Jim Elliott. John Wesley. Reading about the amazingly productive lives of these two men challenged me to examine my own life, and my goals for it.
How do you live purposefully and productively?
I have been slowly discovering how--mostly by discovering what is NOT the way to a purposeful and productive life.
Not by being frantically busy, involving yourself in everything that comes your way, and experiencing burnout, discouragement, disappointment when things don't work out, or you can't manage everything.
Our ideas of efficiency may work well enough for our work and studies, so that we continue thinking it's the only way to be efficient. But when it comes to spiritual things, we can't just apply the same format and expect results to pop up, exactly like how we study for an exam or get a project done (in fact it doesn't even always work for exams and projects either, as we've all bitterly learnt!)
For one, God's plans are greater than the shallow results our human methods could produce. He desires transformed hearts and lives. Even if only one or two, that may be His plan for your ministry, not a growing number of zeroes in your congregation numbers. And whereas you could come up with a smart foolproof marketing plan to draw people, you can't possibly come up with one to transform people. While this may sometimes seem frustrating, it also quietly reminds us that our service to God must always depend on Him. We cannot serve without Him. Our ministry is only effective when it relies on God for wisdom, strength, and guidance. Once we start thinking that we're smart enough, experienced enough, strong enough, pride and self-reliance creeps in and warps our service. Not only is its effect on the people we serve warped, the effect it has on our own hearts is warped as well.
That's something we forget, too. Our serving is also meant as a means for us to grow closer to God. We serve because we love God. We serve because we love our fellow sinners. But serving is also God's means of loving and growing us. Encouraging us. Showing us His goodness and power to transform us and others.
One of these lessons that serving is teaching me recently, is trust.
In serving, I find that some of my biggest struggles are reconciling my own ideas (of serving, of success) with what actually happens. I want to feel assured and thankful for the people I try to help, to see clearly that I am helping them. I want to see my plans work out. Success. Fulfillment.
Instead, what often happens is that I'm filled with doubts and fears that I'm not helping at all. I'm not wise enough! Strong enough! Selfless and loving enough!
I work hard but it doesn't turn out the way I hoped it would. Afraid it was a bad decision, a silly idea. Should I even be doing this?
I'm burning to get involved in some great and glorious work but all these little insignificant duties get in the way. It's hopeless.
Serving is a major means of learning to trust God. Not my own abilities, or my own ideas of how things should work out. It's taught me that I need to have a heart which is willing to lay aside my own ideas of efficiency, if they clash with what God has providentially placed in my lives (Elisabeth Elliott's 'divine interruptions'.)
It's a humbling experience, as you can guess. But I am slowly seeing that it is a wonderfully uplifting one too. It teaches me not to hope in myself or others or situations (which, since we are all flawed, are bound to inevitably disappoint and fail me.) Instead, the One Who is perfect in goodness, wisdom, and power, becomes your hope and dependence--One who won't fail you.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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