Focusing Your Life

On Friday night, I came across a book called "The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook." It calls itself "The Indispensable, indestructible guide for surviving life's turns for the worst." It had sections on how to escape from quicksand, how to wrestle an alligator, break down a door, land a plane, and how to fend off a sharp. It even had two sections on how to deliver a baby in a taxi cab, and how to jump from a moving car. I really don't know if the two were related! It has everything that you need for those worst-case scenarios in life.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather be prepared for life's most-likely-to-happen scenarios. One of the most likely scenarios to happen in your life is that you will lead an unfocused life. There's a pretty good chance that you're over-committed in your life.

The natural question is why do we get overloaded? Why do we allow our bodies, our emotions, our schedules, our budgets to get overloaded? The answer is always the same. We try to do too much. Then the question becomes, "Why are we always trying to do so much?" The answer is because we forget what matters most. Instead of focusing on the few things of life that really count, that really matter, that really make a difference we just try to do everything. And as a result we get overloaded.

Some people try to address this problem by squeezing more into their days. They try to get more things done by getting more things done. I really want to be honest with you. I'm not interested in learning how to get more done. Most of us are already doing too much. The last thing we need is to learn how to do another hundred tasks. We need to stop and ask, "What is my focus? What really matters in my life?" And we're going to look at how to get that kind of focus for your life.

Why are we discussing this? Because the key to an effective life is focus. Like a laser, the more concentrated the focus, the more power the laser has. When you focus your life on one, two, or three things that matter most, your life will be effective.

Like a laser, the stronger the focus, the more concentrated the focus, the more power the laser has. And when you focus your life on one or two or three things that really matter most, your life will be effective. The problem is most of us have very unfocused lives. So we're trying to do a hundred things at the same time and think they're all of equal value when they're not, not at all. So an unfocused life causes you to get overloaded. The more you focus the more you center in on what really matters.

Ephesians 5 tells us:

So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Don't waste your life. Don't use it up on things that really don't matter. Make your life count.

How do I do this? There are five steps that I will need to take if I am going to live a focused life:


The first step isn't about doing anything. It's about understanding. It's about knowing why it is in the first place that you're in over your head. You're not over-committed for no reason. You have chosen to be over-committed, and the first step that you've got to take is that you've got to figure out why.

At various points in my life, I've been way over-committed. I remember the time that our daughter was first born. I was working full-time as a pastor. If you know a pastor's job, that means a lot of nights out. On top of that, I was the president of a community organization and a member of two other boards. My wife worked more than full-time and was a member of two boards too. All on top of having a new baby. I was burning the candle at both ends, and I wasn't as bright as I thought I was. I was running tired, I wasn't being effective, and my relationships were suffering. One of the things that I had to do was to take a step back and examine what was driving me. Only after that could I begin to make some changes.

Psalm 90:12 tells us, "Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom." The verse literally says, "Teach us to number our days." Some of you wish that you had an extra hour in your day. You think that extra hour would solve your time problems. Wrong. The answer isn't, "If only I had more time!" Every person has been given 86,400 seconds a day. We all have the identical time. God has given us just the time we need to accomplish his purposes. You don't need more time. You need more focus.

So, this morning, face the facts. Understand that it's not a problem with your spouse or your career. Accept that you do have a choice - a responsibility - before God. And pray the prayer of David, "Teach ME to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom."


You need to order your life around the right purpose. A lot of people have different purposes in life. People live for different things. Some people live for a career. Some live for sports. Some live for family. Some live to make money or to have fun. You can order your life around any number of things. The key to focusing your life, though, is to order your life around the right purpose - God's purpose.

Now, there's nothing wrong with these things. There's nothing wrong with a career or sports or a family or money or fun. But they're not strong enough, they're not solid enough, they're not secure enough to be the center of your life. You need something at the center of your life that is absolutely unchanging, that can never be taken away from you. If it can you will lose your security. You will always be under stress. You need something that is unchanging and secure.

The Bible tells us in Psalm 62:10: "If your wealth increases, don't make it the center of your life." That's good advice. Why? Because money can be taken away. Jesus said, "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves." (Matthew 6:19-20). What was Jesus saying? Invest your life in things that won't depreciate. Invest your energies in God's purposes for my life.

What are God's purposes for my life?

  • God wants me to get to know him and to love him. I was made to put him at the center of my life. So I need to set some specific goals about getting to know God, learning to trust him. I need to set some goals about how much time I'm going to spend getting to know God.
  • God made you to become like Jesus. Romans 8:29 says, "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son." You need to set some specific goals saying, "What kind of character do I need to work on? and how do I want to be different a year from now than I am today? What character qualities, specifically, do I want to work on?" God is more interested in your character than he is your comfort or your career.
  • He made you to make a contribution to the world. He's given you certain gifts and talents. So you need to set some goals saying, How can I best make a contribution? Where am I going to get involved in giving my life away? Set some specific goals about where you're going to make a contribution to help other people, to help make the world a better place.

In fact, Pastor Ed is going to be teaching a course called Class 401. It begins on October 8 in the evening, and it's going to cover this sort of material. Maybe one of the goals you can set is, over the next year, to discover God's purposes for your life and to begin to live them. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:26: "So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step." Order your life around the right purpose. Organize them around God' s purposes for your life.

What is this going to mean in your life? It means that you make the care of your soul central to your life. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do." Your heart has to make it to your DayTimer. You will need to take steps to make sure that everyday you take time to connect to God and receive directions from him about how you should be living your life.


Commit to the relationships in your life. That's the next step. 1 Corinthians 14:1 says, "Let love be your highest goal." Love is to be your number one priority. When you bring life to its essence, it's all about relationships - relationships with other people, and a relationship with God. Relationships aren't one of the things you want to do. It's not one of your top-ten list - "to have loving relationships." It should be number one on your list.

Why? Why should love be our highest goal? I heard the other week from someone whose career was on the fast track. His boss said, "Here at this company, we expect work to be the number two priority in your life, right after your family." The man thought, "Number two? Forget it. I'll put work as number one in my life." But that's not what the Bible teaches. Your relationships are what life is all about. 1 Corinthians 13:3, in the Message paraphrase, says, "No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love." You can have a million dollars, but if you don't have love, you're bankrupt. Love needs to be the focus of your life.

The problem is that a lot of us think of our relationships as something we have to squeeze into our schedule. Many times, when something has to give in our schedule, it's - what? Time for relationships. Time with God. Time with our spouse. Time with our kids and with our friends. We say that our relationships are most important, but we act as if our career is what matters most.

Why do you need to ask "Whom will I love?" and make that a central focus of your life? Two reasons:

  • BECAUSE LOVE IS WHAT LIFE IS ABOUT. When Jesus was asked for the Coles Notes version of the Bible - what life is all about - Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39). The point of life is love. It's not making a living; it's not paying the bills; it's not accomplishing goals. If your life isn't about love, you're wasting your life.
  • BECAUSE LOVE IS ALL THAT WILL LAST - 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, "There are three things that will endure - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love." Love, not work and not wealth, will be your legacy.

I was reading about the Olympic medals that people have won in the past. Do you know that many of the Olympic athletes who win medals just toss them in a drawer or a box somewhere? A few years later, they can't even find them anymore. All the medals and trophies and accomplishments you achieve are going to be trashed and forgotten. And when you're on your deathbed, you're not going to say, "Bring me that gold watch again. Let me see it one more time. Show me my medals." When you reach the end of your life, it's going to be about relationships.

How do you focus your life? God has brought certain people into your life. It's about time that they started to be a priority. How is it going to happen? It's going to happen by giving them their time. Where am I going to find the time? It may come from your career. It may come from your hobbies. It may come from the TV and the Internet. The average person watches TV and/or works or plays on the computer an average of five or six hours a day. That's 30 hours a week. That's 1,560 hours a year. That's the equivalent of spending 65 days around the clock watching TV and using the computer. I'm not telling you to stop doing these things; just limit them.

Charles Colson, former advisor to the President of the United States, says these words:

As I think back on my life my biggest regret is not spending more time with the kids. Making family your top priority means going against the culture where materialism and workaholism are rampant. It means realizing in advance you may not advance in your career as some do. It means being willing to accept a lower standard of living knowing that you're doing the right thing for your children, giving them the emotional security that they will draw on for the rest of your lives.

So what are you going to do to make relationships a priority in your life? What steps are you going to take to make relationships a central focus of your life? I'd encourage you to go home today and list just one change that you can make to build stronger relationships in your life, because it's what life is about. Nothing will outlast love.

If you do this, though, there's going to be a cost. That brings me to the next step:


Some of you have been sitting there saying, "Great. I thought this was a sermon about margin. Instead of telling me how to do less, Darryl's been telling me that I need to do more. I need to build my character. I need to spend time in relationships. Where am I going to get the time to do that?"

If you're going to live a life of margin, there's going to be a cost. It may cost you some pride. You may have to go to a colleague or a friend and say no. You may have to make major adjustments to your career. It may cost you money. You need to understand the cost of living with margin. I want you to hear the story of Lois Tullo. Let's give her a welcome.


So you might be wondering, "Why did he ask me to speak"? Well, I know lots about over-commitment. If you look at the world's view of success, I'll tell you the story of how I made it and what it cost. When I was twenty, I finished by Bachelor of Commerce. When I was twenty-one, I was the youngest chartered accountant in Ontario. I was a member of clubs. I was a consultant with a Boston consulting firm at twenty-four, charged out at US$250 an hour. I got married. It was very happy. The things that you see, I did. I did an Executive MBA at age twenty-seven. I was the youngest in the class. I was the director at a telecommunications firm at twenty-nine, and I was a CFO for a major bank with a $6 billion dollar portfolio at age thirty-one.

But there was a cost. So what was that cost? Well, I worked a minimum of sixty hours a week - sometimes eighty-five. With board meetings, I worked all night. We had a little daughter, and my husband would bring her to have supper with me at work because I was never home. When my mom and dad came for Christmas, they stayed up until midnight to have coffee with me, and they said, "Don't you think you should maybe get a different job?"

So, there are things in your life that the world views as a success, and there is a cost. There are nice things about being a CFO at a bank. You have a big office; you have a bunch of people work for you. But it's really not that important.

So, what do you have to do? You have to trust God when you say, "I don't want to do this anymore." But you know, God's plan is actually better than my plan.

What happened? I gave three months notice in the summer, and over that summertime God gave me a part-time teaching position at York. I didn't have to apply. It was just there, and it was a gift from God. He weaned me off work easily. He gave me some consulting jobs, where I was able to make more money in a couple of weeks than I made in a couple of months in my old job. And he's given me now three lovely children that I actually get to see. And when I do go off to work one night a week, they say, "I don't want you to go, Mommy!" And that's really the best. And there's nothing that can substitute for that.

You will never give up anything for God that God doesn't repay tenfold. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, "He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern."

So what are you waiting for? What is so good about the life that you're leading right now that you're not willing to trade it for a bit of margin? The purpose of margin is not to live a life of selfishness but to live a life of significance. Margin is not just about cutting things out of your life and schedule. If that's all you got, you missed the point. Margin is about making time for what matters most.

Jim Elliott, a missionary martyr, said these words: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Jesus said:

Then he called his disciples and the crowds to come over and listen. "If any of you wants to be my follower," he told them, "you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul? (Mark 8:34-37)

Understand the cost. Understand that there's nothing that you give up to live a life of margin, to begin living a life centered on God's purposes, that God won't repay many times over. The key isn't to try to do more things; it's to do the right things.

There's one more step to focusing your life:


The most dangerous part of a sermon like this is the fact that a lot of you are going to agree with everything I said, and yet you're going to go home and change nothing. Why? Because it's too hard to change. It's too hard to break old patterns, to begin to say no, and to begin to live a life of focus.

The only benefit of being stretched to the limit is that it brings you to the point where you need to trust God more. Some of you are to the point at which you can't do anymore. You're in way over your head. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9:

We felt like we'd been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally - not a bad idea since he's the one who raises the dead! (The Message)

God can do what you can't do. You've got a role to play, but don't even try to do it without God's help. God is a God who can change your life. He can change you from the inside out.

The Bible says, "What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Why chose to remodel your old life when you can have a new one? You can come to Jesus today .

Let me pray with you this morning.

Father, today we come to face the facts about our over-commitment. Today, maybe for the first time, we accept responsibility for over-committing our lives and investing them in secondary things. We commit today to ordering our lives around you and your purposes for us. Today, we commit to loving those around us. We commit to paying the cost, knowing that nothing we give up for you ever goes unpaid. We commit to start today to live a life of focus.

If you haven't committed your life to Christ, you can pray this prayer. It's sung at the end of every Billy Graham crusade:

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Building Margin Into Your Life

We're beginning a series this morning called "Margin: Restoring Balance to Overloaded Lives." Some of you may have heard about the pet store delivery truck in Etobicoke last week. As he was making his rounds, delivering pets, he'd stop, get out of his truck, take a 2 by 4, and start banging on the side of the truck. He did this at every traffic light. Finally, the guy behind him was dying out of curiosity, and he asked, "What are you doing?" He said, "Buddy, I've got two tons of canaries in the truck. It's a one ton truck, so I've got to keep half of them in the air all the time."

Some of you are like that truck driver. You're on overload. You're batting at everything because you're carrying too much for one person. You're exceeding your maximum capacity, and you're ready to crash.

The price of success these days is high. Consider these statistics. People now sleep two and a half fewer hours each night than people did a hundred years ago. You're sleeping less than your grandparents did. The average workweek is longer now than it was in the 1960s. You're actually working longer hours than in the 60s. The average office worker has 36 hours of work piled up on his or her desk. It takes us three hours a week just to sort through it and find what we need. We spend eight months of our lives opening junk mail, two years of our lives playing phone tag with people who are busy or who are not answering, five years waiting for people who are trying to do too much and are late for meetings. We're a piled on, stretched to the limit society. We are chronically rushed, chronically late, chronically exhausted.

That's why, for the next three weeks, we're going to look at restoring margin to your life. What is margin? Margin is breathing room. Margin is a little reserve that you're not using up. You're not stretched to the limit. You're not going from one meeting to the next to the next with no space in between. Margin is the space between my load and my limit.

When I was a kid learning how to write, I asked my teacher why we couldn't write to the edge of the page. She told me that we needed to keep a margin. A margin preserves neatness. It makes a page legible. It allows for mistakes and corrections. A page without a margin is illegible.

I hope that you have a margin. I hope that your load is not heavier than your limits. But the truth is that most of us are far more overloaded than we can handle and there is no margin, no margin for error in our lives. We weren't designed to live like this. We were designed to live with margin.

Why are we discussing this right now? We're looking at this because it's September. For most of us, this is our new year. For most of us, we are now entering the busiest period of the year - the September to December run. We can't afford to be marginless between now and Christmas.

The other reason I want to look at this is because of the cost of being marginless. Marginless killing will kill you. Marginless living results in:

Stress - Not all stress is bad. You need stress to keep you sharp. Before I got up to speak to you today, I experienced stress - the good kind. But we weren't designed to live with 24-hour a day stress. You weren't designed to live in a perpetual state of stress.

Joylessness - When you lose your margin, you lose your joy. Sometimes we're running so fast, that we don't take time to experience the joys of life. Sometimes we're so serious about life we don't take time to feel the joy. When you restore margin to your life, you will have time to read the book that's been on your shelf. You'll have the time for a walk with your spouse. You'll have time for more joy in your life.

Shallow relationships - Relationships take time. I've noticed in my life that the first thing to go when I'm in a rush is my time for relationships. I stop having time to go on a date with my wife. I end up skimming through life. The people closest to us are getting a busy signal. Few things kill relationships faster than marginless living. This not only applies to human relationships - it applies to our relationship with God. Many of us are living life too quickly to hear from God. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God" (NIV).

Less productivity - It's ironic, but marginless living results in reduced productivity. The harder we work, sometimes the less we get done. Proverbs 21:5 says, "Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty." Hasty shortcuts can slow you down. It can make you feel like "the faster I go, the more behind I get." This is counter-intuitive, but most of us would get more done if we slowed down. We would be more focused. We would have more time for what matters most. Proverbs 19:2 says, "A person who moves too quickly may go the wrong way."

What happens if you begin to live with margin? You'll have more peace in your life. You won't be hurrying and worrying all the time. You'll have time for the small things in life - for playing with kids, and going for walks. You'll have better health. You won't have to wait for that heart attack for the doctor to tell you to slow down. Your relationships will improve. You'll have unhurried time to spend with those that you love best. It won't be "Hi, How are you?" on the fly. You may rediscover why it is that you married your spouse. And, best of all, you'll be available to God. You'll be able to hear his still, small voice. You'll be ready to live the life that he intended you to live.

Now, it's not going to be easy. If it were easy, you would have done it a long time ago. But it can happen. Not only that, it should happen. The Bible is full of advice on how to do this. Colossians 4:5 tells us, "Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity."

Now, not only does the Bible tell us how to do this, but it gives us a living, breathing example of someone who build margin into his life. It's Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate example of what it means to live with margin. Jesus had thousands of people following him. They wanted to be healed and taught. And yet you never see Jesus in a rush. You never see Jesus working twenty-hour ministry days. Rather, you notice a sense of priority, balance, and beauty in his life. You see that Jesus went to sleep every night without having healed every disease in Israel. Jesus understood how to prioritize. Jesus knew how to build balance in my life. And today and the next two weeks, we're going to look at how you can do the same.

So how can you build margin into your life? There are three decisions you will have to make:


The first decision you're going to have to make, if you're going to have margin in your life, is to pursue contentment. If you're going to bring order and balance and rest to your life, you've got to be serious about dealing with your motivations and your values. What's pushing you for more? What is motivating you? Everything else is superficial until you begin to deal with your motives and values. And that's where we're going to start.

Everything in society is geared to make us want more. It's about more money, more achievement, more possessions, more thrills and experiences, and more activities. In short, it's about ambition - that drive to do and achieve more. We all want more than we have right now.

Now, nothing is wrong with ambition by itself. Without ambition, you would have stayed in bed this morning. Ambition is what gets things done in this world. But there is something wrong with ambition out of control. And ambition that comes from unhealthy motives is destructive. Ambition that is unchecked will destroy you. It destroys people; it destroys families; it destroys churches. Ambition can kill.

What are some ways in which ambition can be unhealthy? I have a pastor friend who admits that his ambition comes from GUILT. He works hard because he feels guilty about his past. It's as if he feels he can make up for past mi stakes with God by working extra hard now. He's killing himself because of an unhealthy motivation.

A lot of people are motivated by INSECURITY. They're trying to prove themselves to someone - and that someone may even be dead. They might have grown up in an environment in which "Well done" was never heard. Their parents may not have shown their approval. They may be trying to prove themselves to a teacher who said, "You'll never amount to anything." They're trying to prove that they're significant and worthy. They don't want to say no in case they let someone else down. They're motivated by insecurity.

Others are ambitious because of EGO. They have a self-image they're trying to preserve. Others are ambitious because of MATERIALISM. They want more and more things. Others are driven by JEALOUSY. Ecclesiastes 4:4 says, "Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless, like chasing the wind." It's like a competition. They want to do better than the people around them.

If you're going to build margin into your life, the place to start isn't by clearing your schedule. It's by examining your motivations. I guarantee that if you just clear your schedule without dealing with your motivations, your schedule will be fine for a couple of months. But it won't be long before you begin to fill your schedule with more and more activities, clients, and work. The place to start is dealing with your motivation. What's causing you to want more?

Listen to Ecclesiastes 4:6: "One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind" (NASB). It's better to have a little if you have peace of mind, than to always be running after more. Let me ask you a question: will you be happier when you have more? Will it give you more peace in your soul? When you buy that new car or get that new position, will you really be happier? It's better to have less, with peace of mind, than to be busy all the time.

Paul said in Philippians 4:11-12, "I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little." What's the antidote to wanting more? It's contentment. It's understanding that more won't make you happy. It's saying that what I have is enough.

That's the first step that you have to take. Examine why you always want more. More won't make you happy. Pursue contentment.


The second key to living with margin is to pay attention to your limitations. The problem with most of us is that we overestimate what we can do and we underestimate the amount of time it takes to do it. We all have limits. One of the best things that we can do is to begin to recognize our limits and to live within them.

We're running up against our limitations more than at any other time in history. Our society likes to maximize everything. We push the limits as far as possible. We experience activity overload, choice overload, debt overload, expectation overload, information overload, and work overload.

To illustrate this, I thought we could do a little survey this morning to see how many limitations in your time you're running up against. Let's do a little survey. You can mark yourself as we go along. I'm going to give you five questions to measure your limitations. Score yourself, and then we'll add up your score to see how you're doing.

? If you feel rested and relaxed this morning, then give yourself a 0. If you feel that you could have stayed in bed that extra ten minutes or so, then give yourself a 1. If you feel absolutely exhausted this morning, then give yourself a 2. If you're asleep right now, then give yourself a 3.

? Let's look at your finances. If you've balanced your checkbook, done your taxes, and kept all your bills up to date, then give yourself a 0. If you're pretty much up to date paying your bills, but you never balance your checkbook or your credit card statement, then give yourself a 1. If you're laughing at the question, and you routinely pay bills late, then give yourself a 2

? Give yourself a 0 if you're not behind on your laundry right now. Give yourself a 1 if you're a little behind on your laundry schedule. Give yourself a 2 if you don't know what a laundry schedule is.

? If you've been on time for your appointments this week, give yourself a 0. If you've been late one appointment this week, give yourself a 1. If people are shocked when you show up for a meeting on time, then give yourself a 2.

? What happens if you hit a light that turns red? If you just stop and don't get upset, then give yourself a 0. If you brake and talk to the traffic light, then give yourself a 1. If you gun the gas and run the light, then give yourself a 2. If you've hit a car or pedestrian going through a red light, then give yourself a 3.

How did you do? How many limitations are you running up against? If you add up your score and had anything over 5, you're running into your limits. You don't have margin in your life. You need to start paying more attention to your limits.

I love what one man said. "I am dying of easy accessibility," he complained. "If Alexander Graham Bell walked into my office, I'd punch him in the nose. If he called, you can be sure I'd put him on hold." Some of us are so close to the edge of our limits that we're ready to snap. If we're pushed any further, we're not sure what's going to happen.

God designed you with limitations. You have physical limitations, emotional limitations, mental limitations, financial limitations, and space limitations. You can only do so much. Not only has God designed us with limitations, but he's designed us with a warning system to let us know when we're reaching our limitations. This warning system is called fatigue. It's called pain. It's called fatigue. It's called stress. It's called loss of joy. It's called irritability. When you see these warning lights, then you have exceeded a limit - a physical, mental, spiritual, some kind of an emotional limit in your life and you're on overload. And you're in trouble.

What does this look like? I recently heard someone describe an event in his life. One day they were writing a check, and they thought to themselves, "That date looks really familiar!" It turns out that it was his twentieth wedding anniversary. He went home and told his wife, who had also forgotten, and so they planned to take the next day off to go to a lake. They woke up the next morning, got into their convertible, and drove up to the lake. The husband said, "This is beautiful!" And then they both stretched out and slept for an hour and a half. Then they woke up and drove home. This was a couple living past their limits. And some of you are pretty much the same.

Jesus never lived that way. Richard Swenson writes:

When I look deeper at the life of Christ, I...notice that there is no indication he worked twenty-hour ministry days. He went to sleep each night without having healed every disease in Israel - and he apparently slept well. Neither did he minister to everybody who needed it. Neither did he visit or teach everybody who needed it. There were needs that he simply chose not to meet. Even when Lazarus became sick, Jesus was shockingly slow to mobilize. I would have had a helicopter there in twenty minutes. But Jesus delayed for two days.

Is this to imply that he was lazy or didn't care? Of course not. But it is to imply that he understood what it meant to be human...Jesus understood what it meant to prioritize and to balance in light of those limits and how to focus on the truly important. We can learn a lesson from Jesus - it's okay to have limits. It's okay not to be all things to all people all the time all by ourselves. (The Overload Syndrome)

Jesus never rushed. He always took time for his rel ationship with his Father. He lived only a short time, and yet at the end of his life he could say, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4). Jesus accepted his natural limitations as a human being, and yet he still accomplished the work that God gave him to do.

We live in a culture that constantly tells us "You can do it all! You can have it all! You can be it all! You can have everything! You can be whatever you want!" The truth is, that's a lie. It is not true. The Son of God had limits when we was on earth. You're going to have limits too.

Next week we're going to look at how to focus your life on what's really important. You're only going to have enough time in your life to accomplish what's really important. So one of the starting points for building margin is to realize you need it because you have limits. You can't just keep cramming your life full. You've got to pursue contentment and then you've got to pay attention to your limitations.

There's a final decision you need to make in order to build margin in your life.


God's Word - the Bible - is full of instruction on how to live life. It's filled with insights on how to live. It's the owner's manual for life. When God places a commandment in the Bible, he never does it capriciously or lightly. It's always there for our benefit. God doesn't give a command to be a downer. When we follow God's commands, your life is a lot easier and less stressful. You were designed to live according to the Bible - God's owner's manual for your life.

Of all the commands given in the Bible, you're probably familiar with the Ten Commandments - what someone has called God's Big Ten. One of the commandments that you're supposed to obey is about rest. It's the fourth commandment. It goes like this: "Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God" (Exodus 20:9-10). Rest is so important that God put it in his list of top ten commands. It's right up there with "Don't steal" and "Don't kill." That's how important this command is.

Many of you would say, "I haven't killed. I don't commit adultery and I try not to lie." And yet you break the fourth commandment all the time. You were designed to work six days a week. But you were also designed, one day out of seven, to rest. You need to take one day off a week to recharge.

I don't think what day it is matters as much as you taking a day off to recharge. Colossians tells us this. But Jesus tells us that God created the Sabbath for our benefit. It was created because we need it. You need to take a break.
What should you do on your Sabbath? You get physical rest. You take a break and say, "One day a week, I don't mow the lawn; I don't do dishes; I don't even make my bed." It's not a legalistic thing. It's simply a decision you make to give your body a break.

It's also a time to get emotional rest. You know what recharges your emotional batteries. The Sabbath is a day to do that. Do whatever recharges you. It may be solitude. It may be being still. It may be time with those you love most. Do that on your day off.

It's also a time to refocus spiritually. It's a time to return to eternal truths. It's a day to focus on God, and re-orient your life around what matters most.

You can't live the life you were meant to live if you don't focus on eternal truths. Friends, if your life isn't centered around Jesus Christ - and if you don't return to that focus at least once a week, and orient your whole life around him - you will never live the life of balance that God designed you to live.

During the French Revolution they actually outlawed Sunday as a day of rest. They wanted people to work. A few years later they had to reinstate it because the health of the nation had totally collapsed. They had to re-institute Sunday as the day of rest. You need to rest on your Sabbath, on your weekly day off.

You need to take these steps. You need to go home this afternoon, sit down, and make some adjustments to the way you're living. It's time to begin pursuing contentment. It's time to begin paying attention to your limitations. And it's time to begin to follow the fourth commandment, and to rest one day out of seven.

Psalm 127:2 says, "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?" God wants to give you rest today. He wants you to live a life that's focused on him. He wants you to experience a life of peace, of focus, of order, and of balance.

Are you tired from living an overloaded life, out of balance, frantic, hectic, moving from one thing to the next with no relief and release? Then I invite you to do three things. First, come back the next two weeks, as we look at how to restore balance to your life.

Second, take the steps I've outlined. Pursue contentment. Pay attention to your limitations. Plan to follow the fourth commandment.

But I also invite you to begin following the one who said:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

Let's pray.

Father, I know that there are a lot of tired, overloaded people here today. They're living without margin. They're stressed beyond capacity.

I thank you that you've told us, in your Word, that we weren't designed to live that way. I thank you that you've given us wisdom on how to start living a life with margin. I thank you for giving us Jesus - your Son - a man who lived a perfect life. He never rushed around. He always lived a life of margin.

Most of all, I thank you that Jesus invited us to begin following him. He said that if we do, we'll recover our lives.

If you want to begin following Jesus for the first time, would you pray this prayer:

Jesus, thank you for the invitation to follow you. Today I bring you all the pieces of my life. I bring you my tiredness, my stress, and my fatigue. I admit that I need a Savior - someone to take the damage I've caused by my sins, and someone to make me whole.

Beginning today, I follow you. I come to you for rest. And I pray, that beginning today, you would be the Lord - the manager - of my life. In Jesus' name, Amen.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.