No Worries—It’s Not On You.

Fall Road I

NO WORRIES—IT’S NOT ON YOU.

   How do we keep doing that thing we were born to do when the odds are against us ever succeeding at it? Whether it’s beginning a business, competing in a sport, writing a book or song, going for a scholarship or any other thing—how do we keep from caving to the fear that it’ll all be for nothing? We look around and see the competition—there are a dozen other companies out there offering what we’re trying to do in our new business. Or there are already 400 books on the market on the topic we want to write on. Or 200+ resumes were received for that one position we just applied for. Et cetera.

   How do we keep plugging along when it all just seems so futile?

   A year ago, I struggled with the same questions. What difference does it make if I ever write my book? It’s probably already been done or the odds are against it ever getting into the hands of publishers or if it does, they’ll hate it. Or even if it gets published, no one will buy it, anyway. So, I concluded, what’s the point?

   That when I had a God moment. John the Baptist said, “’God in heaven appoints each person’s work’” (John 3:27).

   This was brand new revelation to me: God had appointed me to write. And if God appointed me to write, then it just makes sense that there’s a reason for it. It might not be the reason I think it is but—and here’s the key—my writing is not futile; I’m not just wasting my time when I pick up the pen. I’m doing that thing that God has appointed me to do.

   And so are you.

   When things don’t work out the way we think they should, we often conclude that we’re not “supposed” to be doing that thing. But if it’s in our hearts to do (and it’s not immoral, illegal or fattening), then we are supposed to be doing that thing. It’s our appointed work from the Lord.

   Jesus said, “’My nourishment comes from doing the will of God who sent me, and from finishing HIS work’” (John 4:34, emphasis mine).

   This scripture contains three crucial truths. First, doing the work God appoints us to do is “nourishing” to our souls; it’s the thing that fulfills us in this life.

   Second, the key to that fulfillment is finishing that work. In other words, we can’t quit. Regardless of what the purpose for our work turns out to be, we complete our assignment.

   Third—and this is the revelation that totally set me free—Jesus said that doing God’s will (which is our assignment) is His work.

My assignment is His work—which means it’s totally on God as to where it goes. It’s not up to me to make it succeed—and it’s not up to you.

   It’s just like planting a seed: I can dig the hole and bury the seed, but I can’t make it grow. That’s God’s job.

   Now for the disclaimer: Part of our assignment is to do the very best we can at that assignment. For an author, for example, that means part of the assignment is promoting the work. But here’s the key—if I do the absolute best I can to write the book, to write the proposals, and to promote the book, then the rest is up to God. Whether it gets published or not is up to Him. I wrote the thing and I did the proposals but I can’t make anyone publish it. Or maybe I do get published. Then I do my best to promote it with all the hard work that that entails. But having done the best I can, whether it sells ten copies at church or 20 million around the world is not my problem. I can’t make people buy it. That’s God’s work.

   God wants to be in partnership with us. His part is to pass out the assignments, our part is to complete our assignment with excellence, and then His part is to take our work wherever He wants to take it. Period. The key thing is, if we’ve truly done our best, then we can’t beat ourselves up if our work doesn’t “go” where we think it should go. “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

   Or we don’t. It’s a choice.

   Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “’Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’” (John 5:8). When I read that scripture, I heard the Lord say to me, “Stand up, pick up your pen, and write.”  And He’s saying the same to you: “Stand up, pick up your assignment, and get moving.”

   Stand up. Pick up. Walk.

   Someday, we’ll stand before the Lord and give an account of our faithfulness. If, when that happens, we can truly say that we’ve completed our assignment, Jesus will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” If we’ve been faithful, we won’t be judged on the success of our assignment because that’s God job. We will be evaluated on whether we completed it to the best of our ability.

   Jesus knew that. The very last words He spoke before He died were, “’It is finished.’” He had completed His assignment.

   In the end, may we be able to say the same.

 

The Double-Edged Sword

big-bang-5   THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

   I’d say “once upon a time,” but it was back before there was time, before the genesis of barren rocks called planets spinning along invisible courses, before flaming stars wheeling across the dark annals of space—before even there was space—but after the Fall. This Fall, of course, was the downfall of the angels, led by one proud and upwardly-ambulant Lucifer, but that’s not the matter here. The matter is the establishment of the Laws—and one in particular—decreed somewhere between that Fall and the founding of Creation.

   To be fair, and to acknowledge those who think they were there when all of this mayhem happened, there may have been a universe before the Fall—one utterly and irreversibly ruined by the ambitious rebellion of that Lucifer and his underlings. In fact, according to annals of history and lore and just plain gossip, our current creation may simply be the miserable leftovers of that ruthless war. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But regardless of when our current world was begotten—before or after that infamous Fall—God, in His divine and perpetual wisdom, decreed Laws upon which His creation was to be eternally established.

   Of that I am certain.

   We humans, divinely inspired and intellectually gifted as we believe ourselves to be, are aware of most of these laws. They encompass mathematics and physics and astrophysics and life sciences, as well as philosophies worldwide—laws regarding behaving and all of that, although, admittedly, we have yet to agree as to which among those creeds is the Absolute. Nevertheless, we do tend toward trouble with the spiritual laws established long before the Fall and before, perhaps, even the creation of the angels themselves. We struggle, in particular, with the idea of words.  

   Words, as we humans know them to be, are means of communication—whether for good or for evil—and that is the end of it. Words, as far as we are concerned, hold no further purpose. However, the scientists among us have discovered that words are comprised of things called “sound waves”. Now, these sound waves are formidable, echoing endlessly throughout the universe, ringing across galaxies, through the very matter which comprises them and, more probably then potentially, are eternal in nature. In fact, rumor has it that these sound waves—the very ones which comprise words—have never had any recorded ending. Our very own godlike technology has never trekked the end of a sound wave. These waves hurl toward earth from who knows where, are recorded by our scopes, and then streak on by, uncontained, into eternity. We have only some vague idea of where they came from and even less idea where they go. In addition, scientists have conceded that, while able to be recorded, sound waves are otherwise invisible.

   And that’s all we know about them.

   Nevertheless, these sound waves are the building blocks upon which God chose to establish His laws. Astonishingly, according to Biblical account, words were the sole instruments of creation.

The words “Light be!” triggered a blinding eruption of radiant color—yellow, orange, red, violet, blue and then white—the spectrum exploding throughout the frozen darkness, exposing the nothingness that was, and glittering with fire and heat and light.

   And that was how it all began.  

   Now there might be nothing more incredulous than the concept that matter has its genesis in sound waves and that God has used those very waves to speak creation into existence. One would think. But there is one thing more inexplicable even than that: that God would even conceive of bestowing upon mankind that same dominion over sound waves and thus give him the power to create through words.

   Imagine what mankind could do were he ever to grasp that truth—even a little. Destinies would be fulfilled, worlds would be conquered, and death in all of its manifold forms would be decimated—in this lifetime.

   Sound waves are powerful—words wielded for good or for evil, for prosperity or for poverty, for blessing or for cursing—our choices, of course. But who among us really understands the power that we wield?

   The spoken word is ours to command—but a double-edged Sword, to be sure.

   Use it well.

  

 

 

Responsibility = Authority

Scepter IVRESPONSIBILITY = AUTHORITY

   Recently a friend told me about a company having trouble hiring people who regularly show up on time for work (and this company pays good money). So how are they solving this little dilemma? They’re giving an extra $75 per paycheck to people who actually show up for work on time. Every day. Like they’re supposed to. (My head is ready to explode.)

   One of the saddest things I see in our culture, whether it’s in school, in the workplace or on the news, is people refusing to step up and take responsibility for the everyday things people are supposed to do. Far too many students don’t do their work in school—and forget doing homework. Of course, why should they? They get promoted to the next grade regardless of whether they’re passing or failing. And don’t think I’m kidding; I see it every year. I’ve even seen parents requesting that their children stay behind to catch up and districts simply won’t allow it. Seriously. That’s a thing. It’s called “social promotion”.

   And on the job site: people either don’t show up for work on a regular basis or they don’t show up on time or they don’t work when they get there. Don’t think so? Ask any business owner how difficult it is these days to find employees who are responsible enough to do all three of those things—and on the same day. But again—why should they? They were passed through school without doing any work so why should they be expected to do any after graduation? If they graduate.

   In the past several months, I’ve seen signs at fast food places saying, “Help Wanted—High School Diploma Required”. Why? Is it because it takes four years of social studies in order to be able to flip burgers? No, it’s because these places want to hire people who have the work ethic to finish what they’re required to do.

   In short, to be responsible.

The fact is, the more responsibility a person steps up to, the more authority he or she is able to hold.

   And I don’t mean that simply in the sense of someone doing a good job so they get a promotion with more authority—although that naturally happens. But have you ever seen a person who just exudes an air of authority? You know them when you see them. They’re comfortable being leaders, the people they lead are comfortable following them, and things get done. This is what I call “earned authority”. People take on responsibilities, fulfill them, and the ability to hold authority is the natural consequence.

   On the flip side, have you ever seen a person in charge who really doesn’t belong there? They don’t know what they’re doing, they demand their own way, and they “pass the buck” whenever something goes wrong. Consequently, people don’t respect them and resent having to follow them. Why? Because they were given authority before they learned how to handle responsibility and so they simply are not able to bear the weight of that authority. This is called “fast-track authority”.

   “Earned authority” you work for and are ready for when you get it. “Fast-track authority” is either inherited from someone or you demanded it and “took” it because it’s “owed” to you. Think about the age-old tale of a rich kid who blows daddy’s wealth because he never had to work for it. Or the person rioting in the streets because he or she wants something and will pitch a fit until it’s handed over to them. And why? Because they were never given responsibilities and then required to fulfill them.

   There’s a lot to be said for working your way up from the small time to the big time. It builds know-how and experience, which builds wisdom, which breeds self-respect, which builds the confidence to step into leadership, and finally results in the capability to wield authority in whatever realm you operate. Working your way up the authority ladder also breeds humility because you can’t help but recognize that, along the way, you could never have achieved any heights of responsibility and authority on your own.

   What’s the point? Simply this: If you’re a parent, do your children the favor of giving them responsibilities and making them accountable for them. It’s not going to hurt them if they struggle a little to figure things out. In all seriousness, it builds character and confidence. If you’re a leader, be the kind who gives others responsibility and then is patient with their mistakes, helping them to achieve success in fulfilling duties. If you’re an adult, take on responsibilities and be faithful to fulfill them; then take on the leadership to raise up other responsible leaders.

   Fulfilling your responsibilities to the best of your ability is the only way to grow in and hold the authority you’ll need to win at whatever you’ve been called to do.

   You have a scepter of authority. Use it.

 

  

“Permission Granted.”

Traffic Light II

“PERMISSION GRANTED.”

   Have you ever wanted to follow a dream so you asked God if you could—you were essentially asking permission—and then you waited? And waited. And waited. There was no angel Gabriel appearing with a message in the dead of night. God didn’t give you a prophetic word—even though you hit ten prophetic meetings in two weeks time (you know you did). And then there was the fleece: you said something like, “Okay, God, if the sun rises tomorrow, I’ll know You’re saying ‘yes,’ and if it doesn’t, it’s a ‘no’. Got it.” And then the sun didn’t rise so you kept asking because that wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

   Ever been there?

   Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had three servants to whom he announced that he would be going away for an extended period of time. But before leaving, the master gave each of the servants talents ($) to invest, saying that upon his return, he would expect to see a return on his investment. Then he gave a different number of talents to each servant according to his abilities. But it’s not the number of talents that’s important; the way the servants invested them was the point.

   The key thing in this parable is that the master distributed the talents—and then left. The servants weren’t able to call him on his cell or message him or email him to ask what they should do.

The master gave them the freedom to do whatever they thought was best with their talents—as long as the results benefited his kingdom.

   So what did they do? The best they knew how to do. Except for one of them.

   When the master returned, he was pleased to find that two of the servants had invested their talents and produced a return. But the third had not; he’d simply hidden his talent and then handed it back. The master, not pleased, asked him why. The man’s response?  “I was afraid.” Unfortunately for him, that was not an acceptable excuse to the master.

   Want a message from God: He’d much rather have you try and fail than never to try at all.

The light is green until it’s red.

   In other words, go.

   The fact is that God wants us to move forward and if we’re headed in the wrong direction, He’ll throw up the road block or close a door (or something).

   One time, I had an interesting experience to prove that very point. I’d decided I wanted to take an on-line writing course but it was a little pricey. So—should I or shouldn’t I? I checked in with the Lord, but really didn’t hear anything and registration was about to close. So I made an executive decision: believing the course to be a benefit, I registered and paid for it. By the next morning, however, I still hadn’t received any links to the course or even a receipt for payment, so I emailed the folks in charge and asked about it. Someone emailed back, saying that they had no record of my registration or payment.

   Red light.

   Though they invited me to re-register, I took the hint from the Lord and decided that now was evidently not the time. I believe I probably will take the course at some point but, in the meantime, I keep moving. As Pastor Paul Wagner used to say, “God can’t steer a parked car.”

   “But,” you argue, “what if I try and fail?”  You probably will. Everybody does. (It builds character). But then you get back up and try again.

   Over the years, I’ve seen people move forward and follow their dreams—regardless of failure. My family once moved to another state after my father retired from the military because he’d had a job offer. However, it didn’t work out and we moved back to NY. No harm, no foul. I tried a business one time and discovered it really wasn’t what I thought it would be and while I lost some money in the process, it was an “acceptable loss.” The “acceptable loss” principle is huge when making a big decision and can often make clear whether you should move forward with a dream or not.

   An “acceptable loss” is simply an assessment of what, if anything, you can afford to lose if a situation doesn’t work out. For example, if you invest money in a dream, is it an amount you can afford to lose if it doesn’t work out?  If not, then don’t do it. If you take a new job, are its requirements something you can deliver?  If not, red light. I once turned down a job as a promotional director at a television station because I found out that it would require evenings and weekends (as well as days) and with a baby and a toddler at home, I decided that their well-being was not an acceptable risk.

   Red light.

   Here’s a guideline: if you’re considering doing something life-changing that can’t be undone without a lot of damage and casualties, don’t charge in where angels fear to tread; seek God— and, yes, wait. (We all end up there from time to time.)

   So—if your dream is an acceptable risk—meaning you can fall down or even fail without irreparable damage—then why not try? As Nathan once said to David, “Go and do all that is in your heart for the Lord is with you” (I Chron. 17:2).

   Does that mean you’ll never fail? Of course not; you’ll have a bad day or two. But don’t let that be an excuse for not using the talents God has given you. Remember that there will come a day when you’ll stand before the Lord and account for what you did with those talents.

   Until then, you have a green light. Now drive.