Key Words: Sabbath, Devotion, Productivity, Stewardship
A generation ago very few Americans were familiar with the word “bandwidth.” Simply, bandwidth is the ability or capacity to send and receive information in a specific amount of time. If you’ve ever been binge-watching on Netflix and your screen freezes, it probably means there’s not enough bandwidth (capacity) to receive the information in the desired time.
In a recent online article by Sarah Knapton, she suggested that being tired, busy, maxed out and stressed is the new status symbol. They suggest that social media has created the phenomenon called “humble bragging.” In other words, exceeding our physical bandwidth is the new status symbol.
The Bible is very clear that every person has limited bandwidth—that we have a certain number of hours, days and years on this earth. Moses once prayed: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, ESV).
When we realize that we have limited bandwidth we develop a wise heart!
I guess now is the time for a little self-disclosure. I’m really good at humble bragging. I find value in being busy. And I feel guilty when I don’t get everything done.
I would love to say I’ve figured out how to manage my bandwidth perfectly. However, through the years I’ve figured out a few key ways to maximize my bandwidth to become more effective in work, marriage and my walk with Jesus.
Apply the Sabbath Principle . . .
In Exodus 20:8-11 God introduces a radical command in the 10 Commandments. Work 6 days and then take a day off. And this wasn’t an option—it was required.
Twenty-five years ago when I was starting out in ministry I spoke with Damon Jones, who had been in the ministry about 10-12 years at the time. He told me that early in ministry he didn’t take a day off until he realized that he couldn’t verify that he was any more productive by working an extra day. He then said he felt he became more effective when he started taking a day off every week. Throughout my years in ministry, one thing I have discovered is that if I have a few weeks when I miss a day of decompression, it literally impacts every area of my life.
God offered a challenge to His people with the Sabbath Day. He’s given you the privilege to unplug and unwind every seventh day. You might see what many others have found. You might find that a day of rest increases your bandwidth the other six days.
Be Still . . .
One of the realities of 21st century life is constant distraction. The TV is always on; music is playing in the background; our phones are constantly notifying us of texts, emails and likes on social media. There is never a time when we are not connected. If you’re a parent you can add a constant stream of questions and comments from your kids.
When we read in the Bible in Psalm 46:10 to “be still” we find comfort in the words, but are silently uncomfortable with the idea. We question whether we could ever actually do it. Can I shut my door? Can I shut off the notifications on my phone? Can I shut my phone off? Can I actually function in quiet? What if I miss a meme on Facebook?
What we won’t admit is that our inability or unwillingness to be still eats up our bandwidth in life and causes us to be stressed, tired and anxious. And just like we feel awkward in having a day of nothing, we struggle with moments in our days where there is calm, quiet and peace.
Do What Matters Most . . . FIRST!
In 2012 Gary Keller wrote a book entitled One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. The question Keller encourages people to ask is, “What is the one thing you need to do today that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”
A few months ago we applied a new strategy with our church staff. The strategy is simple—tackle our most important tasks first thing Monday morning. What we discovered was that our bandwidth to accomplish essential tasks was being eaten up by the urgent and expedient. What we find now is that we have more focus and energy to accomplish the essential.
Now, one thing I often forget is that my most important task every day is to spend time with Jesus. I can start my day, fill it with important tasks and forget the most important one. And when I don’t start with that, I never seem to have the bandwidth for it later in the day.
I don’t have all the answers about how to maximize our bandwidth, but I know the One Who does. I know that One Who said that He came to give us life and life in abundance. I also know that He wants us to use our bandwidth wisely. Fortunately, His Word is full of ways to live the days, weeks and years we have left.