I was reviewing some of my personal journals and found an entry from October 1998:
I don’t know if I can keep up this pace. Yesterday I had over 120 emails come in, and 110 the day before that. It’s very hard to stay on top of all this work. And discouraging.
I laughed aloud because now it’s a slow day when less than 350 emails hit my inbox, plus a large number of social media feeds and notifications on sources I’m tracking.
Of course it’s still discouraging at times when I don’t feel I can stay ahead of the work.
The key is whether I believe I can stay on top of everything important.
Not everything, but everything important.
Will you let me point out something useful from the story of Daniel in the Bible?
King Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel (who was a young man at the time) to a very high position, effectively setting him up to run the Babylonian empire (see Daniel 2:46-49). Daniel continues in senior positions of authority through the remainder of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, then Belshazzar, and Darius.
In Daniel 6:1-4 we read,
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.
These officials set a legal trap to get rid of Darius, and the famous “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” story unfolds.
I hope you caught something remarkable in this story: Daniel is running the empire and his critics can’t find anything to complain about.
Really? Wow! Pick any leader you can think of, and their critics have long lists of complaints. Daniel is serving in an ungodly kingdom as a godly man and can accomplish everything important.
Consider Jesus, also. In his prayer just before he was arrested, tried, and executed, Jesus said “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Jesus didn’t preach to everyone, didn’t heal everyone, and had plenty of critics – yet he accomplished everything important, everything the Father gave Jesus to do.
You and I can accomplish everything important, too. It is possible.
Once you settle this as a fact in your heart and mind, you will be able to gain the wisdom to make it happen.
Leaders can develop healthy frameworks for evaluating opportunities and deciding what is important.
My grandfather gave me useful advice as a boy: “Don’t do things that make the devil happy.” We can ask what builds up relationships and community, and what things will make heaven more crowded.
We can ask ourselves, “10 years from now what will I think is important?”
God invites us to ask for wisdom (James 1:5) and was delighted when Solomon asked for discernment (1 Kings 3:9) – we should pray in confidence.
So when you feel overwhelmed by too much to do, remember two important facts:
- You have important work to complete, under the sovereignty of God. He will help you accomplish everything important.
- Not everything is important.
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