As a society, and in the church, we have a problem with speed. More accurately, we have a problem with hurry. Perhaps a little background with speed will help.
In 1370, the first town clock was constructed in Cologne, Germany. The clock provided a reference point for the entire time to be of one mind on what time it was. The clock, and the sun-dial of earlier times, changed our sense of time. Our understanding of time used to come from the rising and setting of the sun and the moon, but the rhythms of our body. The clock began to dictate to us when we needed to rise and when we needed to go to sleep. The clock created the idea of working 9-5 which most of the industrialized world has been enslaved to for centuries.
In 1879, Thomas Edison manufactured an electric lightbulb. It was a safer, cleaner, and brighter option to burning candles or lanterns in homes. But the lightbulb has also changed our lives in ways that are not always better. We no longer had to go to bed when the sun went down. Prior to the lightbulb, people averaged 11 hours of sleep a day! Eleven hours! Today, 59% of American average a minimum of 7 hours of sleep. Four hours less! 40% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep. We’ve all seen the literature about how a lack of sleep disrupts our mental capabilities, can lead to weight gain, and other psychological issues.
Any sort of cursory reading of the saints of the past will find that many of them were up at 4:00 a.m. each day for prayer and study. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement would get up at 4:00 a.m., pray, translate scripture from Greek to English, and preach all before 7:00 a.m.! I remember reading about Wesley and others and thinking to myself, “they must love Jesus way more than I do!” As I learned more about sleep habits, Wesley and others would go to sleep when the sun went down. If you went to bed at 7 p.m., by 4:00 a.m. you already had slept for 9 hours! They were well-rested!
Technology is meant to save time and to increase efficiency with the hope of increasing leisure. With every technological advance, there are reprocussions. We officially entered the digital age in 2007. The marker for that is the release of the first iPhone by Steve Jobs and Apple. The first Kindle also was released in 2007. The iPhone, and by extension all smartphones, are a symbol of our technological advance and efforts towards increase productivity, but they are also symbols of our struggle with pace, speed, and hurry.
Studies show that the average iPhone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day. Certainly that doesn’t mean they are using it that often, but that they reach for it, check their pocket to ensure it is there, and so on. Even now, some of you are feeling the urge to check that your phone is ok. We feel the need to check our phone and our social media feed because of FOMO. Fear of Missing Out. Our brains have been reprogrammed to the point that we do not want to miss out on the latest news. Like Pavlov’s dog, we are conditioned to answer each notification.
Since 2007, we can now have video, streaming TV, and live sports wherever we have our phone. In 2015, the Neilson Agency did a study that showed that the average American watched 6 hours of video a day- whether it was TV, youtube, or some other form of digital media.
Clocks, lightbulbs, and smartphones disrupt the natural rhythms of the universe and of our lives. What was meant to make life easier and even more enjoyable has made us slaves to busyness, slaves to notifications, and slaves to hurry. We are constantly working or stressed out from working. We wake up tired, drink a ton of socially approved drugs (i.e. caffeine), and we fall back into bed at the end of the day so overwhelmed that we cannot fall back asleep. When we have downtime, we flip through our social media feeds in a daze when we know there are better and healthier options to do.
In the midst of the pace we run and our chronic tiredness, we can often find ourselves unaware of any presence of God in our lives. As people who call ourselves Christians, many of us have little interaction or sense of God’s presence in our day-to-day life because we are so distracted. We wonder where is the transformation in our lives, where is the growth in our faith, where is the healing that the Bible speaks about as we rush around to the places our schedules demand we go. As we consider the pace of our lives- could it be that we are the ones who are absent rather than God?
Pastor and author John Mark Comer relates a story between Pastor John Ortberg and Dallas Willard. Willard was a Philosophy professor at USC and a Christian who wrote many books on Spiritual Formation and Discipleship. Ortberg asks Willard, “What do I need to do to become the me I want to be?
Willard responded, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Willard knew the danger of busyness. He knew the danger of running after the things of the world and the danger that possesses for the Christian. Hurry is the enemy. Hurry is the devil. Willard wrote extensively on Spiritual Formation- this is a “Spirit-driven process of forming the inner life of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.” Simply put- spiritual formation is when we become more like Jesus.
In John 15, Jesus tells us that we are to “Remain in me as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
Spiritual formation, becoming like Jesus, happens when we remain or abide in Jesus. Spiritual formation doesn’t happen when we swoop into church once a week, writing our grocery list, and thinking of all the things we need to get done. Spiritual formation happens when we slow down, when we abide, and when we walk with Jesus. Spiritual formation takes place when we read, think, and pray through Scriptures and applying them to our lives. Walter Adams, the spiritual director for C.S. Lewis writes,
“To walk with Jesus is to walk with a slow, unhurried pace. Hurry is the death of prayer and only impedes and spoils our work. It never advances it.”
We see this so clearly when we think about the disciples walking with Jesus throughout the countryside for three years. They took it slow. They sat around a lot. Much of Jesus’ ministry is eating meals with his disciples and others. Speed was not part of the internship. Hurry was not on the agenda. Even when Lazarus was sick and dying, Jesus waited to go rather than hurrying there. We can get a lot done when we hurry. We can be transformed when we slowly walk with Jesus.
In the American church, the models that we utilize and the kinds of discipleship we teach shows that our hearts may not be in the right place. Too many sermons and studies are click-bait titles like “5 Steps to…” or “Explosive growth in 12 steps.” John Ortberg writes, “Hurry is not just a disordered schedule. Hurry is a disordered heart.” Our need to hurry, to rush, to go fast, to be productive, to get stuff done shows a heart that believes that our life and the lives of those around us are dependent on us doing things. Discipleship teaches us that to truly live means to slow down and to turn our attention to Jesus.
What you give your attention to is the person we become.
One of the great problems facing us in the church is hurry. Sin and hurry both cut us off from God. Over the next five weeks, we are going to look at what it looks like to develop a slow faith. We want to begin to build in practices in our lives that will help us to slow down and invite the Holy Spirit to form our inner life to reflect the inner life of Jesus.
As we prepare to come to the Table this morning: Are you tired? Feeling ‘weary?’ Burdened? Bone-deep weary in your soul? Are you rushing around chasing after things that will not truly last? Feeling depressed because you perceive that you can no longer keep up the pace you’ve been running?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I want to invite you over the next five weeks to be present in-person or online as we talk about developing a Slow Faith that eliminates hurry from our lives so that we can find rest in God’s presence. This morning, as we come to the Table, let us rest in the presence of Jesus Christ.
 Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart. 22
 John 15:3-2, NIV.
 John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry