86,400. That’s the number of seconds in one day. If you are like me, those are pretty full seconds. Most days I feel as if I’m on one of those Japanese bullet trains—flying past people and opportunities. Everything is a blur as I blow through the day at a 100 mph. Frequently, I’m barely able to get the urgent things done. And sadly, far too often, the important matters are simply left undone.
One of the things that bugs me the most (I’m not proud to confess this) is that sometimes I become angry at people and events that interrupt my schedule. Whether it’s an email from Bonnie asking me to run an unexpected errand; or someone with a broken car who obviously needs my help; or one of the kids who wants to re-talk something that we’ve already discussed nineteen times—I am frequently disappointed by my lack of patience.
I still don’t have this demon conquered, but over the years God has helped me face this problem—and make some headway. The single most important turning point for me came one day when I approached Dr. Jerry Jones, one of my mentors, to discuss an issue I was dealing with. Jerry is one of the busiest, highest octane guys I know. He travels, writes, speaks, and teaches nationwide. Thousands of people seek his counsel on spiritual and marital issues. He is constantly being pulled by one person, then the next, for his time and attention. So I began my conversation slowly and hesitantly by saying, “Jerry, I hate to pester you because I know you’re extremely busy . . . .”
That was the last word out of my mouth before I saw his face turn from friendly to almost angry. Jerry looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Steve, don’t ever say a thing like that to me again! I am never too busy to spend time with you.”
Whew! Was I supposed to feel better—or scared? Jerry went on, “My job is to be like our Lord. Jesus ran a ministry of interruptions. He frequently started to do one thing only to be interrupted by someone who needed his time more immediately.”
Frankly, I don’t even remember what I wanted to discuss with Jerry on that particular day. But in the years since, I’ve played and re-played Jerry’s words in my mind a number of times: “Jesus ran a ministry of interruptions.” The more I’ve pondered it, the more truth I saw in it.
Over the years since that day it has occurred to me how often Jesus began doing one thing only to be interrupted and end up doing something else. Jesus always seemed to live in the moment. Over and over, his plans were preempted. Do you remember the day that he got an urgent message from an important religious leader asking him to come and heal his dying daughter? Immediately Jesus began to follow Jairus to his home. No doubt this was a high-profile event. Likely there were thousands of people following. This was Jesus’ chance to heal an important Jewish leader’s child and become more popular than ever in the better social circles. If Jesus had had a publicist, he would have advised, “Stay on task Jesus—keep moving. You want everyone to see you perform this miracle.”
But things didn’t work out as planned. On his way to Jairus’ house, a common woman with an uncontrolled hemorrhage reached out for healing. Jesus could simply have ignored her and rushed on. But that wasn’t the Jesus style. Instead, he stopped and spent time becoming acquainted with this otherwise unremarkable woman.
This was not the exception in Jesus’ life—it was the norm. Even when things were at their worst, Jesus still kept his periscope up—always ready to respond to the immediate needs around him. I don’t operate that way. The more stressful my situation becomes, the less likely I am to pay attention to others who need my help. I want to be more like Jesus.
Luke tells how Jesus started to Jerusalem fully aware that, when he arrived, his enemies would murder him on a cross. To prepare his followers, Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him” (18:31-32, niv).
Now if this had been me, I would have been so focused on my own problems that I wouldn’t have noticed anyone else’s pain. But not Jesus. On his own death march, Jesus stopped and healed a blind beggar. Then, a few miles down the road, he stopped long enough to change the life of a short, corrupt tax collector named Zaccheus. This little guy had spent his career enriching himself by ripping off his fellow Jews. But thanks to Jesus’ willingness to be interrupted, Zaccheus found hope, forgiveness, and morphed from a taker into a giver.
Even when Jesus was moments from his own arrest, he still took time to heal the ear of one of his captors who would aid and abet his crucifixion. We humans tend to miss the big picture in two ways. One, when we mistakenly think that what is most important to us is also what is most important to God. And two, when we adopt the attitude that says “it’s my time.”
Remember, as Christians we have given it all up for God. Whether it’s our money or our music, our talents or our toasters—it’s all God’s stuff. The basic concept of biblical stewardship means realizing that God owns everything, including our time. Remembering this is why Jesus never missed the big picture.
The point here is simple: If you and I want to have true peace and joy we must pattern our lives after the one who brings peace and joy. I know that this is counter intuitive stuff. This is not the way most of our friends think.
According to the media, we get ahead by putting ourselves first. Most awards are given to self-promoters. But in God’s economy (the only one that will survive into eternity), it has much more to do with how available and ready we are when God “interrupts” our day.
Steve Diggs has presented the No Debt No Sweat! Money Management and ReTooled & ReFueled Essential Life-Skills Seminars over 500 times at churches, colleges, conferences and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve at www.NDNS.org, www.RetooledAndRefueled.com or www.SteveDiggs.com or call 615-834-3063. Today, as the author of seven books Steve is a TV commentator and fulltime speaker. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four grown children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.