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One thing new recruits to our community quickly learn is that they have to be self-starters if they want to succeed here. We each need to learn to plan, keep lists of jobs to be done, be flexible, prioritise, budget our time, and inspire and supervise others. All of this needs to be done lovingly, without neglecting our own spiritual and personal needs. (See also Self-Starters, and Job Lists, Budgets and Schedules.)

Our situation is further complicated, in that we don't have a boss to structure our days and tell us what to do and when to do it. There is no clocking on or clocking off. Our whole lives are literally given to God. Of course we have schedules, but they are designed by us.

Whereas the world relies on greed to inspire its workers, the true Kingdom of Heaven (which we hope to be a part of) depends on sincerity and faith. We encourage each other, but in the final analysis, it's our own faith and integrity that we have to rely on. We cannot borrow that from someone else.

In order to do all of this, we must each learn to be efficient managers. We begin our spiritual journey by learning to manage ourselves. Once we've mastered that, we should expand to teaching others how to manage themselves as well. If each of us is faithful, growth of some sort will be the natural product.

However, I have noticed that we too often let our lives become a reaction to the urgent needs that surround us, and this hampers our ability to manage our lives efficiently.

It's easy to be tossed to and fro by demands of one sort or another that crop up during the day, to the point where we put aside our long-term plans. If we are there to preach the gospel or get out the tracts or build a clinic, we may need to find ways to get around at least some of the "urgent" requests, even if it means saying "No" occasionally.

Our bigger plans will enable us to help more people in the end... but only if we get around to completing those plans.

We often get to the end of the day and discover that we forgot to do those things that we had on our job list. When this situation persists, it can lead to burnout, and make us unable to assist with those very "urgent" needs that distracted us in the first place. We must take charge of our own lives and not allow ourselves to be constantly thrown from one thing to another at the whim of those who shout the loudest.

There are four general areas of our lives that need daily input if we are to maximise our personal growth and service to others. Attendance to them gives us balance to withstand the trials that assault us, and gives us the strength to achieve our overall goals.

Spiritual Renewal

The first area of personal renewal is spiritual, and it involves such things as prayer, reading the Bible or other inspirational literature, and contemplating our basic values and principles. We need to daily expand the "God spot" (that area of the brain that scientists are beginning to discover, which represents our spiritual development). Get in touch with God and learn from him.

Being a Christian community, you would think that spiritual growth and development would be our strong point. However, because our emphasis is on personal prayer and personal study, it is up to each individual to discipline themselves to find time in their schedules for these activities. If you are not personally committed to such growth, you will just fail to fit it in, and you will suffer as a result.

Of course there are group listening and study times; but they are not enough. It is assumed that we individually will tend to our own personal growth in these areas as well. If you don't put it on your daily (personal) schedule, these spiritual needs will be overlooked, and your relationship with God will fade as quickly as it would in the secular world.

Social/Emotional Renewal

The second area of concern is social and emotional. It includes the service that we give to others, listening empathetically, recreation and relaxation, and just being a friend. God created us as social beings. We need to love and to be loved. We cannot do that in isolation. Make sure you allow time for this, or you will suffer emotionally, and relationships within the community will break down.

Physical Renewal

The third area is physical. We need to keep ourselves clean (and groomed), eat healthy foods, allow for specific physical limitations and needs, exercise regularly, manage stress, and get adequate sleep.

We cannot expect a child's needs to be adequately met by keeping to an adult timetable. The only way to meet their special needs is to schedule time for them. Similarly, a 45-year-old will not have the same energy levels or dietary needs as an 18-year-old. We cannot assume these individual needs will be met. We have to plan for them.

In our busy days we sometimes neglect our own needs in service to others. This can work in the short term, but consistent neglect undermines not only our own health, but the very service we are making sacrifices for. Like the flight attendant on any plane will tell you, when an emergency happens, put your own oxygen mask on first, so you'll be able to assist those who are unable to do so for themselves.

Mental Renewal

The fourth area of personal renewal is mental. The "use it or lose it" concept is applicable in all four areas of personal development, but its truth is most evident in the physical and mental areas. If you stop exercising a part of your body, the muscles in that area begin to wither, the bones become less dense, and joints calcify and become immobile.

Similarly, if you don't exercise your mental abilities, they will decline. We need to read, study, develop talents, and learn new skills. Keep your mind active through learning, and you will be more vibrant and enthusiastic in all that you do. Wisdom is knowledge rightly applied. Make time to develop and expand your mental capacity so that you will be more useable for the kingdom!

In conclusion, as self-starters and managers, we need to remember the importance of balance in our lives and in our community. When planning daily schedules and long term goals, look beyond the daily workload to the four areas of personal renewal. Each day, set aside time for physical, social/emotional, spiritual, and mental components. It will take valuable time from each day, but it will ensure staying power, so that you will be able to cover the distance as a result. Remember the words of Jesus: "He who endures to the end" will receive the reward. (Matthew 10:22)


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