Ken W. Smith, President and Founder, Christian Stewardship Ministries
© Copyright 1997 by Christian Stewardship Ministries. Contact Ken at: www.csmin.org.
Summary: Being God’s steward means living as a reliable and trustworthy person. This author shares practical information for becoming that reliable Christian.
When was the last time you said you would do something, but then did not do it? Or you did it so poorly that everyone would have been better off if you had said “No” to begin with?
If you make a habit of breaking your promises, you will soon develop a reputation as an unreliable person…. [But] … if you are a Christian, you have another problem. Jesus tells us, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’ (Mt 5:37). When we say “Yes,” but we are consistently unreliable, we do more than damage our own reputation—we damage God’s reputation in the eyes of those who see Him through us. Not only do we discourage other Christians, but we also discourage unbelievers from even considering the claims of Christ.
I have never met anyone who really wanted to be known as unreliable. But I have known many people who have too often said “Yes” when they should have said “No.” Or have said “Yes,” but then did not perform as they promised due to poor organization.… I am not talking about the person who occasionally does not live up to commitments. We have all experienced that from time to time. I am talking about the person who acquires a reputation for not being reliable
There are several reasons people become known as unreliable. Sometimes just recognizing the problem and making a conscious effort to do what you say you will do will change your reputation. Or perhaps you need to improve poor personal organization or develop your ability to say “No” to ensure that you can keep your commitments.
If you are not well-organized, you may want to become better organized if you can see it in terms of what God wants you to do or be or become. Ask God to show you His desire for you in terms of personal organization. If your struggle is not so much whether God wants you to be better organized, but rather how to get there, then be sure you have enough regular daily quiet time to enable Him to tell you how.
And if your struggle involves knowing when or how to say “No,” this is what you should address in your time with God. The bottom line is that unless, and until, you are willing … to spend enough time with God regularly, you probably will not make significant progress in becoming more reliable. And if you do, you will.
Listening and planning
To begin seeking God’s guidance, if you have no time regularly committed, start with fifteen minutes a day. If you already have established the habit, then set a goal of one hour with the Lord, but work up to that gradually. And if you already spend an hour, concentrate on improving the quality of your time with Him.
To become reliable, you also need a regular time for personal planning and daily organization. Again, if you do not have any time set aside for planning, you might begin with ten or fifteen minutes. Even that will seem like a long time until you learn to fill it wisely….
Try scheduling your planning time in the morning before the day catches up with you … or at the end of the day. After you have established a routine, you can discover the best time for you on an ongoing basis.
During planning time, you need to do several things to improve your ability to be reliable. First, make a list of all the commitments you have made to others, including God. Remember your spouse, your children, your boss, your coworkers … and everyone you talked to the day before. Perhaps you could write down any commitments you make.
Next, establish a date to fulfill every commitment you have made. Some short-term commitments you can complete immediately. Long-term projects you may need to break into steps, giving each step its own deadline. Finally, you need to report to each person to whom you made a commitment. Even if you have not done what you promised, at least report your progress or lack thereof.
When you set aside planning time on a daily basis, you can review your ongoing commitments and add any new ones you made the prior day. You can begin to measure your progress and see where you are slipping. You can give yourself time to recover before it is too late. And if all else fails, you can at least tell the person you committed to that you have not lived up to the commitment.
Too often, when we see ourselves slipping behind, we hunker down and sentence ourselves to feeling guilty. Time passes, and so does the pain associated with a broken commitment—until we see the other person, or remember. Then the guilt washes over us again and again.
If you are living with the guilt of broken commitments, put them to rest. Call the people involved and ask for their forgiveness. Then accept that forgiveness, forgive yourself, and move on. If you are struggling with a commitment that you must break, take the initiative. Contact the person and receive a release from the commitment, or make a new one you can keep.
Once quiet time and planning time have become routine parts of your day, you are ready to establish other routines. Routines are the key to personal organization, and personal organization is the key to becoming consistently reliable. You should have a routine time to go to bed and a routine time to get up. A routine time to break for lunch and to leave the office. If you have a family, you should have a routine dinner time and a routine time to spend with family members.
As you establish more routines in your life, you will find that you are becoming more reliable. You will begin to think in terms of when you will do the things you are committing to. Just as importantly, you will begin to realize what you do not have time for. You will begin to say “No” and not feel guilty. You will realize before saying “Yes” that if you do, you run the risk of being unreliable....
Breaking the tardiness habit
It is easy to overlook punctuality as a problem area. But have you ever heard anyone rush into a meeting or appointment and say, “Boy, am I glad I am late”? Of course not. We instinctively know that tardiness is bad…. But have you ever stopped to think about why habitual tardiness is bad? It is because habitual tardiness indicates a lack of respect for the other person.
If you are guilty of habitual tardiness, try looking at it as being consistently unreliable. If people expect and plan for you to be late, your reputation is sullied. In effect, you are saying that you consider yourself more important than those around you…. If you want to overcome habitual tardiness, decide to and plan to be early wherever you go. Determine in advance when you should leave in order to be early, and then exercise the discipline to leave at that time.
If you need some help—some accountability—then you might impose a fine on yourself for every minute you are late. Or … give up something you want whenever you are late.
Being reliable is important, to you and to God. So make it a priority. If you want to be known as a reliable person, true to the commitments you make, decide to become better organized. Allow time for listening to God and for personal planning. Establish routines and commit yourself to breaking the tardiness habit. Follow these simple measures, and you will succeed.