A lesson God's been teaching me for a long time finally came into clear enough focus this week to put it into words.
You see, I'm one of those "to-do list people." I like brief tasks that I can accomplish in a couple hours at most. So when a larger task comes my way - a major research project, writing a book, etc. - I have to consciously shift my mindset to constantly remember how important this big project is...because big goals don't provide me with the same sense of satisfaction and instant accomplishment that the smaller tasks do. But the big things are far more important.
But when it comes to our faith, we have to think in terms of eternity. So what I've come to realize is this: Any tasks for Christ that we can accomplish in our time on Earth, even those we think of as long-term (like a three-year missions trip, or learning a Biblical language, or writing a commentary on the New Testament), are the short-term ones...what we must think of as our long-term goals are the ones that we cannot possibly accomplish on this planet - things like having a genuine servant's heart, or loving others with God's love.
Are the "smaller" tasks I mentioned important? Of course! So are the really-really-really small ones like saying hello to one person at church or reading a devotional each day - if our Creator has asked us to do it, we know it's important. But the goals that we can never fully accomplish are more important still.
If you're like me, you like the ones you can accomplish far more than the ones you can't. But we should never let that get in the way of working toward those bigger goals.
If I make sure to add to my daily schedule an hour studying Biblical Greek and an hour praying and two hours analyzing Scripture, but that stresses me out to the point that I ruin my witness by being rude to people, or makes me too busy to serve others with my time, I have sacrificed the most important things for something of far less value.
Paul wrote about a similar principle in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3...
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Father, let us all actively strive toward all the manifestations of the grandest goal you give us - that of becoming like your Son, of being in Your image once more - even though we know that while on this Earth, it will never be accomplished - we can never cross it off as complete. Let those daily tasks related to our walks with you, even though they give us a greater sense of accomplishment, not get in the way of truly pursuing You and Your character. Amen.
Here is an inspirational spoken word piece related to this topic by Propaganda. Even if that art form isn't really your thing, give it a try - it's short. :-)