Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God” – Tim Challies, Do More Better, p. 16
Is that how you would define productivity? I can think of many other ways I would have previously defined productivity: accomplishing many tasks with ease, an organized way of using one’s time, effectively attacking your to-do list, perfectly managing your time and abilities…
The problem with each of those definitions is that they are void of God and others and instead filled with self. In other words, this is the worldly way of viewing productivity.
When I began Tim Challies’ book Do More Better, I was introduced to an entirely new way of viewing productivity. Challies challenged me to the higher call of productivity for the Christian, and it is this: doing more better for God’s glory and to serve others.
While this article is not going to give you a list of ways to be more productive in your day or introduce time-saving systems for you to implement (I think Challies’ does a much better job at that than I ever would), I want to focus on the principles he established in the first few chapters of the book: the true motive that fuels godly productivity.
Before you leave disappointed that you about that, consider this: You cannot be truly productive in a God-honouring way without the right heart motives. As I always say, change begins in the heart, and without true heart change, nothing good will be accomplished.
The Productive Person is Selfless
The root of laziness is a selfish desire to do what you want. Lazy people do not want to leave their comfort (whether it be sleep, Netflix, video games, gossiping, social media, or doing nothing) and decide to put their desires for comfort before serving others.
Though we do not want to admit it, how often is our unproductivity or laziness fueled by our own selfish desire to do what we want? You could finish that essay tonight, but instead you chill out on the couch watching Pretty Little Liars (or whatever TV show addiction you have at the moment). You could plan your Sunday School lesson for tomorrow, but instead you “deserve” to sit back and relax scrolling through Facebook and Instagram (yes, I confess to doing this).
Our productivity is often killed by our own selfish desires to serve ourselves rather than glorify God through doing something to the best of our ability.
The truly productive person is motivated by a desire to deny themselves, serve others, and glorify God with their time. Because of what God has done for them (dying on the cross to give them eternal life) their primary concern is showing others that same love and glorifying God in that.
Consider the attitude of Christ:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8 NASB
The Productive Person is Working for God’s Glory
Whose glory are you striving to be productive for anyway? Are you trying to bring fame to yourself and your abilities? Or do you want to point people back to Christ, the one who made it possible for you to be productive?
When you are busy living for yourself and to create your own fame, you miss out on our purpose. God created you for one purpose, and that is to glorify God through everything you do.
Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Isaiah 43:7 NASB
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16 NASB
I often see productivity being taught by the self-employed business teachers, and while they may teach effective techniques to being productive, their motivation is all wrong. It is all about gaining more followers, more money, more sales, and creating more products to sell. It is all about their own fame and increasing their money. If you take on the same motivation, then you will not only be missing out your God-ordained purpose but also you will be creating an idol for yourself.
The Productive Person has Proper Expectations
One of the hindrances of productivity is procrastination. But where does procrastination come from? Surprisingly, procrastination is rooted in perfectionism—the person who procrastinates puts off doing their tasks in fear of not doing them perfectly. Those who are lazy are often perfectionists in disguise; they have given up working hard because they cannot meet their own standard of perfection.
The productive Christian has a proper understanding of perfection and what God expects. They recognize that perfection is not achievable while living on earth, but Jesus is perfect for them. Now, they want to strive to be like Christ in all they do, for His glory. And when they are unable to live perfectly productive, they can rest in the fact that Jesus has lived the perfect life for them in their place.
If you want to be productive, you can’t be ruled by the fears of imperfection. Instead, you need to accept the fact that you will mess up, you will fail, and you won’t always meet 100% on the productivity scale. Don’t allow this to discourage you or stop you from striving, but instead let those moments be times of learning from your failures and seeing how you can do better. Even more, let those moments point you back to Christ, recognizing that we are utterly dependent on Him for His perfection and to give us the ability to be productive.
If perfectionism is a real struggle for you, I highly recommend Amy Baker’s book, Picture Perfect. It has been an amazing encouragement and help to me in my perfectionism.
A Final Encouragement
If you want to be truly productive, it’s time for a radical heart change. Tips, schedules, and systems may help you for a while, but what happens when your self-motivation fades? What happens when it doesn’t bring you the fame you desired? Even more importantly, what happens when you are faced with the question, “How was Christ evident in me this week?”
Productivity begins with a selfless motivation to glorify God and serve others, all within the proper expectations. Without these, your productivity will quickly fade.
If you want to hear more about this and develop amazing skills to enhance your productivity, check out Tim Challies’ book, Do More Better. This entire post was inspired and gleaned from his amazing book. I hope it challenges you and helps you to do more better like it has for me.
In love and grace,