In order to advance in my career in science I need to produce strong, reliable scientific publications. One of the indicators of the strength of a particular publication is the number of citations. Here’s the gist: if many other researchers deem the paper good enough to cite in their own work, it might be a worthy paper.
So you can imagine my temptation to double- and triple-check my citation count every week. Did I get a new one? Is my career advancing? Can I succeed in this field?
In some ways this is futile. Checking my citation count doesn’t contribute to its increase. I’m trying to reap a harvest that is half sown. I should be focused on writing a new publication rather than watching for the accolades to start rolling in.
This next part is really fundamental Christianity 101 stuff. If you work hard, the results follow. Even non-believers understand this principle. It’s unarguable. But listen to the way the Bible phrases it:
Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. Proverbs 12:11
Ouch. I was chasing a senseless fantasy. I’ve worked in science for almost ten years and have about that many citations. So what is the motivation of my heart here to check my citations weekly?
There is a spiritual component to this reality. Every piece of work has eternal significance. I genuinely believe Jesus can be glorified by my hard work that produces a highly cited scientific publication. But here’s the thing: Jesus is just as happy to be glorified by a humble attitude that accepts the reality as a not-so-famous scientist.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23
Interestingly, I think this principle applies to our emotions as well. Let me rephrase that: the emotions in our heart drives where we sow. We can’t simply look at the actions (i.e. checking my citation count), we must press deeper to look at the heart motivation. This simple reality often goes ignored…and it comes at the expense of our “sowing the reward.”
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
In the context, Galatians is talking about walking in step with the Spirit. Everyday we are forced with hundreds of small decisions. Will we choose to gratify the desires of the flesh? Or will we remember that our flesh has been crucified, along with its passions and desires?
Do you remember that well-known list of the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)? It’s closely followed by a reminder that a man reaps what he sows. Are you sowing the fruit of the Spirit by walking in step with the Spirit?
What is sown? I mean, what’s the fruit in these situations?
Is it not found in our interactions with others? Read through Galatians 5 and 6 and count the references to other people: “bear one another’s burdens,” and “share all good things with the one who teaches.” It tells us to do good to all people, especially those in the household of faith.
The Biblical logic to sowing a harvest is this: 1) check the pride and selfishness in your own heart, 2) walk by the Spirit in God’s provision, 3) serve others out of the overflow of God’s love. Only then can we reap a harvest of joy.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
My heart to refresh that citation count was borne out of a prideful and self-centered view. You might think checking my citation count is a small thing. But that next citation that feeds my prideful heart is aimed at pleasing my flesh — and will be sown in destruction.
I’m praying that God will help me to walk by the Spirit to focus on serving others at work, and building them up by complimenting their work! May the Lord help me to keep my heart with all vigilance.
What about you? What is your fantasy lately? It could be dissatisfaction with your low paycheck (even though it’s just the same as it always was). It might be a disappointment with your semester grades. Whatever it is, do you value the fantasy of the result, over the reality of the hard work?