I’m talking about those who just can’t look on the bright side of an issue. They always see the negative side instead of the positive side. They choose not to live by faith, but instead by failure. They love to stop a dream by pointing out all the things, which could go wrong.
I remember the day God said something to me!
Well, one of the days. Thankfully I’ve had a few powerful days when I sensed the Creator spoke clearly.
But I’ll be honest, as someone who is supposed to teach others how to have a relationship with God, and to actually hear from God, I’m always somewhat startled when He chooses to speak directly to me. (To be clear, most of the time I have heard God speak it has been through His written word and I know whatever I think I’m hearing would never contradict His word.)
Anyway, a number of years ago, He said something to me that I try to remember in life and leadership.
Let me set up the scenario for you, so you’ll understand the context.
On this particular week I was at the beach. My oldest son, Jeremy, was getting married and our youngest son Nate was his best man. I got to perform the ceremony. How cool is that? It was one of my all time favorite moments as a dad.
Anyway, on this morning I went for a morning run. As a runner, when I was out of town I normally ran farther, because the scenery changed. I had run 4 1/2 miles before I realized how long I’d been running. I decided to stop, buy a cold drink, and sit and look at the beach for a few minutes before running back. (Oh how I wish I could still run 9 miles in a day.)
As I was sitting there, I became enchanted with the size and power of the waves. I watched a little boy running away from them, and nearly get knocked down by one. I saw a couple walking the beach get splashed unexpectedly. Mostly, however, I just saw the beach being pounded by wave after wave after wave. I have been to the beach many times and I never get tired of watching the ocean display God’s glory. In that moment, I did as I’ve done so many times before sitting at the beach – I bragged to God about His handiwork.
I prayed something like this, “God, this is so majestic, so powerful, and You made it all. Every powerful wave I’m seeing today was hand-shaped by You! You are a mighty God! You do huge things! You are so incredible and worthy to be praised! What a mighty God I serve!”
Have you ever had such emotions flood you when you see God’s creation?
Anyway, as I was praying, I sensed God say something else. It was almost as if He said, “Hold on Ron, (I always love that He knows my name) you’re talking so fast and thinking so big, you may have missed something.” I paused to listen to God and it seemed I heard Him say:
“In the process of thinking big, don’t forget to think small.”
I sensed it was Him, because I recalled the verse in Zechariah, which says, “Do not despise these small beginnings”. I also know God counts hairs on our head and He notices the sparrow. He apparently took time to “paint” the tiny spots on a Lady Bug also.
Then this passage came to my mind:
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. Psalm 139:17-18
Instantly, I looked down and noticed the sand all around me. I was reminded that God made every grain of sand. I’ve been told that no two grains of sand are the same. And my God knows each one of them. The Bible seems to indicate God may know how many grains there are. (Or at least He could count them.) I think He does. He’s all-knowing.
I don’t know exactly all God was teaching me in that moment. I know I’m a big thinker. I always have a new dream. I was currently in a season of planning big things – good, hopefully God-honoring things. It is one of my favorite things to do.
I don’t think He was telling me not to think big. He gave me my creative mind. I’ll obviously never out-think Him and He tends to stretch us towards bigger dreams in His word (“No eye has seen, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared”).
I think He may have simply, kindly and gently reminded me that “In the process of thinking big, don’t forget to think small.”
I think He may not want me overlook the smallest moments of life, such as holding the hand of the one I love, or hearing a baby giggle in the coffee shop, or the glance at a picture on my desk that reminds me of my wonderful family – or turning on the faucet and getting clean water to fill my glass. Sometimes in leadership I can be so focused on the overwhelming problems and obstacles we face that I fail to notice and celebrate the small steps of progress we are making.
You could add your own small things you shouldn’t take for granted.
Sometimes the small things ARE the big things.
How are you doing at enjoying the “seemingly” small things of life?
It’s day 5 of our life planning series. This week we’ve attempted to take it step-by-step, in a simple format, to write a plan that will help us achieve some specific goals for the new year. If you missed any of these posts, be sure to catch up by reading:
Today we have our final step…and it’s a good one…in fact…it’s my favorite….
We’ve been writing a life plan this week. I hope you are following along and writing your own plan. I’m looking forward to hearing the goals you have and the success you see in attaining them. I have tried to keep it simple, hoping that will improve your chances of following through to completion. If you’ve missed any of them, be sure and read
Today we add another step in the process
This week we are writing life plans for the coming year. If you have missed the first two posts, read them HERE and HERE. My desire is that we realize all the dreams and goals we have this year. I’m convinced many of our resolutions…if we make them…are reachable with a little more intentionality and discipline. Many refuse to make resolutions, because they have repeatedly failed at keeping them. The purpose of these posts is to help you start the year on a good path towards reaching those goals.
Today we add another step.
Yesterday I began a series of post to help you develop a life plan for 2010 I hear people talk every year about resolutions…some make them…some don’t…some hate them…some keep them…most don’t. I’m confident the main reason most do not keep them and many refuse to make them is that they never put a plan of action together or applied enough discipline that would ensure success. Why make a resolution if you can’t ever keep it….right? We don’t like continual failure.
The point of this series is to put some feet to the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Yesterday you were asked to list three to five goals you have for the new year. If you haven’t done that or didn’t read that post, start HERE.
If you have your goals listed, today we’ll get more specific with them.
There’s always an excuse if we’re looking for one.
I’ve made so many excuses in my life. For years I may have sensed God was calling me into vocational ministry, but I knew I had to provide for my family. Also, I would be leading with the limps of previous failures – how and why would God use me? I didn’t have the most pastoral qualities either. For example, I’m far more of an organizational developer than I am a caregiver for the sick. There were a dozen others. If anyone had an encouragement for me to be in ministry – and I received lots – I had an excuse why it wasn’t a good idea.
Even when we are certain God has called us to something, we will stall because an excuse is always near.
And, most excuses seem reasonable at first glance. Common sense even. Think about the excuses Moses made for following God. I have to be honest – when I hear them, they make sense to me. I mean, if you’re not a good communicator – why send you as the chief spokesman for God?
But, God’s ways are not my ways – or Moses – or yours.
The reality is following a God-inspired, God-sized dream, always requires stepping into the unknown and always demands we overcome our excuses.
Are you stalling? Maybe you’re even running out of another good excuse. If an opportunity is still staring you in the face, let me encourage you from some of the best excuses I’ve used or heard – which have more times than not been proven wrong.
Here are 7 of the most common excuses I’ve used or heard:
Your excuse is you don’t have what it takes. And, the sad part of this excuse – this also means you aren’t trusting God to provide what you lack. Saying I can’t to a God thing is an indicator of faith. If God calls you to it – you can do it because whatever you lack He will supply . (Gideon would love to weigh in on this excuse. Judges 6)
I don’t know how!
The task seems overwhelming and you may be too proud to ask for help. So, I don’t know how will just have to do for now. If you trace its roots – this excuse is often fueled by either laziness, apathy or fear. (Do you think Noah knew how to build a boat the size of an ark? See Genesis 6)
I don’t have time!
God calls for obedience now, but you’re preoccupied. And, chances are – with this as an excuse – you never will have time. This one has worked for me before too – for a season. What it really means is I have my time and God’s time. And, more specifically, I have my agenda and God’s agenda – and there is no time left in my agenda. (See how Jesus liked this excuse in Luke 9:57-62)
I’m all alone!
Leading out by faith feels this way sometimes, doesn’t it? Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to being obedient to God’s call. I once thought I was the only one with a burden to plant a church. It seemed to be a lonely burden until we stepped forward in faith. Little did Cheryl and I know God had an army of core members prepared just waiting to be asked. (Remember, Elijah thought He was alone – and he found out otherwise. 1 Kings 19)
And, the reality of this excuse is you can choose to let fear control you. I have. Many times. Fear is simply an emotion and it’s a powerful, often motivating excuse. Much could go wrong with your dream. You could mess it up! You could have misunderstood what you sense God calling you to do. Plus, our mind is capable and skilled at quickly creating worst-case-scenarios. But, know this. Trusting God, even when you’re afraid to do so, always produces God-appointed and God-sized victories. In fact, you can’t possibly get to the victory until you face the fear. (Could we learn anything here from Esther? Esther 3)
I can’t afford it!
You’re afraid the dream will be more expensive than the provision of God. You wouldn’t verbalize this one, but it’s real, isn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the money fear raised by potential church planters. I often say the money is in the harvest. (Tell this excuse to the widow in 1 Kings 17 or the disciples who picked up 12 baskets of leftover bread in Matthew 14)
This may be the boldest excuse. With this excuse you simply refuse. You may disguise it lots of ways, but the fact is you’re doing things your way – instead of God’s way. You can combine all the other excuses here, because you won’t even give it a try. In fact, if the truth is known, you’d rather run some more. I did this one for years. (How did this excuse work for Jonah?)
There will always be an excuse not to follow the dreams God lays on your heart. Obstacles in life are plentiful. You can keep making excuses, or you can address them one excuse at a time. The one who achieves most is often the one most willing to overcome excuses.
What excuse are you using to stall on God’s plan?
Age and maturity has helped me get better at discerning what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.
Still, I’ve learned (through many different seasons of life) that there are often more opportunities than time in life…even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. Recently, I have had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things that I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”, but as much as they line with my strengths, passions, and dreams I have for my life, I said “no” to them.
How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing…perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?
Here are four things I look for in examining my heart before responding. I say no when:
When we planted our church I had a vision. It was actually a ten-year old vision. The vision was broad. I felt God wanted to have a church that reached people where they were, not with rules to perform to for approval, but with unconditional love and grace. I recruited a co-pastor who could share that vision. I recruited a core team who could own that vision as their own. My co-pastor and I recruited a worship leader who believed the vision. Then step-by-step we began to give away our vision.
and find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:10 NIV
One of my life goals has been to get to a blank piece of paper stage in my walk with God. Ultimately, I want to present God with a blank piece of paper so He can plan my life.
It started like this. Years ago I was explaining to a friend I was at one of those “trying to discover God’s will” points in my life. (I have been there many times before and will be again.) His advice wasn’t something he had thought about a ton before. He admitted it sort of came to him quickly. But, for me it was the word I needed to hear.
He said something like, (Maybe you need to start with a blank piece of paper and give God ample space to plan out the rest of your life. Make yourself completely available to Him.)
I left our meeting, however, with a very probing question for myself. Did I really even have blank piece of paper? And, not in the literal sense. I’m sure I could find blank paper somewhere- even in such a digital age. But in my heart. Had I really released my will to God’s will?
Over the next few weeks, through prayer and discipline, I attempted to get there – at least in that season.
Over the years since then, I have periodically continued the self-examination. To do this I have to be honest with myself and the plans I have for my life. I certainly want to follow His lead, but I think many times my page is loaded with my own agenda. If I want my page to be completely blank, then I need to offer it back to God with nothing on the paper.
But, it leads me to ask you the question:
Have you given God a blank page to plan your life?
Be prepared when you do. God seems to love a challenge. He is great at taking nothing and making something when we let Him draw the picture – write the story of our life. But, I‘m not sure as followers of Christ – and, really as humans, whether we know it or not, if we can fully realize our ultimate design until we let the Creator have His way.
Let me offer a few more thoughts on the subject:
The beat thing you can do for yourself when planning for life is to give God plenty of margin to shape your plan. Actually, when we give Him our whole life we are in a better when we come with our own agendas.