“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 4:34
I have read this passage of scripture several times in my Christian experience. I have even preached a few sermons on it. But always in respect to the woman at the well whose encounter with Jesus led to this statement that Jesus made to His disciples. However, reading the verse of scripture again recently opened a new vista that I had never seen before. It has to do with the nexus between activity and productivity. Activity is not alien to any creature. Everything in creation is dynamic. Even God who is seen as the only constant is dynamic in His operations. What we generally call laziness is not a lack of activity. It is simply activity in the wrong direction. In that sense, everyone is always doing something, even if it is sleeping!
Let us examine more closely the passage quoted above.
“My food is to do the will of Him that sent me…”. Food is the legitimate desire of every famished person. When a man is famished, he is incapable of any rational thought that does not include how his hunger would be satiated. It is interesting to note that Jesus had come to that well with His disciples. But even though He was no less hungry, He had stayed behind while all twelve of His disciples had gone in search of food! When they eventually returned with the food, they discovered that it was of no importance to Him. His countenance radiated with a satisfaction that physical bread could not have given. When they urged Him to eat something, He simply shrugged and replied, “I have food to eat that you have no idea about.” As they wondered aloud to themselves who could have brought Him food in what was like the middle of nowhere, He made the statement quoted above. Every leader knows the exhilarating feeling that comes when purposeful passion is unlocked. When you are in the pursuit of a greater purpose than yourself, ephemeral satisfaction pales into insignificance. All your faculties are engaged and the last thing you remember is food. What you feed on becomes your sustenance. This is when the statement “Man shall not live by bread alone” really makes sense. It is what happens when your vocation has become more or less a vacation because the line between work and pleasure has become blurred!
This is what happens when your consciousness of a purpose greater than yourself gives you a motive that provides a platform not only for activity but for expected outcomes. Without purposeful outcomes, activity soon becomes drudgery. Jesus defined this as THE WILL OF HIM THAT SENT ME. The WILL becomes a legitimate desire that is akin to food. When a leader has found his cause or his motive, that motive supplies the motivation required to sustain him through the most challenging of times. External motivation only makes sense when the internal dynamics are in place. Every activity therefore is calculated and follows a template that leads to a predetermined outcome.
“And to finish His work”. The purpose that has birthed desire must transform to definite, strategic WORK that leads to a finish, where outcome and the original intention merge.
Every activity should be designed to accomplish a goal – personal, corporate, pleasure, family, intellectual development, career, fitness/health etc. Productivity therefore is the relevant outcome of activity. Purpose is the strength of productive activity. An activity is deemed unproductive if it is not leading to the fulfillment of a set objective. The distinction between efficiency and effectiveness is purpose. We may be caught in the web of organized activity (efficiency) to the detriment of relevant activity. Productivity is determined by the finished product of activity. It’s not about what you started. It’s about WHY you started and how you finish. Productivity has happened when outcome matches original intention. Attending school for many years is of no value if no learning takes place and one has no certificate to prove that he has been engaged in that tryst.
A car that is jacked up on all fours is suspended in space. Then you start the engine, engage gear and rev up the engine. The engine runs, the tyres turn, every function of the car is perfect (efficient). Energy is expended. Fuel is burnt. The problem? It is working (active) but not moving towards any destination. A revving engine and moving tyres are not the primary purpose of a car’s activity. The car was designed to facilitate and hasten movement from one point to another (transport). If it is not doing that, it is not productive or effective. Peter Drucker, the management guru, has well defined the distinction between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is about doing things right but effectiveness is about doing the right things!
Wages are determined and paid on the basis of value brought to work to produce a predetermined outcome, not for the hours spent. Value, not time spent, determines wages. Life is not the Guinness Book of Records. It does not reward longevity for longevity’s sake. If this had been so, Methuselah who lived nine hundred and sixty nine years would have occupied a more prominent place in history than Jesus Christ who only lived thirty three and half years. Life rewards significance.
When Paul the apostle spoke about running according to the rules if he expects to be rewarded legitimately with a prize, he knew what he was talking about. He was making allusions to Nero the emperor who insisted on being crowned Olympic champion even if all that he did in the midst of an Olympic race was simply jump into the track at the finish line and insist that he had to be crowned winner. Everyone knew the truth but who dared argue with a demented Emperor who had butchered his own mother and wife and had gone ahead to set an entire city on fire while he played on his fiddle as the inferno raged!
Check your life. What are the areas where you have expended or are expending energy and nothing is being accomplished? Pull back and re-strategize. The activity may not be the problem but is there a connection between it and the predetermined end? If you cannot find any, you will need to retrace your steps. Life is too short to be lived with misplaced priorities.
Every activity must begin with an end in mind!
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!
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