Running On Empty part 3
Slowing Down
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 26, 2009

VIDEO – “Zoom Zoom” Mazda commercial

Zoom zoom. All the world seems to want to go zoom. Life is consistently getting faster and faster. The world is getting faster. And the evidence is all around us.

In the States, McDonalds is now offering a fast track option, so that when you go through the drive-through it will automatically bill your fast track card and shave fifteen seconds off getting your burger.

I heard the other day that frozen juices are declining in sales because people don’t want to wait for them to thaw. They’re now buying prepackaged juices instead of frozen juice.

And have you seen what people are doing in their cars these days? People are always trying to multitask. What have you seen people doing?


E.g. Make-up. Shaving. Eating. Watching TV. Drying your hair, smoking and talking on the cell phone – who’s holding on to the wheel? Changing shirts. Reading the newspaper. Reading emails. Painting fingernails.

You get the point. People are trying to save time and they’re going faster and faster and faster. We’ve developed hectic, fast-paced lifestyles. And we try all kinds of stimulants to help us keep going and keep up.

Tim Horton’s, Red Bull, No-Doz… whatever it takes. Did you know that 60% of us drink a cup of coffee every day? I’m not quite every day, but I’m most days. Tim Horton’s had over $2 billion in revenue last year. StarBucks had over $9 billion.

Of course, all this running around and all these stimulants means that we’re awake longer and getting less and less rest. In fact, we are now averaging about six and a half hours of sleep each night, a drop of 25% in just the past 100 years.

Which leads to even more medications. There was an article last year in Wired Magazine talking about a new drug that’s being developed that can eliminate sleepiness. The article claimed…

“A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called 'orexin A' reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests.”

Personally, I’m not sure that I want to use a chemical that enables me to perform like a well-rested monkey. (Some of you might think I’m already taking it.)

That drug is still years away from hitting your neighbourhood pharmacy, but it just goes to show how much our society reveres the “go go go” mentality and sees taking a break and resting as a sign of weakness. The expectation is that we will run at top speed from before sun-up to after sun-down.

And you know what? When we’re in the middle of it, we get caught up in it and we justify it and we think we’ve just got to press on. But when we stop and consider what we’re doing to ourselves, I think we’d all agree that this kind of lifestyle just isn’t healthy. Our stress levels are going through the roof, we’re being sapped of all our energy and ambition, and in the end we find ourselves running on empty.

Well, the Bible has a lot to say about living this way, and it provides some warnings for us. It tells us that all this hurry and worry and scurry has some dramatic negative effects on us. Let’s talk about five of them. And you can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update this morning to follow along and fill in the blanks.

When I Live a Hurried Lifestyle…

1.    I feel more stress.

Ecclesiastes 5:3 (NLT)
Too much activity gives you restless dreams…

Because you get all wound up, your personal reserves get depleted, and you stretch yourself to the limit and beyond, which means your stress levels just keep going up and up. You have to periodically slow down.

Now, understand that there’s nothing wrong with going fast unless it’s fast all the time. You go fast and you go slow. There are ebbs and flows in life. You go fast and you go slow. You cannot just keep charging forward. You are not the energizer bunny. You can’t just keep going and going and going and going. It causes stress in your life. And besides, even the energizer bunny eventually stops.

2.    I lose my joy.

That’s the second thing. The faster you go in life the less time you have to enjoy.

Job 9:25 (CEV)
My life is speeding by, without a hope of happiness.

You can’t enjoy things at a fast pace. You have to enjoy them at a slow pace.

Last year when Shera and I packed up Nate and traveled to Kansas City, Kansas, we passed by and passed through a lot of cities along the way. For example, Cleveland Ohio. The highway went straight through the city, so we were driving along at a high speed zooming through the city, in like six lanes of traffic, with other cars all around us… and we were all just driving to get from one side of the city to the other.

Now, from what I understand, “Cleveland Rocks.” That’s what Drew Carey tells me. And Huey Lewis even tells me that “The Heart of Rock and Roll is in Cleveland.” But the truth is, I have no idea. I was just trying to get through the city as quickly as possible. So even through I was going through the center of the city, I didn’t really enjoy it.

Now, if I had gotten off the Interstate and driven through some of the city streets, I would have been able to take in more of the city and would have enjoyed it a bit more. But I still would have missed a lot of the details.

If I really wanted to enjoy the city and take in the sights and build memories there, then I would have had to stay there a little while. I would have had to go for a walk through the city. I would have had to stop at some of the parks and some of the touristy type places.

You cannot enjoy something fast. Enjoyment comes slow. If your life is just constant pressure, fast, fast, fast paced, you’re not enjoying anything. You’re not able to take much in, you’re not able to really appreciate things, and you miss the details. You lose the joy.

3.    I’m less productive.

I’m less productive when I’m going fast. You have to have some slow times in your life.

Every creative person knows this. You must pace yourself. You might have a moment of inspiration and you can go go go with that for a little while. But then you need to go slow again and allow yourself time to think and dream and get those creative juices flowing. You go fast and you go slow.

Proverbs 21:5 (MSG)
Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind.

This is the law of diminishing returns. You have to pace yourself. You’re actually less productive if you’re going, going, going all the time. You have to have breaks. You have to slow down.

Number four. Spiritually speaking, when I’m running at a high speed…

4.    I can’t hear God.

If you’re moving at a fast pace in your life all the time you can’t get to know God. Because you don’t know God in a hurry. You get to know God when you slow down. When you be quiet. When you become still.

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)
“Be still, and know that I am God!”

Be still! That means you slow down your body and your mind. Because when you’re not still, it’s as if all your circuits are busy. You’ve got God on call waiting. The circuits are on overload. You can’t hear God because you’re too busy and there’s too much noise in your life.

I think the first half of that verse goes with the second half. “Be still, and know that I am God.” If you are not still you will never get to know God. The only way you get to know God is by being still. You have to have some times of quiet, some times of solitude, some times of stillness in your life.

5.    I’m headed for burnout.

This past week on TV, I watched some of the Boston Marathon. And these runners aren’t even going at top speed. They’re not sprinting, but they’re still running at a pretty good pace. And what happens to them?

Well, I saw some who crossed the finish line immediately collapse. There were others who had to drop out somewhere along the path because they had pushed themselves too hard for too far for too long.

And that’s okay in a race, but it’s not okay in life. You don’t want to burn yourself out like that in life.

Romans 12:11 (MSG)
Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.

Proverbs 23:4 (NLT)
Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit.

Years ago, there was a saying that was popular in church circles… “If I’m going to burn out, I’m going to burn out for the Lord.” Well, wouldn’t it be better to not burn out at all? How does burning out bring any honour to God? How does running yourself into the ground until you have a breakdown benefit the Kingdom of God? I mean, you might be able to accomplish a lot in a short period of time, but then you’ll hit a wall, you’ll burn out, you might face depression, and it could take years or even the rest of your life to recover. Burnout is not a noble aspiration. Wouldn’t it be better if you were able to avoid burnout, pace yourself, get your rest, and serve God for a lifetime?

Okay, so we don’t want to burn ourselves out, we don’t want to miss out on joy in life, we want our lives to be meaningful and productive, and we certainly want to be able to hear from God. So what does that mean? It means we have to learn to slow down.

So what I’m going to do for the rest of our time here is share with you some strategies for slowing down your lifestyle to a more rational, reasonable, manageable pace. And the things we’re going to talk about are actually counter-cultural. They’re the exact opposite of what our culture teaches. But if you do these things you will find your joy level going up and your stress level going down.

If you’re serious about kind of slowing your life down to a more humane pace of life you’re going to have to make five counter-culture changes that are total opposite of our culture.

Ways to Slow Your Pace:

1.    Learn contentment.

If you’re serious about slowing down, then you don’t start with your schedule. You start in the heart.

Philippians 4:11 (NLT)
…I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.

Notice the verse says, “I’ve learned how to be content.” You are not by nature a contented person. You have to learn contentment. It’s learned over time.

How do you do that? Paul says

1 Timothy 6:6-8 (NLT)
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

So Paul is saying, “I didn’t have anything before I was born. I’m not going to have anything after I die. So things… yeah, I can use them. But life is not about things so I’ll just be content with what I’ve got.”

Let me explain what contentment is not. Contentment is not having no ambition. You ought to have ambition. You ought to want to make the most of your life. You ought to make the most of what you’ve been given by God. So contentment is not saying, “I don’t have any goals, I don’t have any dreams, I don’t have any desires, I don’t have any plans, I don’t have any ambitions.” That is not contentment.

Contentment means this: I don’t need more in order to be happy. I’m not waiting for more in order to be joyful. I’m happy right now. I have dreams and I have goals but I don’t need more in order to be happy. That’s contentment. Jesus put it this way…

Luke 12:15 (NLT)
“Life is not measured by how much you own.”

The greatest things in life aren’t things. Learn to be content with less.

And besides, if you think contentment is measured by how much you have and how much you accomplish and how busy you are, where does that lead? It leads you to compare yourself with other people, to live in competition with everyone else… you’re constantly comparing yourself with them and that inevitably leads to insecurity, dissatisfaction, resentment, envy, and of course jealousy.

Proverbs 14:30 (NLT)
A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

And understand, learning to be content has nothing to do with your schedule. It has to do with your attitude… with your heart. Learning to be content does not start with erasing everything off your calendar, it starts with your heart.

And once you’ve taken care of your heart, then you move on to the second area… your mouth. Because in many ways, your mouth actually controls the pace of your life. The way and the speed and how you talk to other people actually influences your heart rate and it influences your stress level in life. So here’s the second thing…

2.    Listen before speaking

I enjoy watching talk shows. I enjoy listening to people debate different issues and try to express their views, I like to learn about different opinions and different arguments on a variety of topics. But on thing that I’m noticing more and more—and it drives me nuts—is how people talk over each other.

We live in a world of interrupters. Have you noticed that? People don’t let others complete their sentences. They talk over each other. You see it on talk shows. You hear it on radio programs. You watch it on TV news. People interrupt each other… they butt in. Three or four people will talk all at the same time and nobody’s listening. Why is that? Why have we gotten so rude?

Well, I think one of the answers is because of the speed of life. We have become impatient and we’re unwilling to let other people finish a thought. So we butt it. We’re so eager to say our piece, to get our point across, that we won’t even take the time to let somebody finish a thought before we butt in. That’s our culture. But the Bible gives some counter-cultural advice…

James 1:19 (NLT)
You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

And I want you to notice something here. If you do the first one, the second is automatic. If you’re quick to listen, then you’ll automatically be slow to speak. And if you’ll do the first two—be quick to listen and slow to speak—then the third will follow. You will be slow to become angry. If you’ve got an anger problem this is the solution: Learn to listen before you speak. And that will take care of a lot of anger issues.

Rick Warren talks about how we deal with anger in a couple of different ways. He says each of us is either a skunk or a turtle. If you’re a skunk, then when you get angry you just stink the place up. Everybody knows you’re upset. You make it pretty obvious. If you’re a turtle, you pull back into your shell. You kind of shut down. And it’s not so obvious, but you’re fuming below the surface. So we have different ways of expressing anger, but the way to deal with anger is the same. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NLT)
Don't shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think.

Proverbs 29:20 (NLT)
There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.

Okay, so once you get the heart and the mouth slowed down now you’re ready to work on scheduling. And this is something we really have a hard time with…

3.    Take a Sabbath.

This past Tuesday evening, I was driving home around 10:30 when I looked down at the fuel gauge, and it was right on the “E”. I read “E”, and I thought “eeeee”.  And I thought to myself, “I am preaching this series on Running on Empty, but I really don’t want to be the illustration.” I didn’t want to run out of gas and get stuck on the side of the road. So I took a detour so I could go to the gas station and fill up before I went home.

Do you know what it’s like to drive for even five minutes knowing that you’re low on fuel and you could run out at any time? It’s pretty stressful. And you just can’t seem to get to that gas station fast enough. So the tendency is to step on the gas and speed up so you can get there faster.

But what happens when you do that? You use up the gas even faster. So I was fighting that temptation the whole way. In fact, instead of stepping on the gas, I tried to coast as much as possible. I even stepped on the clutch and put the car in neutral when I was going downhill. And it worked; I made it to the gas station, pulled up to the pump, and was able to fill the tank.

Well, taking a Sabbath is kind of like that. It’s shifting out of gear and into neutral before it’s too late, it’s coasting a little bit, it’s allowing yourself time to refuel.

We’ll actually be talking more about refueling next week… some of the ways we can refuel and at the same time avoid running on empty in the future.

But today, I do want to address this idea of taking a Sabbath. And I understand that “Sabbath” is kind of a strange word. And we don’t really use the word very much in normal conversation. But it’s a word that literally means, “to knock it off, or to rest”, and it refers to taking a day to rest every seven days… once a week.

And it comes from the Old Testament book of Exodus, chapter 20 where God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment says…

Exodus 20:8-10 (NLT)
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.

God says, “Rest is so important I’m putting it in the big ten.” God says, “I want you to take a day off every week.”

And I’ve got to tell you, I find this hard to do. But I’m getting better. I obviously work on Sundays, so I’m trying to use Mondays as my Sabbath. Because I think the principle is a whole lot more important than the day.

Mark 2:27 (NLT)
“The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”

So I think the principle is to take a 24 hour period of time each week and slow down, rest, enjoy some hobbies, spend some quality time with God and worship Him… but just don’t let it become another work day for you. Because you need to break. And studies show that if you do actually take the time to rest and relax, to recharge your emotions, to refocus your spirit… you’ll be a whole lot more productive the other days.

It’s like when you’re driving in your car and you look down and you see the warning light that you’re starting to overheat. Do you ignore it and just keep going? (Well, some of you might, but you’re not going to go far.) No, you pull over, you take a break, you replenish your supply of fluids, and let things cool off before you continue.

I remember once when I was traveling and I had about a 45 minute span between towns, and I looked down and my car was overheating. Well, I pulled over and checked under the hood, and I discovered that I had sprung a leak someplace. I didn’t have any radiator fluid with me, so I found some water and poured it in… and it immediately started leaking out the bottom. So I hopped in the car, drove a few more minutes until all the water drained out and it started overheating again, I put more water in, I drove a few more minutes… and I kept it up until I got to my destination and was able to get the car fixed.

You know, without these breaks… without these Sabbaths in our lives… I think we’re in danger of overheating and breaking down. We need to take that time to pull over and check under the hood and replenish our supplies and cool down before we keep going.

You know, in history after the French Revolution that entire nation decided not to take Sunday off any longer. They thought they’d get more done. So they got rid of the Sabbath. But it wasn’t long until they re-instituted it as a day of rest because the entire health of the nation was failing. You need rest.

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.

4.    Pause and pray before deciding.

Because it’s more important that you make wise decisions than it is that you make fast decisions.

Now, I’m talking about the decisions you and I have to make on a regular basis. When you’re working with a client or when you’re dealing with your kids or you have some conflicting priorities or you’re facing a difficult person or someone asks you for advice… whatever it is, you have a decision you have to make in the course of life, why more just take the five or ten or fifteen seconds it takes to consult with God?

Just shoot up a little microwave prayer, “God, what do You want me to do in this instance?” “God, is there anything You want to say to me right now?” And you wait. “God, help me to make the right decision.” And you wait.

And you don’t even tell anybody. You don’t say, “Excuse me a minute. Let’s bow our heads… I want to pray.” No, you keep your eyes wide open, you silently ask God for guidance or for wisdom, and you go from there.

And let me explain why. The reason you do this is because when you stop to pray, then in that pause you get perspective. And perspective is what helps you make wise decisions. Plus, you are slowing down your life to a more manageable level, you’re inviting God into the process, and you’re creating a buffer before you make a wrong decision.

Proverbs 19:2 (NLT)
Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.

Or as the New International Version of the Bible puts it…

Proverbs 19:2 (NIV)
It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.

Any of you know who Roy Regals was? He was a football player, and in 1929 in the Rose Bowl, Roy Regals recovered the ball, ran sixty-five yards with it… in the wrong direction. And he would have scored for the other team, but he was tackled by a teammate.

Anybody know who Jim Marshall is? He did the same thing happened in 1964. Minnesota Vikings playing the 49ers. Jim Marshall recovers the ball and runs sixty-seven yards in the wrong direction and scored for the opposing team.

Anybody know who Doug Corrigan was? Doug Corrigan – pilot, 1938. He was going to fly from New York City to Long Beach, California in the fog. He takes off. Twenty-six hours later he lands in Ireland.

A person who moves too quickly may miss the way. They may go in the wrong direction.

You know, sometimes when you’re driving down the highway and there are vehicles all around you and life’s busy, you can miss the signs. Take this exit, road closed, bridge out, detour… those kinds of signs. Like when I was going to someplace in New Hampshire and ended up in Massachusetts. Or going to Halifax and headed toward Cape Breton.

Pause and pray before deciding. Maybe God has a sign He wants you to notice, but you’re going to miss it if you’re going too fast.

The fifth thing and this is the last – we’ll wrap it up with this…

5. Trust God’s timing.

Do you know what impatience is? It’s a lack of trust. When you’re impatient you’re saying, “This isn’t really going to work out. God, I don’t really trust You. I don’t think You have my best interest at heart. You don’t know what I need and when I need it and I’m in a hurry.” So you get all worried and you get all stressed out because you don’t trust God to do it at the right time in the right way.

Let me ask you, is fast always better? No. It is not. Sometimes it is, but not always.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (CEV)
God makes everything happen at the right time. Yet none of us can ever fully understand all he has done…

There’s a song I used to listen to that said, “He’s got perfect timing. He’s not a minute too soon, not a moment too late.” And I believe that’s true.

God has a plan for your life. And He also has a timetable for your life. And one of the most painful things in life is when you’re in a hurry and God’s not.

We used to have a magnet on our fridge that said, “God give me patience, but I want it right now!” Or as a wise person once said, “It takes too long to learn patience.”

Well, as children grow up, they have to learn the difference between “No” and “Not yet”. They have to realize that a delay is not a denial. And we have to learn that, too. “Not yet” does not mean “No.” A delay does not mean a denial. Sometimes it just means you have to wait patiently and trust God’s timetable.

You know, my son Nate is need of learning patience. I mean, he might be playing and having a great time, and suddenly realize he’s hungry. Well, as soon as he realizes he’s hungry, he’s going to make sure everyone else realizes it, too. So even if he’s sitting in his chair watching us getting the food ready, he’ll scream and cry and demand that we give him the food right then and there. It doesn’t matter if it’s not done cooking yet, he wants it on his timetable.

Well, he has to learn that we’re going to feed him, but not before the food is ready. Not before it’s time. And we’re making the preparations, he just has to be patient and trust us.

And I think that’s something we miss sometimes in our impatience. God is making preparations for us… and He wants to bless us and will at the proper time… we just have to be patient and trust Him.

Okay, that’s what I have to say about Slowing Down. When you’re running on empty and your stress levels are through the roof, you’ve got to learn to slow down. We’re going to finish up this series next week when we talk about how to refuel and avoid running dry again.

[This series adapted primarily from material by Rick Warren and Doug Fields]



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