January 5, 2020

When I did clowning, I had a plate spinning routine where I’d spin a plate on a stick.

I’ve not done the routine in many years, but I used to perform the comedy sketch at R.B. Wright Elementary School when my children were young.

Tizzy would spin one plate on a stick and place in on a stand. Then, he would spin another plate and put it on the stand.

By then, the first plate started to wobble, and the children would scream and tell him it was falling. Tizzy would run back and spin that plate some more. By then, the second first plate started to wobble. Once he had those two plates spinning fast, he started spinning the third plate, and so on until five or six plates were spinning.

Of course, each time a plate began to wobble, the children started to yell and scream. Each time, Tizzy would run and catch the plate before it fell and give it an extra spin.

After all the plates were spinning, Tizzy would take his bow. But filled with arrogance and pride at his great accomplishment, one by one, his plates started falling off of their sticks to the great pleasure and amusement of the children.

Does this sound like your day, your week, your life?

Maybe you are a great multitasker. Or perhaps, you would admit that your life is sometimes in a tizzy because you are overextended with commitments, projects, or financial obligations.

Didn’t life use to be simpler?

I realize that whatever age you are, life at times seems complicated. We always have important projects, relationships, jobs, and responsibilities to manage.

Yet the longer we live, the more plates that get added to our table, the more we have to keep spinning, and the more opportunities we have for things to wobble and fall before we can get to them.

Few of us want to admit how tired we get trying to keep all together. Many of us do fine for a while. Then we encounter something unexpected: we lose a job, a parent needs care or dies, we experience a health issue, our marriage has challenges, our child gets in trouble, or we have financial stress.

Sometimes the unexpected is good. You are chosen for a promotion or a significant leadership position; you discover you are having another baby; you take on a part-time job; your business becomes very successful, but with these good changes come more stress.

Stress can be harmful or useful.  Either way, we are compelled to keep everything moving: job, family, church/spiritual life/health/exercise/friendships/hobbies/school/learning/becoming.

That’s a lot of spinning plates.

Tell me, which of these are you going to eliminate in the bad times? Which of these are you going to remove in the good times?

All of these plates are important, right?

However, here is some wisdom. If we don’t stop and rest from this busy world that seems to spin out of control at times and take a reflective, restful break, one or more of these plates will wobble and fall, and end up broken.

Ken Smith, who has been here and spoken to our men’s group and our church has a saying: “When your outgo exceeds your intake, your upkeep will be your downfall.”

Let me say that again, “When your outgo exceeds your intake, your upkeep will be your downfall.”

We have to be so intentional about setting aside time that we stop spinning plates so we can self-reflect, rest, listen to God’s voice, and worship God.

Jesus set aside time to worship on the Sabbath.  Luke 4:16 says, As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.

But Jesus found other times during his journey to pull away for rest and reflection.

After hearing of the beheading of John the Baptist, the Scripture says that Jesus “withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Matt. 14:13 (NIV)

Are you good about stopping everything you are doing long enough to withdraw to a quiet place?

If you are a mother, you might say, “That was easy for Jesus.  He didn’t have three children to take care of all day.”

I’m convinced that naps are more for parents than they are for children.

All of us need some time outs or we will begin to wobble.

This is especially true if we have experienced loss in our lives and we have not stopped long enough to properly grieve the loss of a friend, a parent, a job, a dream, our health, a marriage, our finances, or a move we have made.

Jesus needed time away because he was grieving.

John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. John was beheaded because he was preparing the way for Jesus.

Jesus needed to process John’s death.

Not only was John Jesus’ friend and cousin, but his death reminded Jesus of his own impending death.

John gave his life to Jesus. But his death also made Jesus realize more than ever that He would have to give his for others. The reality of death became very real for Jesus when John the Baptist died.

Perhaps the temptation to escape death became real for Jesus, too. Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus had the power to escape death. Maybe he needed to reflect again to keep this temptation away.

The Scripture says that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:26 (NIV)

On other occasions, the Bible tells us that Jesus withdrew from the crowds along with his disciples. (Luke 9:10) (Mark 3:7)

Jesus lived a busy life. He stayed on the move, going from one village to another. But what we see about Jesus is that he had a healthy balance.

What I mean by balance is that he mixed in enough rest and reflection with all of his work to stay healthy.

What is that ratio?

In the book of Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth in six days, and on the seventh day, God rested.

Was God tired? No. God was teaching us that we need to stop spinning our ordinary world of activities to focus on Him and rest our minds and bodies for one day. Otherwise, we are going to wobble. Eventually, we will fall and break.

When it comes to setting aside time to focus on God, to rest from your work, sports, media, and other distractions, how are you doing?

L uke 10:38-42
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV)

Martha was spinning an important plate. She has the gift of hospitality. Martha was thinking, “What more important guest could have set his feet under my table than Jesus?”

Getting food on the table was her job. Jesus did not discount the importance of what she was doing. He just said that what Mary was doing was better.

Mary was thinking, “But what more important person will I ever get to learn from that Jesus?”

Martha was spinning plates, lots of them, trying to get them on the table to feed this important guest. That wasn’t a bad thing, but did you notice in her serving, she was frustrated and seemed overwhelmed in her spirit about it all. She was wobbling.

Mary was still. Mary was having her soul replenished. Her plate was being served and the Martha hadn’t even put the chicken on the table.

If your plate is spinning, you cannot be served through the disciplines of rest and worship. All serving without any intake leads to a dehydrated Christian.

How’s your intake? How often are you sitting down at the feet of Jesus, just you and Him?

I have noticed that if we are not intentional about stopping our plates from spinning to acknowledge God, eventually life will force us to stop spinning our plates.

Did you hear that — life will force us to stop spinning our plates.

No matter how good we are at plate spinning, eventually, life trips us up. Just when we are taking a bow and accepting the applause for a job well done, the plates behind us start to wobble and fall.

Sooner or later, we are forced to acknowledge that we can’t keep everything moving.

We live in a world where everyone is spinning plates.

Many, many people are so busy spinning plates that they actually believe that withdrawing for any length of time during the day for moments of solitude, reflecting on Scripture, prayer, or meditation is a waste of time.

Many people would consider your presence here a waste of time.

Yet this statement is worth remembering, “If you are not intentional about worshiping at the feet of Jesus like Mary, eventually your outgo is going to exceed your intake, and your upkeep will be your downfall.

While the world speeds up, we have to be intentional about slowing down long enough that we hear the still, small, voice of God.

This is true whether you pastor a church, teach school, heal the sick, own a business, run a farm, manage a household, or have the freedom enjoyed in retirement.

If we had only one plate to spin, that would be enough to require God’s help. Anything less is simply arrogance on our part.

God wants us to be a success. If we believe that success is determined by our abilities to keep the plates spinning, our outgo is going to exceed our intake, and our upkeep is going to be our downfall.

We need to stop our routine and fall down at the feet of Jesus.

What spiritual disciplines are you incorporating through the week that grants you time at the feet of Jesus?

God told Moses to instruct the people not to have any gods before them. This was so their upkeep would remain constant.

Because we are lawbreakers, Jesus died on the cross to demonstrate his love to us and to offer God’s grace so our upkeep would not be our downfall.

If we will fall down at the feet of Jesus, acknowledge that his ways are right for our lives, and seek to live a life of obedience, our upkeep will be insured by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the grace of a loving God.

During these next three months, we are going to focus on the importance of stewardship in our lives.

Today, we begin with one of the most important lessons of stewardship, setting aside time for God.

In the Ten Commandments, Moses received these words from God:

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day. Exodus 20:8-11 (The Message)

The world didn’t stop spinning on the seventh day, but God did stop his work. He set the seventh day apart. He made it holy. Into the framework of creation, God built a rhythm into our week for us to cease all of our normal routines of work for the sake of rest and to focus on Him.
When we cannot take this day, we need to take another day. We need to learn to take Sabbath moments and Sabbath hours.

We need to learn from Mary. Any time we can still away, stop the plates from spinning and sit at the feet of Jesus, this is Sabbath time.

This time can make all the difference in whether we find the inspiration, encouragement, and energy to keep all the plates spinning in our lives for the rest of our journey.

Image Credit: platespinning.ca