Kevin DeYoung has been a long-standing contributor to The Gospel Coalition website (see last post). But I did notice that he has set up his own blog site which is filled with articles and sermons and Christian discussion. Kevin is a marvellous communicator and has written with great insight about ministry. One splendid little book is called ‘Crazy Busy’ which really ought to be a must read for anyone engaged in Christian ministry. It also picks up on the Watchman theme that I wrote about recently.
At the start of chapter 2 (pages 19-20), DeYoung has a delightful reflection on 1 Kings 20:40: ‘And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.’ It led me to share these words with my own parish members as we examined the topic of a ‘Theology of Sleep’:
How would you describe our modern world today – Sydney? The Western world. One word.
The US Pastor, Kevin DeYoung, relates an anecdote about a woman from another culture who came to the United States and began to introduce herself as ‘Busy’. It was the first thing she heard when meeting any American. ‘Hello, I’m Busy’ – and she figured it was part of the traditional greeting, so she told everyone she met that’s who she was.
One word – Busy. That’s a reasonable answer isn’t it in our somewhat frenetic and crazed property-obsessed, market-driven international cosmopolitan city of the 21st century which we call Sydney. Busy.
It’s characteristic of the modern Western world. I say Western because other cultures can be very different – Pacific Islands or Africa, for instance. We prize being on time and moving quickly.
‘Efficiency and punctuality can demonstrate respect for others, but as DeYoung observes, they are not absolute virtues. Just ask the man on the Jericho Road.
Today I want to address this issue in broad terms from a topical perspective – the topic of ‘sleep’.
Recall in 1 Kings 19 – Elijah hit rock bottom. What happened then? He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree’. 1 Kings 19:5.
But first, how does Kings link with our world of busyness.
For that we need to turn to the end of the next chapter, 1 Kings 20. (Again thanks to DeYoung who writes:
‘It’s not the most famous story in the Bible, but it is one of the most unusual. At the end of this chapter there is this bloke who comes up with a bizarre plan for rebuking Ahab, the king of Israel.
The context is war. Israel is at war with Syria, and God was giving them great military success. Ahab’s at home here – the son of the general. But Ahab is a wicked, ungodly, petulant king who is out of step with the God of Israel. Jezebel has taken the reins. And in this chapter, that is exposed. Just when God gave the Syrian king, Ben-hadad, into his hands, Ahab agreed to let him go for a few shopping bazaars in Damascus. It might seem like a magnanimous gesture, but Ahab’s selfish little bargain put all of Israel in danger and dishonoured the Lord.
So this bloke, a certain man of the sons of the prophets devised a plan. He’d go to the king dressed like a servant returning from battle. The first step was to look the part, so the unnamed prophet ordered a fellow prophet, at the command of the Lord, to strike him. This second fellow wasn’t too keen on this and didn’t oblige, and that led to his untimely death at the hands of a lion (it’s a strange story!).
So the prophet found another man and also implored him, ‘Strike me, please’. I find myself wondering whether this guy knows about what happened to the other guy. This time the man struck and wounded him.
Now the prophet was ready to go to the king. Fresh with these self-inflicted bruises, the man disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes and told the king a story:
‘I’ve just come from the battle, he said, and I need to tell you something. A soldier brought me a man and ordered me to guard him with my life. Well, one thing led to another, and I must have got distracted with something else and, um, the man got away.’
Naturally, the king was furious: ‘Just as you said: this negligence will cost you your life.’ Then the prophet removed the bandage, revealed his true identity, and rebuked the king for letting Ben-hadad go free when God wanted him dead. See the point: Ahab has put his authority up against God. Not a smart move. Disobedience would cost Ahab his life, just as he ironically said it should.
Now here’s the point of all of this. First, make quite clear the message is not to encourage you to go round punching each other in the face. No, verse 40 is the key verse for our topical focus. The prophet-turned-pretend-guard says this to the king as he explains how his man got away:
‘And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone’.
Now 1 Kings 20 is not dealing with the subject of ‘busyness’. But, as Kevin de Young astutely observes, this line in verse 40 is a perfect description for our age. He writes:
‘We are here and there and everywhere. We are distracted. We are preoccupied. We can’t focus on the task in front of us. We don’t follow through. We don’t keep our commitments. We are so busy with a million and one pursuits that we don’t even notice the most important things slipping away.’
Friends, these lines could have been written 20 years ago and reflected the truth of our age. But it is far more so with the explosion of the internet and 24/7 communication: emails, social media, mobile phones, google, youtube, facebook, reddit and more. We are busier than ever.
But be warned: Again DeYoung:
‘Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart, and your soul are in danger. We need the Word of God to set us free. We need biblical wisdom to set us straight. What we need is the Great Physician to heal our overscheduled souls. …If only we could make time for an appointment.’
A theology of sleep.
Three points (much more could be said)
- Sleep is a necessity and it is good for us. So set good patterns and rhythms.
- Sleep is an act of faith…and lack of sleep fosters doubt and cynicism
- Sleep so that you are watching and awake to what counts
I plan to expand on this at a later date (in a blog, podcast or devotional).
If you want to see more that Kevin DeYoung has written then check out his new-old website here.
 Crazy Busy, p 20.