Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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A State of Bondage

Leslie Basham: The way you spend your time is an important issue? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We have an enemy, and that enemy has deceived us. He has lied to us about our priorities; about what matters in life, and as a result, has put most of us in bondage.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, December 27. 

The dictionary defines bondage this way: “The state of being bound; under restraint; involuntary servitude; slavery and captivity.” Does that describe the way you feel about all the things you’re obligated to? Maybe you can spend your time differently in 2011. Nancy’s going to show us how in a series called, First Things First.

Nancy: A few weeks ago I was at a women’s conference. On the opening night we asked the women to tell us how we could pray for them. We asked them to write down some prayer requests on little prayer cards. As I read through some of those requests after the conference, there were several that came into a particular category. It struck me as a theme that runs through many women’s lives today. Let me read you some of what came out on those prayer cards.

One woman said, “I feel like I’m running in sixteen directions and not getting much done.”

Another woman said, “I have three small children, and I’m homeschooling. I feel overwhelmed daily with those responsibilities, along with dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc.” 

Another woman, a pastor’s wife, said, “I struggle with working in the church and taking care of my family and my own sanity. There’s too much to juggle. I’m constantly tired, and I feel like I never conquer anything.”

Here’s another of life season. This woman said, “My father-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s, lives with me and my husband and my four children, ages six months to sixteen years. I feel as if somebody is always needing something from me twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I don’t know how to keep myself physically and spiritually alive.”

Another card read, “I just changed jobs, and I’m working too many hours. I don’t know how to get out of my commitment. Please pray for wisdom as it is affecting the women I minister to in our church—not enough time.”

We have an enemy, and that enemy has deceived us. He has lied to us about our priorities; about what matters in life, and as a result, has put most of us in bondage.

Most of us are living lives that are more frazzled and frenzied than they would have to be if we only would come to grips with the truth.

As I think about schedules and demands on time and priorities and being overwhelmed, I’m so thankful that we have a Savior who identifies with our situation. There could not have ever been anyone who’s lived on this earth who had more to do in a lifetime than the Lord Jesus.

Think about it—he was only given 33 years on this earth, and three-and-a-half of those were given to public ministry. In those three-and-a-half years, His job description was to accomplish the plan of redemption for the whole world. Talk about a long "to do" list! Jesus knew what it was like throughout those years here on this earth to have people and demands pressing in on Him all the time. He relates to that.

A few days ago, I took some time to start through the Gospel of Mark. As I was reading through the book, I just began to make a note of all the times when you read about Jesus having people and situations pressing in on Him. Listen to some of these phrases and episodes from the life of Jesus, starting in chapter 1 of the Gospel of Mark, we have a day in the life of Jesus.

He starts the day by teaching in the synagogue. While He’s there, there’s a man with an evil spirit who comes and interrupts the service. Jesus casts out the evil spirit, and after a day of ministry, Jesus goes home with two of His disciples, Peter and Andrew. And there, rather than being able to kick back and relax, He has to face the situation with Peter’s mother-in-law who is sick and needs to be healed.

Then we come to verse 32 of chapter 1, and it says that, “At evening, when the sun had set, [the same day] they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door” (verses 32-33). Do you ever feel like the whole city is gathered at your door?

Then, early the next morning, the passage goes on to tell us He went out to pray, and verse 36, “And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him they said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for you’” (verse 37). Everyone is looking for you!

Well, Jesus goes on to the next town at the end of chapter 1. He heals the leper and tells him, “Don’t tell anybody,” but of course, the leper tells everybody. The word spreads about Jesus’ power, and verse 45 tells us, “Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.”

Chapter 2, verse 1 says, “And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately, many gathered together so that there was no longer any room to receive them, not even near the door” (verse1-2). Verse 13, chapter two: “He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him.” Also, in chapter 3, Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea, again, and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him.

Chapter 3, verse 31—Jesus also had family ties; family responsibilities pressing in on Him. “Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You’” (verses 32-33). What do you do? The crowd wants you; your mother wants you; your brothers want you; everyone wants you!

Chapter 6, another instance. Jesus had just been through the loss of His cousin, John the Baptist, who was beheaded by King Herod. The disciples had just returned from a ministry excursion, and Jesus said to the disciples, verse 31 of Mark 6, “‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place, and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves. But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him” (verses 32-33).

When Jesus came out for His vacation, he saw a great multitude. He never could escape the crowds, the people, the sick, the demon possessed, His family, the disciples—and yet, the night before Jesus was crucified, He prayed and He said to His father, “I have glorified You on the Earth. I have finished the work You gave me to do” (John 17:4). 

If I have a life goal, in one verse, it’s probably to be able to say at the end of my life, “O God, I’ve glorified You here on the Earth. I have finished the work You gave me to do.”

Now, how could Jesus say that with such assurance? There were still people who needed to be healed. Not every sick person, not every demon-possessed person, not every lost person had come to faith in Christ—had found what they needed. And yet, Jesus could say, “I have finished the work You gave me to do.”

There’s hardly ever a day—I can’t think of a day—when I go to bed at night thinking, “I have finished all the work there is to be done.” There are always more things on my "to do" list. So how could Jesus say, “I have finished the work?”

Well, the key is the next phrase: “. . . the work You gave me to do.” Not the work everyone else gave me to do; not everything I thought I should do; not everything there was to be done; but “God, I have finished the work that You gave me to do.”

It’s an incredible relief to me to realize that:

  • I don’t have to do everything there is to be done.
  • I don’t have to do everything I want to do.
  • I don’t have to do everything I think needs to be done.
  • I don’t have to do everything that you and everyone one else think that I need to do.
  • All I have to do is find out what is the work that God has given me to do—and do it!

That is different for me than what it may be for you at this season of life. His "to do" list for my life is different in this season than it was ten years ago. Ten years from now, I may be in yet a different season.

So that’s why at each season of life, we need to stop and say, “Lord, what is Your agenda for my life this day? This season? This period of my life? The truth that sets me free is that there is time in every 24 hour day to do everything that is on God’s "to do" list for my life, for that day.

I’ve said that to women before, and those words have come back to haunt me. I have to keep counseling my heart according to the truth of God’s Word. There is time today, to do everything that is the work God has given me to do today! There’s time in my lifetime, however short or long it may be, to do everything that God has assigned to me.

Here’s the other truth that will set you free: and that is that I glorify God by doing the work He has given me to do. That’s our goal in life. That’s why we were created—to bring glory to God. Jesus said, “I have glorified You here on this earth, O God. I have finished the work You gave me to do.”

Do you want your life to bring glory to God? Do you want to fulfill the purpose for which God made you? The truth is that you glorify God by doing the work that He has given you to do. He has ordained work for you to do. He has ordained work for me to do. We reflect the greatness and the glory of God when we do what He made us to do, what He has assigned us to do. We’re going to be talking about how to discover what that work is.

Now let’s talk for a moment about what that word, priority, means. It comes from the Latin word prior, which means “first.” The dictionary says that a priority is “something deserving prior attention; something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives.” That suggests there are some choices. There are competing alternatives, but the priority is the one thing that requires attention before other alternatives.

Another dictionary definition says it “having to do with precedence, which is established by order of importance.” Some things are more important than other things. Now the fact is, we all live by priorities. We have a finite amount of time, money, and energy. So we make choices about what we do with those resources. We make choices to spend money on this and not to spend it on something else. We make choices with our time, to spend it on this activity and not on another activity.

The question is not, “Are we living by priorities?” because we all live by some set of priorities. The question is, “Are we living by the right priorities? Are we living according to God’s priorities for our lives and for our use of time? Are we being purposeful and intentional in the way that we spend our time?”

Or, are we doing what I think most people do as they go through their lives, and that is just drifting? Just reacting to the demands around them, reacting to their circumstances, reacting to what comes into their day, rather than being purposeful and intentional in how they utilize those moments.

To live a life based on priorities really means to put first things first. First things first. What really matters, out of all the choices I have before me—what really matters? What matters most right now? That’s another question I have to ask. What matters most in the big picture, and what matters most at this moment? I find in my own life that there’s a constant tendency to “major on the minors.”

Someone said to me last week . . . She was on her way to a grad school course; she has a full-time job, and she hadn’t done the preparation—the reading and the writing—she was supposed to do for this course. She said, “This past week everything has been the priority but the priority.” So we tend to major on the minors, to neglect the things that really matter.

We tend to reverse God’s priorities. For example, the Scripture says that God’s order of what matters most is spirit, and then soul, and then body. That’s the order in which God establishes the priority of our makeup. Spirit is more important than soul, mind, will, and emotions, which are all more important than the body.

But what do we do naturally? We reverse the order. It’s our body that’s most important to us. Then our soul, and then maybe we get to taking care of matters dealing with matters of the spirit. God’s order is that the eternal is more important than the temporal or the immediate. But what’s our tendency? To reverse those priorities, and make the immediate and the temporal more important than the eternal.

Now, I want to begin today, and over the next several days, to share some thoughts about how to get our priorities in the right order. We’re especially focusing on this matter of how we use our time—priorities as they relate to our time. What I’m going to do is to take the word priorities—priorities—and make an acronym out of it, with each of those letters, suggesting something that will help us get our priorities in order.

Now, can I just tell you at the outset, I am not teaching this material out of a wealth of success myself. In fact, over the last week, as I’ve been preparing this material, I have at points felt so miserable. I’ve said, “I don’t know anything about living life by priorities!”

I have found myself really struggling to live out some of the things that I know to be true about priorities. So this has really been good for me. I’m sharing some of these things to counsel my own heart, out of a process that God has me in, even in this moment.

P-R-I-O-R-I-T-I-E-S. Letter “P”—that’s what we want to focus on today, and that’s the word “Pray.”

Pray. Now some of you were afraid I was going to start there, and you wanted something more practical for that “P.” But can I tell you there is honestly nothing more practical than starting with prayer. To pray demonstrates humility, and God gives grace to the humble. What do we need in dealing with our time-demands? We need grace.

When I pray, I’m saying to God, “I can’t handle this without You.” The problem is we want to be able to control and manage our lives and our schedules. We want everything to fit—to work. We don’t like to have seasons of life when we’re being stretched or when we’re being pressed beyond what we feel is our capability. But those very pressing, stretching times force us to acknowledge our helplessness and our dependence upon God. Anything that forces me to my knees is a blessing.

As we pray, we’re asking God for several things. First, we’re asking God for wisdom. We’re saying, “Lord, I need wisdom.” The Scripture says, “If you lack wisdom, ask God” (James 1:5, paraphrase). We’re saying, “Lord, I need wisdom about my priorities, about how to order my time and my schedule.”

Proverbs chapter 2 says, “If you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (verses 3-6).

So as I pray, I’m saying, “Lord, I don’t know how to accomplish all these things that are pressing in on me right now. I don’t even know which ones for sure I’m supposed to accomplish. Would You give me wisdom?” From the Lord comes wisdom—the Lord gives wisdom.

As I pray I’m asking God to show me His agenda and His priorities for my life. Saying, “Lord, what matters to You, for me? What is it that You gave me to do? What do You want me to do?”

Paul said in Acts chapter 20, “My whole goal in life [all that matters to me] is that I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me: the task of testifying about gospel of God’s grace” (verse 24, paraphrase).

Ask God to give you a mission statement for your life, and for this season of your life. Ask Him to show you what He has made you for. What is His agenda?

Ephesians 2 tells us that “We are God’s workmanship, and we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (verse 10, paraphrase). In eternity past, God ordained a set of works, good works, for my life. They’re not the same package He ordained for your life. As I’m praying, I’m saying, “Lord, would You show me what it is that You’ve ordained for my life?”

As we pray we’re asking God to direct our schedule, to direct our decision-making process, and to order our steps. I think one of the most important phrases in the Scriptures that relates to this matter of priorities is one we read several times in the Old Testament—“Learn to inquire of the Lord.” To inquire of the Lord. Over and over again, in David’s life, you read that he inquired of the Lord, asking God, “How do I manage my schedule? Should I take this obligation or not? Should I accept this responsibility or not? Should I tackle this project, or this one first?”

Asking Him to order my steps . . . Once I’ve inquired of Him, and I’ve been in His Word and on my knees and sought His heart and believed that He has directed me, then I can trust that even if that decision puts pressure on me, that there will be grace to deal with that pressure.

When I was first challenged to launch a radio ministry for women, which has become Revive Our Hearts, I have to tell you that I took about 18 months to pray and to fast—well, I didn’t fast for 18 months, but over an 18 month period—to seek the Lord, to be in the Word, to get godly counsel those 18 months. I had to know, before I said “yes,” that this is what God wanted me to do.

I had to come to the point where I was so sure that this was God’s plan for my life—that this was not someone else’s agenda for me, but God’s plan. Then I also could be assured that when the pressures came—as they did, and as they have, and as they continue to come—I could know for sure that there would be grace to deal with those pressures because I knew that this is what God had ordered for my life.

As we look at the life of Jesus, we see a man who was dependent on His heavenly Father; who looked to His Father for direction; who took time early in the morning to pray; to listen to God; to ask God what He should do. That’s how He knew when His disciples came in Mark chapter 1 and said, “Everyone’s looking for you,” Jesus went on to say, “No, it’s time to go on to the next town” (verse 37).

How did He know? Because He’d been in prayer. He had been seeking the will of His Father—had been getting direction from His Father. That enabled Him to be led by the Spirit rather than be driven and pushed and pulled in a hundred different directions by other people.

As we pray, we’re asking God to help us to be wise and disciplined and obedient in the way we use our time. “Lord, help me to be diligent, help me not to be slothful,” asking Him to give us wisdom as to how we use our time.

Then we’re asking God to show us how to juggle the demands of each season of life, in practical ways. We need to ask the Lord for creativity. He doesn’t promise that He will make it easy for us to deal with those demands, but He does promise that He will give grace. I think sometimes that grace means that God gives us new ideas of ways to do things that otherwise might have taken us a lot longer. Ask the Lord to show you how to do that.

The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 1, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us, in answer to the prayers of many” (verses 8-11, paraphrase).

It reminds me of a stanza of that old hymn:

O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear;
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer.

(What a Friend We Have in Jesus by Joseph Scriven)

Leslie: Biblical truth is extremely practical. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping you understand your time in light of biblical priorities. This message has been part of a series called, First Things First. You’ll hear it all week on the radio and podcast.

We aim to bring you practical, truthful teaching all year on Revive Our Hearts. As Nancy Leigh DeMoss explains, we’re able to do it thanks to listeners like you.

Nancy: One hundred percent participation. Would it be possible as near the end of 2010 to have every single listener support Revive Our Hearts in some way?

Here’s what it would look like. First of all, pray.

If God has used Revive Our Hearts to bless your life, would you respond by praying for the ministry? As we've shared with you throughout this month, we’re in the most challenging financial situation in our history.

But as I've often shared with others, anything that makes us need God is a blessing. And that's really true of this circumstance as well. God has been using this financial challenge for our good. It has caused us to seek Him more diligently. It's been helping us evaluate our priorities. Would you pray that God will continue to use a budget shortfall to sanctify us and to draw us closer to Himself? And would you pray that He will get glory by providing what He knows is needed at this time?

Perhaps you are struggling with your own financial difficulties and prayer is all you can offer right now. Let me just assure you that those prayers are hugely valuable. Thank you for praying.

Perhaps you are in a position where you could give. We need to hear from you this week. Along with your prayers, would you consider making a generous financial contribution to Revive Our Hearts to help us with this year-end need?

If every person will participate first by praying and then by giving whatever amount God may place on their hearts, I’m confident that the entire need will be met. God's Word will continue to be proclaimed through this broadcast as well as through our other outreaches and resources.

And most important of all, God will be glorified as we give Him praise and thanks or meeting the need. 

Leslie: To share the amount God’s placed on your heart, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You can donate there at our website, or call 1-800-569-5959.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could set up an appointment with God, and at that meeting, He would point out your life-long job description? Well, God may not communicate exactly that way, but He will show you His priorities. Nancy will explain tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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