Repentance: Journey or Destination?

So maybe you’ve fallen off the productivity wagon.
Maybe your conscience has just been pricked over all the time you’ve wasted channel flipping or aimlessly surfing the internet.

What now?

The answer, of course, is to repent. To admit that being a poor steward of our time is a sin. To claim the mercy offered us because of the cross of Christ. And then to change our behavior.

In fact, that change in behavior is crucial. A change in heart leads to changes in the way we act – and without this change in our actions, repentance never really happened.

But what does this change in behavior look like?

Dramatic Change?

A thief who falls under conviction from the Spirit changes and stops stealing. There isn’t a slow transition from stealing to not stealing. It would seem that repentance doesn’t wait – that true repentance results in immediate and dramatic changes.

But I think that’s a dangerous way to look at repentance.

Let’s say you’re 70 pounds overweight, you eat nothing but Big Macs, and your exercise consists of pushing buttons on a remote control. You suddenly realize one day that you’re not a good steward of your physical body. Do you wake up the next day and expect to run 10 miles and eat a stellar diet of only 1200 calories?

That’s certainly dramatic action, but there’s a good chance you’re setting yourself up for failure. While most people might think that such an exhaustive physical routine would be silly, we often expect the same out of ourselves in terms of our time stewardship.

We may not have our goals clearly formulated, we may waste a lot of time in silly recreation and leisure, and we may spend our days in a constantly unfocused and unorganized state.

Don’t think that the only acceptable approach is to wake up the next day and go full out with a productivity overhaul.

Pitfalls with Requiring Immediate and Drastic Change

First, if we’re only satisfied with dramatic change, we tend to put this overhaul off until a convenient time. It starts as “next week, I’ll have some free time to get organized and start being productive.” But that time keeps getting bumped back and bumped back until we end up not doing anything at all.

Second, setting the performance bar incredibly high puts it at a level that’s difficult for us to sustain. After inevitably stumbling, we look at it as a spiritual shortcoming instead of a practical failing of setting our mark too high.

Third, going all out for dramatic change can make us miss the very essence of what true repentance is. It’s not simply about what we do. It’s about the condition of our heart.

A change in heart will lead us to want to change our behavior dramatically. But it’s all too easy to focus on the behavior and slip into more heart problems. We start off as truly repentant and slip into a legalistic view of our actions.

And let’s not forget: God isn’t calling you to have a pristinely organized teaser file or to run 10 miles. He’s simply calling you to be faithful with what you have.

A Better Way

Here’s how to think about it: Repentance has to lead to action. But think of the change in behavior like a journey and not a destination.

It’s OK to tackle changes in our actions one step at a time instead of one million at a time. Getting in peak physical shape doesn’t happen overnight. Why should it be the same with other areas of our life like our time stewardship?

Instead, pray about a few things that God wants you to change right now. Maybe it’s limiting the time that you waste in entertainment. Maybe it’s being aware of your state of mental focus or taking fewer breaks at work.

Make more changes after those. And then more changes. And then more.
The repentant heart will welcome and invite all of these changes.

And pretty soon, you arrive at your destination. Repentance launched you on a journey and kept you going until the end.

So don’t beat yourself up unnecessarily.
It’s OK to go slow.
With our hearts right, the action naturally follows – at a pace that remains both possible and faithful.

What are some of the steps you need to take on your journey right now?

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