This is the final installment of a four-part series on Faith Development called “The 7 Habits of Highly Faithful People”. Our aim is to explore the traditional principles of personal development from a deeper, more sustainable foundation of faith. To read the previous installments click on these links: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
The seventh and final Habit is about maintaining our greatest asset—ourselves. Covey highlights four distinct areas of our lives: Physical, Social, Mental, Spiritual. Sharpening the saw is about constantly renewing ourselves in each of these areas to ensure that we are most effective. He uses the phrase “living life in balance” to describe the nature of the ongoing upkeep needed to thrive. For Covey, that begins with rest. It is in rest and renewal where our capacities can be reenergized.
The traditional approach to accomplish this task is getting your Physical, Social, Mental, and Spiritual ducks in a row. By default, we compartmentalize our life into these areas and it feels a lot like filling buckets of water. As long as we maintain the effort, the buckets will stay full. In turn, we approach this with our will power, determined to maintain a full life. Because of that, we spend our time filling buckets instead of actually living our lives. But eventually we hit a snag and forget, or simply don’t have the energy anymore, and we stand among dry, empty vessels.
This type of segregated view keeps us busy and robs us of the true fullness we long for. Busyness is the great culprit of our culture today—the thief of everything we hope for. The enemy knows if He can keep us busy, he can keep us ineffective. As a result, we have become consumed with doing instead of being. That’s precisely why we spend our days creating to-do lists instead of creating to-be lists. We use busyness as a cover-up because we’re fearful—that if we really slowed down and listened to God, we’d be afraid of what He’d actually say.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). If Jesus meant what He said, that has drastic implications on how we navigate our lives—we begin living from abundance instead of living for it. This is where personal development falls short: it leaves us in a cycle of consumerism, wanting more to keep us full. Jesus gives us that fullness from the very beginning.
Sharpening the saw, from a faith perspective, begins with the restoration that can only be found in knowing who we truly are. And that process of discovering our identity is birthed from knowing who God really is. That takes us humbling ourselves and being quiet before Him. Instead of seeing God as an intangible idea or a rule-bearing dictator, what if we shifted our view ever so slightly to see Him as a loving Father who wants nothing more than fullness and abundance for us? Once we begin to understand God as Jesus did, as a loving Father, we learn to rest in His presence. From that place of rest, He gives us our identity, and with it, our purpose—the very desires of our heart.
The concept of the Sabbath, or rest, is present throughout the scriptures and Jesus modeled it in every aspect of His life. Many times, His disciples would go looking for Him only to find Jesus praying by Himself. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35). Jesus knew that rest is something that was given to us, not something we have to earn.
It is in rest where we find peace. And from that place of rest, we can eagerly move toward action—the other areas of our life flow from our spiritual foundation, from faith. You were created to grow, to develop, to become. “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). However, if you’re constantly in a state of action, you’ll miss those periods of rest and renewal needed to nourish yourself in every area so that you can grow properly.
Christians across the world are constantly exhausting themselves in the name of faith, overlooking the very importance of stewarding their own personal well-being. One of the greatest quotes as it relates to this is from Scottish minister Robert Murray M’Cheyne, who died of typhus at the age of twenty-nine in 1843. It was on his death bed where he said, “God gave me a message to deliver and a horse to ride. Alas, I have killed the horse and now I cannot deliver the message.”
Now, the subtle line we must not cross is in becoming fearful of our own well-being, for it is the journey of faith that believes God will complete the work He began. Just be careful not to kill the horse.
The Importance of Faith Development
After years of consumption and reflection, I have learned there is a truth that exists beneath all things. Whether you surround it with practical principles or religious jargon, whether it comes from the innocent mouth of a child or from the dignified mouth of a saint, it is that truth and our willingness to engage it that begins our journey. But we have to take it one step further; we have to engage that truth and process it through a lens of faith in order for it to become rooted in our lives. As Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This isn’t a journey of to-do lists and efficiencies, it’s a journey of becoming. Instead of buying more books that scratch the surface, are we willing to dig into the truth beneath it all?
At this point, are you more likely to go out and buy the next bestseller, or are you more likely to buy the writings of great men who lived with uncompromising faith and dive heart-first into God’s Word? If you’re willing to pause for one and not the other, I think you’re making a grave mistake that will perpetuate a cycle of stress, frustration, and exhaustion. And I can only say that because I have lived it.
Instead of consuming more information, we have to learn how to be consumed by God. Then and only then, is He able to fully use us. God has to work in us before He can work through us. If you’re truly interested in transformation and lasting change instead of a quick, feel-good in the moment, I recommend developing your faith.
If you have enjoyed this series, I would invite you to take the next step in developing your faith with our teaching series called Learning to Feel the Word. Written by Zondervan author and YouPrint co-founder, Kevin Adams, this little booklet is packed with transformational wisdom that approaches faith from a very different, yet fresh perspective. For less than a few cups of coffee, you can begin the journey of discovering your identity and your life’s very own blueprint.