Winning – Offside Trap

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What is the one electronic gadget that, if switched off forever, you would miss the most? 

I recently asked a group of friends this question, and the answers were as varied as they were funny. One person said the television. For one, the FIFA world cup is just about to start, and if they lost their TV for the next few weeks, all the preparation they would have made over the past few years – yes, years – would be lost. And they would be depressed. For others it was a combination of their TV and their DVD player. After all, Jack Bauer is back, and Olivia Pope is on a roll. Someone else said their wi-fi, or whatever gadget supplies it. They even dedicated the song “this is the air I breathe” to their wi-fi. Someone else, it was their laptop. For another, they said it should be obvious – ‘my fridge’. Enough said! But you can guess which gadget took the lead: The mobile phone.

We love technology. Whether it be our mobile phones, laptops, tabs – they all make life easier. In fact, in the 1800 industrial revolution in Europe, when people used to work 50 hrs a week, predictions were made about how, when industry boomed and society was wealthy, people would no longer need to work like this. George Bernard Shaw, co-founder of the London School of Economics, predicted that by the year 2000, because of all the computers and robotics that would take over work, people would only need to work 2hrs a day. Even U.S President Richard Nixon told Americans to prepare for the day in the near future when they would only need to work 4 days a week. In 1966, a US senate sub- committee said that in the year 2000, 82,000 would only work 14 hours a week. 14 hours a week? Today it sounds more like 14 hours a day!

In fact many people are working 60 – 80 hour weeks, and even with all the technology, that is meant to make life easier and slow down the pace that we live, our lives seem to be moving faster and faster. Life has many of us running from one demand to the other, one meeting to the next, and putting putt crisis after crisis, and sometimes we feel like the demands of this speed now exceed our capacity to deliver.

At the workplace, we run like mad between deadlines and obligations, and feel as though the whole world is knocking at our door, wanting a piece of us. We wake up discouraged, overwhelmed by the day’s demands well before the day has started. Yet trapped by the fear of losing our jobs, or stunting our careers, or even financial collapse, we keep running. We get home each day feeling exhausted with nothing left over for anyone, hardly finding the time to meaningfully spend with family and friends. To compound this, we bring home our office and school work, and make promises to ourselves we know we won’t keep – “I will stop or midnight”, or “this is the last time I’m doing this”. As a result, relationships and marriages are on the slow burn, heading towards separation. We are now seeing a crisis in parenting and an epidemic of divorce and separation caused by the imbalanced lives we are living.

Even our health is breaking down. We are struggling with constant headaches, and are barely getting enough sleep. We have learned how to live without breakfast, or at best we wolf down our food, sometimes even on the run. The only way to get us going in the morning is to get us fueled up on coffee, so we get a kick for the day. Our bodies are telling us to stop. We have panic attacks – when your heart beats really fast and you are sweating profusely, but it’s not a heart attack. Whipping spells, memory loses, sleeplessness at night, heart murmurs, migraines, constantly unsettled stomachs, colds we cannot shake off. We see and acknowledge these signs; but our solution? Pop a pill that will kill the symptom, and drown out the message.

As a result, our colleagues, even in their 20’s and 30’s are suffering what are called lifestyle diseases – type 2 diabetes, stress and depression, hypertension, cholesterol and heart disease.

For many of us, we are living our lives like we got on to a treadmill at the gym. When we got on it, it was slow, and very easy and manageable, but then it begins to speed up little by little. You never saw it coming, but all of a sudden you are running as fast as you can – your heart is beating and you are sweating. You know you can’t keep doing this, but we do not know where the off switch is so that we can slow down. It’s going to kill us, if we don’t stop.

So here’s the question? What do I do when it seems life is serving me up more than I can manage?

Today we start an exciting new series called WINNING: Don’t Let Life Stop you. Over the next few weeks we will see that God’s desire for each one of us is that we would be successful at life, and win, whether it be in our work, social, family or financial lives. We will also take a critical look at the way we live our lives, and address habits and patterns that we need to rethink if we are to be successful.

Let me say that this series is for you, regardless of your age or where you are at in your professional life. If you are a little older, and your life is moving at a hectic pace and life seems to have you by the throat, you cannot afford to miss even a single Sunday. My desire for you is that as you sit through this series, you would learn useful principles that would revolutionize your life. But this series is also for you if you are not at that hectic pace yet. Maybe you are a bit younger, or are currently unemployed, or for whatever reason, life has not yet thrown too many demands at you. I am even more excited for you. You need to be sitting in the front row with a pen and paper, taking notes, because what you will learn here may very well save your life.

In the spirit of the soon to start world cup, we have titled today’s message offside trap. Offside is an offence in football that happens when a player outruns the other players and finds that there is only one opposing player between himself and the goal line. Football fans understand this principle well. But for the lay people amongst us, let me try breaking it down …

Imagine if you were driving a car, and were zooming towards the roundabout, desperately trying to get there before the light turns red. The numbers are counting down, and you are not 100% certain you will make it in time, but you keep accelerating. You realize too late that you can’t make it, and hit the brakes, but your momentum carries you way over the line. You end up in an awkward no man’s land, where you can’t move forward because vehicles already in the round-about are moving, but you also can’t reverse, because all the law-abiding drivers, are behind you, wondering what is wrong with you, and shouting prophetic words over you life. That is the equivalent of being offside in football.

On the football pitch, many teams are adept at springing the offside trap, where because you have outrun others, they lure you into an offside position.

Just like the unfortunate football player, many of us fall into this this offside trap in our lives, mainly because of the pace we are living our lives at. We are so eager for success, we often push ourselves, and our lives, to move at a hectic and unmanageable pace. So how do we successfully navigate this offside trap? How do we live our lives in a way that will not stop us from winning? Today we will learn the first of our principles – The Genesis Principle.

Genesis 1:1-10; 13 – Three things we can learn from how God worked.

Separate and organise

Allow me to illustrate. Imagine you walked into a teenagers extremely messy room, and it was up to you to tidy it up. There were clothes lying on every conceivable floor space – shirts, trousers and pyjamas on the floor, socks all over the place, one under the bed and the other lying on the window sill (if you are anything like me, you will know that socks have the highest divorce rate in the world – they are always splitting up), then there’s shoes all over, some on the bed, some under it. Then under every pair of jeans are a few magazines, and some books. And then there are plates, spoons, and empty soda cans from snacking in the room over the past week or so. There’s music playing from some gadget, but the room is too cluttered for you to figure out where it is coming from. The windows have not been open so its stuffy and moldy, and it’s your job to clean up. What do you do? Burn it down?

Where do you start? You start just like God did; by separating and organising things. Maybe you take all the clothes and dump them in a heap in one corner. You pick up all the books and magazines and arrange them in a separate corner. You look for all the bed sheets and blankets and place them on top of the bed. And if you are a lady you take all the shoes and…arrange them in the next 2 or 3 rooms! But the point is that you start separating and arranging things so you can make sense of everything.

That is exactly what God did. The earth seemed to be chaotic and had no order. So he started by telling the light to go in one corner, and the darkness in another. He sent the water to the right, and the land to the left. He told the day what time it was on duty, and the night what time to start its shift. God separated and organised the chaos.

Where is there chaos in your life? Is it in your schedule? Are there too many things calling for your attention? People, meetings, family, friends? Before the day, or week, or month start, you must determine what your priorities are, and what must go to one side and what must go to the other. What meetings are priority, and must be attended, and which can be put off. Which coffee dates must you honor, and which ones must you either turn down or postpone? Even when it comes to family and relatives – whom must you attend to now and which family obligations are critical? Without this, you end up trying to accomplish too many things in too little time, and reduce your ability to be effective.

Are your finances in chaos? Begin to bring order to them by separating and organising.  A budget, however basic, could help you figure to how to manage money. You tell your rent money, go to the left, your savings, go to the right, your allowance money to stay in the center, and so on.

The challenge many of us have is that we delegate organisation to gadgets and apps and calendars. If you have not began to separate and organise things in your own head, all you end up doing is dumping your chaos onto your app, and praying it will magically solve your problems. It won’t! As they say, garbage in, garbage out. Whereas your calendar app might make life easier, it is your job to order the chaos of your life. Your app is not your master, it is your servant; if you lead it thoughtfully, it will serve you well.

Learn from God. Avoid the offside trap in your life by separating and organizing the chaos. Step two is…

Establish Rhythms

In the story, you realize that God had numerous things to do. He had to work on the land, the water, the day, the night, the light, the darkness. If you continue with the Genesis story, He had to create the sun and the moon, the birds, the fish, the wild animals, the livestock, and then Adam and Eve. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a lot to do. But see how He went about it, He developed a rhythm – there was evening, there was morning, then God worked, there was evening, there was morning, then God worked. He established rhythm.

I’ve often asked myself why it took God six days to create. Think about it. This is the God whose entire workload when He created light was to utter the words “Let there be”. Management gurus who come into the country, and charge an arm and a leg teaching about end-to-end production processes, and introducing cutting-edge models for project management, would all be shocked to discover that God’s process involved just one step, saying “let there be”. (Wouldn’t it be great fun if you could just show up at the office tomorrow, sit at your desk, look at your in-tray and your emails, consider the big project you are handling, and then loudly enough for everyone in the office to hear, said, “let there be”?)

God didn’t go into Dexter’s lab and spend the day trying to figure out how to mix hydrogen peroxide with sulphur and nitrogen to create light. He just spoke it. Surely, he could have created everything else in one day. I have come to be convinced that God was modeling for us how not just to work hard, but to work smart.

God did not become a slave to the tasks before Him. He didn’t run helter-skelter attempting to do everything. He developed a rhythm for the tasks He set out to accomplish – there was evening, there was morning, then God worked, there was evening, there was morning, then God worked.

Is there rhythm to your life? Is your rhythm set, or is it determined by the endless activities of your day? Is there rhythm to what time you wake up, and what time you sleep? Is there rhythm to how you get up, and what things you do? Or what time you have your lunch, and what time you will have your dinner? Is there rhythm to when you will exercise, and what time will be for recreation? Is there rhythm, or are you a slave to the activities of your day? Do they determine for you how you will live your life?

Some will say Pastor, that sounds like a fairy-tale; you don’t know the job that I have, and its’ crazy demands. That is true, and some of us have crazier schedules than others. But one lesson I have come to understand is that work always expands to fill the time you allocate it. Say you have a business proposal to submit, and you knew you had a week to hand it in. Left to yourself, it would take 4-7 days to accomplish. But what if this was a lucrative opportunity, and you discovered you only had three days. Would it be ready? I suspect it would. Even for activities, if you leave them open ended, and allow them to run your day, they will end up hijacking your entire life. A rhythm helps you manage your energy, and give you time to rest and refresh.

My encouragement is regardless of how busy you day looks, once you develop rhythms, your demands, obligations and activities begin to bend to accommodate you, and not the other way around. The third step is…

Respect Lights Out

Verse 5 – God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

When you read the story, you realise that God created day and night on day one, and instituted lights out almost immediately. God switches off the lights at night so that we can get rest. The ironic thing about our times is that when God switches off the lights, what do we do? Switch them right back on. We turn the lights on at night and keep them on as long as we can.

Many people trade in extra hours of sleep for more work or more recreation – they can see the benefit of this – I got more work done, or chilling with Jack Bauer (who is now back), helped me relax. Sleep feels like wasted time. In fact you will often hear people jokingly say “sleep is for babies”, or I’m on the hustle, you’ve gotta make hey while the sun shines, and “you will sleep when you are dead”. They will even quote scripture and say “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands, and poverty will attack you like a bandit”.

Let me start by affirming the value of hard work. God has created us to work, and to work hard. In fact God says, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense” (Proverbs 12:11). But when we equate sleep to laziness, we miss the mark. Whereas God condemns laziness over and over again in scripture, we constantly see the value of rest affirmed. God rested to show us the way, and encourages us also not to spend every moment hustling. Listen to Psalms 127:2 – It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves? You see God wants you to work hard, but truth be told, God is more interested in you working smart.

You are hustling, and want to come up with that killer business idea or creative concept that will elevate you above your peers? Unless you give your mind rest so that it can replenish and refresh, you actually end up hurting yourself. With less rest, you suffer decreased creativity, innovation and even concentration, which hurts the very work you are slaving over. You want to win at work? Decreased rest means you lower your threshold for stress, making even routine and mundane tasks feel overwhelming. You want to win in your marriage and family life, without rest, not only do you greatly reduce your sex drive, which is increasingly becoming a problem in our generation, you also diminish the quality of interaction with your family members.

Don’t fall in the trap and let your life doesn’t stop you from winning, learn to respect God’s lights out. Determine early what time your lights go out, and what time they will come on.

I want to close and pray for us, but before I do allow me to affirm those amongst us who are working hard. There are many amongst us working hard to provide, to grow in our careers, and to become everything God intends us to be. My prayer for you is may God bless the work of your hands and make you fruitful beyond your wildest dreams. But my prayer also is that you would learn from God how to not just work hard, but work smart. May the way you are living your life not stop you from winning.

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4 Responses to “Winning – Offside Trap”

  1. excellent sermon. Thank you!

    Like

  2. Mouldable Says:

    Work – Life Balance 101:

    This sermon series has really hit home for me, I can’t wait to hear the whole sermon series, the general topic has been running through my mind this year and I have been wondering where I need to put the brakes and where I need to hit accelarate…and why I always have stuff to do and no time to just breathe or relax…Thank you for giving me the an inkling of clarity on where I need to start now.

    Like

  3. Nyar Kisumo Says:

    Wow this has been so relevant especially with the anxiety attacks i have had lately. God bless you mightily Pastor M.

    Like

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