Its now been nearly a year and a half since Tim Challies started his series of blog posts on productivity. The beginning of that series of articles was a new chapter in my own personal growth. I knew that my life needed a great deal of growth in the areas of discipline and productivity, and so I took that as my opportunity to try and tidy things up. As I look back, its amazing to me how long it has taken to really see some of the deeper fruit of change. And yet, I also realize that the lessons I am learning are foundational and will stick with me for a long time. The first is one that I have already written about. It is this: that real change takes time. Today I want to take it a step further.
A Better Reason For Change
The second major lesson from my trek through Challies’ productivity writing is that we will not see practical change in our lives unless we are moved by the proper reason. For a long time I new I needed to grow in this practical area of my life and yet I did not see results. Why? It seems like such a simple issue. Build a schedule. Write down your to-do’s. Stick to your plan. And yet our conflicted hearts remind us that we are not mere machines with a simple need for proper programming. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves we often find that we fail to truly live out most of the ideals we cling to.
As I worked through Challies’ articles on productivity I started to see a deeper root in my lack of discipline – I had not allowed the Gospel to penetrate into this limping aspect of my life. My motive for change was self centered. I want to be more productive. I want to accomplish more with the time I have. I want to allow my daily life to unlock my gifts and abilities and be fruitful. But the more I sought to apply my effort in this area, the more frustrated I got. I still overslept. I didn’t stick to a schedule. I didn’t read and write as much as I needed to.
Numerous other events in my life this past year have pushed me to reflect on my identity in the gospel and what it is that God has called me to do. It was during this time that I also started reading James Hamilton’s book titled What is Biblical Theology? Hamilton helped me push the bounds that I had set on the meaning of Christ’s story for all of the Bible and all of life. Why do I do what I do? Is it because of what I can be and what I can accomplish? Or is it because of what Christ has done on my behalf? Does his Kingdom and his story drive all that I do in all of life?
If the Gospel is true then I don’t need to try to get satisfaction from working hard and being a “good productive christian”. The Gospel states that Christ has made me part of his story. Because of Jesus, I gain acceptance with God apart from my works and accomplishments. He has taken me in despite my deepest flaws and weaknesses. I no longer need to fish for satisfaction in the empty pool of personal achievement. As Jesus’ story seeped deeper into my understanding of identity and direction in life, it also began to penetrate into my productivity and discipline, creating a much deeper motivation for change. The wheels that were stuck spinning in the mud had finally acquired some traction and I began to make progress.
Getting ourselves to live more disciplined and productive lives is a simple yet weighty feat if we are to make it stick. We cannot compartmentalize this aspect of life as a mere practical change that is disconnect from our deeper spiritual state. We are whole beings. The most outward fringes of our practical lives are only the fruits of our deepest, most foundational assumptions. Every life change in the christian life starts with seeing how that change is rooted in our identity in the story of Christ and his kingdom. As I started to see this, as my underlying assumptions about all of life started to shift, so did my mentality on coming every day. The eternal fruit of Jesus’ kingdom is a much more powerful reason for change than my personal pride.