Smarter, Faster, Stronger, Wiser :: Faster

At Gateway Church in Austin, we started a new series.

Everyone wants to get smarter, faster, and stronger when a new year rolls around, but those goals can come and go. What if we actually set as a new year’s resolution to become wiser? God’s wisdom found in the Proverbs affects every area of our lives and doesn’t just make us a little better in the short run. Are you looking to God to help you get wiser and to right-order your life this year?


These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.



We want to be Faster—more productive, get things done, kinds of people—nothing wrong with that, but is the WAY we’re being productive Wise?

Or just Wearing us out?

Our world screams at us “work harder, stay busier, do more…hurry, faster, faster.”

  • So many of us live stressed out, worried up, moving fast but often wonder if we’re heading in the right direction—
  • surrounded by sound but unable to sit quietly to gain clarity—
  • we keep moving faster but hydroplane relationally—without many deep life-giving relationships.
  • Maybe true success is not simply “faster, faster, faster—everything now.”
  • Maybe it’s being Wise about what we’re trying to accomplish so fast, and how we’re going at it.

Honestly, I feel like I’ve tried, failed, adjusted, tried again and learned a whole lot over 25 years of trying to be productive.  I’ve read all the best books, tried all the proven marketplace methods to get more done, and I’ve had seasons of accomplishing a lot and hating my life because of it. I’ve lived worried, stressed, constantly feeling behind or like I don’t ever have enough time.  But I’ve also learned through it all, and as I’ve applied the Wisdom of God to all the best practices—I’ve experienced a worry-free, stress-free way to be more productive. I’m not perfect at it AND I definitely disappoint people from time to time – productivity is a life-long learning process—but as I look back, I have accomplished a lot, but more importantly, I have a loving family, awesome kids that I didn’t neglect trying to do more faster, many great friendships. So as a fellow struggler, I’ll share what I’ve learned over 25 years.

Think about what you want to accomplish this year, and test and see if God’s Wisdom about productivity isn’t a better way to accomplish more of the right things with less stress.

Productivity is Good – In Genesis, the first book of the bible it says God created us in His Image – God’s creative and orderly, and we were created to co-labor with God in caring for and developing His Creation. Part of loving God well is to partner with God to use and develop our skills and abilities to serve humanity. Now, we all get disconnected from God, so it gets all twisted up—but that was the original idea.

That’s why the Wisdom of Proverbs says:

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.  He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son. Proverbs 10:4-5  

Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper. Prov 13:4  

Work and productivity are good—it’s God honoring to set goals, work hard, not be a slacker, but be diligent.  Lots of Proverbs compare the diligent person to the lazy person. In fact, Solomon gets a little personal:

How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. Prov 6:9-10

You know it’s interesting where we get the word “professional.” The dictionary definition of professional is “having a particular profession as a permanent, paid career” but the term actually comes from the 16th century when Martin Luther and some church leaders wanted to Reform the church to reflect the Bible. This was truly revolutionary!

Interestingly, in the 1930s, an African American pastor named Michael King was so inspired by the story of Martin Luther that he changed his name and his son’s name. Tomorrow we honor his son, another reformer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But back in the 16th century, Martin Luther believed following Christ needed to impact every area including the work life. The reformers said, “how you work is a profession of what you believe about God”–a profession of your faith–professional. And it was based on that Biblical value of work that America became so productive as a new nation 200 years ago—but we’re starting to lose that value.  You don’t hear much about the value of diligence and hard work over the long haul as being good—you hear the opposite:

  • The 4 hour work week,
  • how to make millions quickly,
  • how to not work and have passive income—

that’s the click bait of our society.

As a Pastor who cares about people—I’ve watched many people get caught up into schemes to get-rich-quick, and I can’t think of one that’s worked out well. Some do—I know—most don’t. Most end right where Proverbs said:

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare. Prov 21:5-6  

Haste leads to poverty, get rich quick usually backfires—and getting rich by cutting ethical corners is a deadly snare (it’s a trap), and both violate the sanctity of work and productivity as a way to love God and co-labor with him.

Do you see your productivity as valuable because you use it as an act of love and honor to God—that attitude can radically alter your fulfillment-level in all you do.  So with that in mind, let me share with you the wisdom of the Bible and the best productivity tips I’ve tried, put into 4 “Ps” of Productivity:  Priorities, Planning, People, Perspective and think about how this can help you with your goals this year.

First, PRIORITIES – Saying “No” to good things is the hardest part of productivity—but you have to because you’re not God, you’re a finite human, with limited time and ability—which means you have to figure out what matters most and start there.

Even Jesus—who was God’s representation in human flesh, had limits as a human—so He had to prioritize and say “No” to good things. Once he had people flocking to him to heal them (clearly a good thing) and he worked all day and night healing, then woke up early to go be alone with His Father—he made time to be with God to keep priorities straight.

These people searched for him, found him early in the morning

and they tried to keep him from leaving them.43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” Luke 4:42-43

Imagine how hard to say “No” to such need, but Jesus knew God’s purpose and priorities for his short 3-1/2 year ministry.

That’s what I’ve learned—if you don’t spend time with God praying and reflecting on who God created you to be and what He put you here to do, saying “No” to the right things will be impossible.

So I spend time every year taking a day to pray and prioritize.  

  • What’s most important? What do I think God wants me to prioritize?
  • What do I value?
  • Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, mechanic, waitress, doctor, programmer or pastor—if you don’t prioritize for yourself, others will prioritize for you.

So Prioritize–Ask:

What do I value most?

10 years from now, what do I want to be true of me Spiritually? Relationally? Physically?

Spiritual Priorities–where will you be with God, with love, joy, peace those inner qualities money can’t buy? Remember Life’s short, and you and I can accomplish a lot yet miss the whole purpose we were created for if we don’t prioritize relationship with God.

You get out what you put into your spiritual growth. Naturally we drift – be intentional and prioritize. Read the Scriptures on a regular basis – last week John Burke encouraged us to read through the book of Proverbs (a chapter a day) and the book of Matthew (a chapter a day). Be intentional and prioritize!

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10  

Jesus came to reconnect all willing people to God, so we will co-labor with God to accomplish this beautiful, unique work he created you to do.  What is it? That’s not so easy to answer—it requires an ongoing, daily, relationally seeking God—but he promises if we do this, we will accomplish it. Proverbs 3:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6  

Why doesn’t He just tells us our purpose? Well, cause then we’d go try to do it without God—yet he created us for relationship first, to co-labor. So he wants us to learn to trust and follow His lead, promising He will guide and we will accomplish our unique purpose.  

Relational Priorities—What I’ve realized is a lot of people could start or lead a church like Gateway. Others could write books, mentor leaders—lots of people can do your job too—but no one else can be a father to my kids, a spouse to my wife (hopefully), even a son or sibling to my mother and sister—these closest relationships are what’s most unique to me (and you). Prioritizing them means making protected space in my calendar for them by saying “No” to things that crowd them out.

Physical Priorities—this is work, or projects, accomplishments—what are the Big Priorities as I think out 10-20 years? Start with the end in mind, or you’ll never get there.  With God, you can dream—with God you can take risks and be courageous.  

So Dream with God, and Set Priorities, but then you need a Plan—that’s wise.

PLANNINGMost people have a dream, but not everyone has a plan.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a God-sized dream—we know the “I have a dream” speech about a just and fair society for all races and ethnicities.  But Dr. King also had a plan. He said, “When evil men plot, good men must plan.” And Dr. King planned marches, petitioned congressmen, organized a grass roots movement with vision, value of nonviolence and equipping—so much so 1000s would literally lay down their lives working together. During his efforts, we came so far as a nation – even as we have so far to go. If you haven’t already, listen to the speech which has come to be known as “I Have A Dream.” You will be inspired for what has happened since then and you will be inspired of what more still needs to be done.

We dream, then plan.

Benjamin Franklin is often attributed to the modern proverb, “Failing to Plan is Planning to fail.” Why? Because busyness, worry, fear, stress—all this is the greatest enemy of your productivity.

Planning combined with trusting can accomplish much:

A person plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17 

Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house. Proverbs 24:27  

It’s wise to plan, along with God, prayerfully thinking things out.  You’d never build a house without planning—why build your future without planning.

Can you imagine building a house saying, “Yeah, let’s just start hooking up pipes, turn on the water, and see where it goes”—you’d end up without water in some rooms, flooding rooms where pipes don’t line up with the tub. You’d never start building without a well-thought out plan.

The first step of planning is Goal Setting. Once you have your priorities—your Vision for your Future—set a goal.  Not too many goals. I used to set 3 goals in the 3 areas Spiritual, Relational, Physical but it was too much to stay focused on—I found it better to set One Stretch Goal for each area. What’s a Stretch Goal?  

A good stretch goal makes you rethink, let go of old paradigms and assumptions, jump further than you thought you could.  

So what’s a Stretch goal you can set?  

  • It’s a longer term goal that’s not comfortable, it’s good!
  • Somewhere between impossible and realistic but it makes you rethink everything.

When we set a stretch goal with God, we can trust his timing and leadership. Then we can break our big Stretch Goals into more bite-size, weekly and monthly

SMART goals


Not “I’ll start writing a book”—that’s vague. Better to break it down “I will write the outline and chapter 1.” Not “I want to get healthy”—but “I’m going to lose 15 lbs.”


Can you quantify if you reached the goal?  For instance—“I’m going to get healthy or sell more” is not quantifiable. “I’m going to run 5 miles a week” is measurable. “20% more sales is measurable”

Action Oriented

The best goals motivate you to take action. What’s the action that will set you in motion?


Here’s the balance to a Stretch Goal. SMART goals take what seems impossible “Become a Published Author” and breaks it down into realistic weekly and monthly goals. So if I had set a goal in 1993 to write a bestseller in 3 months—not realistic—Realistic “Write chapter 1 by Friday the 26th.”

Time Bound

Ephesians says “Be wise in how you use of your time.”  

So not just “I’ll write a book, but “by the end of 2018.” Then smaller SMART goals – I’ll write the outline by Feb 1 2018. Chapter 1 by March 1, 2018.  Literally, this is how I made writing more than a dream.

And then you have to make time in your calendar (I blocked 2 hours after work every Wednesday and Thursday afternoons). Block time for these SMART goals or it will never happen.

Locke and Latham wrote in a review of goal-setting studies. “Some 400 laboratory and field studies [show] that specific, high goals lead to a higher level of task performance…

SMART goals often unlock a potential that people don’t even realize they possess. Making yourself break a goal into its SMART components is the difference between hoping something comes true and figuring out how to do it.” – Latham  


Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. Prov 15:22

When we set goals if we really want to be productive, it’s wise to get trusted people to advise and to hold you accountable. At work, your boss will gladly provide this accountability. For your own personal goals—of spiritual growth, family investment, or a project or starting a new business—you need discipline.

Discipline in the Bible is usually the word “Paidea” which means “to train a child” – the goal of discipline is not punishment, but training, until the child does the right thing for herself—has self-discipline.  

So some of you have been tanking—all this talk of goals and accomplishments just tanks you emotionally—it makes you feel horrible.  If so, listen up.

First, I get it.  Some of us have had so many obstacles thrown in our way, so many bad things happen, every time you try to achieve something, you feel worse. So you just don’t want to try—if you don’t dream or set goals, you won’t be disappointed when you don’t get there. I’ve been through seasons of years when I felt that way. Sometimes you need a season of healing—I did. Start small –  don’t let an evil, broken world, or the past, determine what God can do in your future.  

Get friends you trust—we call them Spiritual Running Partners—to talk and pray through these things.  If you don’t have self-discipline yet, borrow it from them.  Seriously—let them help you do what you can’t yet do for yourself until you can.  It’s why Proverbs says:

Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. Proverbs 15:32   

PERSPECTIVE – Keep God’s Perspective on your Goals.

Don’t Achieve to prove your worth – achieve because of what God says you’re worth (one is accomplishment motivated by fear the other is accomplishment motivated by love) – in the end, Love is what accomplishes the most—all else passes away. 2nd perspective, “You have enough time to accomplish all God intended” so don’t worry seek God. I spent a lot of my work life stressed out and worried and burdened. Until I realized—it’s wrong, sin! Jesus said

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30  

God doesn’t put heavy, stress-filled, Tagamet popping burdens on you. Isn’t this good news—God wants you to be productive in an unburdened way. I’ve done both—as I invited God into my stress and worry, ask His help to use my time wisely, I could let go the worry and live free! And you accomplish more, with less stress and burden.


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