Simplify: Be Focused by Rick Shurtz

When we are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of life or uncertain how to respond to the tragedies of life, we need to SIMPLIFY.

In a chaotic world, where we catch a glimpse of heaven and experience a glimpse of hell, we can learn to live for what matters when we SIMPLIFY.

At Gateway Church in Austin, we began a series called Simplify. Rick Shurtz shared at the Gateway North (McNeil) Campus, and I shared at Gateway South.

You can work through the Next Steps for this message with your family or in a small group.

You can watch Rick’s message here: www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast

You can listen to my interview with Wes and Prima Womack and my message here:

 

Here are notes from the message:

Life abounds with pressures and responsibilities.

We have multiple projects at work or school. We have communication inundating us with Facebook, Instagram, texts, emails, and on and on. We have multiple kids to raise. We have work to do to have healthy relationships and to live a healthy life.

It’s not a new problem. Consider how Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Bully Pulpit described the year 1903.

“In response to the stunning increase in nervous disorders diagnosed around the turn of the century, commentators and clinicians cited a number of factors related to the stresses of modern civilization: the increased speed of communication facilitated by the telegraph and railroad, the unmelodious clamor of city life…, and the rise of “tabloid press” that exploded local horrors into national news. These nervous diseases became an epidemic….”

I can almost hear my great grandparents complaining: “These telegraphs are killing me!!! I got two last month!!!”

When we stand before God one day, it won’t be about our task lists, our inbox, our accomplishments. Life is about how we loved, how we related, how we honored God and honored those around us.

How do we simplify?

Now for clarity, let me be specific about what we’re going after in these weeks. My initial inclination was to lead us through a discussion on cleaning the clutter out of our lives. It would be a “Less is more” conversation. To be sure, that theme will no doubt come up in this series. It’s an important concept we all need to carefully consider…the external simplification of our lives.

Here’s the question to consider:

What works for those of you who have busy and demanding jobs, that you both need to keep and want to keep, because you’re doing what you want to be doing and really should be doing?

What works for those who in addition to our jobs and our friendships and our families, we feel both called and compelled to make a difference in this world?

We need to address over-commitment and pruning life’s needless demands, but we need to go deeper than that.

We need to know how to simplify our lives, in the midst of life’s demands.

All those telegraphs aren’t going away.

How can we live simply in the midst of them?

Throughout this series, we’re going to repeatedly come back to a single passage of Scripture.

Hear carefully a question Micah asks:

With what shall I come before the Lord…? – Micah 6:6

How should I prepare to meet God?

If we can know the answer to this question, we hold the key to a greatly simplified life.

Why spend the time and energy doing things we weren’t created to do? Why wear ourselves out? Why invest the time and energy to live in such a way that ultimately amounts to nothing?

If I’m going to simplify my job, my starting point would be to ask, “What does the company want from me?”

If I’m going to simplify my life, my starting point is, “What is it that God wants from me?”

Here is a defining question for our lives and for the simplification of our lives…

Do I want what God wants for my life?

Do I believe God has good things for my life? If I were to stand before God, and he were to tell me what he wanted from my life, would I be pleased with what he has to say?

Truth is, most of us feel like we know what’s best for the planet. We know what needs to happen to do things better! If only God would listen to us!

Consider Ecclesiastes 5:2

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

If we knew what it is that God truly wants from us, this might empower simplified living.

Might we be doing things, or worrying about things,
or wearing ourselves out with things that God would say are not truly needed?

Micah 6:6-8 continues:

With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah is asking:

Should I seek to “WOW” God with my success, with my religiosity, with what I am willing to give Him?

Should I make it my mission to IMPRESS God?

As we read this, we can almost hear Micah’s original audience saying:

“No! That’s not it! That’s not what it’s about! It’s not about all of that!”

They knew it wasn’t about 1,000’s of rams and rivers of oil or sacrificing children.

Instead, God gave us life so that we might:

  • Do justice.
  • Love kindness.
  • Walk humbly with your God.

Our purpose in life begins with walking humbly with God.

What’s the theme of all the things Micah passes over: burnt offerings, rivers of oil, sacrifices?

Micah is asking:

“Should I attempt to impress God!”
“Should I attempt to WOW God!”

Micah’s answer is:

I do not come to wow God…
I come to be wowed by God…

I do not come to impress God…
I come to be impressed by God…

We do not go before God and say, “Look at me!”
We go before God and say, “Look at you!”

Years ago, I’m talking to a friend, and he says to me, “God doesn’t need you.”
I found his statement a bit irritating.

“God doesn’t need you. He doesn’t need your time, your service, your money. He’s going to do what he’s going to do in this world. He has invited you to be part of it, but don’t think for a second that he needs you.”

Not long after this I read this in Scripture:

And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. – Acts 17:25

When you drill down deeply into what it is that God wants from us, underneath all of it is this idea of humility.

Consider the cross of Christ.

We’re told this in Scripture:

…the hour of his judgment has come… – Revelation 14:7

That can sound harsh, but instinctively we know, we will give an account for our lives.

We can’t do anything to atone for our guilt. We’re not capable of doing that. It’s like saying, “How could I pay off the national debt?” We don’t have the funds.

To which Scripture responds:

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. – 1 John 4:10

We don’t go before God with the thousands of Rams or the rivers of oil that Micah first suggested.

We don’t do that, because we aren’t the one’s who provide the sacrifice.

God does.

God sends his son.

What’s at the heart of receiving a sacrifice rather than providing a sacrifice…

Humility

If you go deeply into the cross, if you want to discover what’s at the heart of the cross, you discover a people who are humble enough to bow before God and say, “I can’t atone for this life on my own…I need grace…I need forgiveness…I need the cross.”

Now this is all good, this is all helpful, but my life still feels out of control!

How does this simplify my life?

Consider all of our responsibilities. If we try to be a super achiever, we are falling into the trap of trying to impress.

When it’s all up to me, when I’m the one carrying all of this, when I’m the one responsible to shoulder all of this, stress increases, anxiety increases, worry increases, anger increases….

We feel overworked and overwhelmed, because it all comes back to me, me, me, me.

It is in those moments we are more vulnerable to turn back to short term “solutions.”

We eat too much, drink too much, shop too much, or watch too much of what we shouldn’t watch.

The humble take a different approach.

Instead of “Look at me,” they lead lives that communicate: “Look at God.”

To simplify, we need a NEW PERSPECTIVE and NEW PRACTICES.

A New Perspective

To simplify life does not mean getting rid of our responsibilities or relationships, the answer is to simplify by entrusting them.

When I do that, something profound happens.

When all of the gifts God has given us are entrusted to God, we are able to focus.

God’s carrying all of this, so what can I do?

I can bring them out one by one, and focus on them one by one.

I don’t have to think about all of them, God does that, so I can think about one of them.

And so I can then move forward in my day, having it entrusted to God, and working together with him on one item at a time.

How do I become a person who does justly and loves kindness?

I live justly and kindly when I live humbly.

This statement by Micah, these three things, when I look at them in the context of Scripture and the context of life, it’s a kindness and justice that flows from a humility that walks daily with God.

When I’m tied up in knots, and I can’t keep it all straight, because I’m living a “look at me” kind of life, I want to live justly and kindly, but I can’t because I’m so stressed out.

It’s when I lead an entrusted life that I can get back to being the kind of person I really do want to be.

New Practices

What does God want from us?

He wants us to thrive, and to thrive, we must live a life entrusted to him.

To live a life entrusted to him, we must engage the practices that strengthen this perspective in our lives.

  1. Connect with God

  • Pray
  • Read Scripture
  • Fast
  1. Connect with People

  • Serve
  • Build authentic relationships
  • Give

Our lives become far simpler when we have the humility and the courage to entrust it all to God, and allow Him to guide us to live kindly and act justly in our world.

 

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