Are you super busy…doing nothing?

A few months back I made a commitment to my wife, and publicly shared it through this blog, that I was planning to run a half marathon with Traci in the fall. At the time, I had nine months to prepare for this race. Keep in mind that when I made this announcement, I had never run more than one mile at any one time in my life and I have never particularly enjoyed running.


Today I’m at the five month mark and I’m glad to say I’ve been running. Last week I had my longest single run for distance, at 3.57 miles, and little by little I’m stretching out the distance I am able to run. My goal is that when the 13.1 mile event rolls around, I’ll be strong enough to run the whole time, even if it’s at a snail’s pace down the stretch.


Now imagine if I had done nothing since making my announcement. Imagine race day is tomorrow and today I decide to go buy a pair of shoes, pick out a good running shirt and then head to the starting line in the morning to run my first half marathon. Is there any chance I’ll run the whole 13.1 miles? Of course not! I can tell you right now I don’t even know if I would finish the event if I had to walk it. I’d be too overwhelmed with shame and humiliation being passed by those sweet little old ladies who power walk from start to finish, that I’d pull up at the five mile mark, grab my hamstring and pretend I was hurt!


If I choose to do nothing leading up to the race, I will lose out on the joy of finishing, the joy of seeing my hard work pay off and most importantly, the joy of experiencing the journey leading up to the race.


I know a lot of people who are doing nothing today. They look at others who are crossing the finish line and they wish they had prepared for the race, they see others sharing in an accomplishment and they long to be included. Even more, they get that they don’t have the shared experience everyone else is talking about, and they desperately want to be included. But when it was time to start, they did nothing.


A few years ago as a youth pastor, I led my students on a series of summer mission trips. In back-to-back-to-back weeks, we visited inner city Philadelphia, we worked with a church outside of Eugene, Oregon and then ran a community event in our own town. We talked about these three trips for months and started doing homework and fund raising five months before the trips started.


I had one student who really wanted to go. I met with the family and we talked about him participating in the trips, and I handed them the schedule for our training which included some Bible reading, attending a few training sessions together and several fund raising goals. This young man was excited to go!


A month later, he had not attended any training events (there had been at least one, and maybe two by that time) and had done none of the required fundraising. Two months later the same. At three months, I met with him and his family again, and informed him that he would not be allowed to participate in any of the trips.


He was crushed. His mom pleaded with me to let him go, but he hadn’t done the work, and it would have been unfair to the other team members if he skated free while the others had worked so hard. I also felt like his lack of movement revealed some character issues going on in his heart, so he had to sit this one out.


Members of our youth group working in Philadelphia.

Members of our youth group working in Philadelphia.

When our summer trip was over, those that had traveled were changed people. They had bonded together as a team and we had shard experiences that included fun service projects, not-so-fun service projects, long travel days, funny stories, tearful stories, sweet moments of ministry and painful stories of messing up. But all of it combined to make a pretty amazing summer that really drew the team together. But this young man was on the outside looking in because he did nothing when it was time to start preparing.


Most people want to be ready when the time comes for them to experience a truly remarkable moment. Honestly, don’t we all want to be in the right place at the right time when that special thing happens? But the reality is that many people aren’t doing what is necessary in order to be ready when that event happens, or when that relationship is ready to blossom. Instead, they’ve been doing nothing, they’ve not given any real direction for their lives and so they sit idly by while others enjoy the experiences they crave.


Don’t get wrong. I’m not suggesting they are doing “nothing” in a literal sense (although there is that crowd, too!) sometimes these individuals are the busiest people I know. Sometimes they can be so busy living life at a frantic pace that they don’t have time to focus on the goals, dreams and future that they want. They make excuses like, “I don’t have time to….” or “I’m too busy to…” and so on. (Oddly, the most successful Overboard people I know never talk about lacking time or being too busy and they always seem to be in the right place at the right time.)


What are you doing to be in the race today? How are you preparing? When I read the Bible it is so clear that God is looking for men and women who are doing the right thing, who are standing in the right place, who have already entered the race even though they may not know where it’s going. He picks the shepherd boys, not the mighty warriors, to bring down the giants. He chooses the strong and wise women to preserve kingdoms. He picks righteous and faithful old men to start nations. He chose a gracious and humble woman to give birth to the world’s Savior.


David, Deborah, Abraham, Mary — and the list goes on and on — weren’t looking to become what God ultimately used them for, but they had started! They had chosen to follow God each day, to stay connected to Him, to be readers and doers of the Word so that when the time came they were ready. When God called them in to action, they had already been practicing and they ran the race set out for them.


I wonder how many warriors watched 13-year-old shepherd boy David kill Goliath, and think, “I wish I had been that brave!” How many women watched Deborah lead Israel to victory and think, “I want to be like her!” David and Deborah weren’t better than anyone else, they were just ready. And if you want to experience the thrill of the Overboard Life, you have to do something to move you out of the boat today!


How is your preparation going? How are you doing in practicing your running today? Are you moving toward something, or are you so busy (or so lazy) that you’re actually doing nothing that will move you closer to your goal of being a better parent or spouse, a more faithful servant or better-prepared teacher? Whatever God-sized dreams and goals you have, the fulfillment of those begins the day you start moving. Dreams become reality when you work on becoming who God wants you to be, so that you can do what He wants you to do. When you get up extra early to spend time with Him and His Word. When you stay up a little extra late to finish the day’s work. When you start using your gifts to serve others and not yourself. When you take a moment to look up from the daily grind and enjoy the world around you. When you stop staring at those who are out of the boat and on the water, and jump out to join them.


I’ve yet to meet the person doing nothing who is happy, fulfilled, overflowing with joy and begging others to join the in their life’s journey and experiences. Quite the contrary. The meanest, saddest, most entitled and selfish people I know are doing nothing. They aren’t even cheering others on in the race, they’re at home angry about the noise that’s disturbing their slumber. I’ve had seasons of my life where I was very busy doing nothing, and I pray that in the second half of my life, I will have many fewer of those moments.


We don’t always know where God will take us while on this wild journey of life. But we do know this: He is working and moving, and He is calling for us to join Him. It’s not about being perfect, but it is about being in process, about growing, trusting, following and serving while stepping into the race. Like Peter in Matthew 14, Jesus is out there on the water inviting us to join Him. Will you be like Peter who had prepared himself for that moment so that he was ready to jump? Or will you be like the other 11 disciples who sat in the boat and watched?


I hope I jump every time. I’d rather fail miserably on the water than live another day, comfortably, doing nothing in the boat. How about you?


37 down, 3 to go!


Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

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5 Responses to Are you super busy…doing nothing?

  1. newbie782 says:

    Just what I needed to hear…again. Thanks for the prod.

  2. tracicast says:

    Reblogged this on The 2 Minute Blog and commented:
    This is an incredibly thought-provoking blog post that lines up perfectly with what it means to “Be Extraordinary!”

    I have been doing my fair share of ‘busy nothing’ lately. My energy has been put into worry and uncertainty rather than taking action on the things that I know to do and moving in the direction I ultimately want to go.

    It is time to release the worry and the desire for things to feel a little more together before taking action.
    It is time to let go of the safety and comfort I find in the boat of mediocrity.
    It is time to stop dipping my toe in the water while I cling to the side of the boat.
    It is time to take the leap of faith – in full faith and trust – and go after the extraordinary dreams God has placed inside my heart.

    Be challenged by this post and then . . be changed!

    Be Extraordinary!

  3. Rob says:

    Found your blog by accident today, and it sparked some thoughts for me. You make some good observations, and you issue some important challenges for believers to consider. Indeed, God does call us to trust Him enough to live by faith, even when that is difficult. And indeed, the Christian life is often a “wild journey.” I particularly appreciated the reminder that God uses the weak and humble to accomplish his purposes.
    And actually, that was where some questions began to emerge. You state that “God is looking for men and women who are doing the right thing, who are standing in the right place, who have entered the race even though they may not know where it’s going,” and that “David, Deborah, Abraham, Mary…weren’t looking to become what God ultimately used them for, but they had started.” I’m not so sure about that. David was tending sheep in the backyard when Samuel came to anoint the next king –but he had no inkling that it would be him. Moses was running away from God, hiding in the desert. Abraham was busy worshipping the pagan gods of his ancestors when God called him. Mary hadn’t started on doing anything that God had in mind for her. I see no evidence that any of these characters had “chosen to follow God each day, to stay connected to Him, to be readers and doers of the word.”
    Why does this matter? Because if you emphasize all the hard work the men and women of scripture did to make themselves ready and usable by God, the focus shifts to the strength of the human spirit and not the grace and goodness of God. In reality, the bible tells us the story of God using the otherwise-unusable. You point out that the “do-nothing” folks “make excuses like, ‘I don’t have time, ‘I’m too busy’…” Yet Moses made excuses, so did Jeremiah, so did many others in scripture – and God uses them anyways, by the grace that He gives.
    Inevitably, a system emerges in which you lift up the Christians who are working hard to prepare themselves. Who are choosing to “follow God each day, to stay connected to Him, to be readers and doers of the word so that …they [will be ready].” But because the emphasis is all on what WE do, we find ourselves looking down on those who fail. We deem them as “the meanest, saddest, most entitled and selfish people.” And those who struggle to walk with God, experience the “shame and guilt” that you describe in your opening analogy. There is no grace here.
    The truth of the matter is that living the Christian life is grace – from first to last. God isn’t looking for people who are “doing the right thing, standing in the right place, and have already entered the race.” If he were, none of us would ever be ready, ever endure, ever “get out of the boat.” Go down the list of biblical characters that you cite – and see that David failed in ways more spectacular than most of us. Abraham allowed Pharaoh to nearly sleep with his wife to save his own skin. Moses lashed out in anger so great that He was not permitted even to enter the Promised Land.
    No, the biblical story is one of God, in His grace, calling the unwilling, transforming the stubborn, and, by His grace, sustaining and sanctifying fallen and broken people – from first to last. It is, as Paul writes, counting all our “gains” as losses, that we might be found in Christ, and know Him more.

    • joeacast says:

      Rob, glad you found me and so appreciate your thoughtful and theological response to this blog. I appreciate the way you’re thinking through the ideas I’ve tried to express and you offer a clear, yet kind, disagreeing response. I hope this blog is always a place for dialogue, kind and spirited disagreement, and the sharing of our life journeys at some level. The goal is that we all move further along in our walk with God as live in the grace He provides! I would love to discuss some of the theology of this blog with you in more detail and I’ll do that by responding to your email personally. THANK YOU for this thought-provoking response!

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