Many of us have those seasons in life where we can’t seem to say no to things. The word “no” can be scary. The look of disappointment on your friend’s face when you say you can’t make their party. Or worse, it’s a boss who needs a favor and saying no could have professional repercussions. Whatever the situation, the word “yes” seems to roll off the tongue in a way “no” rarely does. “Sure I’ll go to that party your friend is hosting!” “Yes, I can help with the move to your new apartment!” With a yes we can save face and maybe buy some time while we reconsider. But what happens when the yes’s pile up and you find yourself beyond your bandwidth?
Beyond your Bandwidth
Unfortunately as believers we can get stuck on the Christian ministry treadmill. We then find ourselves overextended, out of bandwidth, and ineffective. It was Jesus himself who wanted us to bear fruit, and not just the kind that falls on the ground. That’s not to say Jesus didn’t understand work. He was the guy who did so much ministry that he fell asleep in a boat as it was about to sink. However, Jesus focused his efforts on the work his Father had him doing, and therefore always bore healthy, lasting fruit. No one wants to work and have it not count for nothing, which is precisely why Jesus tells us to work smarter, not just harder.
Working smarter means doing kingdom work that reaps a huge return. The key is not just grinding out the work that seems logical to you. It’s found in a really hard “no” when a “yes” might provide a softer relational landing pad. Working smarter doesn’t necessarily mean working more, but rather working with a greater faith quotient. James said if faith isn’t attached to your works they are dead, and if your works are dead they won’t bear the hundred fold increase you’re looking for. On the converse, works done apart from faith will lead to burnout. Jesus says his burden is light because he calls us to a higher wisdom where we work smarter and partner with him in what he is already doing. Working smarter has two key components:
The intimacy piece is seen most clearly in the life of Peter, who was with Jesus at all the pivotal moments in ministry: the transfiguration, the raising of the girl from the dead, walking on water, and the crucifixion.
Initially, he fumbled with broken nets and sinking boats when Jesus calls in a huge catch of fish. After three and a half years with Jesus, not only are Peter’s nets fully intact, he and the other disciples are able to count and record that 153 fish were caught. They have been discipled by the guy who invented abundance, and now they are confident when confronted with an abundant catch. Peter’s growth in capacity continues when Jesus asks him to shepherd the entire community of believers.
Jesus didn’t recruit Peter based on his ability to work hard. He bases it on whether Peter can work smart, which is based on a love for Jesus. This is where Jesus has Peter grade his love in comparison to his peers. “Peter, is your love quotient for me at least three points above James and John?” Peter replied yes and Jesus responded, “the job is yours!” Connection based in love is what released and qualified Peter to be the head of the entire Christian church. Connected work is smart work. Jesus knew if he could get people truly connected to him, they would change the face of the world.
Bad stewardship turns riches into rags. Our God is a good Dad who wants to pour out blessing, but if we can’t steward blessing he won’t curse us with it. From this place, we can stop trying to convince God to bless us more and instead just start stewarding what’s already in our hands. When he sees us manage shrewdly, he knows we are ready for more.
God’s not looking for a work horse who will just do a bunch of stuff for him, he’s looking for people who will partner with him by staying connected and managing responsibly everything he puts in their hands. When we develop trust with him in these arenas, new capacities will be birthed and we will partner with him to see a hundred fold increase in our sphere of influence.