Take a Breath: God Doesn’t Need You to Do Everything
How can we know what the right things are to focus on? These two lists might help.
We’ve finished January, which means we may have given up on our New Year resolutions. And you may be feeling guilty about it. Paul tells us: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:23).
We should work heartily for God, and we can’t even keep it up for a month? Straightforward as that little verse is, we can completely bungle it. I’ve bungled it over and over. By doing too much.
Do Everything for the Lord?
The verse says whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. You’d think. But too many of us twist it to say, Do everything heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Maybe we don’t realize we’ve twisted it like that. And yet, a lot of us derive a sense of holy success from bursting planners and eyes stinging from exhaustion.
There is an important reason that verse says whatever you do, and not do everything. It’s because we have limits.
We’re not all knowing, all-powerful, or ever-present like God. We need sleep — a good amount of it, every night. We also need rest, which is not the same thing. While I love Sunday naps, the idea of a Sabbath is that we rest from the work we normally do. When people don’t rest regularly, the consequences are real and dangerous to our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
These limits make it impossible for us to do everything and do it heartily. Instead, we need to focus on our “whatever” — the things we, led by the Lord, carefully choose to do.
Discerning Our “Whatever” in Two Lists
But how do we choose the right things? In my opinion, there are few quandaries that can’t be solved with a good list or two. So here’s how I decide what to focus on in life: I make a list of my passions and my priorities.
Passions, as I’m defining them, are more than just enjoyable pastimes. They’re things we feel incomplete without. They seem like part of our DNA; when we do them we come alive. When considering my “passions,” I think of the quote from British Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell: “God made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
Now for the priorities. These are more than just the things we want. They should make up the foundation of our lives. There are currently only four priorities on my list, and I’ll share them with you.
- Serving God
- Caring for my household family (husband and children)
- Spending quality time with other family members and close friends
- Pursuing my career goals
Guiding Questions, Not Answers
Listing your passions and priorities won’t automatically answer the question, what should I do in life? But it can provide the right questions to ask when you’re presented with new opportunities.
If something comes up — anything from a goal you want to write down to a potential career move — ask yourself these two questions.
- Does this serve or distract from my priorities?
- Am I actually passionate about this?
A caveat here: obviously, we have to do things in life we’re not passionate about. But even if we’re not passionate about something, we’re usually doing it because it serves our priorities. For instance, we may have to do an unpleasant job for a season to provide for our family or to enable us to pursue something better later on. When, however, we have the freedom to choose what activities we will participate in, considering our passions can be helpful.
The Body of Christ
The Bible says the body of Christ is made up of many parts, and all parts are needed. Once our priorities are in place — and aligned with God’s Word — I believe our passions can help guide us to our correct “part” of the body.
And this brings us back to Colossians 3:23. We’re not meant to do everything, to play every part, or to fulfill every calling. We’re meant to play our part. We’re called to do our “whatever,” and to do it with all our heart for God.
So if you’ve crossed out a few New Year’s goals already — not because you’ve reached them, but because they’re too much or not right — that’s okay. Prayerfully reevaluate your priorities and passions. God will guide you to the right things to do — and he won’t ask you to do everything. Just the thing he has for you to do.
Liberty McArtor, former staff writer for The Stream, is a freelance writer in the great state of Texas, where she lives north of Dallas with her husband and son. Follow Liberty on Twitter @LibertyMcArtor, or learn more about her at LibertyMcArtor.com.