Recently I was reading through an Old Bible that I used over 40 years ago. On the inside cover page I had written, “Consume me, Holy Spirit, by Your fire. May I always have a burning heart for the Lord.” This has been my prayer for years, yet often I have discovered that I have had a burned out heart rather than a burning heart.
We all have work that we consider to be of utmost importance; it may be a project for your family, or something you have committed to do for your community or local church; perhaps it is a project to alleviate world hunger or to bring about justice in an unjust area of the world; it may even be to excel in a sport for the glory of God. You may be a missionary at home, you may be a missionary in a distant land.
But for some reason we become distracted and the vision begins to fade. In 1967 Charles Hummel wrote a classic essay entitled The Tyranny of the Urgent. The reason for our distraction and resulting ineffectiveness could be what Hummel calls “the tyranny of the urgent.” We are determined to do things that we believe are important and will benefit others. But we become caught up in “urgent” things – things that do not need to be done by us, but that we do because of pressures from other people, or because of a lack of focus. We find ourselves driven by constantly doing busy things, urgent things, things that demand our attention. True, there are times when every person must do “urgent” things, and we must not shrink back from doing them. But a lifestyle of doing only urgent things produces a bad result. The result is that we do the urgent things but neglect to do the really important things in life. The problem is not lack of time; rather it is wrong motivation. We call this “tyranny” of the urgent because just as a human tyrant kills many people, so also “urgent tasks” kill us spiritually and emotionally. They cause burnout.
How do we recover from this tyrannical burnout to have a burning heart for God and for the work that He has given each of us to do in this world? I believe God has given each person in the world a task to do that no other person can do, and by doing it we can glorify God, bringing joy and benefit to others, and can become genuinely contented persons. Remember one thing: The need itself is not the call. We are surrounded by constant needs. No human can fulfill all the needs of the world. So how do we determine the calling, or the work, that God has planned for each of us?
First, walk with God. Begin by spending time with God in the mornings. Take time to meet God in His Word, and to ask Him if there is something special that He wants you to do that day. Meditate on his Word, rest in His gentle, healing presence. Take time to listen (It does take time.).
Second, share with your community. Your community may be just one other friend, or it may be your family; it may be your local church, or a group of people who are special to you and who consider you special. Take responsibility for them, be accountable to them, share your ideas and inner thoughts and vision with them. Let them help you accomplish that one great work you are called to do. At the same time you can help them complete their life’s work that will bless the world.
Third, begin again today to finish the work God has given you to do to bless this wounded, weary world. We may not finish all the urgent tasks, the busy things, all of which need to be done. But we will finish all the work God has given us to do.