How do you view your life? Have you ever thought about that question? What determines what you do or don’t do? Why do you say yes to some things and no to others? What is your filter for determining what fills your calendar?
It seems like for many of us, we live our lives functionally as though we were in a board meeting of a corporation. We are the CEO and we are leading the meeting. Then we have all of the aspects of our lives in seats around the table as we guide and direct their participation in our day-to-day lives.
Your career gets a seat. How much you work. Where you live. Whether or not you take that promotion. Moving for that better job. Your career gets a seat at the table.
Your family gets a seat. Spending time as a father or mother or sister or nephew building relationships. Doing things around the house that that role requires. Going on vacation or prioritizing holidays or blocking off time to spend with one another. Your family gets a seat at the table.
Kids activities get a seat. Going to dance classes. Picking up muddy kids from baseball practice. Buying tickets for the theatre production. Learning the 100 million different softball chants at the latest tournament. Watching the eagle scout ceremony. And all of the driving and dropping off that these activities require. Kids activities get a seat at the table.
Recreation gets a seat. Maybe it’s movies or sports. Maybe it’s camping or eating out. Maybe you like being on the lake or going to Disney. We all have things we just enjoy doing and bring a sense of renewal to our lives in the midst of so much hurry. Recreation gets a seat at the table.
Digital media gets a seat. TV. Smartphones. Radio. Games. The average American spends 2 hours and 24 minutes per day on social media alone. In total media according to a recent ABC News report, the average American spends a staggering 11 hours and 54 minutes per day connected to some form of media (TV, phones, radio, or games). While that number is slightly inflated because you do some of that simultaneously, the conclusion is still clear. Digital media gets a prominent seat at our table.
Sleep gets a seat. You will sleep roughly 1/3 of your life. That’s how awesome you are. Your body is unable to function unless it completely shuts down for a significant portion of your life. Sleep gets a seat at the table.
And then Jesus gets a seat. If we are honest we wish it was a more prominent seat but it’s a seat nonetheless. We try to make it to church when we can. Recent studies suggest that even committed Christians make it to church on average twice a month. 26 times a year. We also know we should read our bibles more and be more consistent in prayer. We feel the desire to be more faithful in evangelism or care for those that are hurting. Life just gets crazy. We want Jesus here, but we will need it to be something fast, something immediate because we are in a hurry. And it will have to be something casual because we can’t commit to anything substantial or time-consuming. We just have too much going on. But we still want to work and make sure that Jesus gets a seat at our table.
And as we make decisions in our lives, we hear each of these board members give their case for why they should have a bigger slice of our week. Your career is telling you that you need to work more hours otherwise you’ll get passed up for that promotion. Plus he reminds you of the sense of worth he gives you. But recreation chimes in that you cannot just be all work and no play, that will make you a very dull boy. But then your family seat interrupts and says you can’t just work and hunt and watch college football and neglect your responsibilities as a husband and a father. Jesus doesn’t seem to have much of a say in so many of our decisions but we do love him and want to make sure we can place him into the spaces and margins we do have in our lives. You hear the debate at your table. You consider the value of each. And then you make the decision as CEO of your life. You shape your life, figure out the crazy and busy schedules, and direct the trajectory of your future.
Is that what your life looks like? Is that what your life should look like? Have other Christians had this same struggle of business, trying to find a place for Jesus to fit, or is this a 21-century struggle with all the smartphones and interstates and constant connectivity?
Eugene Peterson wrote his classic book just over 40 years ago in 1980 called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. As he describes his context in 1980 before cell phones, social media, or Netflix, it sounds like they had the same issue. Listen to what he describes:
“I don’t know what it has been like for pastors in other cultures and previous centuries, but I am quite sure that for a pastor in Western culture in the latter part of the twentieth century the aspect of world that makes the work of leading Christians in the way of faith most difficult is what Gore Vidal has analyzed as “today’s passion for the immediate and the casual.” Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach, and teach, want short cuts. They want me to help them fill out the form that will get them instant credit. They are impatient for results. They have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points.”
That was written 41 years ago. Friends, don’t believe the lie that your life is uniquely busy and that you just don’t have the time. This is one of Satan’s lies to our society. He gets us in such a hurry that we feel like we don’t have the time to seriously follow Jesus. Kids activities, digital media, family. Go go go. Do do do. Each of these things are good, none of them are wrong. We should be giving our attention to these good things.
But here is the question I want to ask you: Has Satan turned your attention to so many good things, that you have unknowingly ignored the best thing? Have you relegated Jesus to a seat at your table and come to him just when it’s convenient for you?
Friends, what does your relationship with Jesus look like? Is it expected to be immediate and casual? Does he simply fill in the cracks of your busy schedule? Is he then the first to go when things just get too busy?
So what is your response when you hear Jesus speak up in that boardroom? Do you pull back saying you don’t have the time to give to his Great Commission right now or any calendar openings for his Great Commandment? Do you expect your discipleship to be immediate? Do you expect following Jesus to be casual?
Jesus tells us something far different.
You see there was a great crowd that Luke says in his gospel is traveling with Jesus in Luke 14. And Jesus turns and says, unprompted, “Hey heads up, unless you hate your mom and dad, wife and kids, brothers and sisters, and even your own life, yeah you can’t be my disciple. If you’re not willing to pick up your cross daily and follow me, really follow me, then you can’t be my disciple. Before someone builds a tower, they count the cost to see if they have enough to build it. Before a king goes to war, he counts his troops to see if he can defeat his enemy. So if you don’t renounce all of your possessions, you can’t be my disciple.”
Now we are in a culture where people say we can’t expect more than nominal attendance on Sundays and maybe some of the really committed ones could join a community group once a week and read their Bibles. But Jesus says that the baseline for following him is being willing to leave your family and sell everything you have and pick up a cross every day and follow him. That’s not a discipleship PhD; that’s Christianity 101.
“Are you saying that I have to literally hate my family and sell everything I have to follow Jesus?” No, Jesus isn’t giving a prescription here. But I do believe he is describing the heart of following him. You don’t have to leave your family and sell everything you’ve got, but you need to be willing to. He needs to be more valuable to you than anything else in your life. Jesus isn’t prescribing the actions of your hands, but describing the posture of your hearts. What is his place in your life?
Luke gives a helpful description of this great crowd in Luke 14, did you hear how he described it? Listen again to verse 25: “Now great crowds were traveling with him.” Friends, there is a subtle and yet massive difference between traveling with Jesus and following Jesus. One is a tourist; the other is a disciple. One is interested in what Jesus is doing as long as it doesn’t interfere too much with what you want in your own life. The other says, “No, my life is not my own anymore. I’ve been bought with a price, and I’m now following this man.”
Once you decide to truly follow him and view him not just as the Savior of your life, but also as the Lord of your life, then your relationship with him changes. No longer can he simply be confined to a single chair in your boardroom as you direct the proceedings of the meeting and the direction of your life. He takes over as the president, CEO, and chairman of the board, directing and influencing every other seat at the table. He now shapes what our careers look like. He determines what TV shows we watch and how much of it we watch. He dictates our involvement in recreation and our kid’s activities. He doesn’t have a seat at your table, he now stands at the head and speaks into every seat of our lives. Far from being immediate, we realize this is a lifelong commitment. Far from being casual, we understand he is calling us to be devoted.
Does he just have a seat at your table or he is running your life?
Are you traveling with Jesus or are you following him?
Are you a tourist or are you a disciple?