Most people think that ambition and drive is the key to success in any given area of life, but if it is not coupled with a "holy contentment" or patient endurance, it will fail or die. This is a great truth I have been understanding in my own life.
God has put such big dreams on my heart. It's interesting - I have 3 brothers and each of us strives for success in our areas of passion and expertise. I am so impressed by my brothers and their excellence in everything they do. For Jon, it is youth ministry.His group is one of the largest in the country. Not only that, but he is a creative genius. I was telling Michelle yesterday how he excelled in everything, from school to sport growing up - setting a high standard for the rest of us brothers. My brother Dan is a sound engineer and travels the country doing sound for some of the largest names in the Christian music industry. He takes passion for his career to a new level. He and my dad started a sound business called Reach Communications that within years has launched into a massive success. My brother Tim is still working on his college degree, but puts me to shame with his intake of books and study. Tim is a genius. He's one of those guys who, no matter his grades in school, you know he's got higher IQ than Einstein. Tim is an artist. He throws himself into the world of art, music, justice and beauty. I'm sure he will travel the world, write many books and inspire a generation.
For each my brothers and me, ambition is easy. What's really the hard part (for most of humanity) is the patience to get to the dream. Here's a few guideposts for the journey ...
1. The Ecclesiastes Principle: ENJOY WHAT YOU DO
Over the past few years of pursuing our dreams to be evangelists and missionaries I have learned a lot. Not only from books, but from life experience. One of the greatest lessons I have learned is straight from the book of Ecclesiastes. King Solomon, the wisest man in the world of his day, proclaimed "everything is meaningless." He tested and tried every aspect of human enjoyment that life has to offer. Wisdom, pleasure, work and even sin. His conclusion of the matter was "I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God" (Eccl. 3:12-13, NIV). Bottom line of what I learned is this: I am going to pass on all I have worked for in life to others. Everything in life is meaningless. The one thing God has given all of us is to ENJOY what we do. Enjoy life. Enjoy work. Enjoy the feeling of satisfaction in work. This was life changing for me. Instead of always working for tomorrow, working towards the dream, I started to love all the little things about today, about the NOW. I started to enjoy what God has blessed me with today.
Enjoy what you do.
2. Grass isn't greener principle: SAVOR THE NOW
Johnny Lang wrote a beautiful song in his newest album called "The Other Side of the Fence," referring to how we are always looking to the future with hope, but towards today with contempt and dispair. It rolls off the adage that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. The lyrics go something like this: "The grass always looks greener ... On the other side of the fence,
But the dog over there might be meaner ... On the other side of the fence,
The future always looks brighter... On the other side of the tracks
Instead of worrying bout what you are not ... Gotta make the most what you got"
The truth of the matter is that it is so easy to look at others and think they've got the good life and they've got it easy. It's so easy to think if we just had more money, more opportunity, more respect, better upbringing (the list goes on) and different circumstances we'd have it made. The real truth is, the grass right where you are today is the all you've got. Take it, make the most of it. And remember to enjoy it.
Trace Atkins wrote a song that declares this truth, called "Your gonna miss this." Listen to his cutting lyrics:
"Your gonna miss this. Your gonna want this back. Your gonna wish
these days hadn't gone by so fast. These are some good times. So take
a good look around. Your gonna miss this. Even if you don't know it
Savor the grass on this side of the fence. Today.
3. Unanswered prayers principle: BE THANKFUL
I wrote in a previous blog about this subject of unanswered prayer, starting with a song by Garth Brooks called "Unanswered Prayers" that goes a little something like this:
"Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."
Ruth Graham, the late wife of Billy Graham, shares his sentiment as
she once stated: "God has not always answered my prayers. If he had, I
would have married the wrong men—several times.”
Mark Batterson also states "Some day we will thank God more for
our unanswered prayers than for our answered ones."
The road to holy contentment is paved with a little thing called thankfulness. And as we see, thankfulness for the NOW, and the unanswered dream and the unfulfilled hopes. Make a list of what you are thankful for. Check it twice.
Be thankful for all you have.
4. Mother Theresa principle: LITTLE STEPS, BIG HEART
Of course, reaching our dreams and our own determined definition of success includes moving forward. Habits. The little stuff of champions (forget the wheaties). I conclude this subject with two quotes by two legendary women of faith.
One of Mother Theresa, a fragile little woman who gave her life to comfort people in their dying hours. "We can do no great things. Only small things with great love."
Another of Mother Theresa's good friend, who herself cared for Mother Theresa in her dying days at her hospital in Calcutta. Huldah Buntain, of her and her husband's extraordinary ministry in the same area of the world. "I am often asked how we were able to accomplish so much for the Kingdom of God: We took it ONE DAY AT A TIME. We worked hard an we did our best to listen to the voice of the Lord, knowing that He was the One who sent us. He was the One who performed the miralces and He was the One who sustained us."
Move towards the dream one day at a time.
Let's move forward, together, with a deep joy in hearts for what we have now and a steady persistence for the plans God has put in our hearts.
Pt 3: Excellence next ...