In an age where pressures abound to increase productivity, we find ourselves increasingly stressed by the need to produce more in a shorter time span. This often emanates from a call to work smarter and work faster, but with its implied emphasis on activity. We collapse into bed at the end of the day, totally drained by the day’s activities. Is this something that God requires of us?
Strangely, frenetic activity is the enemy of productivity. When our focus is all about what we can produce today, we strangely limit our abilities in the longer term.
It took many years from the time when Saul encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road before he returned as an Apostle. He spent years sitting at the feet of Gamaliel in his training as a Pharisee, and retreated into the desert for many years before emerging as a leader in the Christian movement of the time.
I have heard it asked why Jesus took until he was 30 before emerging into the Galilean desert to be baptised by John – those years were all about preparation for his ministry. And still we find Jesus regularly retreated to prayer and stillness while others pressed him to continue the things that they felt important.
As we have watched the Eureka Tower rise into the Melbourne skyline, we forget the many months which went into digging and laying foundations, not to mention the years of planning and preparation before even the first sod could be turned. Such a significant construction could take place because there were people prepared to be still and let the dream turn into plans, and the plans into action.
To grow in faith is to give attention to both action and stillness or, as Dallas Willard calls them, the disciplines of engagement and the disciplines of abstinence – we grow in strength by doing certain things and practising stillness in others, and by marrying them to a commitment to long-term outcomes as opposed to instant gratification.
Footballing eyes were focussed on the outcome of the National Draft yesterday. Selection was the outcome of many years of dreams and hard work, but fulfilment of potential lies in many years to come. As we seek to grow in faith, the challenges are no less.
November 26, 2006