The Tyranny of the Urgent: Distinguishing Between What’s Important, What’s Necessary, & What’s Urgent!
In 1967, Charles Hummel published a pamphlet entitled, The Tyranny of the Urgent. Even though it was written to provide advice for Christians, almost instantly, it became a classic “must read” among people in the business world. A second edition was published in 1994. There are several basics themes emphasized in the booklet, and among the most notable are: 1) There’s a typical tension between things that are urgent and things that are important—and far too often, the urgent wins. 2) Most of the time, our work will expand to fill the available time. 3) Unfinished tasks frequently cause anxiety and stress. 4) When we analyze the cause behind unfinished tasks, normally it’s a matter of jumbled (or mixed up) priorities. 5) We live with a constant tension between what’s urgent and what’s important. The problem lies in the reality that many important things don’t necessarily have to be done today—or even this week. But often urgent, and less important, tasks call for an immediate response and endless demands pressure almost every waking hour. 6) We need to become cautious and careful to avoid being distracted away from what’s most important by things that appear to be urgent.
Here’s an example from my schedule earlier today of how this works. I was attempting to write this article within a specific time period between the conclusion of our weekly Men’s Discipleship Group and another meeting scheduled for later this morning. During that time, I received a phone call from a younger pastor with whom I’ve had a mentoring relationship for several years. He was kind enough to ask if I had some time and I told him what was on my agenda. After a brief conversation to address his reason for calling, he said he wanted to allow me to do what I needed to do, but he also said he wanted to pray for me. With that, my priorities changed. I wasn’t feeling pressured to get off the phone—what previously felt urgent was less important than pausing for prayer. I realized that the article could wait a little longer, especially when someone sensed the importance of taking a moment (or investing some time) in prayer.
Also this morning, before Men’s Discipleship, I heard Pastor Chuck Swindoll give a challenge to his listeners to conclude his program for today. The title of the sermon was, “Our Favorite Sin,” and the topic focused on how worry impacts our lives. The timing for me to hear this was amazing because it gave me some affirmation about what I wanted to say in this article and obviously, it also gave me another valuable illustration. Swindoll’s challenge: “Each morning over the next week, when you wake up and before your tootsies hit the floor, pause to pray and ask, ‘Dear Father, today I want Your will and I want it Your way. I want the contentment of trusting You to do what is best for me. Please remind me through the day and give me the peace that I’ve rarely had; help me know that the day is in Your hand.’”
Please notice in John 17:4 where Jesus said to His Father, “I glorified You on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.” Our Lord’s example for us is that His primary goal/objective was to please God by doing what He wanted Him to do. Jesus wasn’t driven or controlled by urgency because He understood that what was always most important is fulfilling God’s will!
I’d like to encourage you to carefully observe the following passages to see what they teach us about distinguishing between what’s most important, what’s necessary, and what might be distracting us from recognizing what God wants us to be doing.
—1—Philippians 4:4—9 —2—1 Peter 5:6—11 —3—Ephesians 4:1—6:20
I pray that this is an encouragement for each of us to seek and pursue God’s priorities above our own personal desires!
With prayer for God’s glory and praise for His grace …
And as always, with prayer for our ACEFC family, Pastor Greg