Living an overly busy life causes one robs one of peace and a relationship with God. In last weekend’s sermon, Pastor Kong Hee urged the church to learn from Jesus and live an unhurried life.
Being busy is a badge of honour that many Singaporeans wear. It makes them feel important and valued. More often than not, people want to appear busy so that they would not be viewed as lazy or lacking purpose in life.
“Busyness is a curse,” declared the senior pastor of City Harvest Church, Kong Hee as he opened his sermon. Living an overly hectic life causes unnecessary stress and anxiety, leaving one depressed and unhappy.
Adding fuel to the fire is the craving for wealth and prestige. Driven by the need for more and more, one feels the need to work longer hours and have endless meetings and appointments.
“Even when there are no deadlines to meet, you organise deadlines for yourself!” the pastor noted. Such individuals become so busy that they have no time for themselves or their loved ones; worst of all, they become too busy for God. Running low on their spiritual tank, their hearts become angry and frustrated.
“Jesus said, ‘I have come to give you life in all its fullness.’ He didn’t come to give us life in all its busyness,” Pastor Kong said, paraphrasing John 10:10. So how does one find balance with God, marriage, career, church, and ministry and the many other aspects of life?
Pastor Kong gave the simple answer: the key is to slow down. “If you just slow down your pace, you’ll find the balance automatically,” he taught. This principle is reflected in the life of Jesus, and Pastor Kong shared five things to learn from Jesus to achieve an unhurried life.
1. SLOW-DOWN SPIRITUALITY
Reading Matthew 11:29-30, Pastor Kong noted that Jesus wanted His disciples to stop living hectic lives and to learn from Him. If one were to follow the pace of Jesus, his life would be changed. He would no longer be angry, intense or frustrated all the time.
Jesus’ pace of life was very different from those around Him. He always had time to hold a child, to stop and pray for a sick person, and always spent time with family and friends.
Pastor Kong gave the example of Jesus slowing down to talk to the woman with the issue of blood on the way to Jairus’ house to heal his sick daughter. Jesus was never pushed or pulled by the tyranny of the urgent.
Japanese scholar Kosuke Koyama wrote in his book, Three Miles An Hour God that “God walks slowly because He is love. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. Love goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, whether we are currently hit by a storm or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed of the love of God walks.”
However, Pastor Kong acknowledged that it is challenging to follow the pace of God when work and expectations of others are overwhelming. Speaking from his own experience, the pastor revealed that it was only when he slowed his pace that could he properly deal with his anger issues as he was more attuned to the Holy Spirit and His promptings.
“When I slow down, I find the Holy Spirit speaking clearer and I find myself more responsive to the Spirit of God,” he said. “And I can draw closer to God and become more loving to others.”
2. SABBATH REST
At creation, God took His Sabbath rest on the seventh day (Gen 2:2). God rested not because He was tired, but He wanted to enjoy His creation and have time for loving communion with His people.
Adam was created at the end of the sixth day, which means that the first day mankind experienced was the Sabbath day. The first thing Adam did was to enjoy God. “Humankind was created to rest in God, to enjoy God, to worship God, to commune with God and to be loved by the Lord,” Pastor Kong shared.
This was also reflected in the life of Jesus. Every Sabbath, Jesus stopped working for a day to spend time in the house of God in worship and prayer. Outside of God’s house, Jesus used the Sabbath to enjoy fellowship, deepening His relationships with others.
“We need rest in our souls in order to get the easy yoke, and also have that supernatural ease when you go back to work,” said Pastor Kong, referencing Matthew 11:28-29.
3. SILENCE AND SOLITUDE
Jesus had high excellence in His work as “He has done everything well” (Mk 7:37). However, Jesus also often withdrew to lonely places to pray (Lk 5:15). “Can this be said of you and me?” Pastor Kong asked the church.
“Silence and solitude are one of the most striking things you see in the life of Jesus,” he noted. There was a constant pace of retreat and return in Jesus’ entire ministry. He would retreat to spend time with God in prayer and return in power to teach and preach. The more Jesus was in demand, the more He would quietly go into silence and solitude to gather His thoughts and get direction and clarity from God.
“Sometimes you need to do less in order to do more,” the pastor emphasised.
While spending time in silence and solitude is counter-intuitive in the world today, Pastor Kong urged the church to develop a taste for it. He encouraged the church to give themselves time to get used to being quiet in God’s presence. Quoting 1 Thessalonians 4:10;11 (NASB), Pastor Kong shared, “The longer I walked with Jesus, the more I understand this: there is a glory and beauty in being quiet.”
4. DEVOTIONAL PRAYER
The late Dr Yonggi Cho, founder of Yoido Full Gospel Church, used to say that prayer is devotion but prayer is also petition and intercession. While it is important to intercede for the people with needs and for the works of the church, which is the missio dei (mission of God), Christians need to learn to balance that with the imago dei which is the image of God.
“You don’t want to win the whole world but lose your own soul and not grow in the image and likeness of God,” cautioned the pastor. He warned the members against starting out excited to serve God, only to burn out later on and become cynical of others.
The way to have effective ministry is to blend imago dei and missio dei. “Everything you do in life for God must be the result of an overflow of God’s love and compassion,” the pastor taught.
Christians need to fulfil the missio dei to stimulate the growth of the imago dei. Pastor Kong preached that Christlikeness cannot grow in a vacuum. All the fruits of the Spirit can only grow as the Christian engages with people by loving and serving them. However, if serving the purpose of God is all one has, it becomes easy for them to be burnt out and eventually become cynical and unhappy.
If a believer’s prayer is only focused on petition and intercession, his relationship with God would be very self-centred and transactional. He becomes angry with God if his prayers are not answered. Pastor Kong urged, “Your prayer must also be devotional, an expression of one’s loving communion with the Lord.”
He added that finding the balance is a process one has to grow into and it requires maturity. “Don’t be so busy. You can also rest and be alone with God to wait quietly for hours without your body running everywhere, needing to do this and check that. Then, you can enjoy God devotionally and spend hours in His loving grace,” Pastor Kong preached.
Throughout church history, Christians who have learned to develop a slow-down spirituality, take regular Sabbath rest, spend time in silence and solitude, and practice devotional prayer all said that they were able to develop inner freedom. Pastor Kong referred to this as a “detachment”, a word used by Tan Kim Hock, a pastor in CHC.
Pastor Kim Hock is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. One day, Pastor Kong asked him how he was feeling, and Pastor Kim Hock replied honestly that he “felt detached from all the worries and concerns of this world”. He has an inner joy from the Lord, and he is happy whether he was healed of cancer or not.
Detachment means to be free of the need for one’s life to go a certain way in order to be happy and fulfilled, Pastor Kong explained. It does not mean that the person is emotionally repressed or in denial, but there is genuine joy and peace because his happiness is not dependent on the needs and cravings of the world.
For Jesus, there was a detachment from all the needs and cravings of this world. As such, there was no frustration in Him. Jesus was very happy in His Father, even if it meant going to the Cross, being rejected by people and dying a painful death. He never felt that He was missing out on life or that He had wasted His life on God.
In closing, Pastor Kong urged the members to slow down their pace of life and spend time enjoying God’s presence. The church spent time worshiping God at the end of the service and Pastor Kong prayed for those who felt overwhelmed by the busyness of life.