Keeping the Main Thing The Main Thing Sermon

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Mon, 05/06/2019 - 11:45am


Proverbs 3 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    and do not rely on your own insight.

6 In all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;

    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

8 It will be a healing for your flesh

    and a refreshment for your body.

9 Honor the Lord with your substance

    and with the first fruits of all your produce;

10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,

    and your vats will be bursting with wine.

Proverb 16:1-3

 (1)  People do the planning, but the end result is from the LORD.

(2)  Everything a person does seems pure in his own opinion, but the LORD weighs intentions.

(3)  Entrust your work to the LORD, and your planning will succeed.

“Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing-  Sermon for 5-5-19 at Harbor Church

Have you ever wished for a thirty hour day? Surely this extra time would relieve the tremendous pressure  under which we live. Our lives leave a trail of unfinished tasks. Unanswered letters, unvisited friends,  unwritten articles, and unread books haunt quiet moments when we stop to evaluate. We desperately need  relief. But would a thirty-hour day really solve the problem? Wouldn't we soon be just as frustrated as we are  now with our twenty-four allotment? A mother's work is never finished, and neither is that of any student,  teacher, minister, or anyone else we know. Nor will the passage of time help us catch up. Children grow  in number and age to require more of our time. Greater experience in profession and church brings more  exacting assignments. So we find ourselves working more and enjoying it less. But if we had 30 hours, would it be enough? … or would we soon be looking for 35? The problem is not that we don’t have enough hours in the day, the challenge is managing the time we have most effectively.

In 1967 A small pamphlet Written by Charles Hummel entitled, Tyranny of the Urgent- in it he writes, "Your greatest danger is letting the  urgent things crowd out the important." Although some of its illustrations are date, its basic premise and insighhts have held up remarkably well to the test of time.

The Digital Revolution.

It seems like it was just a little less than one short generation ago that everyone was still keeping track of things (like appointments, commitments, and to do lists) on paper and not with electronics. We all had and used DayRunners, Franklin Planners, Day-at-a-Glance Appointment booklets, and wall and desk calendars to keep track of things.

Then came the advent of the PDA – Personal Data Assistant

These were handheld electronic organizers.

People began trading in their pens and pencils and pads of paper for bits and bytes on electronic devices. We started using things called Palm Pilots, and Pocket PCs. One early electronic organizer that garnered significant attention was the RIM 850 Wireless Handheld – It was released just bout 20 years ago on July, 1999.  The device itself had a six- or eight-line display and was capable of sending messages, emails and had calendars, address books, task lists, a calculator and an alarm function. It was one of the first wireless devices capable of connecting people to their corporate email and contacts. Although it wasn’t widely know by this name, it was the first Blackberry which introduced connectivity to the marketplace and eventually gave advent to the first smartphones.

Do you remember the nickname they were given soon after Blackberrys first came out? They were called Crackberrys… (an allusion to crack cocaine).

Why do you think this was? For many, A productivity device became an object of obsession; people walked around with the omnipresent PDA glued to the palm of their hands and their eyes glued to their screens. Very quickly, the devices had become vices. Sound familiar? Blackberrys have given way to smartphones, but otherwise, things are much he same.

We’re all familiar with the idiom “left to their own devices”– to leave someone alone to do as they wish, to pursue their own desires.

This is precisely what God has done for us in giving us free will. He has allowed us the freedom to choose to pursue our lives in the way that seems best to us. But perhaps the greatest exercise of free will is to express it in such a way that is consistent with His purposes and plans for us. Seeking  the Lord’s will in our lives leads to full and abundant living, this is what I would call the main thing, and the choices we make each day determine how well we do at keeping the main thing the main thing.

We live in an age of interruption, what I would call  the Curse of Connectivity. Our home is no longer our castle- a safe refuge in which to retreat for  the demands of the workday. Now, we can get a text or email at dinnertime, and those at workplace will expect us to have done something about it by the time we arrive to begin our ‘workday’ the next morning.

With the advent of the Windows operating system for personal computers, multi-tasking became a thing. Our computers could now do several things at the same time. Then people thought, I can do that too! All of a sudden it became vogue to brag about how good we were at multi-tasking. But just because this works well in synthetic machines doesn’t mean its meant for real-live flesh and blood, and I think that Multi-tasking is over-rated.

In his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

Research shows that it takes, on average, more than 23 minutes to fully recover your concentration after a trivial interruption.

Everything competing for your attention when you want to single-task can waste your precious time.

In another article on productivity, Peter Bregman writes, “To get the right things done, choosing what to ignore is as important as choosing where to focus.”

Single-tasking is one task at a time, with zero tolerance for distractions.

In the age of constant connectivity, distraction is at its peak in life and at work. The average adult checks their phone 50 to 300 times each day. And a recent study tells us that most of us tap, swipe and click on our devices over 2000 times per day!

Today, In  the course of a typical 24 hours, many people will spend more time online than we do asleep.

Low value activities, including responding to notifications, or reacting to emails keep you busy and stop you from getting real work done. Not too long ago, I would stop what I was doing at look at each notification, and often respond to it immediately. It almost became a Pavlovian conditioned response, or to put it more plainly, a bad habit.

I haven’t completely cured myself of this tendency, but currently, I’ve turned off most of the notifications on my phone and  PC. And Every time my phone rings now with a call or text, I ask myself, “can I afford to be interrupted right now, or should I respond later”? I choose when I want to check my notifications. I have consciously planned to check news and social media updates at a certain times to avoid distractions when I am doing focused work.

The buzzes, beeps, emails, alerts, and notifications never end until you do something about them.. We need to train ourselves not to react; respond instead, but to respond instead. This is part of the pathway to keeping the main thing the main thing, to avoiding the pitfall of letting the urgent crowd out the important.

God has given us all the time we need to finish all the work that matters most. But we need God to help us order our lives if we want to accomplish or complete that which is most important to us.

  1. T. Forsyth once said, "The worst sin is prayerlessness." -what I would call it “godlessness”. But the root of all sin is self- sufficiency -- independence from God. Sure I believe in God, but I don’t need his help- I’ve got this, . Believing that we can entirely manage our own lives without divine assistance is the quickest road to unmanageability- to a life that is out of balance and can quick become out of control. Prayerfully inviting the Lord to guide us in our decision-making and planning is the solution. Wasn’t it the great Reformer Martin Luther who said: “I have so much to do today, I must spent the first four hours in prayer.” That was how he prepared for his day? What do you do to get ready?


Business philosopher Jim Rohn said, “Don’t start your day until you have it planned. Never begin the day until you have it finished on paper.” He goes on to pose the question: When should you start the day? His Answer: As soon as you have it finished. It is like building a house, building a life.  What if  a contractor showed up on a job site and just started laying bricks. Somebody asks, "What are you building?", "I have no idea."  He says. And then someone comes and take him away to a safe place. So, don't start the house until you finish it. 

Other Analogies: The football team plans its next moves in the huddle or the time-out taken by the coach.

The General or Admiral draws up a battle plan before the enemy is engaged, before he comes ‘under fire’.

What does the counsel of God’s Word say about planning? In the section of the Bible classified as “Wisdom Literature” the Book of Proverbs says

16?:(1)  People do the planning, but the end result is from the LORD…

[so] Entrust your work to the LORD, and your planning will succeed.

Here’s The Secret to Success:

Plan with God, prioritize with the Lord as your trusted advisor, and choose what you will do each day, and then follow-through - act with the Lord’s leading each moment!

What about when the important is also urgent? When the unexpected clamors for our attention? Then, We have the freedom and flexibility to respond in the moment, to drop what we are doing in favor of something else because we are asking the spirit of God to direct us, moment by moment, day by day.

  1. i) Good Choices in the Present. Now is the time to ask ourselves the hard questions, to seek God’s present and future peace through our decision-making: Here are some good questions to help us:

(a)   Am I doing what is important, or simply what is urgent?

(b)  Am I reacting or responding to the demands on my time?

(c)   Am I deciding how I spend my time and energy, and am I determining when I do things, or are other people setting my priorities?; or Are other distractions and demands making the decisions for me.

Folk Wisdom. Didn’t grandma used to say, “If you let other people slice your pie, there won’t be  enough to go around.

The wisdom from the scripture Today we read, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,… In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

 As we begin the busy season, lets make sure that we have enough hours in the day to accomplish what is most important. Let guard against the distractions that may prevent us from doing what is urgent instead of what is best. Lets be intentinal about how we Plan, Prioritize, and Decide, and lets do it with God’s guidance.  If we can, we’ll be well on our way to discovering the abundant life that the Lord’s has promised to all who seek to follow him each day, we’ll be on the path to keeping the main thing the main thing.