EGO: Edging God Out through Busyness
How many of us woke up to an “alarm” this morning? Most of us; isn’t it? Have you really thought about why is it called the “alarm”? Come to think about it, what is alarm most commonly associated with? It is associated with a disaster to come, a danger ahead, isn’t it? Have you ever thought about why would we want to wake up to an “alarm”? Why not an “opportunity chime”? Why not “It is going to be great day noise”? Ken Blanchard, in his book Lead Like Jesus says the “alarm” clock syndrome is the best testimony to our task oriented life. Come to think about it, you look at what we did this morning, we woke up to an alarm, we rushed through the day, we hurried to get ourselves ready, we hurriedly finished our breakfast, we jumped into the car, sometimes yelling at the children for making us late, we drove the cars as fast as we could, we got annoyed that when someone else slowed us down, we did not curse them only because it is a Sunday and we were headed to church. And yet we reached here late.. If this is a Sunday situation, think about a workday. It gets even worse isn’t it? We start taking calls while we are driving, we are thinking constantly about work. We start thinking about the pending tasks and projects, and reports and deadlines. We start solving problems as we get up from our bed. We are constantly at it through the day. We reach home tired whatever time it is, and we have not time for anyone else who is waiting for us at home. It is truly an alarm that goes off in the morning, because what follows in most cases is firefighting, and problem solving and disaster management and crisis averting and meeting deadlines and resolving conflicts and among all this we have to take care of our social media life, we have to find time to look at the WhatsApp messages that we get, we have to answer and forward some of them atleast, we have to post something in our Facebook page and we have to look back to see if someone has liked it. the list can go on. We wake up to an alarm that declares that there are zillion tasks that we have to complete today.
Sounds familiar? It certainly sounds very familiar to me. If you wondered how I knew all this stuff, it is simple. I am only talking about myself and not any of you. I am a busy man. Mr Busybody. Holding two jobs, being invited to speak at different places, traveling very often. You bet I am a busy man. If you don’t believe me, ask Leslie.
That brings me to the topic of today’s message. Since the beginning of this year, I have been speaking here on the topic of EGO. Not the Freudian ego, but the EGO that is Edging God Out. Today the Lord has put it in my heart to examine yet another way we Edge God Out of our lives, through our busyness. And as is the case with most of my sermons, and more than any other sermon, this one is more for me than for yourselves. So please join me as we examine this topic together.
Judges 13:2-23 (NKJV) 2 Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. 5 For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” 6 So the woman came and told her husband, saying, “A Man of God came to me, and His countenance was like the countenance of the Angel of God, very awesome; but I did not ask Him where He was from, and He did not tell me His name. 7 And He said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now drink no wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’ ” 8 Then Manoah prayed to the LORD, and said, “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.” 9 And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the Angel of God came to the woman again as she was sitting in the field; but Manoah her husband was not with her. 10 Then the woman ran in haste and told her husband, and said to him, “Look, the Man who came to me the other day has just now appeared to me!” 11 So Manoah arose and followed his wife. When he came to the Man, he said to Him, “Are You the Man who spoke to this woman?” And He said, “I am.” 12 Manoah said, “Now let Your words come to pass! What will be the boy’s rule of life, and his work?” 13 So the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. 14 She may not eat anything that comes from the vine, nor may she drink wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean. All that I commanded her let her observe.” 15 Then Manoah said to the Angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain You, and we will prepare a young goat for You.” 16 And the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “Though you detain Me, I will not eat your food. But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know He was the Angel of the LORD.) 17 Then Manoah said to the Angel of the LORD, “What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?” 18 And the Angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it upon the rock to the LORD. And He did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on– 20 it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar–the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar! When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground. 21 When the Angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the LORD. 22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” 23 But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have told us such things as these at this time.”
Those of us who are familiar with bible stories know that there are only few occasions when the angel of the Lord appears to people and predicts a child birth. In the Old testament it happens twice, once with Sarah and then with Manoah’s wife. In the New Testament it happens to Zachariah and climaxes with Mary. There are other places where the birth of children are foretold by prophets, but by the angels directly is only in these occasions. So it is not a “normal” thing. It is a big thing. Let us study this story from two perspectives, one of Manoah, the man in the story and the other from his wife, who is unnamed in the story.
When the first time the angel of the Lord appears , it is to the woman. Our man, Manoah is not with her. You guessed it right, he was busy working somewhere else, in a corporate office or wherever they used to work at time. The wife is excited about the news she just heard and she calls up Manoah over cell phone. Though Manoah is busy in his meetings, Manoah does not want to get into trouble , so he answers the phone and the wife tells her the great news. The news is that some one has predicted that they are going to have a child, and a son at that. Now, you should remember that she was barren. So when you hear such a great news (especially that it is going to be male child), what would be your reaction? All of know that even today there are people and communities who prefer male children. And we are talking about several thousands of year back, when only male children were meant to be heirs. It was a big thing to have child and it was even a bigger thing to have a son. Let us look at Manoah’s reaction. The Bible does not say that he went on his knees and thanked the Lord. It does not say that he was excited to hear the news. The Bible does not say that he jumped up and won with joy. What the Bible does say is that he prayed to God. Now, there is nothing wrong with that. But it gets interesting when we look into the content of his prayer. ” 8 Then Manoah prayed to the LORD, and said, “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.” Manoah’s mind had already switched to the “task” mode. He is already thinking about what should they “do” for the child who is to be borne. His mind is busy with what tasks need to be accomplished and what activities need to be completed. How many health checks, what type of vaccinations, how many scans, which gynecologist to engage.. etc etc.. Remember, the woman is not even pregnant and what is top most in Manoah’s mind is the question “What should we do for the child”
Well God has his sense of humor and he gives in to Manoah’s prayer. He sends his angel once more to the woman. Again, Manoah is not with her when the angel appears. Where do you think he is? You guessed it again, he is busy at work, he is busy in his office. He doesn’t have time to wait for the angel to appear, he has delegated that work to the wife. This time of course, the wife does not give him a call, she personally goes and drags him to the place. She wants to make sure that the Manoah personally speaks with this messenger of good news. Wise woman; isn’t she? She doesn’t want him to get any wrong ideas about the messenger. Once again, let us look at Manoah’s reaction. He first confirms that it is actually the same dude who told her the great news. Once he has ascertained that fact, he wastes no time in niceties, he gets straight to the tasks ahead. No time to thank the messenger, no wasting time finding out how he knows etc. Manoah’s immediate question is “12 Manoah said, “Now let Your words come to pass! What will be the boy’s rule of life, and his work?” You get the drift don’t you? Manoah’s concern has already changed from “what they should do for the child” , to even further in the future, “ What will be the boy’s rule of life and his work”. His work? The woman is not even pregnant, and our man Manoah is already thinking way ahead, not just which school he should put the child into? What subjects he should take, etc, but what work will he do? Will he be an engineer, will he be a doctor, will he be a consultant? Will he be an accountant? What will be his work? Manoah’s mind is truly a one track mind about work , isn’t it?
The Lord of course again, demonstrates His sense of humor. Instead of answering Manoah about the “task” ahead of him, the angel of the Lord just advises them to keep themselves pure. Keep the child pure. I would interpret the angel’s response like this. “Hey don’t you worry about what work the child will do, just keep him pure, and I will take care of the rest” . We don’t know if Manoah got the message, but his mind has already switched to the next task. The task of honoring the messenger, first with some food, and then in some other ways , once the child is born. The angel of the Lord again humors him and instead of answering him directly, reminds Manoah that what he needs to do is to give thanks to the Lord through a burnt offering. Manoah has forgotten all about honoring God for this great gift, and was focused on tasks ahead of him, the tasks of getting through the pregnancy, the tasks of raising the child, the tasks that the child will do, that task of honoring the messenger. You see, he is a busy man indeed. He has Edged God out of the situation because of his busyness.
Finally, Manoah does offer the burnt sacrifice and that enables him to see the glorious sight of the Lord accepting the offering and the angel of the Lord ascending to the heavens along with the flames. He finally gets the picture. The bulb finally comes on. “Oh.. it was the Lord”. And when he finally gets it, his immediate reaction is panic, because he knows that no one can see the Lord and live. He has already forgotten the message, his mind has switched back to the reality that he has seen the Lord and hence cannot live anymore. It once again, requires the wisdom of the woman to reassure him that if the Lord wanted them dead, He would have done that long time back. It was the wisdom of the wife that makes him aware that they were part of Lord’s plans and hence it would have been foolish on God’s part to have killed them.
As I analysed this story, I realised that Manoah was focused on tasks, he was a busy man. He had no time to feel the presence of the Lord, or to understand the magnitude of the promise that came through the messenger. His wife on the other hand, had time to spend listening to the Lord. I do not think it was accidental that the angel came to her both times. He was busy, she was looking for the Lord. She was probably in prayer and solitude and had time to listen to the Lord. Manoah’s insecurity came from the fact that he had no time to suit at the feet of the Lord and cherish the presence. The Wife’s confidence came from exactly the opposite. She had time to spend with the Lord and understood that she was part of His plans and hence she need not fear. Manoah was Edging God out through his busyness. The wife was Exalting God Only, by her solitude and connection with the Lord.
We have seen this in my earlier Sermons on EGO. The antidote to EGO is EGO. We can stop Edging God out of our lives through busyness, by Exalting God only through Solitude. The antidote to busyness is solitude.
Solitude is the art of being able to sit at the feet of the Lord without any agenda. It is not a prayer time. It is just being with Him, just listening to Him, just enjoying His presence without a list of things that needs to be asked or prayed for or completed. It is a time when we surrender all the concerns that we have at the foot of the cross. It is the time to let him speak to us through that still small voice. It is the time when we can lock out all the external and internal disturbances that separate us from God.
So I would like to encourage all of us to think back and see when is the last time, when we really had a one on one time of solitude with the Lord? If we can’t remember that time, we have serious trouble. If it is some time back, we need to re-establish that as one of the priorities in life.
And we don’t need to look elsewhere to be convinced about the need for Solitude. We need to just look at the life and ministry of our Lord and Master, the highest role model of leadership, our Saviour Jesus Christ. If some had the reason to be busy, if someone had numerous tasks to perform, if someone had the opportunity to keep working 24×7, if someone had the potential for progression, it was Jesus Christ. And yet, He found time to spend time with the Lord in solitude. The Bible highlights several occasions when Jesus distanced Himself away from distractions and spent time in solitude. A few of them (listed in the book Lead Like Jesus, by Ken Blanchard) are as follows
- While preparing for his ministry and leadership, Jesus spent time alone in the desert (Matt 4:1-11)
- Before He chose His 12 disciples from among His followers, He spent and entire night alone in the desert (Luke 6: 12-13)
- When He heard about the death of John the Baptist, He withdrew in a boat to a lonely place (Matt 14:13)
- After feeding 5000 people through a miracle, He went up the hills by Himself (Matt 14:23)
This morning, the Lord is asking us, whose example do we want to follow, do we want to continue to be so busy that we Edge God out of our lives, or do we set aside time before any big decisions, before the “alarm” goes off for every day, time to spend at His feet and seek His guidance?
Let us pray.