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  • Writer's pictureTrent Murray

(Pt. 8) Productivity: The Unsung Hero of the Disciplines

This is my final post in our series Pursuing Productivity Through the Spiritual Disciplines. If you haven't read the previous posts, I would recommend it before trying to give ear to my argument in this one. My aim has been to point you to the consistent thread of productivity throughout all of the Spiritual Disciplines in showing that it is primarily through the Disciplines we produce fruit and prove our fruitfulness.

All believers have been saved for good works that God has prepared beforehand. (Eph. 2:10) and Jesus reveals our calling and purpose in John 15, saying:"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide..." It is with these two verses that I believe the blueprint is presented for how we live out the great commandment to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength: we are to bear fruit and do good works.

Though it is often argued that productivity is not a necessary pursuit within the Christian life, I contend that we exist to live productive lives. I've mentioned throughout this series that my working definition of biblical productivity is glorifying God through good works for his kingdom for the purpose of Christlikeness and the good of others. I hope that I have earned your trust and you can take a logical step with me here as I say something that isn't very common among biblical scholars. Productivity is not just in one sense the culmination of all spiritual disciplines, it is in fact a discipline itself.

We can most likely agree pretty quickly that the spiritual disciplines help us in good works and bearing fruit, but to venture into territory where we state productivity as a discipline itself may scatter the crowd. Matt Perman in his work "What's Best Next" does a great job taking an in depth look at good works. We could easily categorize all of the spiritual disciplines as good works, but Perman presses a little further. I encourage you to pick up a copy of his book if this intrigues you but he argues, quite convincingly, that good works do not end with pious and religious activity. In fact, all things done in faith for the glory of God or the good of others are good works. Reading my kids a story before bedtime, washing the dishes, mowing your lawn, listening to your spouse about a frustration at work, all of these things can be good works! These everyday activities are not interruptions to our calling as Christians they are actually part of the calling.

"The activities of our everyday lives are not separate from the good works that God has called us to. They are themselves part of the good works that God created us for" - Matt Perman

This is one of my passions, to be a wholistic follower of Christ so that I don't compartmentalize portions of my life that are intentionally for the glory of God and portions that serve other purposes. All that I think and say and do, or choose not to do, are important aspects of my walk with Christ.

God is a God who makes sense out of chaos and brings order to disorder. I don't mean that all people have to be Type A in order to glorify God, but I do believe that we do a poor job of honoring God if we have no grip on our lives and the things we need to focus on to get done, or the things we need to put away because they aren't meaningful or important.

We can honor God by being good stewards of our time and responsibilities. You do not have any responsibility in your life that God has not graciously given to you for a purpose. Whether it is being a son or daughter, a spouse, an employee, a boss, or a faithful friend, God has good works for you to walk in throughout every aspect of your life.

This is essentially the heartbeat of this blog that we would focus on fruitfulness and good works in the Christian life so that God may be glorified (Mt. 5:16). There are plenty of blogs and avenues of content that focus in on the daily christian walk, but not many focus in on how to more efficiently and fruitfully get things done in your life, spending time on what matters most.

Greg Mkeown once said all of life is the "battle of the trivial many vs. the vital few." How much more does this quote ring true in the life of followers of Christ. We must remain disciplined in choosing between the right things to do and the things that are unnecessary in our lives. We bring glory to God by giving our energy and focus to the things that matter most.

I will dig into this in future posts but I want to leave you with something tangible to put into practice in your life to live these ideas out. This system is an adaptation of Tim Challies work "Do More Better".

Step 1: Determine what areas of life you have responsibility over and list them. Try to keep them between 3-5 areas. Once you establish your areas of responsibilities you need to spend some time deeply thinking over what your God glorifying purpose is in those areas. They can be as short or as long as you desire as long as you review them often to keep yourself focused. Here are mine for reference:

Personal: To delight in God as my highest treasure and pursue his approval above any man’s enjoying every moment he has given me, pointing others to his grace.

Family: To shepherd, provide, and lead in righteousness. To lay down my life daily for the good of Megan Avery and Neal; building them up and pointing them each to their worth in Christ.

FBCIP: To shepherd, teach, serve, and disciple students and adults creating a culture of worship and replication.

Trent Murray Band: To exalt Jesus in all that we do by writing biblically rich songs and leading others to encounter him in worship.

Step 2: Choose the right tools. Great tools don't make you productive but all productive people use great tools. Abraham Lincoln famously said something along the lines of "give me three hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first two sharpening the axe". The tools we use matter. Tim Challies suggests 3 tools, but I have learned over the last several years that I have more success with adding my 4th tool to the front of the List:

  1. Capturing Tool (Inbox): Rather than trying to categorize on the fly I find it easiest to carry my journal with me (you can use anything from your phone to a legal pad.) Write everything down in one place from notes to tasks to events. Morning and evening just spend 2 to 3 minutes sorting things into the three places below according to type.

  2. Task Management: great software exists from Todoist, apple reminders, or journals. I have created a hybrid system with the last two that I will share in a later post.

  3. Calendar: Paper calendar, planner, Google Calendars, Apple Calendars. Never let events catch you by surprise. Write them down as soon as you are made aware and check your calendar every day for upcoming events. (One awesome feature of digital calendars is they can be shared among family members and they can alert you of upcoming events.)

  4. Information Storage: If you wanna be super retro get you a sick looking filing cabinet, but personally you can't beat digital options like Apple Notes, Evernote, or Notion. From tax documents, to important passwords, to current medical bills, you don't have to let things pile up into overwhelming stacks. I use Apple notes to Scan documents and bills immediately to categorize them in folders mimicking my areas of responsibility

Step 3: Use them in harmony. Have your tools serve your mission statements. Making sure you daily or twice daily review all of your tools to see important deadlines, meetings, and tasks on your plate will work wonders in helping you prioritize your time and get things done! Some people try to have separate systems for work and home. If that is you, then be my guest, but I have found better luck when I treat things holistically and view myself as one person with many roles rather than simultaneously creating separate systems as an employee, a family man, an entrepreneur, etc.

I'll leave you with this: Greg Mkeown said this and it has stuck with me. "If you don't prioritize your life, someone will."

I'm praying for everyone who reads this to be challenged to pursue productivity in every area of your life, through good works for the kingdom, for the purpose of Christlikeness and the good of others.

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