hand-written checklist to find your one thing

Three Ps to Help Find Your ONE Thing

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Scott Hamilton, YTI Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling

June 21, 2018

I recently read a book suggesting that people want less. According to Gary Keller and Jay Papason in The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, people want less on their plates, they want less responsibility—basically, they want less everything. However, the authors explain that people also want more. Folks want more productivity, more income for a better lifestyle, more life satisfaction, and more time for family and friends. As you might have surmised from the title, their book helps focus on your ONE Thing.

Keller and Papasan go on to outline how to cut through life’s clutter, achieve more results in less time, lessen stress, overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed, revive personal energy, and stay on track. They also acknowledge the existence of life’s various roles and emphasize focusing on your ONE Thing in each of those life roles. So, readers need to focus on the ONE Thing that helps people serve their families best. Folks need to focus on the ONE Thing that best facilitates their work.

Your ONE Thing

Now, the secret to discerning your ONE Thing is this clarifying question: What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? The question is truly simplistic yet helps you drill down to the smallest thing that will assist the accomplishment of the largest task.

As 2018 nears mid-year, my proposition for your ONE Thing to be is the kingdom of God. In other words, focusing on the kingdom of God will make life easier and likely render everything else in life unnecessary. The encouragement for today is to live with purpose, to live by priority, and to live for productivity. Let’s look at each of them.

Live with Purpose

If your ONE Thing is the kingdom of God, then seeking the Kingdom of God becomes our purpose. Here’s the challenge: What does the Kingdom of God look like? Is there any definitive way to know if you’re actually living out that purpose? Remember what the prophet Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 29:11. Speaking for God, the prophet says that God has plans for us, to give us a future and a hope. As Christians, our future hope comes through Jesus Christ. Matthew 6:33 tells us to first seek the kingdom of God; in so doing, God provides everything else we need. The process seems simple enough, but is the practice truly that straightforward?

I’ll be the first one to confess to the difficulty of finding my true purpose. Sadly, I’m not sure I’m much help defining what it means to seek the Kingdom of God first, aside from putting God first, and I suspect doing so manifests itself differently for each of us. The process, at least for me, is one of trial and error. I try to do the things I enjoy and the things that highlight my talents and gifts. When I hit the sweet spot of enjoying the task while exercising my giftedness, it’s magic.

The magic occasionally happens in the classroom. There is nothing more satisfying than watching students gain insight into a subject or problem. Such moments remind me that I’m occasionally in the right place at the right time. I get the biggest kick out of God’s divine sense of humor when God takes my feeble offering and does something miraculous with it.

I can’t always quantify what living with purpose looks like, but I am able to recognize it after the event. I hope you live out your Christian walk knowing that, according to John 15:16, God chose and appointed you to go and bear fruit, remembering that whatever you ask in God’s name, God will provide.

Live by Priority

Assuming we’re on the right track, saying that living with purpose is putting God’s kingdom first, and acknowledging that doing so will vary between people, then it’s also safe to say that living with purpose requires action. Living out our priorities is about action. After all, Christianity is not a spectator sport.

Rick Warren said, “Living in light of eternity changes your priorities.” My father-in-law used to say it this way: In light of eternity, what does this (action or circumstance) matter? If the purpose, the why we do something, is important, then what we do is no less important.

Let me ask a question. Is there an activity you undertake that suggests your priority is the kingdom of God? Yes, I’m meddling a bit. Written with all the compassion I can muster, people make time for what’s important to them. People demonstrate their priorities by what they do.

What actions can we complete that suggest the purpose of life is manifesting the kingdom of God on earth? I’ll confess to having those days when I’m just not interested in kingdom work. Maybe I’m tired; I may be frustrated; perhaps I want to scream at someone in aggravation but don’t because middle-aged Christian men aren’t supposed to do that.

My lack of interest in kingdom work does not remove my responsibility to do it, however. During such moments, I have to pray that God would increase while I decrease. That’s right, I’ve confronted the harsh reality that my Christian walk is not all about me. There are days when God calls us to do things we’re unqualified to complete, which is when we submit ourselves to him most. Doing so is the only way to survive.

I’ve confronted the harsh reality that my Christian walk is not all about me. There are days when God calls us to do things we’re unqualified to complete, which is when we submit ourselves to him most.

I told you earlier that I’m not sure I live in a way that represents well the kingdom of God. I’m also telling you that I don’t always complete the actions that come through my divine purpose. There are days when I worry about what I will eat, the failings of my body, and what I will wear. When I’m patient with myself, I receive a gentle reminder from the Holy Spirit telling me that God takes care of birds, animals, and lilies; God will surely take care of me. Don’t worry! Even when our actions are incomplete, God will use whatever we’ve offered to accomplish God’s work, likely in spite of us.

Live for Productivity

When our priorities reside in the kingdom of God, we will act in ways that suggest we are children of God, even when we don’t do it well. God did not call us to sit and do nothing. Insofar as we’re able, we’re to be productive kingdom citizens.

Matthew 25:14-30 tells the story of a man departing on a journey, leaving his servants in charge of his affairs. To the first servant, the man gave five talents. To the second servant, he gave two talents. The third servant received one talent.

I’m sure you remember the story. The merchant comes back and wants to know how the servants have done with the talents given them. The first servant doubled his talents and now has 10. The second servant has also doubled his talents and now has 4. The third servant was afraid; he dug a hole and buried the talent because his boss was a hard task master.

The master took the third servant’s talent and gave it to the one with 10 and threw the third servant into utter darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. What are we to take away from this parable?

God has given us things to do, whether specific tasks or the exercising of our gifts and talents, and if we are unfaithful and don’t complete actions he assigns us, if we waste our talents and gifts, God will give them to those who will use them appropriately. God will accomplish what God wants to accomplish whether we participate or not.

Three Ps

I think we’ve come full circle. In life, your ONE Thing that renders all other things unnecessary is seeking first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. When living out the kingdom of God becomes our purpose, that purpose prompts action by exercising our priorities and living productively reveals our purpose.