"Stressed Out" part 2:
Battling Busyness
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 6, 2007


Main Passage: Luke10:38-42 (NLT)


1. Do you always seem to be in a hurry?
2. At the end of your day do you often find that your "To do" list isn’t done?
3. Has anyone ever told you to slow down?
4. Do you feel guilty when you relax?
5. Do you even know what it means to relax?
6. Have you ever found yourself scheduled to be in more than one place at a time?
7. Does the pace of your life have you stressed?

Last week we started a new message series dealing with stress. And we started out by talking about some general principles for surviving stress. If you missed last Sunday and you want to catch up, then you can find that message on our website.

Beginning today, we’re going to get into some of the specific causes of stress. What are the things that contribute to our stress levels? And the first one we’re going to talk about is our schedules. Busyness. Always running here and there trying to get accomplished what needs to get accomplished.

Maybe you’ve felt like the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland”.

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no! I'm overdue! I'm really in a stew! No time to say goodbye...hello! I'm late! I'm late! I'm late!!"

What a crazy world that we live in. It seems that every hour of every day is filled to the limit with things that need doing and we never seem to have enough time to do it all. How often have you caught yourself wishing for more hours in the day or more days in the week so that you could finally catch up and finish everything that you are supposed to do? But regardless of how much time you have, it never seems to be enough.

What got us in this position? How did we ever get so busy and so stressed out about everything? Well, there’s always been stress… there have always been people with far too much to do in far too little time. But I think there are some unique contributors to our stressed out busyness today that weren’t as prevalent, say, 50 years ago.


Busyness Boosters:


A. Erosion of Boundaries

We used to be able to tell the difference between when we were at work and when we were at home… when we were on the job and when we were off the clock… when we were supposed to be busy and when it was okay to relax.

And I think the primary culprit that has robbed us of these boundaries is… technology. Now, don’t get me wrong… I love my technology. Hey, I’ve got a podcast and a blog and an mp3 player and a cell phone… I use a laptop and a video projector… I’ve freelanced by designing websites… I’ve even bought one of those iRobot vacuum cleaners off of eBay. Technology is not evil. I love my technology.

But… Isn’t it ironic… don’t you think… that in our technological world we find ourselves getting busier and busier and busier? Modern technology promised us that all of the new conveniences would save us time and make our lives easier. But computers, fax machines, the Internet, and cell phones have increased the pace of our work rather then reducing it. At home dishwashers, washing machines, vacuums and microwaves have made life easier in some ways, but all that freed-up time has been filled up with other chores… with serving on community committees, with both partners working outside the home, with schlepping the kids around to hockey, music and school activities, and a host of other time-consuming activities.

In the U.S. in the 1960s, a sub-committee of the Senate studied the whole area of time management. And they made this prediction… Because of the advances of technology, within 20 years or so, people would have to drastically cut back on how many hours they spent at work and would have to start retiring earlier. The biggest problem they could foresee would be what people would do to fill all the extra hours they gained.

In a 1994 Gallop Poll, 72% of the people surveyed believed they would be working less due to the advances of technology. But in reality, the opposite has proven true. Since that survey, we now work 22% more hours and have 8.5 hours less leisure time per month.
[Source: Surviving Busyness by Timothy Smith, http://sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=71963]

Hey, just in the month of April, I received 1388 emails. Even if most of them are junk, it still takes a while to sort through them. And when I go away… even if it’s just for a few days on vacation… I have to check my email. Otherwise, I’ll be overwhelmed by it when I get home.

And particularly with email and cell phones, it can become very difficult to maintain boundaries. I mean, you can be on the job while lying in bed! In fact, this week I was! Part of this message was written while I was lying in bed. That’s not a good thing, but that’s what I did. (I guess it’s a good thing that my wife was out of the country this week.)

The boundaries have eroded.


B. Explosion of Choices

We have more choices today than ever before… we’ve got more potential vacation destinations, more channels to watch on TV, more activities to sign the kids up for, more websites to visit and files to download, and more stuff to sort through when you go shopping.

In the 1950s, a typical corner store had about 1000 items in stock. Today, Wal*Mart stocks about 130,000 items. That’s a lot more stuff to sort through, to compare, to evaluate, and to buy.

And connected to that, we’ve got more stuff filling up our homes.

This is an American statistic, but in the U.S., 10% of households have things they keep in those rented self-storage facilities. That’s an increase of 75% in just the past 10 years. And in the past 30 years, the size of the average house has gone up 50%! Bigger homes and more stuff in storage.
[Source: It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh, p. 8, 28, 30]

It’s nice to have choices. But the downside is that we’ve become busier and poorer.


C. Increased Demands

How many times do you hear about factories laying off 30% of their work force while promising to maintain current production levels? Those 70% left over have to do a lot more to make up for the shortage of personnel.

Or think back to technology again. Technology was going to make our lives easier. We were supposed to have less to do. But instead, it’s made it possible for us to do a whole lot more at a much higher quality. We now do more and we do it better. That’s what’s expected of us. We’ve had increased demands which have made us busier and more stressed out.


D. Larger Debts

Now, this is one that we’re going to talk about in depth in a few weeks. Our debt-load certainly adds to our stress levels. And it adds to our busyness. You’ve got to take that second job to pay the bills, you’ve got to expend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how you can shuffle money from here to pay this over here, we’ve got to spend the time trying to balance what we’ve paid cash for, what we’ve used our debit cards for, what we’ve put on credit, what we’ve paid with PayPal, and what automatic payments are coming out of our account. That’s a lot more complicated that it used to be, and it’s led to a lot of people spending more than they thought they were spending or what they thought they could handle.

Well, we’re going to get more into debt… maybe that’s not the right way to put it… We’re going to talk more about debt in a few weeks. So let’s leave it at that for now.


E. Believing that busyness = success

We have this deep rooted belief that the busier we are, the more successful we must be. But busy is just busy, and it’s no indication of success.

In fact, you can do this… go to the library and check out all the books on success. If you read through every book, I don’t think you’d find one that told you that in order to be a success you had to get busier. In fact, a lot of them would tell you what you need to do is reorganize so that you’re less busy.

Busyness is not an indication of success; it’s an indication of stress.


Okay, so there are lots of things that can add to our busyness. That’s just five that have come to the forefront in recent years. So what do we do about it? How can we regain control over our schedules? Well, let me make a few suggestions. I’m going to give you five keys to battling busyness.


To Beat Busyness I Must…


1. Learn to say “no”

Video – Drained from Busy Schedules from BluefishTV.com

You know, there are all kinds of expectations placed on us and there are people that we don’t want to disappoint. But sometimes, we just have to say “no”.

Let’s practice that… All together… 3-2-1 - “No”. There, didn’t that feel good?

You have to learn to say “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to other things. Because you can’t do everything.

You know who understood this? Jesus. Jesus understood that in order to accomplish the things He wanted to accomplish, He had to say “no” to other things.

In Mark chapter 1, we read about how the disciples of Jesus came to him and told him everyone wanted to see him. All the people in the city where they were (Capernaum) had heard about Jesus and about His miracles, and so they wanted to see Him. And his disciples were encouraging Him to go and spend the day with them. But do you know what Jesus said? He said, “No.” He said, “I have other things to do. I have other places I need to go.” He said, “The whole reason I’m here is to travel to these other towns too and to preach and tell them about the Kingdom of God.”

[Mark 1:35-38 (NLT)
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.”

Luke 4:42-43 (NLT)
Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.”]

Let me show you exactly what Jesus said…

Mark 1:38 (NLT)
But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.”

In your notes, underline that last sentence. “That is why I came.” How did Jesus decide when to say “no” and when to say “yes”? He decided by measuring everything by why He came. What did He want to do? What were His goals? Why was He here? And then He would look at each individual thing and ask, “Will this help me accomplish my goals? Will this help me to do what I’m here to do?”

And by doing that relentlessly, this is what He was able to pray to His Father just before His crucifixion…

John 17:4 (NLT)
“I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”

But the only way He was able to say that was because He had identified why He was here and He said “no” to the things that didn’t contribute toward that.

So let me ask you, what are you here for? What’s your purpose? What has God called you to do? If you can identify your purpose, then I promise you it will help you to determine what things you need to say “yes” to and what things you need to say “no” to.

Now, a couple years ago, we spent about a month and a half talking about how we can discover our purpose in life. And as a church we went through this book, The Purpose Driven Life. And we have a few copies left over. Who doesn’t have a copy but wants a copy?

So first, if I want to beat busyness I must learn to say “no”. Second, I need to…


2. Create margins in my life

I’m talking about reestablishing the boundaries that have been eroded. I’m talking about turning off the phone, going for a walk, shutting down the computer, switching off the TV and just talking time to relax. Turn off the car stereo once in a while and enjoy some silence. You don’t have to always have something going on.

Decide on a date night with your spouse and stick to it. Don’t let busyness ruin your relationship. Have family times that aren’t driven by a hectic schedule. Clarify when you’re at work and when you’re at home. Have some free time every week that you guard with a passion.

And don’t feel guilty about it. Because you need those margins. You need time to rest and refuel and reenergize. So if somebody asks you to do something and you’re not tied up with something else, it’s still okay to say “no”.

Hey, God thinks these margins are so important that He included it in the 10 Commandments. The fourth commandment says…

Exodus 20:8 (NLT)
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

Now, that’s kind of a funny word… Sabbath. We don’t use that word a whole lot, but it literally means “Cease” or “Rest”. It means, “Knock it off.”

And basically it’s referring to taking a full day off from all our work and busyness and investing that time in being refreshed and renewed as we devote time to worshipping God and to God-honouring activities. For the Hebrews who were the first to receive this Commandment, their Sabbath day was from sundown on Friday night to sundown on Saturday night. For Christians, dating back all the way back to the apostles and their disciples, the Sabbath has traditionally been Sunday. Whatever the day is, I think the principle behind it is that we need to find one 24-hour period of time someplace in our week where we can set aside our work and spend time resting and worshipping our Creator.

It’s good for us. It’s good for us spiritual, emotionally, and physically.

And even beyond the “Sabbath”, we need to create margins everyday. Moving at high-speed from the time we get out of bed to the time we go to bed does no good to anybody.

Psalm 127:2 (NLT)
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.


3. Put time with God at #1 on my To-Do list

Earlier in our Worship Celebration, Lynn read a passage for us from Luke 10. In that chapter, Jesus and his disciples went to have dinner in the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha.

Now understand, Jesus is there with all his disciples, plus there’s Mary and Martha, and so there needs to be a meal for at least 15 people. Even by today’s standards, that’s a pretty big Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner. And if you’ve ever prepared one of those, you know there’s a lot of work that goes into it.

So Martha got right to work. And remember, she would have had to make everything from scratch… no pre-cooked meals from the store, nothing she’d be pulling out of the freezer, no microwave to heat things up in… she had a lot of work to do.

But as she was slaving away in the kitchen, her sister Mary went out in the living room and just sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to Him teach. She was in awe of Him and was just honoured to be in His presence.

Until finally, Martha couldn’t take it anymore. She had had enough. There she was, working hard to get the dinner ready for their guests, and Mary didn’t lift a finger to help. And so Martha tore into Mary right in front of Jesus, and complained about how unfair it was, and asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. And how did Jesus respond?

Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)
“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus wasn’t nearly as concerned about the meal as He was about Mary and Martha. He was there to spend time with them, and He wanted them to spend time with Him. Yeah, a meal had to be prepared… after all, He was invited there to eat… So Martha wasn’t doing anything bad. But she was missing out on the best… spending time with Jesus.

You know the scary thing? This happens all the time. Even in churches, people get so wrapped up in doing good things that they neglect the very best. They miss out on knowing Jesus and developing a relationship with Him. And Jesus warned us of this… He said…

Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT)
“On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Go away…”

Above everything else, He wants you to know Him. Not just do things for Him and serve Him and volunteer in His Church… He wants you to know Him. So take a break. Spend time with Him in prayer and in reading the Bible and get to know Him.


4. Schedule down-times to follow hectic times

[see Matthew 14 and Mark 6]

You know, Jesus had some pretty stressful days. Let me tell you about one day in particular. That morning, he heard that his relative John had been executed. And so Jesus tried to get alone so he could mourn. But as soon as people heard that Jesus was in the area, they came to him and brought people to be healed and wanted to hear Him teach.

And Jesus complied with that, and He healed people and taught the people right into the evening. In fact, there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and the disciples didn’t even have a chance to eat.

At least 5000 people were there crowding around Jesus. Maybe upwards of 8000 or 10,000. And let me tell you as a public speaker, no matter how much you enjoy it, it can be draining. So I can only imagine how exhausting all this would be for Jesus. And then, to cap it all off, Jesus performed a miracle… taking five loaves of bread and two fish and feeding everyone that was there!

And then we get to what I want us to notice this morning… We’re told…

Matthew 14:22-23 (NLT)
Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Jesus had had an incredibly busy, hectic day, and He finished it off by spending some time alone in prayer. Even Jesus, who is God, needed time to regroup and recover. And that’s a regular pattern you see in His life. He’d spend the day surrounded by all these people making all these demands, and then He’d spend some time alone.

And I think that’s a good example for you and for me. Even beyond creating margins for everyday life, when life becomes especially stressful we need some down-time to recover.

A couple months ago most of us went to Kindred Spirits for our Winter Retreat. And it was a fantastic time. I loved being there and spending a few days with you. But it was also a lot of work leading up to it and during those few days in particular.

So you know what Shera and I did? We stayed for a couple extra days afterward. You see, I knew going into it that it was going to be a busy time. And I knew I’d be wiped out by the end of the weekend. And so I scheduled some down-time. And let me tell you, I needed it and I enjoyed it.

So when you encounter a particularly stressful time in your life, let me encourage you to do the same. Take a vacation. Or make sure your workload will be lighter for a little while. Or send your kids on a sleepover. However you do it, make sure you have some down-time.


5. Clear away the clutter

Video – Stress from Overloaded Schedule from BluefishTV.com

You know what I did this past week? Can I brag for a minute? I went through all our cupboards in the kitchen, I got rid of stuff that was outdated or that we don’t use, I organized a couple of closets, I sorted through a bunch of papers, and I packed up or threw out a bunch of stuff.

Plus, I set aside a few things that I need to ask Shera about before I toss them. Hey, I’m not stupid… is I?

Basically, I tried to simplify. I tried to get rid of stuff that was just excess clutter. And you know what? It feels good.

“Areas of chaos or clutter can cause stress just by looking at them. They may be closets that overflow, drawers stuffed with outgrown clothes, or a garage that no longer has space for the car. Clean these little areas for a fast move toward peace.”
~ Ron Hutchcraft, in Living Peacefully in a Stressful World

But it’s not just the fact that the clutter is there… it’s how much time you waste because it’s there. I got to thinking this week, how much of our lives are spent trying to find things or sort through piles of paper or clean up the stuff that’s just cluttering our homes? I’m sure we spend years of our lives doing those kinds of things. And yet we hold on to all this stuff thinking it adds value to our lives. But Jesus said…

Luke 12:15 (NIV)
“A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

But you know, it’s not just our possessions. Our schedules get cluttered, our relationships get cluttered, our goals get cluttered, our priorities get cluttered, our budgets get cluttered, our TV viewing gets cluttered, our minds get cluttered, our spirits get cluttered… and what we need to do is simplify. Clear away the clutter.

Identify what’s important, and stop committing time and energy to the rest.

Look, we all have demands and expectations that are placed on us. But that doesn’t mean we have to become enslaved to busyness. We can control our schedules instead of our schedules controlling us. And in so doing, we can greatly reduce the stress level in our lives.




Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2007 SunriseOnline.ca