If life on earth is just preparation for the new heaven and new earth, why would we spend so much time, money, and brainwidth on things that aren’t going to last and instead focus all of our efforts on building for a retirement that will never end?
What About the Mundane?
Yes, the oil needs to be changed, the conference table has a big scratch and needs replacing, and your middle child needs help on her math homework. But is there anything in this list that can’t be done out of a spirit of eternal responsibility, faithfulness, and stewardship? Am I the only one who sees the connection between present obedience and eternal rewards? When we look at the menial tasks of daily living, do we do them knowing God is watching and waiting to reward us for being productive in all things, large and small?
Don’t Efficiency and Effectiveness Matter?
When it comes to productivity, I used to think only in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. But, if that’s where productivity ends, all I’d have wound up with are a lot of to-do lists converted to “to-done” lists. Gospel-driven productivity contains efficiency and effectiveness as elements, but the core of Clean Slate is not so much about getting more done in less time, rather being found faithful in the face of the Father.
The Aim of the Game
Jesus never told parables that ended in “well done, good and efficient servant”, did He? While Paul does command us to be fruitful or effective, God is the ultimate judge of what was effective or not. He will be the one to weigh both motives and outcomes and promises to reward us accordingly.
If we look at individual scriptures, we’ll find efficiency (Prov. 21:5, Eph. 5:15-16, Matt. 25:14-30, etc.). We’ll find effectiveness (1 Cor. 16:9, Philemon 1:6, Phil. 1.22, etc.). Heck, we’ll even find excellence & zeal, (Col. 3:23, Eph. 6:7) right? But, I believe if we comb the entirety of scripture, we’ll see something much more sizeable, significant, and simple as we seek God’s definition of productivity. Here’s my definition from a biblical perspective:
Gospel-driven productivity: Right things, done well, in God’s power and timing, for His glory.
Productivity happens when faithful followers take extreme ownership of the stewardships God has entrusted to them and in gratitude for what Christ has done and will do (2 Cor. 5:10), work diligently at them. It involves everything that comes across our desk, our phones, our inboxes and beyond.
What are you doing regularly at work, at home, and elsewhere to ensure you’re doing right things well in God’s power and timing and for His glory?
If you’re into productivity and getting things done, this is going to sound like the strangest exercise, ever. I get it. But, humor me because as I read the scriptures, it’s the only productivity exercise that matters.
You will need about 2 minutes and your to do list or calendar for this exercise. Before you begin, let me give you the essential backdrop for it:
What Does Matter?
One day, we will each come before Jesus. Here, I’m specifically referring to those who are “in Christ”, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We will be rewarded for the things we did while living here in the body. Here, for the first time, we will know the true measure of our earthly productivity from the only perspective that matters: God’s. See 2 Cor. 5:10. We call this the bema (BAY-muh) seat judgment. While we don’t exactly know what how it will go down, we know that it will go down. Some will hear the word “welcome”. Others will hear “well done”.
Exercise, Part 1:
Look at today’s to-do list and/or calendar, reading each item and appointment briefly. Imagine you accomplished everything on the list and met every appointment on your calendar. Imagine at the end of that day, everything you’d hoped to accomplish was not only checked off the list, but also catalogued in detail in the book of your life. From this book, you will account for what you accomplished – see Romans 14:12.
On that particular day, you die and appeared before Christ to account for everything He just recorded in the book of your life. You received some rewards for things done well and experienced loss for some things you did out of selfish motive, but you’re still saved and you’ll still spend eternity with Him. Suddenly, heaven disappears and you’re back here at the beginning of that day with your list and calendar. The day has just begun – and I sit down across the table or desk from you. “So, what did you see?” I ask. Could you tell me at that point?
Exercise, Part 2:
The prophet Daniel details a vision of standing before God. It’s a vision of national judgment, not personal, but gives us valuable insight regarding what it will be like to stand before God. Before you tell me about your encounter with Christ, you need a picture of what you’re about to describe to me. It’s crucial that you read this in a very specific way:
- Stare wide eyed as if looking off into space. (I know, weird, but you’ll understand why in a moment.)
- Read this in a whisper as if you’re telling me every stunning detail of what you actually saw with your own eyes just before being called to account for your life:
As I looked,
“thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened. (Dan. 7:9-10)
- NOW… Look back at your list. Glance at your calendar. Is there anything on either that you don’t want to have to account for in front of the God you just described to me? Not because you don’t feel like doing it, but because you know our time on earth is short and if you invest time in doing that activity it will steal time away from something more important that the Christ you just described has called you to do?
- Eliminate what does not line up with this judgment. You know you have responsibilities. You know there are pleasant distractions you’d like to follow. But, you know there’s only so much time and you… will… receive rewards or suffer loss… (1 Cor. 3:12-15) in front of… the God of the universe – Ancient of Days (El Olam!!!) – seated on a flaming throne, attended by millions, aware of every detail of your life… longing to reward you with a “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
One day, we’ll all be called home. And, that’s great news because we’ll spend forever worshiping Christ. But, He promised rewards, detailed rewards, and commanded us to store them up in heaven (not for our glory, but to His). If we’ll spend forever enjoying Him and the rewards He’s given us (to which some would add “enjoying Him in proportion to the rewards attained”), why would we waste what little time we have here on things that will turn to ash at the bema seat?
Eternity is the only proper base line for temporal productivity. That’s the connection between That Day and Clean Slate. You’re going to be judged for everything you do. Make sure what you do is worth judging.
Now, go. Be eternally productive.
What’s Killing YOUR Productivity?
As more people come to me for advice on productivity, the most common issue I’m asked about is this:
“urgent things keep intruding on important things” a.k.a., “distractions & interruptions”
My best response is God’s response:
“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds. (Prov. 27:23a)”
Not the answer you were looking for? I’ll elaborate…
Meet Your Sheep
You’ve got stuff to do… That’s your flock.
You may not have actual sheep like Solomon’s audience 2,500 years ago. But, you do have a flock of “P.R.I.O.R.” commitments: Projects, Responsibilities, Ideas, Opportunities, and Relationships. For these God will hold you accountable and reward you (2 Cor. 5:10). Therefore, “knowing the condition of your flocks and giving careful attention to your herds” is of critical importance to you.
Some translations even render this phrase “be diligent to know the state of your flocks”. So…
On a scale of 1 to 10, how diligent are you right now in knowing your state of flock?
How Do YOU Hear from God?
God gave us the bible so that we may know Him more completely, hear from His wisdom, and come to saving faith in Christ. The bible also self proclaims itself “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that” you and I may be equipped for every good work. (see 2 Tim 3:16-17)
As a self proclaimed Charismatic Calvinist, I believe the gifts of prophecy and hearing from God audibly are in effect even today. However, I also believe that these gifts must be tested against scripture for veracity.
If we are to demolish not only strongholds, but also “every high and lofty idea that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” and take thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ), then it logically follows that when we hear about a mystical experience someone has had with God we have a responsibility to weigh that experience against what God says about Himself in His revealed word. The word is our plumb line.
Why Am I So Bent Out of Shape?
I just watched the video below. If you care to save yourself a 3 minutes of cringing, I’ll cut to the chase: there is a popular version of the gospel that promises not only health and wealth, but is used to justify the lavish lifestyles of the many who preach it. Prosperity gospel is no gospel at all. The Good News Christ came to proclaim was about eternal prosperity (salvation from sins) not riches and material blessings merely in this life.
As you listen to supposed men of God tell you what God told them, the first place any Christian who believes in sola scriptura needs to go is STRAIGHT to the word to make sure such revelation LINES UP with the truth… Go ahead, watch the video and you’ll understand why I’m steaming mad. Then, ask yourself: would the God of all compassion tempt any of us with material prosperity by asking us if we think He’s limited in His ability to give you temporal wealth?
NO. Jesse Duplantis claims God asked him if he thought God couldn’t deliver more than just a jet; challenging the power of God as if God were limited in His ability to bless. Now, this is a fair challenge, but there are two paths you can go down – the same one Satan tried to get Jesus to go down in his tempting and the one Jesus went down when He rightly used the word of God to straighten out the Liar and Accuser of the brethren. The question in question is: “is God limited in His ability to bless us?”
Is God limited? Yes: an omniscient God can never learn anything new. Amen? He can never be surprised. Amen? He cannot lie nor sin. Amen? God is limited by His own attributes and must be, or He would cease to be God.
Better… His generosity with worldly wealth IS limited by His love, kindness, and WISDOM – just read James 4:2-3. If you don’t have material prosperity, it’s not because God can’t be trusted or you think God is so small or you haven’t “claimed it” in Jesus’ name. Sometimes in His wisdom and patience, God withholds material prosperity because He knows, all to well, that the more we have, the easier we can be tempted to use it for our good and factor Him out. The more wealth we have, the more self-sufficient we can become. God built us to rely on Him, surrender to Him, and trust in Him, not our stuff.
God inspired, preserved, and protected the original manuscripts in order that we may know Him, not merely about Him, better. Biblical literacy is crucial in an age when so many have not only an understanding of what the scriptures do say, but also what they want them to say. Test all wisdom against the criteria in James 3:17. If it passes that muster, move forward to other passages and test it further. Be on your guard, saints. There are many false preachers preaching this garbage and more yet to come in this dark age. Lift up the sword of the Spirit (the word of God) and send the devil packing.
I hate to brag, but I have a really big mouth… Years back, I told a few guys I was going to read through the bible that year – cover to cover. I was full of it. Trying to impress. Selfish motive, meet big mouth. Ever been there?
There are two paths you can go with that: either repent & resolve to do it year after year, failing until you quit trying, or get so sick and tired of not doing it that you finally get it done. I want this to be the last year you try and fail. Is that OK? An END to the lightning starts in Genesis, followed by stop and go traffic in Leviticus, and stalling out in the genealogies of Numbers somewhere around February 2nd… (Yes, I’ve had camera drones flying over your house for years now… Can we get back to the point?)
Every year, we make resolutions because something inside us yearns for “better”. Whether light years better or just a few inches better, we want… better. But, striving for better will only wear us out. (Been there, done that. I give it zero stars.) Christ promises us if we “walk by the Spirit” we’ll bear some killer fruit (see Gal. 5:16); one of them is perseverance.
The Most Important “Strategy” Question
Most failures begin with a great strategy. ( –Yours, Truly). But, as Michael Hyatt taught me: Popular wisdom says the crucial strategy for completing any challenging, long term task is “accountability“. While that is important, it’s not most important. Strategy apart from vision leads to frustration, false starts, and failure regardless of accountability. Accountability doesn’t do the work. The work gets done where the rubber of strategy meets the road of discipline, fueled by vision. The most important strategy question starts by first answering the vision question: “why do I want to read the Bible start to finish?” The Lord weighs the heart. We should, too. If you’re reading to get a bible merit badge, regroup, repent, restart… now. We have the word of God so that we may know the God of the word. Let’s use it that way, mkay?
Then… write that answer down. I’ll tell you why in a minute.