We are talking this month about the need we all have for breathing room. We defined breathing room as the space between our current pace of life and our limits. Whether it is time, money or the emotional energy needed for relationships, we all have limits and when we live at the edge of those limits it increases our stress and decreases are ability to focus on the things that matter the most.
We saw last week that the Bible speaks to this need because God created us to have margins in our life. God gave us the law of the Sabbath so that we would not work 24/7 but actually set aside time in our schedules to rest, reflect and recharge our lives. God also gave the law of the Tithe which called people to set aside 1/10 of their resources to give to him, but in the process this taught the people they didn’t have to live on all they produced. Setting aside an offering told the people they could live on less which meant they could have a margin to reserve for times of need. God also gave the law of gleaning which told the people not to harvest their fields to the very edge but to leave space around the outside for the poor and needy. This law helped people learn to trust God for what they needed and not just trust the work of their hands.
So margins and space in life are important and today we want to focus on time. Do we have breathing room in our schedules? As we think about this, let me ask some questions:
Do you arrive places late & then tell people you need to leave early?
Do you eat at your desk through lunch?
Do you eat and drive at the same time?
Do you text, make phone calls, apply make-up AND drive?
Do you constantly drive too fast because you are going to be late?
When you are at work are you thinking about all that needs to be done at home?
When you are at home are you thinking about all that needs to be done at work?
If any of these describe your life – then you need to think about creating some breathing room. If you are someone who doesn’t struggle with these issues, then I hope you will listen today so that you can keep these things from happening. What will help us today is not a time management principle – you can find those out there and they certainly can help, but I want us to look at one thing that can change our lives because it will change our perspective on time.
The one thing we are going to look at is a principle given to us by Moses. Moses had an interesting perspective on time because there were 4 distinct phases of his life and each phase had a different pace.
1. Moses grew up as a prince in Egypt where the pace of life was fast and the whole world was his.
2. When Moses fell out of favor with Pharaoh he went to live as a shepherd in the wilderness for 40 years. The pace of life as a shepherd was drastically different. What do you do as a shepherd? Watch sheep eat. Watch sheep sleep. Watch sheep drink. For Moses it was a radically slower pace of life and it is was during this time that Moses married and had a family. His focus was different
3. Moses then returned to Egypt to lead God’s people out of slavery and during this time Moses became the leader of one of the most dramatic events in all of human history as he led God’s people out of slavery and out of Egypt. The pace of life radically changed again and everything now seemed to move quickly.
4. Once they were on the other side of the Red Seas, Moses led the people in circles for 40 years. The pace of life once again slowed dramatically as Moses turned a group of runaway slaves into nation.
At the end of his life Moses never got to enter the Promised Land. He got to see it, but after his long life as a leader, Moses never got to enter the land and the vastly different seasons of his life give Moses an interesting perspective on time and how we use it. With that in mind let’s look at Psalm 90. 90:1-2
God is everlasting. God was before everything and God will be at the end of everything and we are just somewhere in the middle of all of that. Because God is eternal, He knows the beginning and end of our lives. Elsewhere in the psalms this is made clear when it says God knows us in the womb and he is there at the end of our days. So God is everlasting and eternal, but our lives on this earth are not. God is at the beginning and God is at the end, which means that there is a beginning and an end to our lives. So the big truth here is this, our time is limited.
While we all know this, the truth is that many times we don’t live as if our time was limited. We often live as if we will always have another day, another season, another year but we don’t. Moses talked about this in Psalm 90:3-6
If God is from everlasting to everlasting, think about how God must see time. 1,000 years are like a day. If that is true, then what must 80 years must be like for God? A couple of hours? A couple of minutes? Moses says that to God, our lives are like the grass that sprouts up in the morning and is gone by evening, our lives are short. Even Moses who lived to be 120 says that life is limited and short, Psalm 90:10.
Moses is speaking from personal experience here. Moses not only knows the trouble and sorrows, spending 40 years marching in circles in the wilderness and never being able to enter into the promised land and he knows how quickly those years have passed now he is at the end of his life. Moses isn’t complaining here as much as he is sharing with us this truth. This is life. Our days are limited and they pass quickly before us and even more quickly before God. But Moses doesn’t end there, he goes on in 90:11-12.
If we take these 2 verses together, what Moses is saying is that if we really understood God for who He is in all of his power and anger as well as His love and patience then we would give God the reverence and honor that is due him and if we did that we would be more careful with the time He has given us. If we really understood God then we number our days and use them wisely.
Think of it this way, if we live as if our days are numbered and our lives are short then we will prioritize how we live and be smart about what we do. Think about how we live when we face a deadline – maybe it’s a wedding day, a due date for a child or the deadline for project at work – we look at our schedules, order what needs to be done, make smart decisions about how and when to do things and stick to that schedule to make sure it all happens. What if we lived life this way? What if we lived life as if there was a deadline or an ending date? Would we live our lives differently?
In his classic book, the 7 habits of highly effective people, Steven Covey gives an exercise where we imagine ourselves going to a funeral and when we walk up to the casket we see that it is our funeral. As we sit at our own funeral and people get up to speak, what is it that we would want them to say? Who would we want to be there? As we reflect on that we then need to ask ourselves if we are living in such a way that those words would be true. If not, can we change our lives so that those words could become true? Our time is limited so we need to limit our time and spend it wisely.
Bronnie Ware was a hospice nurse in Australia who spent a lot of time talking with and helping those who were dying. She asked people if they had any regrets in life and then would work to help them resolve those issues to find peace. She wrote a book called The Top5 Regrets of the Dying in which she outlines the top regrets people shared with her. Let me share with you the top two regrets, in reverse order.
#2 I wish I hadn’t worked so much.
Bronnie goes on to say, “This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partners’ companionship… All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
While it wasn’t just men who shared this regret, the generation that she was dealing with was the generation where more men worked outside the home than women. Steven Covey said the same thing. He said most people don’t want their bosses standing up at their funeral talking about how hard they worked and how much overtime they put in, and yet that is often how we live, but if we live knowing that our time is limited we might limit our time at work and invest more time at home and with family and friends and our faith development and those things that matter most.
The #1 regret: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Bronnie said, Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to the choices they had made, or not made. One of the things that these top two regrets show us is that we don’t regret what we have done as much as we regret those things that we have not done and one of the reason many important things don’t get done is that we put it off thinking there will be another day, another year, another season of life to do it. As Moses would say, we need to learn to number our days so that we can have a heart of wisdom to make the most of them.
Let me quickly address some reasons we do as much as we can and crowd out the things that often are the most important.
1. We think we will never make it if we don’t do it all. But what is the “IT” that we are striving for? We need to make sure we striving for the right things or we will end up getting all the wrong things.
2. If I don’t do it all - I will fall behind. Fall behind whom? Fall behind what? Who and what are we trying to keep up with?
3. I will end up poor. I won’t have enough money in life. Here is a really important question we need to ask ourselves – how much money is needed to really enjoy life? My sister and husband have downsized 5 times in the past 10 years and they are happier and more fulfilled than they have ever been. How much do we really need in life to be happy?
4. I won’t be accepted if I don’t do it all. Again, accepted by whom? Whose expectations are we trying to live up to? Our parents? Our friends? Remember the top regret people had as they were dying was that they had not been true to themselves but had tried to live the way others expected them to live. They were trying to be accepted by others
These are just a few reasons why our schedules might be too tight and filled with things that don’t ultimately matter and while we need to face these fears and expectations, the bigger questions is what can we do about it? What changes can we make so we are spending our limited time wisely? There are only 4 things we can do:
• We can add something new to our lives
• We can subtract or remove things from our lives
• We can do more of something we are already doing
• We can do less of something we are already doing
Only you can determine what these things might be so the next steps we are providing this week is a card that allows you to evaluate these 4 things. What can you add, subject, do more of, or do less of so that your limited time is spent wisely. If you can identify some of these things, I would encourage you to share them with your spouse, friends, parents or members of a small group or Sunday School Class. By sharing these goals they become more real and we find support and accountability for living the way we want to live.
So that one truth Moses gives us is that our time is limited so can we limit our time and spend it wisely. Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.