Today we have all kinds of planners, apps, lists, and suggestions to help us get more organized and be more productive. So much in our culture points to the importance of getting more and more done. We have become a church of Martha’s when God wants us to first be Mary’s. That won’t happen without learning to order our own private worlds.
Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working dad or mom, a single parent, a businessman or woman, or a grandparent. Maybe you work from home. Maybe you commute. Maybe home and family are your work. Maybe you’re a blogger, a Bible teacher, a homeschooler, or in full-time ministry. Wherever you are in your life right now, you’re probably busy!
Busyness! There are probably few of us who haven’t experienced it. As we’ll see in a minute, sometimes it’s a good thing, but other times … not so much!
Maybe you can relate MacDonald’s story:
I was a young pastor in a sizable church, and I had accumulated several weeks of busyness (I mean really busy!) in my work. Now, there is a busyness that reflects a plan of activity, a pattern of priorities, and a sense of purposefulness. It is a good and satisfying busyness through which one grows and increases competence.
But there is also a busyness (a destructive busyness, actually) that reflects a chaotic way of life—a way of doing in which one is simply responding to the next thing in the day. The next thing! It makes no difference whether or not it has significance; it’s just the next thing, and one does it because it’s there to do.
In that thirtieth year I was swept along in that second kind of busyness much like someone being swept along in the rapids of a raging river. Out of control. Fearful of capsizing. Feeling quite unprotected.
He goes on to describe a breakdown of sorts where all that busyness came to a head:
Many times I have looked back wondering what I was crying for that day. Perhaps it was some of the wounds and sorrows that had been handed down from father to son from previous generations. Then again, perhaps I was weeping for my own sadnesses, the ones I had lived through as a boy and never brought to resolution. What about the possibility that I was simply reflecting weeks and weeks of stressful life in which there had been no pause and no inner, spiritual maintenance? How about the chance that it was all of these possibilities?
That Saturday was the day I learned, the hard and frightening way, that I could not go on living the way I was living and expect to be a spiritual leader (or any other kind of leader) of people. I often refer to that morning as the day I hit the wall.
The chapters that follow describe the things he learned as he began to “order his private world.” As many of us have already discovered in some measure, this is an “inside-out matter, not an outside-in matter.” MacDonald says:
There must be a quiet place where all is in order, a place from which comes the energy that overcomes turbulence and is not intimidated by it.
The book itself has five sections:
- Use of Time
- Wisdom & Knowledge
- Spiritual Strength
Each one is packed full of helpful thoughts, quotes, stories, suggestions, and reasons for ordering your private world.
One of my favorite chapters is entitled “Order in the Garden,” talking about the garden of our soul. In it, the author talks about the restlessness and lack of spiritual satisfaction many of us feel. He also points out some of the “quick fixes” we attempt and the shallow level of inner life we have come to accept. He says this:
Today Christians talk about the importance of “quiet time,” a daily devotional often reduced to a system or method that is swift and streamlined. We boil it down to seven minutes or thirty minutes, depending on how much time we have available. We use Bible study guides, devotional guides, devotional booklets, and carefully organized prayer lists, all of which are nice—better, I suppose, than nothing—but not nearly as effective as what the mystics had in mind.
This book is not an in-depth study of all the spiritual disciplines. Others have done that thoroughly and well. Instead, MacDonald focuses on those that are most often neglected: the pursuit of solitude and silence; regular listening to God; the experience of reflection and meditation; and prayer as worship and intercession.
Ordering Your Private World, along with two other books that I’ll share with you later, impacted my life in a profound way about 20 years ago and have done so again and again through the years since. It has been updated and a study guide has been added, but the principles are timeless and life-changing.
If you, like so many of us, do from time to time, feel that restlessness and dissatisfaction, grab a copy, find some quiet time and dig in!
Quotations taken from:
MacDonald, Gordon (2003-01-07). Ordering Your Private World Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Coming up in the daily through the Bible posts, we’ll talk about how to rate yourself on biblical love, offering God your best, the importance of defending your faith, and pose the question, “Could you be raising little hypocrites?”
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Other Featured Resources:
Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day by Glynnis Whitwer. If you deal with procrastination or an unending to-do list, you may want to check out Glynnis’ book. You can read my review here.
Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Do you feel discouraged, even defeated, in your battle against habitual sin? Are you dismayed or surprised by the situations that bring out your fear, anger, or distress? Elyse Fitzpatrick delves into the heart of the problem: deep down, we’re all idol-worshippers who put our loves, desires, and expectations in God’s placeand then suffer the consequences of our misplaced affections. Yet God loves his people and can use even our messy lives and struggles for his glory. Fitzpatrick shows us how to better search and know our hearts, long for our gracious Savior, and resist and crush our false gods. Includes questions for further thought. Revised edition.
How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur
The Bible is the Word of life. As such, studying the Bible is crucial to the life and growth of every believer. In this revised work, John MacArthur examines various Scripture passages in the Old and New Testament to answer both the “why” and the “how” questions of Bible study.
How to Study the Bible can be used alongside or apart from the audio series available from Grace to You in either a personal or group study.
- Corresponds with the audio message series available from Grace to You
- Features revised content and study questions
- For personal or group study use