Isak Dinesen in Out of Africa has this fascinating statement about what that means for us as human beings to get our identity from God [his idea of you] verses the quotation of the day [what others say].
“Pride is faith in the idea that God had, when he made us. A proud man is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. He does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of him. His success is the idea of God…
People who have no pride are not aware of any idea of God in the making of them, and sometimes they make you doubt that there has ever been much of an idea, or else it has been lost, and who shall find it again? They have got to accept as success what others warrant to be so, and to take their happiness, and even their own selves, at the quotation of the day. They tremble, with reason, before their fate.”
Be honest. You’re distracted, right? In fact, that’s probably why you are reading this blog post instead of working on that project you should be working on now.
Maybe you’re like my friend, Justin, who told me he was having real trouble making progress on his book. “The deadline is looming,” he admitted. “But I can’t seem to get focused.”
I know the feeling.
If that describes you, I have good news. Here are seven steps to getting unstuck. They are not that revolutionary on their own, but practiced together, they are like a defibrillator for your productivity:
Create a to-do list for today. Many people keep lists, especially those who have been inspired by David Allen’s GTD method. They have scores—perhaps hundreds—of tasks, neatly divided by projects, contexts, or areas of focus. But they don’t know what they need to get done today. I recommend creating a simple list for today with just three critical actions on it.
41-44 “I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with the authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God?
Burnout comes when we are unable to share the load. Sharing the load is not just physical or emotional but also spiritual. We share the load as we can vulnerably open our lives up to a few trusted friends love you enough to challenge, pray and encourage you. As ministers, we struggle to do this but this is vital to life and our congregation!
I would be dead in the water if I did not have a few guys that are willing to take runs or cycling rides with me and give me the freedom to share my joys, sorrows, triumphs and failures. And better is when they hold me accountable to share. The way out of burnout is to let out our spiritual struggles to a trusted friend!
Who can you seek out to be one to hold you accountable to share your spiritual burdens?
Who can you seek out to serve holding others accountable in sharing and growing spiritually in the gospel?
“For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.” -John 12:43 (NLT)`
Jesus, may this not be true of me. I know I come back to this theme over and over, but it’s such a big deal to me…and to you.
It’s all about YOU not me. When I receive praise, respect, accolades from people, help me quietly thank them and pass it along to you.
“Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing?” 1Corinthians 4:7 Msg. There is no point if I truly believe everything is sheer grace and gifts.
Wanting and seeking praise recognition from people will be a struggle until I go to meet you.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
We have met the enemy and he is us! I am my own worst enemy and often get in the way of what Jesus wants to do. Self-worship, self-interest & self-preoccupation are idols that cause me to feed off of people’s praise.
Years ago, in my regular morning Bible reading, meditation and journaling, I ran across John 5:41 in the NLT,
“Your approval or disapproval means nothing to me.”
My first thought was, of course it means nothing to you…you are God, but to me, approval or disapproval means a whole lot. When I am approved I feel great…like I could run for president. And when I am disapproved, I feel like pond scum and want to run and hide somewhere.
Lord I’m tired of living like a yoyo…up and down and at the mercy of how others view me. Let me live and minister for an audience of one…YOU!
This is totally possible through the power of the Holy Spirit who resides in me.
+To ponder: Has it gotten to the place where the praise of men means more to you than the praise of God?
As some of you may know, I pick a verse or a short passage to memorize each month for my own personal growth. Some are ministry oriented and others are more life oriented. These verses usually come out of my daily scripture reading.
The verse that I’m praying over, meditating on and applying to my life and ministry this month is Deuteronomy 11:16:
“Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them.” (ESV)
The book of Deuteronomy is loaded with encouragement for the Israelites to remember all that the Lord had done for them from the time they left Egypt and to never turn away from him and serve the gods that the nations they were disposing were worshipping.
Idolatry was a problem for them and it is a problem for us today…for Christians in general and for leaders in particular.
It was John Calvin who noted that, “Our hearts are idol factories.”
When I was a fairly young leader in The Navigators, I had it pointed out to me by Tommy Adkins that ministry had replaced Jesus in the center of my affections. As time went on, it was a temptation to allow lots of other things to replace Jesus. Here are a few that I have identified and struggled with:
Popularity-being well liked and respected
Production-being fruitful and successful
Power-letting positional power and authority to go to my head
Prestige-Reputation, acclaim, applause and accolades
Position-Having an organizational position with something cool on my business card
If you are a leader you have perhaps discovered, as I have, that it is tempting and easy to make leadership about everything other than Jesus and his kingdom. The biggest mistake of all is to make leadership about me: what I’m accomplishing, how I’m being appreciated, how I’m being rewarded, how I’m being quoted. Well, you get the idea.
The verse that hits me square in the face is 1 John 5:21 in the Living Bible, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” It doesn’t get any plainer/simpler than that. What takes over the central place in my heart has become an idol.
Staying in 1 John for a few more thoughts: chapter 2:15-16 in The Message, “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”
For me personally, at this point in my life, the world’s ways are more of an idol than the world’s goods. Popularity, production, power, prestige & position are more sinfully appealing to me than more stuff in my office, in my closet, in my garage or a in a storage unit.
I would guess that for each Christian, and each leader, the idols are different…and different at different points along our journey with Jesus.
A few things are the same though, based on Deuteronomy 11:16:
We need to be very careful and watchful over our hearts
Our enemy is out to deceive us into believing that we are doing just fine
We can easily turn aside to both serve and worship these idols
I recall from a study I did a number of years ago on Hebrews 12:1,2 that the word looking, as in “Looking to Jesus,” actually means to intentionally and deliberately turn our eyes/attention from one thing (idol) and fix them on Jesus.
So, what is the antidote to our hearts being idol factories? Trust the grace of our Lord Jesus to keep us looking at him…being continually enthralled and enamored with his love, his beauty, his mercy, his forgiveness, his atoning death and resurrection.
There is a song I learned early on as a Christian.
Personal thriving and leading with passion comes when we resource our lives with vision, passion, words and schedule:
Vision – This is writing down what we are after for a better future. Consider vision statements for our spiritual life, spouse, children, work, finances and leisure.
Passion – How do you recharge your passion? Bill Hybils described passion as protein. You have to refuel your passion. He says that he refuels his passion by serving the needy. It reminds him of broken things that drives him to see made glorious. How do you refuel your passion.
Words – What words do you fill your head with? I have read that some of the most thriving leaders are careful with what they digest. Shows, books, podcasts don’t always encourage our hearts. The News, unchecked, will not always lead us into the good, the true and the beautiful. My wife always challenges me to keep the broken things in front. Not to forget. But this is different than feasting on sensationalism. What words do you fill your head with?
Schedule – What does your week look like? Do you just go through the motion? My personal coach made the point that we have 168 hrs in a week. (Sleep = 56 if you get 8hrs a night) (Work = 45) That leaves roughly 67 hrs. What are you going to do with that time? How will you serve, recharge, play and build relationships with that time?
Scott Thomas said “Ministry leaders tend to be the most underresourced members of the church, often receiving the least amount of support and attention.”
Recently I read that doctors, lawyers, educators, accountants, engineers, and people in a wide variety of professions and businesses participate in professional development to learn and apply new knowledge and skills that will improve their performance on the job.
This is not just a need in jobs, skills and products but this is also true with who we are as individuals. We get older. There are new challenges. There are new circumstances that change us for the good, the bad or the ugly. And then the unthinkable happens: we melt. We fall apart. Not necessarily on the surface but on the inside. We don’t know who we are! And when are there we see that we have never really resourced our insides (heart, passion, dreams and purpose)
Personal, spiritual and strategic development is not just a one time event but it is a life time of pursuit and is one of the most neglected parts of our lives. We just think that we will grow into leaders naturally.
This is really true of ministers. We are constantly reading and prepping for sermons and we can mistake this for knowing ourselves. I read one author that called this “sanctified ignorance.” “Sanctified ignorance” is just saying “I serve God, therefore, things will work out and be find.” I don’t need to plan! Biblical growth is not “letting go and letting God.” God gave us passions and desires. He gave us the ability to cultivate and create. This takes meditation and implementation. This takes vision and goals. This takes a deep understanding of our purpose!
I will confess I have been there. I have sacrificed myself for churning out work and saying “I love God… I will be fine… I will just serve and it will all work out.” This is a farce. In the years that I have served as a senior pastor, I can tell you that I have neglected my heart over and over which as led to frustration, anger and dwindling passion. It was not until I came to a crisis of needing to understand my own heart and needing to define my passions and dreams that I began to thriving. God gives us passions and desires. Sometimes it is for something beautiful and sometimes it is for the broken things around us. We will not thrive in running wildly after those things until we really know ourselves.
Are you underresourced and overwhelmed? Are you on that old “treadmill?” Do you even know your passions and dreams? Finding purpose is not a one time experience. It is a life time pursuit.
Minister friends, it is crucial that you don’t live with “sanctified ignorance.”
It hit hard and it hit home. It opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking about ministry and motives. In the NIV John 5:41 reads, “I do not accept praise from men.” In the NLT it reads, “Your approval or disapproval means nothing to me.” I knew the minute I read it that it would have a profound effect on what drives me to do what I do in God’s kingdom. Paul alludes to the same truth in Galatians 1:10, NLT; “Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.”
As I reflected on John 5:41 that morning a few years ago and continue to reflect on it’s truth today, I realize that for me it is a paradigm altering concept for me to get hold of. Who is my audience? Is it God and God alone or is it people, whether few or many? I think most leaders do things with an eye to the approval of some audience or other. I have a renewed desire in my heart to shift my awareness of “audiences” to the point where I live, and minister for an audience of One. I want to experience God in such a way that I can truly say that people’s approval or disapproval means nothing to me.
At times, I still live in fear of what people say and think; whether I am accepted or approved by people in “my audiences.” It is slavery, bondage. Not what God intended when he bought my freedom on the cross.
As I was meditating on that verse in the NLT, I had thoughts like: Wow, that would be a place to be. Oh, to experience more regularly the freedom and joy of not being a yo-yo, constantly up and down as it relates to how people are responding to me. My experience has been that when people approve of me, I tend tofeel elevated and good about myself. On the other hand, when people criticize me, I feel very fearful and question my identity in Christ.
Oh, to be consistently secure in You, Lord Jesus, that I am not moved up or down by people’s perception or comments about me, but receive anything and everything and stay unaffected. Maybe it is wishful thinking due to the fall, my sinful nature and living on this side of heaven, but nonetheless there is something in me that wants to learn how to daily live for an audience of one.
Winston Churchill remarked in 1941 in a speech in the House of Commons, “Nothing is more dangerous than to live in the temperamental atmosphere of a Gallup Poll—always feeling one’s pulse and taking one’s temperature.”
Churchill describes a nineteenth-century Christian soldier, General Charles Gordon, as, “a man careless alike of the frowns of men or the smiles of women, or life or comfort, wealth or fame.” In describing himself, General Gordon said, “The more one feels, in order to keep from shipwreck, the necessity of steering by the Polar Star, i.e. in a word leave to God alone, and never pay attention to the favors or smiles of man; if He smiles on you, neither the smile or frown of men can affect you.”
After he died, John Bonar, a Scottish friend, wrote to Gordon’s brother, “What at once and always struck me was the way in which his oneness with God ruled all his actions, and his mode of seeing things. I never knew one who seemed so much to ‘endure as seeing Him who is invisible.’ He seemed to live with God and for God.”
That’s it. That is, I believe, exactly what Jesus was getting at in John 5:41 and what made his life and attitude so refreshingly different. This “living for an audience of one” was the secret to the boldness and fearlessness of the first Christ-followers we read about in the book of Acts. I want to get to the place where, before others, I have nothing to prove, nothing to gain, and nothing to loose.
As I read of great men and women of God they live as if they had an internal a gyroscope not a Gallup poll that directed them I wonder how far Moses, Abraham, Noah would have gotten if they had taken polls before moving out or speaking out.
Here’s what I’m learning about living for an audience of one:
It is a long process in experiencing change of this magnitude
I am still insecure and spend too much time worrying about what people think
I need to experience God’s love and acceptance of me more fully and more consistently
The key to seeing change is spending more secret time with him and being honest about where I am and what I am thinking and feeling
It is important for me to immediately confess “audience switching” when I am aware of it
How are you doing? Which “audience” is your focus on most of the time?
Excerpt from 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller
“Are you a goal setter? Do you typically set goals at the first of the year? If not, why not? Goals give you a starting point and a destination. It is the easiest way to give meaningful direction to your life, which releases you to effectively use your talents.
Identify 5-year goals then work backward to what you need to do today to make deposits in where you want to be 5 years from now. Be specific, creating quantifiable benchmarks to track your deposits of success. Saying you want to be a better mommy, have a better job, or learn a new language is admirable, but without listing steps of measurable, specific goals, you will not move toward any specific action. Then another year will pass without any real change.
If you can plan out for 5 years from now, you will likely be amazed at how doors start opening. People who cannot see 5 years out ultimately end up feeling like victims of circumstances. They feel like they are being pushed along the railroad of life with a locomotive right behind them.”