“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” – Ghandi
On Sunday we concluded our teaching series on margin. In the series we have talked about scheduling margin, financial margin and moral margin. As we have said in the series, margin is the “space allowed beyond what is necessary.” Or said another way, “margin is the space between what you can handle and what you are currently handling.” It can and does pertain to most areas of life. What you are attempting to handle can never be more than your limit. Otherwise you will find yourself overloaded and thus stretched to the limit. That quickly results in being chronically rushed, chronically late, and chronically exhausted. When that happens you are in survival mode, just trying to make it through another day.
Sadly, most of us are far more overloaded than we can handle, at least in one area of life. For example, the lack of margin is one of the reasons for problems in the family. When we don’t make relationships a priority and make time for each other, our relationships suffer. The truth is relationships take time, and margin provides that time to sit and talk, to listen and enjoy one another, and to provide the comfort we each need. In other words we need to schedule margin in our lives.
What is financial margin? It means that we are not being contacted by creditors, overrun with debt and spending money on things that are not important. It means tithing to God and saving money for a rainy day. Saving is a wise thing to do because it provides the freedom for you to be used for Godly causes when you are asked to do so. It means focusing God’s resources for Him and not spending them on things that will matter little in just a few years. It means being content with what God has given you. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:11-13.
Moral margin is putting distance between you and temptation. The answer to living in this world is not imitation, or being like everyone else. And the answer is not isolation, or not associating with anybody or this world. The answer is insulation. God can give you moral margin, but that depends on our ability to be insulated by God from temptation. James 1:13 -15 says, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
The simplest way to be insulated is not placing myself in a situation where I will be tempted. Doing that minimizes the opportunity for temptation. If you don’t want to get stung, you stay away from the bees. If I don’t want to get burned, I stay away from the fire. If I have a problem with alcohol, I don’t go where alcohol is served or readily available.
Another area of life where we lack margin is our relationship with God. When you have no margin in your life and God taps you on the shoulder, saying, “I’d like you to do this for me,” your first response is probably going to be, “Oh, oh! Another to do. Sorry, God, I’d like to do that, but my plate is pretty full right now.” We end up ignoring the great opportunities God brings into our lives. But when you have a margin, a buffer, you’re available for God to use because we have time to see the needs and act on our opportunities.
I don’t think many people would have an issue with what I just outlined. It’s like the tax code. Everybody agrees it needs to be changed but how exactly is the issue. So how do we fix margin in our lives? We have talked about that the last few weeks. If you are sitting someplace wanting to have more space in your life, a terrific model for us is Jesus.
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:16.
When I read the Bible and the stories of Jesus, it seems obvious how free Jesus was to respond to the needs around Him. It is a practical look at how to build margin into our lives. I want you to think about the mission of Jesus for a minute. His job description was ‘saving the world’- but He never seemed to be rushed? We obviously are not trying to save the world, yet we are rushed anyway. He never seemed to be late – and He seemed to always be able to respond to teachable moments. Shift back through your own recollections of the life of Jesus and reflect just how often He was able to seize teachable moments for those who followed Him. There was always room and time to minister to people if people needed it.
Think of the example of Jesus when we have little breath left at the top of the staircase, or money left at the end of the month, or sanity left at the end of adolescence. Or when we prefer to carry 5 more pounds than we can safely lift, and at the end of the day dropping from fatigue. Or when we prefer not to finish that book or take that family vacation.
My prayer is that after this series you will not try to shoehorn everything into your life. Rather you will enjoy a calm, peace-filled, and Christ centered life by adding margin in your scheduling, your finances and your ability to resist temptation.