Sometimes in our lives, we find ourselves in a position where we need to draw a line in the sand and say, “I will not go past this point.” Maybe it is with your budget, time given to TV or social media, maybe it is in reference to that snack you’re thinking of grabbing right now. Even good things need to have limits for a healthy life. I remember Pastor Mark Erickson telling me, when I interned with him one summer when I was in college, that his favorite theological term was “balance.” Real deep, right? You might think not, but putting it into practice is a tough nut to crack. What about when it comes to your work? Are you able to draw a line for how much ambition is business and not ruthlessness? How many hours per week is healthy? How much work at home is acceptable and not disruptive? It can be very hard.
As you may know, Cristiana and I are the only missionaries remaining on the field in Brazil now. There are many opportunities for good work all around us, but the unfortunate reality is that if we want to do something significant, we must say “no” to many good things.
A seminary professor once told me that in ministry we often build too many molehills and not enough mountains. We can be enticed by possibilities and spread ourselves so thin over so many endeavors, that none of them become lasting or significant.
In America materialism and the need to be “successful” is the motor that drives many people. We do what we do in order to have what we want: stuff, comfort, accomplishments, status, value, the list goes on. The problem with this is that it is all focused on “me.” Yet, the Bible tells us that we are created for the purpose of glorifying God, our creator (Col. 1:16; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:19-20). How could “me-focused living” glorify God? It may be surprising, but it is no different here in Brazil; in fact, I think it is even more intense.
Recently I was talking with a man from our church who has a wife and two young daughters. He told me he had to draw a line at his work place. As a technician, he was often sent on installation and repair jobs or training sessions out of state, or out of country. Initially he loved the travel. He got to see the world, received better pay, and he was growing in the company. With recent cutbacks though, his trips were becoming increasingly frequent and for longer periods. In 2016 he was gone for two weeks or more every single month. Furthermore, when he returned from trips he was not allowed any down time or days off. Work continued at a full-time pace at headquarters, too. He missed family birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and school presentations. He soon realized he would never get those back. He also wants to take on a greater leadership role in our church, but simply cannot because of his work schedule.
This month a minor health problem appeared and he needed to do some medical exams. When he told his boss of the issue and that he would need to work from headquarters for a week rather than going on a trip so he could do the necessary exams, he was denied. He said it was then that he realized that his job had become his god. His job determined if he could spend time with his wife and daughters; if he could care for his family or even his own health issues. His job determined if he could go to church and if he could serve in ministry or not. Unfortunately, in all of these situations, more often than not, the answer was “no.”
The man told me that when he realized all this he knew he had to draw a line. He spoke to his boss and decided to let the chips fall where they may. He told him that things had to change and limits had to be set, because some things are more important than a career. This is not an easy decision to make. The economy is unstable here in Brazil, he has a family, and he has no idea if he is going to be let go. What he did know, was that things could not continue as they were and that the right decision is not always the easy decision. There may still be consequences for doing the right thing. Please pray for my friend and his family.
What about you? Is there something that dictates how you live your life that is keeping you from God’s desire for you? What is your motor? I asked my congregation recently to imagine their dream life. Most people think of money, houses, comfort, travel, etc. Then I asked them to think of what they imagine God’s dream for them to be. It is amazing how, in seemingly innocuous ways, those two scenarios are often far apart and priorities are in completely different realms. How can a person bought with the blood of Christ, as His servant, live his or her own plans rather than the Master’s?
How often do we let the focus of our own dreams hush God’s dream for our lives? Are we allowing what is, on the surface good, to control us and disrupt our ultimate purpose; glorifying God above all things including ourselves? Think about what you may need to say “no” to, a place where you may need to draw a line, and then do it. Sure, it might hurt. It might cause some problems to resolve. But what could be better than living a life fully dedicated to the dream the Master has for you? I dare you!