Master Yourself by Choosing Your Master (Masterclass in Writing, Part 5)

With Written on Their Hearts: Writing, Worship, and Spiritual Formation in the Life of the Mind, Dr. Royce Francis began a new series on writing with a new format for the ESN blog, i.e., Masterclass. Like a Masterclass in music or performance, it provides the opportunity to learn skills from an expert, as well as exercises designed by that expert to help you deepen those skills in your own academic life. In this series, which will run for the length of the spring semester, Royce will weave together theological reflection and practical suggestions on becoming a skilled writer in general and within your field. He will also provide exercises each week to give readers a way to put the ideas in the series into practice. Join ESN for a Masterclass in writing. Questions and conversation are welcome—feel free to use the Comments section to express them, or email them to

Scripture Focus

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. — Matthew 6:24a, NASB


On the Emerging Scholars Blog, there has been a series on time management. In all of our lives, time management strikes a touchstone because we are so busy and have so many competing demands on our time. It can be difficult to choose a priority and re-assert control over our lives. Time management is both compelling and terrifying to us at the same time because deep down many of us sense that good time management is well beyond our reach.

Today, I’d like you to look at time management in a slightly different light. In my opinion, we should think of time management as an act of choosing one’s master. In any moment, the things that we devote our attention to master us in that instant. What we are really saying when we admit that we have poor time management is that we cannot choose our master. We have difficulty with time management because we do not understand the spiritual realities at play in our lives.

As I have stated at several points in this series, your academic career is not so much your choice as it is an acknowledgment of the One who calls you. He is waiting to meet you in your work as an academic, and you have chosen to obey His call. The problem for most of us is that we either don’t feel comfortable with the idea that God is present with us in our discipline (because we feel that our discipline’s ideas are in apparent conflict with what we understand the mind of Christ to be) or we don’t feel comfortable with the undivided, uncompromising commitment required. We simply cannot choose our master, or we are simply unwilling to meet Him in our work.

For the purpose of this conversation—focusing on writing and the practices that support it—we must choose whom we will serve. If our academic pursuits involve submission to a call, then we must also discern those things that divide our devotion. If you are not careful, you will very quickly end up having many more masters than your Master.

When that request to serve on that diversity committee reaches your inbox, your first task is to ask God whether He wants you to submit to that request or to reserve that time for your writing and research. Will you let that Dean be your master?

When an opportunity to teach an additional course for income arises, ask yourself if you believe this is integral to the research and scholarship God has called you to complete. Is Mammon your master?

Is God really requiring that you put your child in that travel soccer team, or are you trying to control your child’s life and manage his activities? Does God really require that your child attend that school, or will her tuition require you to find additional income sources that distract from your scholarship? Have you considered the ways that the pride of life controls you?

Do you really need to do that home improvement project now, or can it wait a couple of months until your writing project is done? Do you really need to purchase that home now, or can you live in an apartment or rental that does the maintenance for you that would otherwise distract from your writing? Will you let wealth and status master you?

I know they don’t have a teacher for that Sunday School class, and there are some who can really benefit from your teaching gifts, but is God really asking for that time right now? Or are you letting religion master you?

To manage your time well, make sure you know your Master’s voice. Otherwise, you may end up choosing the wrong master.


Over the last two weeks, you should have started to solidify consistent writing and reading habits in your life. At this point, you may still be struggling to identify those things that distract you from submission to these daily disciplines. This week, I want you to do two things:

  1. Identify your masters by name. Forsake all those that compete with your Master.
  2. Pray for the devotion and commitment you need to meet your Master in your work as you practice the disciplines I listed in the past 3 weeks. Pray for the devotion required, but I also want you to remember that God forgives. He is the one who is working in you to complete His work and conform you to His Son. Don’t be defeated by any setbacks you may have had in practicing these disciplines. Focus on who your Master is, and thank Him for His call and His work in you. Then set your hands back to the plow.

Peace and Blessings.


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Royce Francis

Royce is an associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering at the George Washington University. He conducts and teaches under the broad theme “SEED”: Strategic [urban] Ecologies, Engineering, and Decision making. His research and teaching interests include infrastructure sustainability and resilience measurement, risk analysis, and drinking water systems analysis. Royce is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA).

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