A frequent question we face is ‘How do we get done all that we want to do?’ It’s a very important question, but if we think about this way, it’s the wrong question. A better question is ‘How do I do all that God has given me to do?’ There is one person who has walked among us who has been able to do just that. John 17 is a well known chapter in which Jesus prays for His disciples. But right before he does that, note carefully what He says in verse 4: ‘I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.’ (NIV) That’s quite a shocking statement, especially given the fact that he says this before He has gone to the cross. Yet He has completed all that God has given Him to do. He has not done all he could do, and definitely has not done all that others wanted Him to do, but God simply doesn’t ask us to do more than we can. Ever.
I was thinking about this in reading Nancy Wilson’s recent post on GtS on ‘The Balancing Act.’ She realized that she had placed too high an importance on her coursework, that ‘while I needed to attend to my studies, I didn’t have to give 110% every time.’ How did this good advice go together with my post on ‘Maximize Your Learning Experience’?
When it came to getting things done, Jesus was a master of prioritizing at two different levels: strategic and operational. He got the big picture right – He knew why He was here, what His priorities were, and where He needed to invest most of His time. That meant for some very tough decisions. He focused on doing the will of the Father, on reaching the people of Israel, and on building deeply into the lives of only a handful of men. Everything He did reflected His top priorities. Equally importantly, he always seemed to get it right in-the-moment. He took time out for individuals, to heal people, to go to dinner parties with sinners. His sermons got to the point, His teaching time was focused, He never got bogged down arguing with His critics, and He balanced family and ministry perfectly.
Well, we don’t have perfect knowledge what God has called us to do in detail, nor do we know perfectly what is going on in the lives of those around us “ so how do we do better at getting things done? We also need to think in terms of our time and priorities both at a high level and in the details, and tie the two together as best we can. It starts with making the most vital things top priorities in our lives (not just on paper) “ time with God, with family, taking care of ourselves, serving others, and sharing Christ. Also at a high level, we need to spend time listening to God and exploring His call for our lives. We need to understand our gifts and strengths, as these shed much light on what He expects from us.
What’s the tie-in to moment-to-moment decisions? How does it impact letting a course slide versus maximizing learning? Return on investment of time. With our fixed budget of hours, where do we see the highest return in the light of our calling and priorities? If family is a top priority, block out time on your calendar for it. Figure out how much time you should be spending on studies (the balancing act), then make the absolute most you can the time with your study time (maximize your learning). For example, spending an extra 30-60 minutes writing notes and reflecting on application after I’ve read a book greatly increases the value of reading it. That’s a super return on investment. All courses are not equal in the light of your calling. ‘Get by’ with those that aren’t, and do so guilt-free knowing that you are focusing your time where God wants you to. Your seminary professor will choose what is required reading vs. what is supplemental, but that doesn’t mean you give all books equal attention (or ignore ‘optional’ ones). Skim some, read others, and devour the ones that can really impact your life and ministry. Go the extra mile when you see an opportunity to tie in studies with your current ministry, do the minimum when the benefit is minimal. Share what you learn with others who would benefit from it “ that’s a triple win: you learn more by teaching others, they benefit from hearing, and you build relationships and build leaders in the process.
We can’t get done everything we would like to do, but when we tie-in what we’re doing and where we spend our time with what God has called us to do, we get a lot more of value done â€“ without short-changing ourselves or those we love.