There is a big difference between being lazy and resting. The undercurrent of American culture swims in the belief that if you aren’t busy, you’re lazy. But is this fact or fiction? The truth is we live in a bustling world full of commitments from work to play and if we don’t control our schedule, our schedule will control us. Golda Meir said, “I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.” Jesus was very busy, but he was never in a hurry. The gospels never say “Jesus ran to help Mary” or “Jesus rushed to save the day.” Yet we rush and hurry and basically live our lives in the fast lane. Does this take a toll on us? Absolutely. Living a hurried life drains us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And unless you learn how to refuel, you will run on empty until something changes. The good news is that you can learn to control your schedule and you can learn to refuel.
What is the solution? The solution is to put some margin into your life. Margin is breathing room. Margin is a little reserve that you’re not using up. You’re not stretched to the limit. You’re not going from one meeting to the next with no space in between. Margin is the space between your load and your limits.
Dr. Richard Swenson writes, “The conditions of modern day living devour margin. If you’re homeless we direct you to a shelter. If you’re penniless we offer you food stamps. If you’re breathless we connect you to oxygen. But if you’re marginless we give you one more thing to do. Marginless is being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were twenty minutes late getting out of the hairdresser because you were ten minutes late dropping the children off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from a gas station and you forgot your purse. That’s marginless. Margin, on the other hand, is having breath at the top of the stair case, money at the end of the month and sanity left over at the end of adolescence. Marginless is hurry. Margin is calm.”
What happens when I build in a little margin? More peace of mind, better health, stronger relationships, and more availability for loving like Jesus come to mind for sure. The question is: How do we build more margin into our lives?
Here are four key steps that will help you to create more margin in your life so that you won’t feel like you are running on empty all day every day.
1. Learn to accept your limitations. You’ve got to recognize that you have limits and come to the place where you accept them. “I have learned that everything has limits,” writes the Psalmist in Psalm 119:96. We are only human, we are not invincible. We need sleep, food, and emotional rest. We have physical limitations, emotional limitations, time limitations, and mental limitations. God gave us limitations for our own good and he instituted the “Sabbath” so that we would take a day of rest in order to unplug and refuel. So rather than fighting our limits we need to accept them.
2. Learn to be content. People who have margin in their lives have learned to be content with who they are and what they have. Stop comparing your life to everyone else’s life and your stuff with everyone else’s stuff. Learn your rhythms. Until you do that you will always be driven to take on more. You have to stop that constant push to pack your day full of stuff. The Old Testament says in Ecclesiastes 4:6 “It is better to have only a little with peace of mind than be busy all the time.” You need to ask yourself a very frank question. Will having more and doing more make me happier? If you are not happy with what you have today you’re not going to be happy with what you get tomorrow because today you’re not happy with what you were striving for yesterday.
3. Learn to say no a lot more. A lot of us are addicted to the lifestyle of going faster and faster and how important it makes us feel. We have to learn that it’s OK to say no to the unimportant things so that we can say yes to the right things. It’s always easier to fill up your schedule than it is to empty your schedule. There are times when we have to just say no. Put your schedule on a diet and stick to it.
4. Learn to refuel. The fact of life is, the faster you go in life the more margin you need. Take time to rest and refuel. Refuel emotionally with friends, some solitude, or doing a hobby. Refuel spiritually by attending church, reading the Bible, and praying. Refuel physically by getting ample rest, exercising, and eating right, not rushed. Build that margin into your life every day.
The Bible tells us very clearly that if we don't allow space into our schedules - if we just work all the time that it is foolishness. Ecclesiastes 10:15 states, “Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.”
You don’t have to be busy every moment of every day. Life is a journey not a race. The truth is if we really want to last in life, we need to add margin into our schedules. We need to remember that it’s not how fast we live that’s important. It’s how well we live.
God’s will for your life has a lot to do with God’s gifting in your life because somewhere in your design is your destiny. If you are a new Christian or still looking into the whole Jesus thing, the whole concept of spiritual gifts might seem mysterious or weird, but it’s not. God gives every person spiritual gifts as soon as they make the decision to believe in and follow him. This theological truth is evident all over the New Testament. This isn’t to say that people haven’t screwed up the concept of spiritual gifts; for example, some people have inaccurately said that you need to speak in tongues in order to demonstrate evidence of your faith, but this is simply poor theology. Some others have suggested that the spiritual gifts died out with the Apostles, but the New Testament never reflects this and it’s evident that God is still working in the lives of believers and through His church. So what does the word of God say about spiritual gifts?
In 1 Corinthians 12:1 the apostle Paul says: “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.”
The word “ignorant” in this verse doesn’t mean “unintelligent” or “naïve.” What Paul is saying is that if we are uninformed about spiritual gifts we will miss out on the wonderful gifts that God has given us.
I grew up in a church that never mentioned spiritual gifts. I didn’t even know about spiritual gifts until years later when I went to college and we talked about them in a class. Then the lights went on and I had one of those Ah-ha moments. Like Really? You mean God specifically wired me with gifts that I need to use for His glory? That’s why I enjoy teaching so much. That’s why I talk to so many people about how to deepen their faith. Before becoming a Christian I can’t remember wanting to teach anything but after coming to Christ I was always jacked up to share my faith and teach others how to grow in theirs.
Spiritual gifts are special God-given abilities that are given to every believer at conversion by the Holy Spirit to share his love and to strengthen the body of Christ. Peter writes: "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” 1 Peter 4:10.
When this verse talks about faithfully administering God’s grace in various forms, the forms it is speaking of are for example, caring for children, mowing the church lawn, visiting the elderly, or caring for the poor. God will never call you to something without equipping you to accomplish it. One of the ways he equips you is by giving you spiritual gifts.
In 1 Corinthians 12:7 Paul writes: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
The spiritual gifts that God gives are not for you or about you. God doesn’t give them to you to boost your self-image or so you can use them for selfish gain. God doesn’t give you spiritual gifts so that you can achieve worldwide fame or wealth, he gives you spiritual gifts to use for his glory and to advance his purposes.
In Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul writes: "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Why does God give spiritual gifts to his people? To prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body (the church) may be built up and become mature. God gives spiritual gifts to every believer, not just some of them. There are no special qualifications you need to have to receive a spiritual gift, you don’t have to be a Christian for any specified length of time. If you are a believer in Christ, then the Holy Spirit is in you and you have spiritual gifts that God has given you to help make disciples, to help people see the love of Christ, and to serve others for the glory of God.
You may not have discovered the gifts you have but you definitely have them. God gave them to you and now it is up to you to unpack them and use them to build his church by making disciples. When you do what God has gifted you to do people are helped, God is glorified, and you feel completely fulfilled.
Now you are probably wondering how you can discover your spiritual gifts. First, take a spiritual gifts assessment. This website is a great place to start if you don’t know your gifts. Take the assessment and it will help you see the gifts you have. Second, start serving in various roles to see which ones bring you the greatest fulfillment for you and the greatest results for God.
As you hone in on how God has gifted you, it will be an amazing discovery and help you see how God has shaped you and uniquely enabled you to be fit for ministry. Once you step into your gifts it feels awesome and you will feel closer than ever to God because you are doing what he designed you to do.
At Freshwater we like to use the acronym S.H.A.P.E. to help us serve in the area that will make the biggest kingdom difference and help us to feel the most fulfilled. This is what SHAPE stands for.
Spiritual Gifts: A set of special abilities that God has given you to share his love and serve others.
Heart: The special passions God has given you so that you can glorify him on earth. Your heart leads you to use your spiritual gifts in specific areas, whether it’s local missions, global missions, caring for children, making the church building look great, or some other area. Every believer needs to follow their heart and use their spiritual gifts in the area they are passionate about.
Abilities: The set of talents that God gave you when you were born, which he also wants you to use to make an impact for him. God gives us spiritual gifts, a heart for a specific ministry, and natural abilities that we can also use to glorify him.
Personality: The special way God wired you to navigate life and fulfill your unique kingdom purpose. Find a team that you feel comfortable with, have a heart for, and can use your spiritual gifts to make a difference.
Experiences: Those parts of your past, both positive and painful, which God intends to use in great ways. Your personal experiences will help you to find the best place to use your gifting.
The most fulfilled and effective people in life are those who are living in their God given area of strength. They know their God given S.H.A.P.E. and use it to help make disciples. You can be one of those people if you know your own S.H.A.P.E. and are willing to be used by God to raise the spiritual climate of the community.
At Freshwater, we believe that every member has a ministry and is called to serve in some area. Connect with a ministry leader or pastor today to get involved. You will not regret it. True fulfillment in life comes when God’s people use God’s gifts to build God’s kingdom as a team for His glory. I look forward to seeing what God does through you!
Two months ago I took my 18 year old son, Josh, to Europe. We landed in Germany and made a big loop visiting Berlin, Czech Republic, Switzerland, France, Austria, and Luxembourg. We saw lots of castles and museums, and even connected with an old friend who I played hockey with in Europe. We put on 2,200 miles in 9 days and had a great time doing it.
There were two places that I really wanted Josh to see. The first was Dachau. Dachau is located north of Munich and is famous for it’s WWII Nazi prison camp. I wanted Josh to see Dachau so that he would be able to see and experience what happens when a tyrant leader gains control. The day we arrived it was cold and rainy. We walked up to the gate that reads in German, “Work will set you free.” After entering the 10 acre site we walked to the admissions building that still stands as it did when the Nazis ran it. But now instead of taking prisoners in, it shows pictures and tells the story of the evil Nazi empire. The large rooms were full of thousands of pictures of real people who were imprisoned there. Dachau was a prison for men, women, and children. As soon as they entered the facility they were sorted according to their physical abilities. Many of the sick, wounded, and elderly were immediately killed. Those who were healthy were placed into overcrowded buildings and forced to work for the Nazi machine.
After touring the main building we walked to the opposite side of the camp. I took Josh to a large brown brick building with two large smoke stacks. I had a sick feeling in my stomach as we walked in. The building stands today just as it did at the end of WWII. Inside the building were two large crematoriums. This was the very room where tens of thousands of people were cremated. Some were brought to the building alive, hung on the rafters, then placed in the ovens. My mind focused on the depravity of people who were more than willing to kill innocent people all day long and then go home to their own Nazi families tucking their kids in at night. After we left the building I stopped to read a sign on a post. It had a picture of the building and right next to it was a pile of human bodies awaiting cremation. I had a sick feeling in my stomach when I realized I was standing in the same place that the picture was taken. Josh and I didn’t talk much as we left the camp. The horrors of history had already said it all.
The second place I really wanted Josh to see was the American cemetery in Luxembourg. It is a beautiful place that is immaculately kept. The grass was lush and green. As you walk into the cemetery there are two large stone walls that tell the story of the Americans marching through Europe defeating the Nazis. Every battle was won by men and women who fought valiantly for their country protecting its ideals, freedoms, and land. America stood up for those in Europe who could not or did not. After reading the walls, we walked to the place where 5,076 fallen American soldiers are buried. The soldiers are all buried as if they are in formation and at the head of the formation General George S. Patton is buried. He is buried facing his troops who respected him as their general. It is a symbolic and fitting way to remember General Patton for his determination to defeat the Nazis.
While standing next to General Patton’s grave facing his soldiers, it takes your breath away when you realize the sacrifice the soldiers made when called to serve their country. If it wasn’t for men and women like them, all of Europe would be speaking German right now. As I stood and stared at the graves I could not have been more proud to be an American.
General Patton said, “Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.”
This Memorial Day we gather as a nation, united, to remember those who fought and died for this great nation. We are forever grateful for their determination and resolve to fight for voiceless victims. It is because of them that we still enjoy freedom and democracy without the fear of being thrown into a prison camp.
We have the greatest military the world has ever known. Right now our soldiers are standing guard over land and sea protecting the American way of life. They were not forced to stand guard, they volunteered. So today we memorialize the fallen and show our gratitude to those who have served. We also salute the soldiers standing guard right now. May God bless our troops and may God bless America.