I walked into class and saw friends scurrying through their notes, stuffing their brains with facts like squirrels hoarding nuts. I froze. I forgot about the science test. Instead of studying the night before, I played Rummy with mom and watched an episode of Quantum Leap with a bowl of popcorn.
I sat down and quickly skimmed my notes. The teacher handed out the exam and I filled in circles with graphite, half-guessing. I passed the test—barely.
It’s been decades since memorizing facts about neutrons and electrons, but sometimes I feel the same way. Like I show up to my life, unprepared. Especially in raising three kids. I’m busy, sure. But am I busy doing the right things?
Do you ever feel like no matter what you check-off in a day, you aren’t doing enough?
Even if we are disciplined and focused—are we disciplined and focused on what really matters?
What Really Matters
Jesus teaches us about a life of purpose many places in the New Testament, but two verses really minister to me these days of vocation-dreaming and child-raising.
The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus teaching,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Apart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’Matthew 7:21-23, ESV
The contrast in this passage stings—it even seems harsh.
These people seemed to have fruitful ministry. Prophesy. Casting out demons. Mighty works. But He calls them “workers of lawlessness.” Why?
Of course, we know that our salvation is by faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-10), but I think Jesus is using stark language to make a point—those who love God, follow Him (Matthew 7:21).
It’s possible to do all the religious works on the outside (hello, casting out demons)—and not be following God’s leading.
What Else Really Matters
According to Jesus’ example, what else really matters?
Lots of things.
But I think we can see the details summed up in Jesus’ prayer the Apostle John records.
In that prayer, Jesus says, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work You gave me to do” (John 17:4).
The multitude wanted to hear from Jesus (Mark 4:1). But sometimes, they fell away because they didn’t like what they heard (John 6:60-71). Jesus wasn’t concerned about building his following—He was concerned with accomplishing the work the Father gave Him to do.
Distracted from Purpose
We can become so easily distracted in building our lives around ideals, careers, expectations—that we trip right over what really matters: following God’s leading and doing the work He gives us to do.
Sometimes I’m distracted by my perception of other people’s success as moms, wives, women flourishing in their careers— that I can feel like I’m back in science class, showing up unprepared.
But when I take my whole self before our gracious and holy God, He shows me the way forward (usually it includes neglected laundry).
And for the moment, I walk confidently in the work He has given me to do—until my next round of anxiety that prompts me toward prayer.
Finding What Really Matters
You are the only you. God numbered your days before there was one of them (Psalm 139). He has purposed you with spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4). He has led you to the place you inhabit that you may seek and find God (Acts 17:26-27).
So, what is the work God has given you to do today? This week? This season of life?
Do that. And only that.
A mentor once said, “If we do not have enough time to get things done, we are doing things God hasn’t assigned us.”
Here’s a Suggestion in How to Discern God’s Leading for a Season of Life:
- Write down each main area of your life on a separate piece of paper, such as: career, relationships, health, spiritual growth, etc.
- Spend non-distracted time with God and pray for guidance in each area. Write down anything that comes to mind. This process can take hours, days, or weeks.
- Ask God to lead you in your Bible reading to help you discern. Write down the passages the Spirit leads you to. Study them within the context of the Scriptures.
- Seek wisdom from other believers you admire that are strong in certain areas. Write down what you think might help.
- Pray over all the papers full of reflection, wisdom, and Scripture.
- Ask God to help you discern what to focus on in this season of life. We can’t focus on all things in all areas in all seasons.
- Take what you think the Holy Spirit is leading you toward and establish a Rhythm of Life. This helps you stay focused on following God’s leading in daily living.
RESPOND: How do you discern how to spend your time?
This post first appeared on SeanaScott.com