One of the moments I remember most from high school was being in a locker room in Waco, Texas before the basketball state championship. Everyone was nervous feeling the weight of the game we were about to play. Coach walked in with The Dallas Morning News newspaper folded up. He said, “I want y’all to hear this article. It says, ‘The State Championship is a mere formality for (our opponent). (Our school) lacks the height and the talent to keep up.’” Something happened in that moment. He said, “Go prove them wrong!” We started banging on the lockers and screaming. We came out of that locker room a force to be reckoned with and won the game. We were all of a sudden motivated to win, but it was the discipline we learned in practice that gave us the victory.
Motivation is a good thing, but it doesn’t keep you going. When we first accept Jesus, find our calling or discover our God given purpose, our motivation is high. When it comes down to working it out, getting things moving or bumping into roadblocks on the way, motivation does very little to keep us on the path. It’s the daily disciplines that do that. Motivation is emotional and depends on success to stick around. Discipline is willpower and depends on determination to move despite how you’re feeling. God gives us the mountain top, emotional experiences because we need the motivation from time to time, but He expects us to be disciplined to continue through the valleys of not being able to hear Him or sense His direction for our lives.
Proverbs 30:25 says, “The feeble ant has little strength, yet look how it diligently gathers its food in the summer to last throughout the winter” (TPT). He keeps working for the future despite the present, and is a good example for us. You may have lost your motivation along the way to doing what God called you to, but let me encourage you to begin small, disciplined steps to move you towards it. Find five things you can do daily that will keep you moving towards the place where God is calling you, and do them no matter what. The ant is considered wise and a hard worker in this Scripture because he does the necessary work before the winter arrives. So you and I need to be working while we can towards the place God is leading us. Motivation may give you momentum, but discipline will keep you going when you’re not feeling it.
After speaking at a high school chapel service, a young girl came up to me and asked how she could know what her calling was. I told her to find her holy discontentment and start there. She still seemed a little confused, so I asked her to think about things that break her heart when she sees them. Then I gave her some advice I heard Andy Stanley give: Do for one what you wish you could do for many. Sometimes we look at an entire problem, feel inadequate and give up. You may not be able to eradicate hunger in the world by yourself, but you can feed one person. Start there. Do for one what you wish you could do for many. When you prove you can be faithful helping one, God will empower you to help many. It all starts with one.
I can’t help but think of King David wanting to show kindness to Saul’s family. When he found out Jonathan had a son that was still alive, he had him brought in. Historically, when a new family took over the throne, they wiped out the bloodline of the previous ruling family. Jonathan’s son thought that was what was going to happen to him when the king summoned him. However, David placed himself in this young man’s shoes and decided to show him kindness. If the roles had been switched, he would have appreciated kindness to his grandson. He then did for one what he wanted to do for any in Saul’s line; he gave him a seat at the king’s table and restored his family’s property.
I know you probably grew up reciting the Golden Rule and were taught to treat others the way you want to be treated, but what if you used it as a measuring stick for fulfilling your calling? I love the perspective that The Message gives it in Matthew 7:12. It says, “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” When you have found your holy discontentment, do for one what you wish people would do for you if you were in that situation. Quit making the excuse that the problem is too great, you don’t have the resources to make a difference or that you’re not ready. Find one person in that situation and do what you can. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but you have to start. Put yourself in their shoes, think of what you would like for someone to do for you, take the initiative and do it.
Several years ago, I was running from my calling, living in sin and making some pretty dumb decisions. My life started to spiral out of control. I started to lose things and people that I wanted to hang onto, but I couldn’t stop the madness. When my first wife told me she was leaving me, it was a wake up call. Up to that moment, I always felt like I could get back to where I needed to be in my life, but when that happened, I felt like I had even lost the calling of God on my life. It was too much for me to have lost that too. Some time later, I explained to a friend how I had lost the calling of God on my life and my purpose. He asked, “Who do you think you are that you have the power to revoke God’s purpose and calling on your life?”
I wonder if David felt the same way after he had his affair with Bathsheba and murdered her husband. Maybe Peter did too after he denied Jesus three times. I can hear him beating himself up saying, “You we’re going to be the rock that Jesus built His Church on. You blew it!” Yet, despite both of their failures, and public ones at that, God continued to use them. David and Bathsheba later had a son they named Solomon. He became Israel’s next king and was the wisest person to ever live. Peter, after being restored by Jesus, went on to lead the Early Church and turn the world upside down. Despite their failures, God never removed their calling or purpose.
Romans 11:29 says, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (NLT). To me, that’s pretty clear that no matter what I’ve done, God designed me with a purpose and no matter what I do, He’s not going to withdraw it. If you’ve been hearing that voice inside telling you that it’s too late or you’ve done too much for God to ever use you, combat it with this verse. God uses our failures and humanity in our calling. He has a way of using them to humble us, to make us approachable and as a testimony to others that God can use or save anyone. No one is beyond His love or ability to forgive. No one is beyond His ability to use. You and I lack the power to revoke God’s calling though we may run from it for a lifetime. God’s plan for you is still in place. Quit running from it or believing the lie that you’re damaged goods. Gods not done with you yet.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the future. Not just the future, my future and the plans God has for me. I wonder when the dreams and plans He has for me will happen. I try to make plans and prepare myself for the things He wants to do through me. Then there are times when I think about my past. I think about the ugly details and can’t help but wonder if my past is the thing keeping me from the future God has for me. It’s easy to look behind me and then mentally disqualify myself. It’s usually in those moments I hear the still small voice say, “You can’t undo my calling on your life. Just keep being faithful in the little things.”
Peter is a disciple we like to pick on, but his faith enabled him to do things that were written about. There were moments when he had great revelation and times when Jesus rebuked him openly. Jesus once told Him that He would use him as the foundation to build His Church on. Yet Peter is also the person who denied even knowing Jesus. I’m sure he wrestled with the same thoughts I do. Had he messed up so badly that God changed His plan him? That’s why I love that Jesus imparted the blessing to him by asking Peter if he loved Him. When Peter said yes, Jesus comforted him and told him that the deal was still on by telling him to feed His sheep. His past didn’t matter. His heart did.
Psalm 139:5 says, “You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me” (TPT). Man looks on the outward appearance of things looking to disqualify ourselves or someone else from their calling, but God looks at our heart and the plans He has for us. He prepares the way and opens the doors for us. He uses the mistakes of our past, no matter how bad they were, to help us reach broken people with authenticity. He speaks His blessings of approval over us like He did for Peter. Do you love Him? Then go do what He’s called you to do. Quit worrying about all these other things and focus on your love for Him. He’s already prepared your way, so get moving on it toward your destiny.
Years ago I would lead mission trips to Haiti not long after the earthquake. Before we would leave, I would talk to the team about what they could expect. I would remind them that it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and their infrastructure was destroyed. No matter where you looked there were needs that needed to be met. There was person after person whose story would break your heart. Then I would tell them that our job was to go in and do xyz. We needed to pick up the football where the last group set it down, then we would run with it as far as we could and set it down. If we tried to do everything and meet every need, we wouldn’t accomplish much. Helping them understand our part was key to being the most productive and accomplishing the most good.
In 1 Chronicles, David looked at his palace one day and noticed how nice it was. He then thought of the Tabernacle, a tent that housed the Ark of the Covenant. He wondered why he lived in such a nice place while God was placed in a tent. He asked the prophet to ask God for permission to build a temple, but God refused to allow David to build it. Instead, his son Solomon was picked to build it. Instead of sulking because he wasn’t going to build it, he started gathering all the supplies necessary to build it so Solomon wouldn’t spend years getting ready. After he was finished, he brought Solomon and the leaders over and showed them everything. Then in 1 Chronicles 22:18 he said, “My part in this was to put down the enemies, subdue the land to GOD and his people; your part is to give yourselves, heart and soul, to praying to your GOD. So get moving—build the sacred house of worship to GOD!” (MSG)
You were designed and created on purpose and with a purpose. There is a part for you to play in building God’s Kingdom. Don’t get distracted looking at what other people are doing. Seek God for what your part is, then do it with all your might. Understand that the work will not be completed until Jesus returns. Pick up the football wherever it is, and run with it as far as you can until you can’t go anymore. Don’t get distracted and worry about whether or not other people are doing their parts. That’s between them and God. Your part is to what God has called you to do with all your strength. Understand that your part is also a thread woven into the masterpiece God is creating. Do your part, and do it well so that when you arrive in Heaven you’ll hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
One of the first Bible verses I can remember memorizing is Proverbs 23:7. It says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (KJV). What a profound truth for all of us. Henry Ford interpreted it this way, “Whether you think you or can’t, you’re right.” The power of your thoughts are so important to being able to live out your faith and pursue your calling. Do you believe that Jesus forgave all your sins and set you free 100% or do you still carry the guilt of forgiven sins? Everything that God wants to do through you starts with how you answer that question. If you believe there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), then you’re free to fulfill your purpose. If you still feel condemnation from your past, you’re living in a self imposed prison.
Living under guilt and condemnation from your past is a self limiting belief. The enemy knows that your thoughts predict your future, so he attacks you there. He goes after how you feel too. If he can get you to feel guilty, then he can keep you from your purpose. Feelings lie, but God doesn’t. Other He has the power to forgive you and take your guilt or He doesn’t. Acts 13:39 says, “Everyone who believes in Him is set free from sin and guilt” (TPT). So we know that those feelings of guilt are a tool of the enemy to hold you back from your destiny and they are not from God. You need to let that verse sink into your soul and repeat it, along with Romans 8:1, until you believe it from the inside out.
1 John 3:20 tells us, “Whenever our hearts make us feel guilty and remind us of our failures, we know that God is much greater and more merciful than our conscience, and he knows everything there is to know about us.” God knows who you have been and who you’re becoming. Old things have past away, and all things in your life are becoming new through Him. Trust in the grace of God to forgive and remove your guilt, then be transformed into a new person through the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). Your past happened and there are scars to show, but those things are not meant to hold you back. They’re there to help others find their freedom and healing. God knows everything, everything, about you and He still loves you, forgives you and wants to use you. Leave the self limiting thoughts and feelings in the past where they belong and find your freedom and purpose in your forgiveness.
I like to ask people, “What’s the difference between a dream and a goal?” A lot of people struggle with this question at first because it’s hard to articulate on the spot. But think about it for a second. They’re very similar with one exception. A goal is something you have a plan for in order to accomplish it. Dreams are usually large goals without a plan. The problem is most of us think we have set goals when really all we have done is created a bunch of dreams without a plan to accomplish them.
The people I know who are goal oriented aren’t easily swayed into doing things that don’t align with their goals. They know exactly what they need to do in order to accomplish them and they are pretty disciplined. Dreamers aren’t as disciplined. They live with their heads in the clouds and are easily knocked off course by distractions. Unfortunately that’s the way many of us live our lives and it bleeds into our faith as well. We’re living for Christ without a purpose, and that’s dangerous.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul mentions that in a race, everyone runs, but only one wins. He then tells us to run to win. Verse 26 says, “Therefore I do not run without a definite goal” (AMP). Not only are we to run to win the ultimate prize, we are to run with purpose. We are to run with goals. To keep from being easily distracted by all this world has to offer, and to keep our head out of the clouds, we need to have spiritual goals. There’s no other way for us to have the impact on this world that we’re called to have. God has a purpose and a plan for you that only you can fulfill. Don’t go through life without accomplishing all God has planned for you. Set goals, make a plan and start doing things today that move you towards fulfilling your purpose.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
One of the traps that I fall into is thinking that if I’m doing what God asked me to, I won’t find resistance from others. I mean if I’m doing God’s will, others, especially Christians should be on board, right? Not necessarily. The things that God calls us to do are often for us alone to do. Other people won’t necessarily see or run with the vision God has given you, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you didn’t hear God, or that they’re not. The enemy doesn’t want you to be productive for the Kingdom, nor does he want you to complete the work God has given you to do. He will use whoever and whatever he can to slow you down, discourage you and wear you down so that you lose your zeal, doubt your calling and give up.
Even though God had burdened Nehemiah with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and other people had caught on to that vision, it didn’t mean it was going to be easy. The people were joyful and started off strong, but then resistance came. People began to hurl insults at them to keep them from their work. Day in and day out they were verbally attacked. The verbal attacks turned into threats and plots against them to stop the work. They took their eyes off the goal and began to look at the enormity of the project, the size of the mess and lost their joy realizing it wasn’t in their strength to complete it. Nehemiah 4:10 says, “The people of Judah had a song they sang: ‘We grow weak carrying burdens; There’s so much rubble to take away. How can we build the wall today?’” (GNT) They became weary and discouraged like we do.
Galatians 6:9 says, “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” If you’re getting discouraged because of the grind or the attacks from others in doing what God has called you to, pick your head up and look to the One who called you to it. Keep your focus on the end goal and not on the size of today’s problems. God will strengthen you and give you wisdom in how to handle today’s issues of you ask Him to. Pray for people who will run along side of you, who will catch the vision and who will share the load. Remember how big your God is. He is able to make a way where there seems to be no way. Keep pressing forward with the end in mind and you will reap a harvest for the work you’re doing.
Recently we were going to sand some floors down to refinish them. The cost to pay someone to do them was astronomical. We decided to do them ourselves. The cheapest way to do them was by hand. That would take forever so we went to rent a machine. I saw the machine I wanted and asked about it. He said it would do the job well, but they were out of sandpaper for it. He grabbed a “less aggressive” machine and then the sandpaper for it. As he rang it up, the sandpaper alone was over $100. I couldn’t believe the price. I had to remind myself that having the right tool was worth the money.
Proverbs 14:4 says, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest” (NLT). Having oxen would require feeding them, watering them, housing them and ultimately cleaning up after them. Many people would look at the down side of owning them and choose not to get them. On the other hand, without them it would be difficult to plow the land or to bring in the harvest. There’s give and take in everything. It’s up to us to count the cost and to understand you get what you pay for, even if the cost is ongoing. In an agricultural society, if you wanted an abundant crop, you needed to invest in oxen.
Each one of us has a purpose to fulfill. You can do it with the natural tools you’ve been given (like sanding the floor by hand) or you can invest in yourself to increase the effectiveness of those tools. Going to school, taking a class, buying books and other ways to increase your effectiveness will cost you. It’s up to you to make sure you use the right tools for what you’re called to do and to invest in your future. There are pro’s and con’s to everything. That’s why we’re encouraged to count the cost physically and spiritually. Investing in the right tools for whatever God is calling you to will translate to your effectiveness.
I was chatting with a friend at church recently. We were talking about the need for satellite churches around the city. As we were discussing locations that would be good, he brought up a certain area of town. He broke down and began to cry. He said, “We’ve got to get in there and take the Gospel to the people who live there.” I could tell his heart was breaking for that demographic. I believe God has given this man that burden and that’s why it bothered Him so much that there were so few churches in that area trying to reach them. His passion touched me, and it got me to thinking about the importance of anguish in a Christian’s life.
Several years ago, David Wilkerson preached a sermon called, “A Call to Anguish”. It’s one of those sermons I’ve listened to many times because it fires me up. In it, he says, “Anguish means extreme pain and distress. The emotions so stirred that it becomes painful. Acute deeply felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you. Deep pain. Deep sorrow. The agony of God’s heart.“ That’s what was going on in my friend, and to be honest, I was a little jealous because I wanted to feel God’s anguish like that.
In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah wanted a son. Every day she was reminded of her barrenness. God put it in her heart to have a child so she went to the Tabernacle to pray. Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). I believe her anguish was born in her heart by God. I believe it’s something every one of us need. If you’re not feeling God’s anguish today for a brokenness in the world, ask God to share part of His heart with you. It’s time we wept in anguish for the things that break God’s heart so we can do something about it.
Take five minutes today to listen to these excerpts from David Wilkerson’s sermon “A Call to Anguish” and ask God to share part of His heart with you.