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  • Nov19Tue

    First Things First

    Three ways to avoid falling into the trap of “busy work.” November 19, 2019 by Captain Scott Strissel
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought

    It’s a question I’ve often asked myself. Have I focused too much on the “busy work,” instead of the priorities of salvation? Am I spending too much time on mundane, time-consuming tasks that offer no vital substance to life?

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think certain tasks are beneath me. I’m just trying to uncover something that has been convicting me. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is revealing it to you, as well.

    As an Army, we have grown far beyond a movement birthed out of the ashes and smoke of the industrial era. We have grown arms and legs in order to meet human needs in Jesus’ name. But with that growth came the not-so-good, as well. Overworking ourselves. Demanding more and more income to support bloating projects. Trusting less in the provision of God and more in our own efforts, donors and coffers.

    I’m not negating hard work. I am simply pondering whether, in the midst of our hard work, we have stopped looking to the Author of all things, and started looking at the things he has created. Instead of commanding time, is time commanding us? Have we lost our first love and replaced it with busy work?

    I understand that we mustn’t grow tired of doing good (see Galatians 6:9). But there should be moments of reflection that bring us back to our first love and first priority—loving God. THEN we are able to reach out and offer soup, soap and salvation.

    Here are three ways to avoid falling into the trap of “busy work”:

    1)      Practicing the Presence of God

    Brother Lawrence, author of the classic Christian text The Practice of the Presence of God, was right. We need to get into the habit of communing with God daily, even moment by moment. We need to fellowship with our Creator throughout the most mundane to the most trying of tasks. When we open our lives to God, we are inviting him to participate in them with us. Just because we have to do mundane tasks doesn’t mean they are busy work. “Busy work” is when we have no purpose, no mission or aim. Busy work leads no one to Christ, consumes all our time and offers nothing in spiritual nourishment.

    When we enter into God’s presence throughout the day, we begin to eliminate the busy work. When we ask him to commune with us, we begin to see what truly matters and life (and tasks) are given purpose once again. Why? Because we are not living for ourselves, our own hard work, our own ambitions, our own understanding—we are dying to self, dying to corporate ladder-climbing, dying to the search for approval and acceptance of others. Instead, we are living a new life born out of holiness and the desire to be selfless.

    2)      Asking the Question “Why”?

    When we find ourselves caught in the busyness trap, we need to begin asking questions. Like, “Why am I doing what I am currently doing?” “Is this task or habit really what I should be doing?” “What is this contributing to building the kingdom?” “Why do I catch myself falling into this ‘busyness’ trap again and again?”

    Habits are hard to break, and I believe busy work can be one of these bad habits. We all need time to do the necessary reports, chores and tasks, yet how often do we catch ourselves staring blankly at a computer screen? How often do we labour away at things that don’t really matter? I’m not saying not to do them, I’m saying that perhaps we place too much emphasis on them. We give them too much importance and so our time gets eaten up in non-kingdom tasks.

    There comes a point where we must look up. Where we see where God desires us to go. Perhaps it’s to talk to that person in the social services waiting room. Maybe it’s to go and visit corps members, to sit with a person who needs a friend, or spend a few solitary moments in the chapel praying. Are we looking up? Or do we go about our day with our heads down, glued to our computers, consumed with “busy work”?

    3)      Connect with Others.

    I have mentioned this already, but it begs saying again: we MUST connect with other people (and not just on social media). Look people in the eyes. Listen to their needs. Hear the hurt. See the longing for fellowship. Be a light to someone in need. Winning the world for Jesus begins with one or two people. If we aren’t reaching people for Christ, what is the point of calling ourselves an army of salvation?

    When we realign ourselves with our first love and, in turn, pour that love out to others, we will have eliminated all “busy work.” How? By turning each moment and task into an opportunity to serve God. When we change our perspective and our priorities, we reorient our mission and purpose to where it should have been all along.

    Is there “busy work” in your ministry right now? Do you find yourself missing the mark and feeling unfulfilled in your calling? Perhaps you need to look up. Perhaps you need to reprioritize your life. Perhaps you need to rededicate, recommit and reignite your heart.

    Captain Scott Strissel is the divisional youth secretary and divisional candidates’ secretary in the Midland Division, USA Central Territory. He is an active blogger and contributor for the purpose of encouraging and challenging the Salvation Army world. Read his blog at

    Illustration: DNY59/iStock

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