The Spiritual Tool of Self-Management
To overcome and grow spiritually, we need to effectively use the spiritual tool of self-management—including wise stewardship and self-control.
The four best-known spiritual tools used by Christians are prayer, Bible study, meditation and fasting. But those aren’t the only spiritual tools.
Through Bible study, we can uncover additional spiritual tools available for Christians to use in their efforts to seek God. An additional means of spiritual growth identified in Scripture is spiritual self-management.
A physical tool, like a hammer or a pen, is something used to aid in performing a physical task. Similarly, a spiritual tool is used to aid us in seeking God and His righteousness.
This post looks at how we can use spiritual self-management to more effectively do the will of God.
Self-management in Scripture
Self-management is the planning, organizing, leading and controlling of yourself, your resources, your responsibilities and tasks in order to get things done successfully. It includes Christian time management and decision making.
We are instructed in Luke 12:42-43 to be faithful and wise stewards: “And the Lord said, ‘Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.’”
The Greek word translated “steward” means manager. So we are to be effective managers of our physical and spiritual resources and responsibilities.
Parables of the talents and the pounds or minas
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and in the parable of the pounds or minas (Luke 19:12-27), Christians are likened to servants or managers. God gives each of them resources that they are expected to manage in such a way as to produce a profit. That is, in the spiritual sense, they are to be profitable servants, producing fruit of spiritual character. These parables also teach us that we will be rewarded according to how well we use those resources for spiritual growth.
God invests physical and spiritual resources in us and expects us to produce spiritual fruit. In Luke 12:48 God is portrayed as an investor who entrusts Christian managers with resources for which He expects a return: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
Jesus Christ is using investing as an analogy for spiritual growth. Wall Street investors expect greater returns (in the form of interest and dividends) from their bigger bond and stock investments, and they expect lesser returns from their smaller investments.
God invests physical and spiritual resources in us and expects us to produce spiritual fruit. And to perform according to God’s expectations, we must be effective managers of those resources. Examples of the wonderful spiritual blessings God provides include God’s grace, Christ’s sacrifice, God’s Spirit, God’s calling, the Bible, access to the teaching and guidance of the ministry, talents, gifts and opportunities. We are to be good managers of these spiritual resources (1 Peter 4:10).
The difference that self-management makes
The tool of self-management is important because, as we learn from the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-30), it is not merely good intentions that lead us to do God’s will. The son who actually went to work in the vineyard is praised, not the one who just said he would. We need to effectively use the spiritual tools to actually accomplish God’s will.
We also need the tool of self-management because the Christian life involves prioritizing in order to get things done. Learn more in our article “Christian Priorities: Putting God First.”
Using the tool of self-management
Applying self-management involves planning, organizing, leading and controlling. It can also include becoming skilled at developing schedules, timetables and task lists as aids to managing ourselves.
Planning involves setting goals and determining the steps required to achieve those goals. For example, after a process of self-examination, you may determine that you need to set goals for overcoming bad habits. You can then outline a strategy to do your part to achieve those goals. Without planning, you will not have laid the groundwork required for sustained and steadfast effort to persevere and conquer those habits.
The principle of planning is illustrated in Luke 14:28-30. Counting the cost is a planning process that is required not only for the Christian journey as a whole, but also for individual tasks we must complete during that journey. As this passage shows, planning and counting the cost are prerequisites to ensuring that we see a task through to the end. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.
Organizing involves creating appropriate places for things and keeping things in their appropriate places. These may be in a list of things to do, or a timetable or schedule. Task lists, timetables and schedules are management tools that can help us organize our goals, tasks and responsibilities. They also help us organize our resources, such as time, money, energy, sermon notes and Bible study resources.
Leading involves guiding, prodding and disciplining yourself to maintain effort toward achieving your goals. You do this by using a knowledge of God’s Word. This includes the biblical principle of self-mastery, self-control, self-sacrifice and figurative self-crucifixion. If we don’t drive ourselves to achieve our goals, we won’t achieve them (compare Philippians 3:13-14 and 1 Corinthians 9:25-27). Of course, our efforts must be combined with faith in God’s power and guidance.
Controlling involves monitoring your progress toward your goal and making course corrections if you find you are deviating from the path to your goals. This concept is similar to watching where your car is going while driving and making timely course corrections with the steering wheel.
Periodically check your task list and deadlines to see whether you are making headway toward your goals or whether you are distracted and moving away from them. Then make any required course corrections and recommit yourself to getting back on track toward your overcoming goals.
Self-management is essential for spiritual and personal growth. It remains our responsibility to decide how we will use self-management. Will we effectively make use of it, or will we ignore it and just limp along?
Let’s add this tool to our spiritual toolbox and be more productive and profitable stewards of the resources God has given us.