“Teach us to number our days . . . that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
I am hopelessly prone to overcommitting myself. Is anyone else out there a little too quick to say “Yes” to every request? Let’s start our own little group—Overcommitters Anonymous. We can have weekly OCA meetings. We’ll become experts at saying “No.” Wanna join?
As I get a little older I realize, like Moses did in Psalm 90:1-17, that my time on this earth is limited. It is quickly passing. And that means that, more than ever, I want to be strategic and purposeful about where and how I am spending my time. It’s not because I feel like I’m better than others, or that some tasks and opportunities are beneath me. It’s just that I have this long list of goals I’d love to accomplish, people I want to invest in, and dreams I want to see realized—and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time.
Moses was gut-level honest about this reality. He says, “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength” (Psalm 90:10). This from a guy who didn’t even lead God’s people out of Egypt until he was in his eighties! Moses goes on to say of our years: “yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”
I suppose old Moses may have just been having a bad day when he wrote this, but I suspect, more accurately, that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses had one of those wake-up-to-your-own-mortality kind of moments where he became aware, in a fresh way, that he wasn’t going to be around forever. And so his heart’s cry was very simple: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). In other words, “Lord, I need you to clearly show me how to use the time that I have left.”
Which brings me back to my overcommitment problem.
I’ve found that often I am afraid to say “No” to people because I have a fear of offending them. I like being liked. I like being available. I like being helpful, and so I cringe at the idea of disappointing someone who has asked for my help. Another committee to serve on. Another project to lead. Another trip. Another . . . well, you get the idea.
For me, the antidote to my fear of offending people is cultivating a deeper fear—the fear of neglecting some of the core ministries and responsibilities that God has entrusted to me. Like, for example, my family. I want to be sure that my outside commitments don’t pull me away from my responsibilities as a husband, a son, a father, and a grandfather. If I have a healthy fear of neglecting my family, it will eclipse the lesser fear of potentially offending someone who has asked for a chunk of my time that would overcommit me.
After 18 years at The Moody Bible Institute, I’m now on staff at a church again, and I want to be sure that I am maximizing my effectiveness to the church that God has called me to. So, my Sundays are not free for “pulpit supply” the way they used to be, and more of my speaking time and energy is reserved for my church. If I overcommit myself, I risk neglecting that vital ministry.
So, maybe we don’t need a meeting of “Overcommitters Anonymous” after all. We simply need to personalize the perspective and prayer of Moses as we consider every opportunity in terms of the priorities of our fleeting lives. Besides, I really shouldn’t commit to another meeting!
- Do you have a tendency to overcommit yourself? What fears prevent you from saying “No” to certain people or opportunities?
- What are some of your core responsibilities and commitments? How are those affected by overcommitment on your part?
- Take a few minutes to read through and then personalize Psalm 90:1-17. Spend some extra time praying the prayer of Moses, “Lord, teach me to number my days aright, that I might gain a heart of wisdom.”