I must love lists. I have enough of them. Let me list a few:
- Daily to-do list
- Grocery list
- Book editing checklist
- Book launch tasks
- Blog post ideas
- Weekly goals
- Top ten favorite foods
- Prayer list
I even found a file on my computer this morning called, “Master To-Do list.” I’m afraid to open it.
I must be obsessed with lists.
Lists must be an okay thing. I found several in the Bible. Can you name some?
- Ten Commandments
- Twelve Apostles
- Names of Jacob’s sons
- Paul’s list of friends in Rome (Romans 16)
Why do we need lists anyway?
Lists help organize and group information into useful categories. They help us chart our course and plan a chronological or prioritized plan of action. Lists make it easier to remember facts and knowledge tidbits. They help us visualize at a glance what we need to get done and collects that pertinent information into a designated place.
Like anything in life, lists can be useful or detrimental.
I tend to be a “check-it-off” kind of person. With an extra flourish, I love to erase a completed task from my white board at the end of the day. I feel a letdown if I’ve forgotten an item on my grocery list. And I’ve been known to create a done-did list so I can feel that surge of accomplishment.
Maybe that’s why the other kind of lists in the Bible frustrate me.
- Love actions in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
- Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23
- Character qualities in 2 Peter 1:5-7
None of us can put a check mark beside these qualities or actions by the end of the day. Yet I’ve seen teaching material that has suggested that very thing. This week, work on developing joy in your life. Next week, work on patience.
It’s not that simple.
The Bible gives these lists as overall guidelines of what a life controlled by Christ l looks like. All of them stem from a deep relationship with God. Fruits are by-products. If I’m closely connected to Jesus in a healthy way, that relationship will naturally produce signs of His presence. Examples of those by-products are—see the list! When we’re fed by the Spirit, the fruit will come.
Becoming like Christ is an ongoing process
Whenever our family moved from one location to another, I had multiple lists of things that had to happen before we locked our house for the last time. Inevitably, the clock ran out and there were chores we had to let go as undone.
In the same way, items on my character list won’t be completed by the time of my death. That’s okay. God’s grace covers me and makes me complete when I join Him in Heaven . For now, He continues to cultivate us, helping us grow and adding layer after layer of His likeness onto our character. Spiritual formation takes a lifetime, and the change happens day by day.
So what about my attitude toward lists?
I’ve learned five important facts about lists.
Lists are a tool. You rule your lists. The lists don’t rule you. The moment you and I look at lists with a “conquer the miles” mentality is the moment we’ve slipped into a legalistic mindset that Jesus doesn’t want us to have. Instead, He calls us to relationship with Him, allowing Him to direct our paths and mold our character according to His best plans for us.
God’s Master List is simple. Love God, love others. Everything else in life is covered by those two guiding principles.
Be content with incompletion. Paul said, “ . . . he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Paul did not say that God will complete His work by the end of the day nor even by the end of our lifetime. If God takes his time in finishing us, then we need to take the same attitude and not rush His work.
Let the greater good usurp the list. Check out James 3:13-17. Sounds like list makers, huh? James calls his readers—you and me—to let go of our plans if we become aware of greater good that needs to be done.
Find joy in the journey. Focus not on things that are five miles away but on what is five feet away. Hold your lists loosely, allowing yourself wiggle room to deviate as God directs.
Put God first.
Whether inviting God to provide what I need at the grocery store, organize my daily agenda, or cultivate character changes in my life, I’ll find peace when I put God at the top of my lists. He wants to a part of every aspect of my life—even my lists.
What’s your favorite kind of list?
I’d love to share some TODAY! Bible verse memes with you!
If you already subscribe to my Author email newsletter, you’ll be getting an email with a link to those memes soon.
If you are not a subscriber, now is a great time to join the Grace On Parade community. When you sign up, I’ll send you a folder of Bible verse memes. Feel free to share them on your social media outlets so we can encourage others to focus on TODAY!
Click here to receive the Grace On Parade newsletter.