A Blog Post by Heather Whitford
Last year I read a book called, “Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity” by Tim Challies in which he defined productivity as, basically, using all of my life to glorify God and work for the good of others. Aside from how this definition might differ from my preconceptions about the idea of “productivity,” I was challenged, inspired, and humbled.
This is not a new idea: It’s all over the New Testament. Jesus said to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as our self. Paul called us to live in love, consider the interests of others above ourselves, and to use our spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ. John points us to Jesus’ example of laying down his life for us, and thereby calling us to lay down our lives for our fellow believer.
But something about hearing in this way at this time really resonated with me.
I needed to decide if I was going to continue my current course, living and working in Springfield, or if I was going to set out on a new adventure, chart a new course. I struggled with the decision because I have painful memories here, and having spent a year abroad serving in missions, I felt I was somehow too good to live here. I should be doing something bigger, better, and more important! The motivation of my heart was selfish: I wanted relief from sadness, and I wanted glory for my own reputation. Thinking about living my life for the good of others revealed my heart and made me change my perspective.
I work at an accounting office, and I started out as extra help during tax season. About six months in, my boss said they wanted me to stay on long term, take accounting classes, and eventually learn to do tax preparation. At first, the thought of doing so made me feel suffocated: all I wanted was to get the heck out of Springfield! But then Challies’ words made their way into my thought process: I could learn a new skill that would enable me to serve others in more particular ways. I could earn more, and therefore give more to my church. And of course, I could be of greater benefit to the company I work for now.
Once I started thinking about it this way, the decision became way easier! God is sovereign: I can’t thwart his plan for my life in a decision like this, so if I make the choice with a heart to benefit others, I can make that decision all day and sleep with no regrets.
I am still working in the same office and I’m looking forward to starting accounting classes later this year.
My station in life was the most immediate application for me personally, but I’ve also been thinking through how I can take other areas of life captive for the good of others. Tim Challies wrote a few articles toward that end: My pursuit of Christlikeness is not just for my own benefit, but it is for the benefit of my church and the other people in my life. The more like Christ I become, the more I can love and bless others. My personal suffering is not only for my own sanctification, but for the growth of the whole body as we share burdens in prayer and demonstrate faith to one another.
I thought about my finances: What if I plan my budget around how I can best benefit others? What if my emergency savings isn’t just for my own emergencies? I also thought about my health: What if I eat better and keep my body well so that I have the strength and energy to serve others? I thought about my daily responsibilities at work: Am I doing my job just to earn the paycheck, or am I striving to do my job well so my coworkers can do their jobs better? And I continue to think about small areas of daily life: I can stop watching the next episode on Netflix and go to sleep so I have energy for the responsibilities and conversations of the next day. I can put my phone down while I’m driving because I am concerned about the safety of fellow drivers. I can even take the smaller cookie on a plate to let someone else enjoy the bigger one.
A Christlike focus on living for the good of others will save us from a self-abasement lifestyle where we pridefully try to give out of our own strength instead of out of God’s grace. It also saves us from turning a biblical self-stewardship into an idolatrous love of self. My rest, my solitude, my time with the Lord, it benefits me, yes, but I ought also to consider how it works to allow me to love and serve others. I take care of myself in order to love and serve others.
I’ll admit, I feel overwhelmed when I think of all the areas of life where I default to an individualized, self-centered mindset. There is a lot to address! But by God’s grace, the faithfulness of Christ, and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, I have started to change and grow. And honestly I live in so much peace about being in Springfield for this season of life, and I have hope for my future. I have purpose and direction that can’t change with the change of circumstance: To live for the glory of God, and the good of others.