Wildwind is a community of people learning to find, face, and follow the truth.

Why is this critical?

John 14:6 (NIV)

6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Because Jesus is the truth. We cannot go through life avoiding the truth, closing our minds, ears, and hearts to reality, and expect to know God. If you’re refusing to find, face, or follow truth in any area of your life, you are shutting your life off from God. Say this with me:

Wildwind is a community of people learning to find, face, and follow the truth.

Jesus is the truth.

Therefore Wildwind is a community of people learning to find, face, and follow Jesus.

The people of God are to be, above all else, people of light – people of truth – people not addicted to lies and illusion and half-truths. Because isn’t that what sin is? Isn’t sin a distortion of truth?

John 3:20-21 (MSG)

20 Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure.

21 But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is."

Say this with me:

God has no use for denial and illusion in my life.

Now say this:

God invites me to live in truth and reality.

God has no use for denial and illusion in our lives and invites us to live in truth and reality. So I want to tell you some truth and give you some reality, and I want to remind you God has no use for the denials we use to keep from admitting what I’m about to say.

The truth is that you and me – we’re busy addicts. Most of us are compulsive about the way we use our time. Now listen because I’m telling you the truth and I’m telling you because I love you. Now I know that when someone like me stands up here and says we are busy addicts, the defenses start going up.

“Defenses = “denial and illusion”

I can already hear what you’re thinking.

I have to do all this stuff I’m doing. I’m just trying to provide a good upbringing for my kids. I don’t have any choice, it’s for work. My husband/wife expects/demands this/that. I can’t take a Sabbath one day a week – I have too much I have to do. I can’t take a weekend for myself – I’m just too important around the house. You don’t understand my life. You don’t know my schedule. You don’t know what it’s like to be in my shoes. You don’t get it. Blah, blah, blah.

But we are busy addicts, and it’s not about how much time we have, it’s about what we decide to do with it. And if that’s the truth, then our excuses about time are just that – an excuse. A denial. An illusion. We hide behind our schedule, we act as if life is kicking us around, when really we are enslaving ourselves. I have preached before, go home and look at your calendar and you won’t find one single thing on it that you did not agree to. The truth is that we are the ones behind the wheel of this machine called our lives, and then we complain that the car is out of control. And at least we’re right about that. The car IS out of control. And it’s out of control precisely because we either have not yet found, not yet faced, or not yet followed the truth.

Now think about how weird this whole thing is for a minute. This isn’t a sermon where I’m trying to recruit you to make another time commitment. I don’t want you to join anything or attend anything or show up to anything. In fact, I want just the opposite. I want you to stop joining, attending, and showing up. Because it’s all about what you decide to do with your time and you cannot serve God if you have chosen to be involved in a million other things that cram it into a corner and marginalize it.

And it’s not really our schedules that are killing us. It’s our denial and illusions about them. It’s our statements that there’s nothing we can do – that we are simply victims – being carried along on this wave with no way to climb down. Because this reaches that dangerous level of unconscious assumption I talked to you about last week and it gets to where we assume it and don’t even know we’re assuming it, and our schedules get busier and busier, and our lives get more and more hectic and out of control, and we lose every day a little bit more of the sense that we are human beings and instead come to experience ourselves as human doings and pretty soon we are cyborgs. We are robotic creatures that have human flesh, but we have lost our soul. This is our natural, default condition apart from the life-giving Spirit of God. That’s why Paul warned:

Romans 12:2 (MSG)

2 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out…

That’s why one the greatest promises God makes in regard to his people is…

Ezekiel 11:19 (NIV)

19 …I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

That’s why Jesus said:

John 10:10 (MSG)

10 A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

And it’s why Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28 (MSG)

28 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

Paul is telling us in Romans, don’t just go with the flow. Don’t just drift along on the coattails of your culture. It’ll crush you. It’ll overpower you and turn you into a cyborg, a human doing. And Jesus is saying in Matthew, “Yeah, get away with me and you’ll recover your life.” In other words, have you already become a cyborg? Have you lost your sense of yourself as being a human being and you’re just clicking off tasks all day long? Time to recover your life. Time to let God remove the heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. Time to accept the real, eternal, more, and better life that Jesus has for us, because the Jesus life is the life that is truly life. This cultural thing, this busy thing, this calendar, pedal-to-the-metal, hard-driving thing is just a rip-off – a substitute. It is a thief – it is stealing, killing, and destroying your life one task at a time. Paul wrote:

1 Timothy 6:19 (NIV)

19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

The life that is truly life. What an incredible phrase! This tells us that there is a life that is truly life, and a life that is not truly life. And we already know which is which, don’t we? The life that is truly life is a life based on truth, based on reality, a life that lives in light, a life that has left behind denial and illusions. The life that is truly life allows you to have a heart of flesh, not a heart of stone. The life that is truly life comes not from the culture around you and the mold it tries to fit you in, and the unthinking and habitual ways we just put stuff on our calendars and then compulsively run around keeping appointments, but from getting away with Jesus – regularly – from pursuing the truth of Jesus along the way of Jesus, which is a way of rest, a way of Sabbath, a way of an occasional retreat or weekend alone, a way of down-time and silence and peace. That is the way of Jesus. And if we do not pursue the truth of Jesus in the way of Jesus, we will never – and I mean never – find the life of Jesus. It will elude us all our lives and we’ll live frustrated, wondering why God isn’t keeping his promise to fill us with his very life. When all the time it’s because we’re running after God – who is gentle and peaceful and quiet and unhurried and unflappable and who’s heart is a soft heart of flesh – and we’re doing it harshly, lacking peace, rarely quiet, constantly hurried and frazzled, with hearts that have turned to stone.

Remember earlier I said that the truth is that it’s not about how much time we have, it’s about what we do with our time. This is it. We begin there, acknowledging that what we do with our time is largely our choice. We stop swallowing the world’s endless nonsense about all we “have to” do and we realize that the power to make choices about our time and lives and schedules is ours. Now once we admit this, we will probably still have a long way to go in actually learning to schedule our lives around God and moving him to the center of life. But as long as we’re addicted to denial and illusion, claiming we have no choice or whatever other excuse we might have – we can’t even get on the journey. As long as we’re stuck in that illusion, we’ll think the problem is that we’re not doing enough, when the problem is we’re doing too much of the wrong stuff.

So that’s it. That’s pretty straight dope I’ve shared with you tonight. Now you’re not going to go home and reorganize your life and stick to a perfectly God-soaked schedule from now on. But I hope I have made it a little harder for you not to find and face truth. Whether you follow it, and how, is really up to you.

My expectations aren’t that high. You can tell from the response card you’re getting what I hope might come from the message today. Baby steps. Maybe just admitting that we’re addicted to activity and busyness. Maybe deciding that we’re going to cut something out of our lives. Maybe starting to realize that inner slave-driver that binds up our stomachs and gets our heads all fuzzed up, and starting to reject that way of living. Maybe scheduling 10-15 minutes a day of downtime this week. Maybe getting your spouse to take the kids and just getting away for the weekend. Maybe even the really radical one, which is choosing to have your kids drop out of a few things so you can live connected to God and teach them to avoid the activity addiction. There are a million ways you can choose to begin restructuring your life. If today you got as far as realizing maybe you need to, I did my job. Let’s leave our time-lies in this room and be done with them.