The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness
by Tim Chester
Available from 10 of Those
I only realised that I’d already read this book nearly ten years ago when I recognised its former book cover in preparing to write this review. It turns out that I was so busy at the time that I didn’t really take it on board let alone even realise I was reading it! I’m sure that many can relate to the experience of reading whilst thinking about something completely different.
It is this epidemic of western business that Tim Chester seeks to address in this most recent edition of the 2006 book published by IVP.
I love IVP. Here’s part of their mission statement:
Inter-Varsity Press publishes Christian books that are true to the Bible and that communicate the gospel, develop discipleship and strengthen the church for its mission in the world.
Tim Chester does just that in a book that is saturated with biblical meditation, borne out of clear gospel convictions and designed to encourage Christians to examine before God their use of time in the light of His overarching purposes for the world.
Twelve chapters of 171 pages are made accessible to the busy reader by the repeated use of bullet points, numbered lists of provocative questions, frequent emboldened section headings, italicised bible quotations and tweet-able soundbites making it a book you can read in snatched moments without losing the thread of the author’s argument.
Tim Chester starts by citing the problem of the busy Christian. What’s so wrong with being busy? Isn’t busy a good thing? Well, yes, until it begins to affect health, relationships and spiritual life. Our behaviour is driven by our beliefs but do we ever slow down enough to examine either?
There’s a historically informative first chapter which talks us through a comparison of working patterns in pre and post-industrial life. We are then given a breakdown of attitudes to work and leisure beginning with the ancient Greeks and Romans through the transforming attitudes of the Reformation to today’s culture which ‘has made busyness a virtue’.
Whilst acknowledging that the Bible commends hard work, it also commands rest, both for the glory of God. It’s at this point that Tim Chester starts to chisel away at our hearts and the real motives for our busyness. The glory of God? Or the glory of me. He suggests six deceptions to which we are prey and then offers the protection of six liberating Biblical answers. The first of these deceptions, ‘I’m busy because I need to prove myself’ highlights how our sense of identity and value gets confused with the work that we do. Chester quotes Lynne Baab in her book Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest:
We don’t want to rest because we want to be indispensable. We don’t want to stop being productive because our identities are rooted in activity and accomplishment.’
The truth is that we are justified by grace. We need to stop trying to meet the expectations of others and stop falling into the trap of thinking we have to appease our Father with our own efforts. In Chester’s words, ‘we don’t have to be up and about trying to make atonement.’
The reader is encouraged to ‘stop [his] frenetic activity and wait for the Lord’. As a person who is currently not rushed off my feet, I find it salutary to observe my own inclination to fill my time as quickly as possible to justify my own existence before others and acting ‘as if God’s love will fail if [I am] not busy proving [myself] worthy.’ For any who suffer from a similar tendency, I heartily recommend this book.