We’ve now been swimming in the deep end of the pool over the last few months. While this morning’s topic may seem like the shallow end, make no mistake about it, if you don’t get this one right nothing else will matter.
Everything I’ve been talking about takes effort, discipline and TIME. To take the next step spiritually we need room to breathe. We need permission to stop. We need space to think. What we need is margin in our busy, stress-filled lives.
So, what is margin? The dictionary defines margin as an extra amount of something – such as time or space – that can be used if needed. I picked out two key points from that definition: extra and if needed. Can I be bold enough to change that a bit? I think it should say “as needed”, because it’s always needed.
The way most of us live, the word “extra” is non-existent. Our days are filled and when we have an “extra” moment…we fill it or use it to catch up. We live like the old “Last Straw Game”. That’s the game where you keep putting straws on the camel’s back, hoping that the next straw won’t be the one that breaks it. There are just too many obstacles and excuses that keep us forever trapped in “urgent” mode.
1 Tim. 6:17-19 says, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
In other words, stop waiting and hoping that one day your ship will come in…that one day you’ll have what you think you need. Serve God now. Serve others now. Do good now. You have all you need.
I constantly hear, “When I have more money, I’ll do this for God, or I’ll do that for the needy.” But those people do nothing now. Or, “When I hit this point in my life financially or otherwise…I’ll start, or I’ll be in a position to_____.”
But God expects us to do what we can NOW, with what He’s given us. He also expects us to manage our money so that we have it available to carry out his will. God doesn’t want us to live on the edge financially where we never have margin for spontaneous generosity. He doesn’t want us to live in such a way that we constantly feel the urge to compromise our regular giving because we’re so stretched. Maybe we don’t need more money. Maybe what we need is more wisdom and the discipline to ensure we use what he gives us more effectively.
Verse 17b says, “So that we enjoy the things he does give us” . Are you enjoying where God has you in life right now, or are you living for the next season? When we are constantly living for the next season of life, we never enjoy this season.
Have you allowed money and your desire for more stuff to rob you of your opportunity for peace, joy and contentment? Some of the most unhappy and discontented people in the world are those whose hearts are focused on money.
And it’s not just the rich. The poor and middle class are notorious for being ungrateful and dissatisfied with what they’ve been given and where they are in life.
Even when they’re blessed with more…it’s never enough.
The rich, on the other hand, can often spend lavishly and don’t appreciate the responsibility God has given them. They often use their money as a weapon, or to manipulate those around them. They see what they have as their own…not as the result of God’s grace. So they miss their responsibility to be stewards.
Paul makes it clear that both “need” and “abundance” can be enemies of contentment. Phil. 4:11-13 says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
So how can you break free from this trap and create margin? You need to deliberately schedule some down time and reflection time. If you are going to find extra time to use when you need it, then you’ll have to set some bold boundaries.
You need to remember that God is more concerned with balance than He is with busyness. You need to be intentional. Sit down with your schedule and block out time. Create “do nothing” gaps in your calendar—days or times with a whole lot of nothing planned. We’ll can discuss this more in a few minutes.
In the beginning, margin may look or feel like you’re just being lazy. You may see it as wasting time. But it’s not wasting time, it’s finding time. So, you need to plan it! Margin can be finding time to take a walk through a park or even through your neighborhood. It could be listening to music, reading a book, going fishing, talking with a friend, or even just sitting in silence. Margin may not feel immediately productive. But it pays off. It has lasting benefits physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The rest and reflection time that margin provides is life-giving. Margin allows you to breathe, leaves room for creativity, and offers a quiet space for you to think and grow.
Remember 1 Tim. 6:19 says, “so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Some of us are so busy we’re not truly living the life God designed us to live. Here’s the reality. Creating margin shows spiritual maturity.
So how can you change, how can you get started?
- Admit your life is out of balance
Face the reality that your life is way too busy. Admit that you’re feeling overwhelmed. Fight the feelings of guilt that will come with down time. Keep in mind that Jesus built in margin and he was God. I think I read somewhere (hint, hint) that God the Father rested as well (something about the 7th day).
- Make it happen
Margin gives you time for what’s important, not just what’s urgent. So, sit down and do it. Get out your calendar and start blocking out time. Consider all that you do in a day, in a week, and in a month. Leave nothing out. That means you should include kids’ activities, church activities and computer/phone time. Evaluate your schedule and cut things out. Then fill those openings with down time. Now, when the time comes, you can meet a need God calls you to meet, or just enjoy your newfound freedom.
- Tell everyone about your plan
Tell anyone who will be affected by your new choices. Have the courage to let go of things that may be important to others, but not to you. Then talk with the people close to you and ask for their help, encouragement and accountability.
- Realize that busyness is not godliness. Have you ever considered that what you’re doing is not what God wants you to do? Have you ever considered that you may be doing it to fill an emotional void or doing it to avoid dealing with issues that God wants you to address? You don’t want to slow down because then you might have to think and that terrifies you.
So, stop. Find margin. Then find a friend, a mentor, a Steven minister, a life coach, or a counselor and spend time dealing with your hurts, hang ups, or habits so you can move to the next step on your spiritual journey.
- Finally, fight for margin
Get righteously angry, push back, say no! Make this a priority. Now sit and do nothing for a few minutes and let God convict you to do what you know needs to be done…and then go out and DO it!