It’s a staple of every time management guru for people like me. If you want to accomplish things, make a “to-do” list. The idea is that you list the things you need to do and as you do them, you check them off. Completing one task allows you the pleasure of checking it off your list and gives you incentive to work on the next task. At least that’s the theory. Then I read this article that says millionaires and billionaires don’t use “to-do” lists. The idea is that they calendar what they want to do. If you use a to do list, you tend to work on the easier things first to get more check offs, leaving the hardest things for the time when you are most tired. Calendering helps you set your priorities.
There are times when it seems like Christians want a checklist of what to do and how to be a Christian. Those of you who are a little more sophisticated might look down at people like us and remind us that calendaring your Christian behavior was better. I might be impressed with the time you’ve put on your calendar to read your Bible and pray. It would be cool in fact. But there are some things you can’t calendar or even put on a to-do list. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)
We look at those qualities and the way they are presented makes a perfect to-do list. “Let’s see, I start with faith. Check. Now, goodness. Hmmm…that’s gonna take a bit longer.” (5 minutes later) “Got it! Good now. Knowledge is next. Ok. Read the Bible for a few minutes.” And so on. We look at a quality that Peter reminds us we need. We attain it. We check it off. Next. There is a linear quality to a list like that. That list is not meant to be looked at as a step by step checklist of how to be a good Christian. It is a list of qualities that will to continue to grow in our lives if we stay connected to God. Rather than being a list to check off as we achieve each level, it is a reminder that when we think we’ve gained a level, we can go farther and deeper into that quality in our relationship with God. You have faith to come to Christ? Great – what difference does it make? If you have that kind of faith, it should make you show more goodness. At the same time, can your faith grow? Can it lead you to trust God more and more?
All of these qualities are important in the Christian life. As we walk daily with Christ, they grow in us. We need to be conscious of them and seek to grow in each of them, but we also need to realize that they can never be complete in us this side of heaven. Don’t expect God to send a message telling you that you can stop growing in your faith, for example. You can’t even put these on your calendar. There’s no way of saying “From 9:00 to 9:30 I’m going to show faith and from 9:30 to 10:00 it will be goodness. Then, coffee with Bob from 10:00 to…” We don’t know when we’ll need to show faith. We can know that as we walk with God every day there will be times that we will need to show faith. He will grant us the grace to show that faith. It’s the same way with each of these qualities: we gain them not by seeking to achieve them; we gain them by walking with God and exercising them when we need to. There are a lot of things that work on a to-do list or a calendar – even some things that will help you grow spiritually, but these faith qualities will deepen not because of a check off list, but because of our walk with God.
Oh Lord, I need to grow stronger in my walk with You. As I live today and every day, give me the grace I need to grow as a Christian and exhibit these qualities.