In January of 1966, I loaded my pregnant wife and our two toddlers into an old Volkswagen van and drove 6,600 kilometres (4,000 miles) from Edmonton, Alberta, to a jungle survival training camp near the Guatamalan border in the southern tip of Mexico.
As part of our training, we recorded everything we did each day for a week on time sheets, marked off in 15 minutes segments. The totals at the end of that week staggered us. The hours we spent in classes, private study, and working on academic projects were minimal. Time for recreation and entertainment was zero. The rest of the time was maxed out with chopping wood, hauling water, preparing food, washing clothes, and keeping the rain out of our makeshift shelter. Work, work, work, just to keep ourselves fed, clean, and minimally rested. I was deeply frustrated.
Today, forty-five years later, I still get aggravated at how much time I need to spend in work other than what I want to do. “I’d Rather be Writing” would be a good sign on my study door. No, I’m not chopping wood, but I do resent the time I must spend on learning to run the computer programs I need in my writing ministry. And organizing email lists, marketing my books, and keeping income and expense records.
|I'd Rather be Reading|
What is God’s plan for our ministry and work life? First, He has given each of us different embryonic talents and latent abilities which we develop through diligent practice. He also bestows spiritual gifts like faith, evangelism, insight or service. When we work within the area of our native abilities or spiritual giftings, we enjoy our work which motivates us to work at it more. Eventually we become very good at it.
The apostle Paul urged Timothy “to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.” 2 Timothy 1:6 (NIV). God gave us our abilities and spiritual gifts and wants us to develop and use them fully in ways that make Him look good.
In my case, I’d rather be writing, or speaking to a group, or teaching at a seminar, or reading in order to do a better job of these things. But what comes along with that for all of us? All those little jobs that make us feel like we are wrenches or screw drivers forced to do hammer work. We’re just not good at these jobs, they don’t fit us and we don’t enjoy doing them.
God has made us unique, but He has not made us to live as independents. That is the second part of His plan. He designed us to live inter-dependently, as a community, each of us operating in the area of our strengths, not only meeting our own needs but those of others. God wants people within a community to reach out and help each other. This concept directly contradicts our North American culture which glorifies rugged independence and the pride that comes when we can personally meet all our own needs.
The third part of God’s plan deals with times when we are forced to work in an area of weakness. It may be something we personally must do. Or maybe we are in a situation where there simply is no one around who can help us. That’s when we need to pray, “Holy Spirit, please give me the power and self-discipline to do this job well.” It’s a prayer based on the rest of what Paul wrote Timothy, “. . . the Spirit God gave us . . . gives us power . . . and self-discipline” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV).
Work in the area of your native abilities as much as possible, live inter-dependently within a community and when all else fails, trust God to give you the power and self-discipline to see you through.
Less frustration. More production. I like it.
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