Battling Agendas: Opportunity or Distraction?

John Piper said:

“The world sets the agenda for the professional man; God sets the agenda of the spiritual man.”

I’ve been thinking on this much lately. “Lately” meaning for over a year.

One of my goals —  Have you noticed that people only talk about resolutions in January? I like the term “goals” better. Resolutions provide too much guilt when you miss the mark, but goals seem to encourage lasting growth. Or maybe my choice of semantics simply reflects (and justifies) anticipated failure. Oh, that could be a whole blog post of pontifications, don’t you think?

Aside from attempting to stop interrupting myself with random tangents and other frequent exhibitions of ADD tendencies, one of my goals for 2011 is to be more intentional. (How’s that for a perfectly vague aspiration?) To be more specific, one aspect of this is to focus more on my writing by pursuing additional avenues of publication.

As a side note (Doesn’t “side note” sound better than “tangent?” It’s almost intentional, right?) — As a side note, whenever I set this goal, my blogging frequency drops off. I started blogging as an intentional practice for my writing, but four-plus years later, the practice has morphed into a form of procrastination. The two, while intended to be cooperative, seem to possess an inverse relationship. The more I blog, the less I write. The more I write, the less I blog.

But my goal extends beyond the realm of writing. I want to be intentional with my projects, yet, but also with my time, my energy, what I teach my kids and how I interact with others. Basically, I want to think more about what I’m doing and why. I want to be focused. The problem is that I’m not sure precisely where that focus needs to be.

Too often I fall into the easy rut of seeking a lifelong mission, a purpose toward which all my daily dealings point. However, (and I’ve blogged about this before) I believe the Christian life is more about daily living and less about grandiose plans. I believe knowing God is the objective of life and the daily doings are the means by which we achieve that objective. I believe those daily doings can add up to a grandiose plan, but I believe the orchestration of that plan is God’s responsibility, not ours. Our responsibilities lie solely on the small, seemingly mundane, one-day-at-a-time acts of obedience.

I fear that when I seek to fulfill the grandiose plan on my own, I lose all proper focus. Roles are transposed. Instead of feeding God’s glory and accepting His sovereign role in the universe, I feed my personal pride and inflated sense of worth. I take matters into my own hands rather than trusting Him fully. When striving to produce my “big picture,” I too often follow the world’s agenda.

As should be expected, the more I seek focus, the more distractions come my way. Orders are stacking high for my book purse business, I’ve received surprising opportunities to write and have even gained new editing projects. Are these distractions or opportunities? Is it God’s divine direction or is it the world trying to keep me from following His agenda?

Here are a few tips toward knowing the difference. If you face similar uncertainties, ask yourself these questions.

Does it glorify God? This is the most important question. If it dishonors Him, if it goes against Scripture, you need to stop immediately and run in the opposite direction. Remember Joseph’s famous flee? Do likewise!

On the flip-side, this doesn’t mean that every hobby, every word, every action must blatantly point to God, but rather that whatever you do, you do it with an attitude that honors Him. See 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Does it utilize your gifts? God has given us all talents and gifts, both spiritual and physical. We need to use them! I’m not a fan of tests and classifications of gifts. I feel those lead to over-analysis. God is passionate and natural, and He made us in His image. I firmly believe that God not only gives us gifts, but He also gives us a passion to use those gifts. Is there something you really love to do? Something that comes naturally to you? Chances are your gift lies somewhere near that.

Does it show love to others? The entire Bible is saturated with the importance of love. We must love God first and love our neighbors second. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that no matter how great our gifts may be, if we do not possess love, our gifts are useless. Not just useless, but annoying.

Does it pull you away from previous commitments? Remember the guy who started building a tower and then ran out of money? (Luke 14) Everyone laughed at him, called him a fool. You know what else? I bet no one ever hired him to build another tower. God is eternally faithful, dependable. If we aspire to be like Him, we must try our best to reflect those characteristics. If you said you’re going to do something, do it. Complete the job before moving on to something new.

Your turn! How do you decide if something is an opportunity or a distraction?

    Talk to me!

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