Simplify to multiply

The word keeps popping up! It comes up in conversations I’ve been having, I see it addressed in movies and in books. It’s something people desire but have given up hope of experiencing. Maybe it’s wishful thinking–as old fashioned and antiquated as Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch. But I long for it–long to live a simple, uncomplicated and focused life.

A life that is not moving too fast, trying to do too much. A life that is not allowing the Tyranny of the Urgent to take over and run me ragged physically and emotionally.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about living simply–keeping my life and ministry simple. Recently, the concept of simplicity has quietly and forcefully surfaced in my Bible reading. Here are a few examples from “The Message” by Eugene Peterson.

 “…if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”Luke 14:11

 “…I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple:…” I Corinthians 2:1,2

 “…so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple… I Corinthians 7:20

 “…be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation.” I Timothy 2:2

 “A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.”

   I Timothy 6:6

 “…so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.” II Timothy 4:2

When I think of simply being myself, of operating simply in life and ministry, I’m not thinking of being semi-retired, or of joining Henry David Thoreau on Walden.

My mind runs more toward focusing on a few things in ministry and in life and practicing the advice of Steven Covey: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” It has to do with priorities and concentration.

Leaders I work with, and others I coach, struggle to consistently keep things simple–to clearly know what they are about, what they are called and gifted to do. They seem to bounce from one thing to the next, filling their schedules with lots of activities, being more reactive than proactive.

Author Fred Smith says that busyness is the new spirituality. Many leaders are not content with who they are, where they are what they are doing and what God is doing.

They long to be someone else, be somewhere else and do something else. Whatever happened to simple contentment? Life seems to hurl a lot at us. Go there, do this, buy that, help with this, commit to that. I find it so easy to be distracted from the simplicity of who I am and what I’m about.

I’m often tempted to cave in to the expectations and demands of others–especially those whose opinions matter deeply to me.  At times it’s difficult to hear the voice of God in the midst of all the noise of life.

Here are a few things I’m doing to simplify my life and ministry:

1.  Turning down opportunities that might be a good use of who I am but not the best use of who I am. Just last week I said no to two people who offered me a great chance to do something.

2.  Never saying yes to anything over the phone, but buying time to think and pray about it.

 3.  Practicing the theology of enough. I have no list of things that fall into the category of: I would be happy if______.

4.  Asking God to deliver me from an unhealthy appetite for acclaim, approval, position, power and honor that would push me to do more and more for the wrong reasons.

5.  Praying to be released from the restless, gnawing greed for more money and more stuff.

6.  Daily reminding myself of who I am and who I am not and being content to be me.

7.  Carving out sufficient time alone with God for humble contemplation–to give Him opportunity to quiet my anxious heart and keep me focused on my “few themes.”

It’s not easy living “simply” in a culture that demands more, rewards competition and admires power and position. But, by God’s grace, I’m going to live in biblical simplicity. 

How are YOU doing?  Do you need to do some spring-cleaning in your life and ministry?  How about a retreat to think through some things and be reminded of who you are and the “few themes” He wants you to be about?