Staying Available

Jump out of bed. Throw on workout clothes. Fry egg, drink tea, spend ten minutes reading the end of Colossians. Rush out the door, head for Curves. Dive into my 30 minute workout; spend 15 more stretching, then cool down for half an hour while chatting with some very interesting ladies. Drive home, clean up, throw on clean clothes. Write blog post, run out door for appointment downtown.

And on and on it goes.

How in the world did I get so busy? Why do I have so little time? And I only work part time! What if I had a job that took up 40 hours a week—or more?

It’s not just me. Everyone I know seems to be running at top speed. We fill our calendars then wonder why we feel so stressed. It’s an epidemic.

I’ve been reading a lot, catching up on the currently popular Christian books. I finally finished Unfinished, by Richard Stearns. I liked this book well enough; I’d recommend it, especially for someone new to the faith. However, Stearns says something that raised a red flag for me.

To paraphrase, he urges his readers to say “yes” whenever God calls. That’s great, and I totally agree. But then he goes on to point out that we don’t always know which opportunities are from God, so we should say “yes” in general. That way, we won’t miss something He wants us to do.

No wonder we’re so busy!

Saying yes to every opportunity is a great way to overload, burn out, and be totally unavailable when God calls us to the work he created for us (see Ephesians 2:10). Let me tell you a story to illustrate.

Pete and I have a good friend, I’ll call him Jim. The high tech company he had been working for laid off a large number of employees, Jim among them. Upon praying about his unemployment, God told him to wait. Don’t apply for another position just yet—it would come along when it was time.

So Jim waited. In the meantime, a local ministry had a computer-related need, and the CEO mentioned it to Pete, who passed along the information to Jim. Now the need was significant and worthwhile. Solving it would enable this ministry to fulfill the task God had called them to. And Jim had the exact right skill set for fixing the problem.

Of course, the ministry called Jim and asked him to volunteer. He was available, he appreciated this ministry and their focus, and he was qualified. Jim replied that he would certainly pray about it.

He did. He spent several days asking God if he was to volunteer at this ministry. To his surprise, God answered “no”—this was not for him. The answer was clear, so he contacted the CEO and explained that he was not the answer to their prayers.

The CEO was astonished, then angry. He saw his huge need, he knew Jim could meet that need—so of course Jim was the right person! But Jim held firm. He pointed out that perhaps God had something else for him to do, and if he took this position, he wouldn’t be available any more. Besides, if he volunteered, then the person God had assigned to this task would never have the opportunity to be blessed by serving.

Sure enough—a few days later Jim was offered another volunteer opportunity, which he accepted. He was exactly the right person for the job, and he and they were blessed by the partnership. In the meantime, another techie stepped forward and helped the first ministry. Everyone’s needs were met and God was glorified.

Knowing if an opportunity is from God takes some time and effort. We need to pray (and perhaps fast), we need to listen, we need to be obedient even if circumstances strongly point us in one direction. God doesn’t always choose the obvious.

Learning to say “no” is important. We want to be available to say “yes” when God calls!

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