Is it possible for the gospel to help free a person from aimless, time-wasting conduct and help them get the job done?
My husband was brought up to follow an exemplary work ethic. He wrote lists of jobs to be done and he did them. He organised himself and his household around the church calendar; we got to meetings on time, we contributed, he did tasks he was asked to do on schedule and did them well.
I, on the other hand, had had a more bohemian upbringing. We did things if we wanted to, when we felt like it. If they didn’t get done today, well tomorrow would be OK. My parents were relaxed, my Dad not ambitious, my Mum not house proud, the kids were lazy. Which was fine. We were happy.
I could see that my husband was becoming successful in his business through his hard work. I could see the logic of having plans and so I started to make my own. I planned tasks, I planned menus, I wrote lists and timetables.
I was still the same lazy kid
And after all these years I found out that I was still the same lazy ‘kid’ I had been before. The list writing and plan making hadn’t changed who I was; they had just helped me cope with my hectic lifestyle and kept my lazy nature in check. When I no longer had to make lists to cope, the lazy attitude came back straight away.
In my 40s and 50s I had more time and I wasted it. There was stuff to do; I left it. People to visit; I stayed home. Prayers to pray; I fell asleep. Notes to write; I got distracted by iPlayer. I could watch an episode of something from beginning to end as there was no baby to feed, no toddler pulling at my skirts, no pre-schooler whining to be taken to the park, no school run to make.
But as a disciple of Jesus I had a calling to become perfect as He is perfect. To walk in his footsteps; to do good; to be accountable. After all, my life is not my own, it belongs to God.
And I read this:
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:13-16.
Fighting my laziness
To gird up your mind is a call to action, to think about what needs to be done, what God wants you to do. Young and full of energy, or middle-aged and tired – we all have a call to action, and to miss this is robbing God of a worker in the fields.
I discovered that it hadn’t been enough to force myself to adhere to lists and stick to schedules, because I found that when I didn’t need to make lists it hadn’t solved the root of the problem; I was still lazy at heart. It was the laziness of attitude that God wanted me to deal with, not keep my household well organised.
And for me, with my lazy background, my easily-distracted nature, my ‘put-it-off-till-tomorrow’ approach, how could I live in the Spirit to such an extent that I could shake off my usual way of doing things and give my time as a sacrifice every day?
When I actively fight against my laziness and procrastination and pray for the Spirit to help me, then that part of my nature is dying and I am transformed. I’m not just holding it under the surface but bit by bit my nature is actually changing.
I can become free of my aimless conduct: not just cover it up by following a list. I can sit at my laptop with my finger still poised over the ‘play’ button to watch a film, and quietly decide – this is not right for me at this moment in time. I can instead choose to listen to something edifying while I tidy up, file papers, or do ironing. I have a choice.
Every day I can make small decisions that nobody else knows about, but which quietly free me from my nature. These decisions are noticed in the spirit world and have nothing to do with ‘work ethic’, but are simply a question of obedience to the guiding of the Spirit. A life built on obedience to the quiet promptings of the Spirit brings victory and power and blessing, and every day is a day of triumph.