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March 26, 2019

The Integrated Life

In order to cope with the demands of work, family, and faith, we in today's whirlwind world have created a solution: the compartmentalized life. We operate in more-or-less segmented spheres that have little overlap. While our lives contain several compartments, I want to focus on the two that relate to faith and work.

Spiritual life includes our relationship with God as well as with others in the church, and here the primary motivation is love. God's love compels us to love. Indeed, those who follow Jesus are called our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we treat fellow believers to some extent like family.

The work life compartment operates under a different set of rules than our spiritual life, and thus we think of it differently. It's a dog-eat-dog environment, in which our spiritual life has no real place. And if not properly checked at the door, our faith might actually keep us from succeeding in our business life.

I've come to realize that God wants us to lead integrated lives in which our faith influences every sphere, including our work in the marketplace. God asks us to be his agents of redemption in workplaces, neighborhoods, homes, congregations and societies. He wants us to move from compartmentalization to integration. 

Once we conclude that all work and activity is given to us to glorify God, then we are no longer balancing our lives, but rather prioritizing our activities according to God's priorities. His priorities for us are laid out in Matthew 6:33, 1 Timothy 5:8, and Ephesians 2:10. We are to seek God first, care for our families, and accomplish the plans God has for us.

On Balance and Integration

Whether we're in the marketplace or not, many of us are desperately seeking to balance our lives. Love has few demands while work has many. We're conflicted between the different obligations and priorities in our lives, and there never seems to be enough time to get it all done.

The often less-demanding compartments characterized by love (family life, spiritual life) compete with the more demanding work life compartment. Usually, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, while other parts of our life suffer. Trying to avoid this and keep all the balls in the air, we're in a constant state of fatigue, as we're running in overdrive.

Time management techniques are designed to maximize what time we do have available. But why do we want to gain all this time? Often, it's to do more of what we're already doing! To have more meetings, read more emails, and meet more customers. In short, time remains the idol that rules our life—time management is just an attempt to squeeze more out of it.

Sensing that our work is infringing too heavily on our personal and spiritual obligations, we're looking for ways to free up more time to "do more important stuff." 

I think all of us in the marketplace have felt at one point or another that our jobs have gotten in the way of things we really value, from attending Johnny's soccer game to serving in a church ministry, to deepening relationships with friends and neighbors. Indeed, many of us would do well to find a different allocation of our limited time. But balance alone isn't enough. A balanced life can still be very compartmentalized. Let me explain. 

The measure of balance in life is time and priority: How much of my life is spent at work, and how much is spent on family, friends, faith, and community? And how should I be prioritizing these different areas of my life? 

Those pursuing better balance alone may succeed in reducing their work hours and increasing their family and ministry time, but that still leaves them with a sense that their work lacks spiritual value—or worse yet, that their business is being conducted on principles that run contrary to their faith. In fact, I've found that many business people who pursue balance never even consider whether their faith is truly integrated with their work or how it can be better integrated. They're simply looking for ways to reduce the time requirements of their jobs or somehow fit it all in.

By contrast, the measure of integration in life is lordship: How is every aspect of my life (work, family, friends, faith, community) a ministry of serving others to the glory of God? 

When you pursue integration, you're forced to consider the how, what, and why of your work, not simply the when. Rather than just writing off your work hours and seeking to minimize them, you will find ways for your faith to transform how you perform your work, to effect what you do at work, and to redefine why you work. You will give spiritual value to your time at work. 

The key to redeeming more of your time is to integrate, so that all spheres of your life move in the same direction, glorify the same God, and operate under the same values.

Dr. James Dobson interviews Ken Eldred on the daily broadcast.

On Day 1 of the two-part broadcast, Dr. Dobson sits down with Ken Eldred. Ken describes how his empty achievements in the corporate world caused him to seek out a relationship with Jesus. He also challenges those in business to evaluate how their work schedule impacts family life.

Listen to Day 1

Then on Day 2, Ken explains why so many in the corporate world 'burn out,' and how he integrated faith into his daily work habits. He also shares stories of God answering prayers in unexpected ways.

Listen to Day 2

Learn More about the Guest

Ken Eldred is a Board Member here at Family Talk. He is also the author of The Integrated Life. For over 20 years, Ken served as CEO of Inmac, a public company he founded. In that capacity, he was named Silicon Valley's "Entrepreneur of the Year." Ken has assisted in the founding of several other successful companies, including Ariba Technologies, which led the Internet business-to-business industry. He is currently CEO of Living Stones Foundation and is involved in ventures in the US, China, Europe, and India. Ken earned BA and MBA degrees from Stanford and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Belhaven College. His previous books, On Kingdom Business and God is at Work, have received critical acclaim—including a Christianity Today Book Award. Ken and his wife Roberta have three sons and a growing number of grandchildren.

Ken Eldred

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