home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > April > SOMETHING FOR SLUGGARDS TO CONSIDER

SOMETHING FOR SLUGGARDS (AND THE REST OF US) TO CONSIDER

¶ Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Proverbs 6:6

It seems to me that when God wants something done, He calls a busy person to do it. There was a time, not that long ago, where most people were busy by default. All of their time and efforts from sun-up to sun-down were spent just trying to survive. But as our civilisation and its economy developed and we increasingly mechanised tasks done by people working manually. This advancement in an economy comes with many benefits. Rather than everyone simply trying to provide for the basics of life, they can now focus on those things that also advance and the well-being of a society. This includes education, the arts, leisure, health-care, and sport. It also allows for people to specialise and focus on, their trade, skill or profession so that they no longer have to grow their own crops or graze their own cattle for milk or meat. Theoretically, it therefore means that people have more time to do things other than work such as those just listed. Yet, rather than being less busy, many people are busier than ever and often these busier-than-ever people feel they are not necessarily getting much done. This general busy-ness has presented challenges for those of us who work in the not-for-profit volunteer sector who rely on the availability of volunteers to help run their organisations and think the Proverbial ant might have something for us to consider about this.

Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
Proverbs 6:7-8

 

TWO TYPES OF BUSY

I’m involved with a big project that involves leaders from other churches around our city. None of these people have time to spare and especially do not have time to waste. Each of them are busy people. They each bring a set of skills and a connection with a network of others that is enabling us to plan and manage one of the biggest city-wide Christian celebrations in the history of Launceston. In observing each of these leaders in this newly formed team, I notice that while they are each busy, and already involved in their own major projects, they are still able to manage to contribute their time into this joint effort. This has helped me to realise that there are two types of busy. We have already introduced the busy person who doesn’t seem to get much done, and now I have introduced a different type of busy person who does seem to be able to get done what needs to be done.

¶ Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer;
Proverbs 30:24-25

 

PRODUCTIVE AND BUSY

Busy-yet-productive people are like ants in many ways. They have learned how to use their time efficiently and effectively. Like ants, they have learned how to work independently and with others. Like ants, in doing this they seem to be lift objects above their own body weight, and when they work with other similarly busy-yet-productive people, they can do so in ways that seem to defy the laws of physics. Nearly all (if not actually all) of these busy-yet-productive people are people who have been stretched and along that journey have come to realise two important things about being busy-yet-productive:

  1. Focus on the important rather than the urgent.

  2. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.

Busy-frantic people get caught up in the urgent instead of focusing on the important. Busy-yet-productive people nearly always commence their weeks with a plan — they carry a diary which contains their weekly to do lists and they hold themselves accountable to it. They seem to make time for the important as a priority over the urgent. This is why #2 is actually a restating of #1 — they sabbath. They make the setting aside of time from their usual activity to sabbath. They recognise the importance of sabbathing and what it involves – worshiping God with God’s assembled people, prayerfully surrendering to God, allowing the preached Word to wash and renew their soul, and physically/mentally resting.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

 

CONSIDER ANTS

The Book of Proverbs warns against laziness and instructs readers to consider the ant (Prov. 6:6). In considering the ant we notice that they always live within a colony (a community). Within that colony they each have assigned roles (a purpose). Together they pool their efforts to achieve a common goal (a mission). They intuitively plan and prepare for the future so that they can leave a legacy. They go about their work methodically which seems to resemble good training (a work ethic). No wonder God tells us to consider the ant! Their example is a great benchmark for how a society, a community, and a church is to function. As we read through the New Testament instructions for Christian living we read some very “ant-like” directives for believers-

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16

When we yield to Christ our desires and priorities are transformed. Just as the ant is created by God to “know” what they are to do, the believer finds himself or herself having their will shaped by God resulting in a desire to work for the benefit of others.

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

The ant-like nature of a Spirit-filled believer is most evident in two ways: their attitude and their supernatural strength to serve. Note these two aspects of a busy-yet-productive believer-

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:23-24

 

GOD ALWAYS STRENGTHENS THOSE HE STRETCHES

There are those who look busy but are not very productive. There is a difference between riding a rocking-horse and riding a horse! There are those who are busy yet are highly productive because they’ve learned to work like an ant which involves managing that their time is focused on (i) maintaining their important relationships, (ii) taking regular sabbaths, (iii) prioritising the important over the urgent, and (iv) cooperating with others. These busy people have learned to recognise God’s open doors and have confidence that the Apostle Paul had – that it is God who gives them supernatural energy to toil, struggle and work to get things done when no-one else thought it possible. If you want to stop being busy and become busy-yet-productive, then learn these lessons from the ant!

For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.
Colossians 1:29

 

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

2 Comments

  1. Marko Stepanovic

    Thank you Pastor Andrew,
    Great advice, sometimes I do feel very busy but not very productive.
    From this good message you have shared I will plan my week better.
    My wife always said make a list. God blesses those who listen to their wives!

    God Bless

    Reply
    • legana

      Well done Marko!

      Reply

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5 INDISPENSABLE GUIDELINES FOR NEW PARENTS

This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR ATHEIST & MAGICIAN PENN JILLETTE TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN?

I’ve been praying for Penn Jillette for some time now. It began when I first heard him ridicule the Bible and Christianity. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, has been due to my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. There are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers). I seek to learn from magicians about how to keep an audience’s attention, how to tell a story, and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to uphold truth in an honest way.

THINK ABOUT THIS

In Australia, it’s football finals time and the U.S. the last Grand Slam event for the year has just concluded. I find a lot of life lessons from observing elite athletes — including and especially those who play football and those who play tennis. Most people might consider football to be a team sport and tennis to be individual sport. But the distinction is not so clear these days. Often times footballers are individually coached by “position coaches” and a tennis player is often just who the public sees of a team of people responsible for the performance of that player. At the time of writing, there are remaining four Australian Rules Football (AFL) teams about to play off in the Preliminary Finals (including my beloved Geelong Cats). Last weekend, Carlos Alcaraz of Spain defeated Casper Ruud of Norway. Both players have intriguing stories which I will mention shortly. In the AFL, after a disastrous last season, the Collingwood Magpies appointed a new coach for this season, Craig McRae. Even though they got off to a slow start this season, under McRae’s oversight ended up having an 11-straight winning streak toward the end of the season and now look like genuine  Premiership contenders. What do Carlos Alcaraz, Casper Ruud, Craig McRae, and the Collingwood football team, all have in common? All the players at the elite level of their sport make an enormous commitment to train, practice, sleep, hydrate, and eat a regulated diet. Yet at the very highest levels in their respective sporting codes the difference between the elite and the extra-elite is no longer skill or fitness. In fact, the difference between them is so applicable to everyday life that it may be the most relevant and do-able thing you hear for a long time. So, think about this.

LOOKING BACK OVER THE PAST 200 YEARS

As Kim and I enjoyed our weekly coffee-date this morning at Stillwater, she looked out ruminatively across at all of the development that has taken place over the years where the North and South Esks merge to form the Tamar River.

“I wonder if the settlers who came here two hundred years ago” she asked, “could have imagined the silos would have been built over there and then turned into a luxury hotel, or that two bridges would have been built here, or that their tiny village would grow into a large city?”

“What’s more interesting” I responded, “is if anyone today can envision what it will all look like in another two hundred years!”

And my response then got me thinking. Could it be possible to imagine what Launceston will end up looking like in two hundred years—and, what about our church? What will our church will look like in two hundred years?

relevance-intact-the-place-of-the-church-in-tasmania

Tasmanian churches play a vital role in our state as a moral compass and social leader. Our moral compass was given to us 2,000 years ago by Christ  who then commissioned the Church to preach, teach, and care in His Name. The Church’s role as a social leader was instigated by Jesus who embraced the shunned, condemned oppressors of the vulnerable, and upheld the sacredness of every human life and taught His followers to do likewise. Two thousand years later, Tasmanian churches gather weekly and continue proclaim the good news that Jesus taught, care for the poor and homeless, feed the hungry, welcome refugees, and provide thousands of young Tasmanians with an education. This is why the former Examiner deputy editor recently described the Tasmanian Church as “the most fundamental pillar in society” but then described it as being led by “a pious clique of fancy robed hypocrites, with less and less relevance each year to the wider community” (28/8/2022). The basis for his sharp criticism is grounded in his assessment that the Tasmanian Church has not recalibrated its moral compass to align itself with culture’s progressive values. Here’s why I disagree with the esteemed former deputy editor.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN AND THE INN-KEEPER

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR? The Jewish leaders had a very strict understanding of who God accepted and who God rejected. Obviously, they taught, God had accepted the Jews as His favourite – particularly Jewish men. Jewish women were sort of accepted, but only as second-class members of God’s people. This obviously also meant that unless a gentile (a non-Jew) converted to Judaism they could not be accepted by God. Therefore, God rejected all gentiles — and He especially rejected Roman gentiles — but He reserved His ultimate rejection for Samaritans! Jesus then tells the Temple-lawyer the story of the Good Samaritan.

THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.