My mother used to tell a story about me to which most moms of young children can relate. One day, when she ran into the bathroom for just a moment, I immediately began knocking on the door, demanding her attention. In frustration, she said “Can’t I get just a little privacy?” To her surprise, the knocking stopped and briefly all was quiet. Soon I was knocking again, but with a new message. “Mommy, I looked in my toy box, but I couldn’t find any privery!”
Like the endless, urgent entreaties of a toddler on a frazzled mother’s time, we also experience constant demands on our limited time. Our daily 24 hours are gobbled up by family responsibilities, work, household duties, and more. Some demands we can control, forcing them into our timetable. Others scream for attention until we give it, like knee-high grass in the yard or an overflowing laundry basket.
This phenomenon, commonly referred to as the “tyranny of the urgent,” steals valuable time from the more polite, but more important things. Sometimes we can’t avoid temporarily setting aside the important to deal with something that cannot be put off another minute. But all too often we allow the seemingly urgent to push out the important because we fail to purposefully prioritize the important.
Jesus Defeated the Tyranny of the Urgent
Jesus experienced constant demands on His time and attention. The tyranny of the urgent was always a threat. For instance, in the Gospel of Mark, we learn that Jesus couldn’t openly enter a town to teach because He would be overwhelmed by crowds of people who wanted something from Him (Mark 1:35). So Jesus intentionally worked to make room for the most important things.
When Jesus first began His ministry in Galilee, everyone in Capernaum wanted to get close to Him. So, after an overwhelmingly hectic day in ministry, Jesus rose early to get away and spend time alone with His Father. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35 ESV). (Also see “8 Tips for Moving Quiet Time from “Want To” to “Get To“ and “11 Tips for Spending Quality Quiet Time with God.“)
When His disciples woke and discovered Jesus gone, they went looking for Him. Their search was not mere concern for Jesus’ welfare. According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary the Greek word Mark used that’s translated as “searched,” “looked for,” or “followed after” means to intensively track and persistently search with a determination to find. The disciples didn’t merely wonder where Jesus had gotten off to, they were a bit indignant that He wasn’t conforming to their timetable. After all, the crowds back in town clamored for His presence. (Mark 1:37).
We can Follow Jesus’ Example
Sometimes we also feel that indignant hostility from the things that pull at our attention. But rather than simply throwing our hands up in surrender, we can follow Jesus’ example. After a busy, draining evening and with more of the same ahead, Jesus intentionally did two things.
First, He spent time with the Father by slipping beyond the reach of the urgent to commune with the only One who could provide everything He needed. He set the urgent aside to embrace the important.
Second, Jesus established His priorities and voiced them to those in His circle. Jesus clearly and firmly told the disciples that the Father had sent Him to take the Gospel message to those who needed it. “And he said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’” Mark 1:38
He would fulfill that purpose first and meet the physical needs of the people as He went. And we can follow Jesus’ example. Let’s establish our priorities, voice them to those close to us, and ask God to help us keep the important at the top of our list.
Yes, some days the time tyrant will win. But most days, with a little discipline and a lot of Jesus, we can defeat the tyranny of the urgent and use the time the Father has given us for His glory.
This post was excerpted from “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark.”
An Opportunity to Prioritize the Study of God’s Word
You are invited to join me for 8 weeks in the Gospel of Mark. This virtual study starts June 12 in the year-round Facebook group “Reading the Bible Together.” This group is perfect for the summer. You can “attend” from wherever you happen to be. You can pop in to the group at any time during the day that works for you. And you can access it wherever you have wifi or cell reception.
You don’t need anything for this study but your Bible, something to write on, and access to the Facebook group. BUT, if you’d like to enhance your study with additional commentary and some devotional thoughts, get a copy of my devotional study book “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Mark.” It’s available on Amazon in print or digital versions.
HERE’S HOW THE GROUP WORKS:
- Readings & discussion questions for Monday through Friday
- Daily posts scheduled for 5am Central time
- Averages 20-30 verses a day
- Formatted to help you get into the Word for yourself
- This group is FREE
- New Bible books begin immediately after one ends
- You can start or stop any time