Reformation Books: The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness
I’ve had a number of conversations recently with friends who are just too busy. I know that often they are busy doing the very best things, giving their time to their church, to their neighbours and to their friends, but at some point this busyness has taken over their lives. It is as if they are trapped on a treadmill and it won’t slow down enough to let them hop off.
So I’m going to dedicate this review to my busy friends, safe in the knowledge that they will be far too busy to ever read it.
The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness opens with a succinct summary of the problem. We can be busy at work or busy at play, but the result is always the same we become too busy to be healthy, too busy to think, too busy for relationships and too busy for Jesus.
In the second chapter, the author Tim Chester warns us against either ‘a work centred’ or ‘a leisure centred’ life ethic. He calls us to ‘a God centred’ ethic. This doesn’t mean keeping busy working for God, this means learning to both work and rest to the glory of God.
It is certainly true that the Bible commends hard work (‘Go to the ant you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food in harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?’ Proverbs 6:6-9) but the Bible also commends rest (‘Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day’ Deuteronomy 5:15).
Tim points out that we should not live to work nor should we view work simply as a necessary evil. Our aim isn’t even to find the right balance between work and rest. No our goal is that we enjoy and glorify God in work and in rest. God wants to redeem both work and rest enabling us to know and enjoy him through these times of grace.
So that’s the theory but how does it work in practice. Tim gives us a four step process to the practice:
1. Use time efficiently
2. Sort out your priorities
3. Glorify God all the time
4. Identify the desires of your heart that make you do more than God is calling you to.
Step one involves many time management tips that you could pick up in any secular book (and to be fair Tim acknowledges and agrees with this). It covers planning, paperwork, managing people, and your home.
Step two involves setting kingdom priorities beginning with ministry and church and then looking towards our homes, jobs and lifestyles. I generally agree with this but I wouldn’t be as rigid as this. I am not sure busying ourselves with ministry and church should necessarily come before these other spheres of service. I am persuaded by the Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper that ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry “Mine!”‘. Consequently, I don’t think ministry or working for the church should assume priority over mothering or working as a nurse or lifestyle evangelism. I think working out your priorities should depend much more on discerning the Holy Spirit’s leading and God’s will for your life.
Step three talks about how we can glorify God in all of life and gives some really encouraging pointers on how we can redeem our work life.
Finally, we reach step four which takes up the majority of the book. I do not have the space to do this justice here, but this is where Tim really excels in helping us analyse our own desires (to prove ourselves, to live up to other people’s expectations, to keep on top of things, to work better under pressure, to gain more money, to make the most of life ). In each of the following chapters, Tim explores a single motivation, the way it appears in our lives, and then places it in the context of God’s liberating truth. I thoroughly recommend reading these.
All in all accepting my concerns over step two I think this is a really great biblically grounded book. In fact I’m going to give it to some of my busy friends now!