I love the word productive. In fact, I use it a lot with my kids. Are you doing something productive? Find something productive to do. Is that productive? What have you done today that’s productive?
I don’t just use that language with my kids, though. I use it with myself. It’s how I talk to myself throughout the day. How can I do the things that need to be done and be most productive today?
Miriam-Webster defines the use I have in mind like this: doing or achieving a lot : working hard and getting good results. : producing or able to produce something especially in large amounts.
I think it’s good to be productive. To be a wise steward of your day, your time, honors God. But oftentimes in my effort to be productive, I begin to be overtaken with busyness. Now don’t get me wrong, we are not to be complacent or lazy. But my inner desire to see results, often blinds me things that I do throughout the day that don’t have immediate or visible results.
This is a battleground for me. Maybe it is for you too.
When I wash clothes, clean the house, fix dinner, work on a project, etc… these things are ways I can judge my productivity. My mental or physical checklist, if you will. All are good things and ways I daily take care of my family, they all keep me busy, I can see that they have been done. I feel good about them, I feel productive.
But stop for a minute…what about that 30 minute counseling session I had with my teenage daughter, the morning I exceeded the time I allotted for Bible study, the care of a sick child, the time I spent writing, the letter I sent, the coffee I had with a friend, date night, reading a book, resting, watching a movie with my kids, etc…
Why do I often look at the latter things and self-define them as unproductive?
Did you notice that all of the latter things all have to do with relationships? And the former things busyness?
It’s not that I don’t do the latter things, but it’s often that I feel guilty when I do. Why? Because I feel unproductive. I can’t actually see the results of my efforts.
We just finished a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer and my Bible Fellowship Group has been working through a little book by J.I. Packer, Praying the Lord’s Prayer. As a result of reading the book and the sermon series, a friend of mine recently said, “I’m seeing for the first time that the Lord’s Prayer is really a model for Christian living. It’s about all your life as a Christian and how to think about it.” I’m seeing that she’s right.
In one aspect of the prayer, Thy kingdom come, our book had us to read Matthew 13:1-52. This section of Scripture is filled with several parables, one after another. As I read this section as a whole, instead of reading each parable independently, I began to see something that I hadn’t seen before.
Each parable reveals something about the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven, not just in the future, but now. One thing that really stood out was the way Jesus shows that the kingdom of heaven starts. In each parable, it’s something small, seemingly insignificant. Easy to be ignored or rejected. A seed, leaven, hidden treasure, a pearl. In other words, it is not obvious or easily measured.
Not obvious or easily measured.
This is the thing that I need to remember. My tendency is to want to see things, to measure productivity. Not only in my daily life in practical measure, but in spiritual things. But the Lord Jesus reminds me here in these parables, that spiritual things are most often unseen, not obvious, not easily measured, because they happen in the heart of man. In man’s innermost being. The place only God can see.
My efforts in my daily life to get things done, to be productive are good. The Scriptures remind us “to go to the ant”. But my worth is not in my measuring of my productivity, because many things, many more important things, spiritual things are just that…most important. And those things are measured in the hearts of men, people. And are only possible through time and relationships.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
May by constant prayer be – Thy Kingdom Come. Looking not to the things that are seen (my own productivity), but the things that are unseen (His kingdom working in the innermost heart).
Packer poignantly puts it this way:
“To pray ‘thy kingdom come’ is searching and demanding, for one must be ready to add, ‘and start with me; make me your fully obedient subject. Show me my place ‘among the workers for the kingdom of God’ (Colossians 4:11), and use me, so far as may be, to extend the kingdom and so be your means of answering my prayer.’”