Every worker for God wants to be successful. We are told that a disciplined, organized mind is essential for such success. Also, the worker for Christ should not shun mental discipline. In other words, we should be willing to let the Holy Spirit organize us.
We, who are so accustomed to organizing others, must not resist organization ourselves. And this goes for our workers too. Sometimes this can be painful, if we have been lax along these lines. Our type of work is a perfect target for Satan as he strives to create disorder. We have no time clock to punch like some other workers. The responsibility of faithfully utilizing our time is ours.
God's servant tells us that we must have rules to achieve success through order and discipline. What are some of these rules?
Recognize priorities. "By dallying over the less important matters, they find themselves hurried, perplexed, and confused when they are called upon to do those duties that are more essential."1 We need to know how, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to put first things first.
Have a plan. "Everything must be done according to a wellmatured plan, and with system."2 That doesn't leave much out, does it? Sometimes we all feel too busy to take time to plan. But if we would do this, we would save more time in the final analysis.
Cultivate regularity and punctuality. Even the best schedule can be interrupted; nevertheless, a definite schedule is necessary for us to work smoothly and successfully. "Regularity in all things is essential. Never be late to an appointment."3 None of us likes to see people straggling late into Sabbath school and the worship service. How do we feel when the situation is reversed?
Make works and time count. We should never be too busy to help precious souls, and may God guard us from "professionalism," but we should avoid useless motion. "In no department or office should time be lost in unnecessary conversations."4 Let us make our time count for Christ, for souls, and for eternity.
Prompt attention to important matters. By important matters we mean more than priority. We need to recognize what is important, but we must also move ahead quickly on those things. If you question this at all, listen to this counsel: "The unfortunate habit of neglecting a special work which needs to be done at a certain time trebles the difficulty of performing it later with exactness and without leaving something neglected or unfinished."5 I don't believe that any of us want to triple the difficulties of our work.
Have a notebook and use it. "If necessary, have a small book in which to jot down the things that need to be done, and set yourself a time in which to do your work."6 If you would avoid many "slips" and the constant clouds of uneasiness involved in wondering whether you are forgetting to do something, make good use of your little book.
Have no sidelines. There is much that could be said in this area and in matters of definition. May the Holy Spirit guide all of us, as we consider the principle enunciated in the following: "Elder X will surely lose his bearings unless he ceases to interest himself in work that God does not require him to do, work that demands attention to business details. By engaging in secular work, he would not be doing that which has been appointed him by God. The proclamation of the gospel message will be his light and life." 7 What is our real "light" and "life"?
Observe regular rest hours. This point should be noted as being clearly supported in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. God's Word says we should be "temperate in all things." Do we sometimes even boast of our irregular, intemperate programs as though we were almost proud of them? If God's worker is tired, nothing seems right. His God, his own experience, his church members, and his own family all suffer as a consequence. It takes discipline to get sufficient physical rest. Rest is important. Leave some things unfinished. The late Robert Frost put it this way: "I leave a great deal to unfinished business."
Lest anyone misunderstand, let me hasten to add that this does not contradict the previous points on our list. Donald Culross Peattie's comment on Frost's statement will clarify:
"Toss them about in your mind, you worried and hurried ones. Savor the richness of time and patience, of hope and faith that lies in this simple utterance. For there is much in the business of our lives that we cannot hasten for all the urgency of speed that today devils us. There is much and this is true of the most important of our affairs that cannot be concluded in a day, or a week, or a month, but must be allowed to take a guided course. We are too prone to bring it with us to our rest, and thrash it over uselessly .... When an acorn fallen from an oak at last splits its husk, sprouts, and begins to take root, how much unfinished business lies ahead of it! It has no contract with the sun and rain to have become an oak tree by a certain date. But with their help, it will grow until it towers and spreads shade, in the good time we call God's. We ought as trustingly to let our plans and problems ripen to solution, knowing there is another Hand in the business besides our own. To leave a question to 'unfinished business' is not to abandon the task. It is to attain the serenity which will give us strength to carry on with it when the call to effort comes." Thus, even in God's work, we must, in this sense, leave a great deal to "unfinished business."
If, by the grace of God and with the help of His Holy Spirit, we follow such God-given suggestions, what will be the result? "Such a training is necessary not only for the young men but for the older workers in order that their ministry may be free from mistakes, and their sermons be clear, accurate, and convincing."8 May God give us such an experience and such a ministry.
Ellen G. White Books:
1. Evangelism, p. 649.
5. Ibid., p. 651.
6. The Youth's Instructor, Jan. 28, 1897.
7. Evangelism, p. 654.
8. Ibid., p. 648.
John R. Loor, Sr., retired president of the Indiana Conference.