It was a sculptor named Frederic Bartholdi who designed and built the Statue of Liberty. It was built and then dedicated in New York City In 1886. It would be nearly 20 years later when the Wright brothers first took flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Yet, when building the Statue of Liberty, Bartholdi refused to cut corners, especially on the head of Lady Liberty. To think that someone would ever be able to see the top of her head never crossed his mind, but he took the time to put the same amount of work and detail up there. When you’re driven by excellence, you focus even on the details you don’t think that others will see. You understand that when you get the small details right, the big problems rarely show up.
My personal motto is, “If it has my name on it, it needs to be done with excellence.” If I’m going to spend my time working on something, I want to make sure I don’t cut any corners or do a job that will reflect poorly on me. In my mind, I think about how the things I do don’t just reflect myself, but God. As a person who bears the name Christian, I should also be concerned about the reputation of the One whose name I bear. According to 1 Corinthians 12:7, each one of us are given gifts by God in order to help each other. If we’re going to maximize our gifts and their effects in the lives of others, it’s important that we understand how to use them and that we focus on using them well. We should never take these gifts lightly.
Galatians 6:4 says, “Let everyone be devoted to fulfill the work God has given them to do with excellence, and their joy will be in doing what’s right and being themselves, and not in being affirmed by others” (TPT). You have work that God has called you to do through the unique gifts He has equipped you with. If you don’t use them, or do your work half heartedly, you diminish the ripple affect into the lives of others. To have the greatest impact on this world, we each need to know our giftings and operate in them with the excellence they deserve. Put time into perfecting the details, even the ones you think no one will ever see. You never know what God will do or how He May bless your commitment to doing all things with excellence.
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Did you know that there are four seasons to farming? In the Spring, it’s the time of planting. The soil is tilled and seeds are placed at the right depth and spacing. In the Summer, it’s critical to make sure the crops are getting the right amount of water, fertilizer and sunlight. With the Fall comes the harvest. It’s about gathering in the produce at the peak of ripeness and then ripping out the old stalks so the ground can be infused with organic matter. Then, when the winter comes, the land has an opportunity to rest. You also spend this time repairing your tools and getting ready for the next Spring.
As I read that, I can’t help but think of the seasons of our life. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us there is a time and a season for everything. That includes our lives. Some of us are in a season of planting and preparing for what’s coming. Some of us are in a season of working on growing what we’ve planted. Some of us are in a season of harvest where we are reaping the benefits of what we’ve done. Others are in a season of rest where things in your life have been ripped up and it’s time to make repairs so you can plant again. Have you ever considered what season you’re in and the responsibilities God has given you for that season?
Proverbs 10:4 says, “Know the importance of the season you’re in and a wise son you will be. But what a waste when an incompetent son sleeps through his day of opportunity!” (TPT) God has you in this season for a purpose. In every season you find yourself in, there are things you should be doing for that season as well as things to prepare for the next season. Ask God to give you wisdom to know the things you should be doing in your season. Every season comes and goes. You will not be in this season forever, so make the most of it. Don’t let the opportunity of what God is trying to do in your life during this season pass by.
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One of the things that I see so many of us run into is paralysis through analysis. What I mean by that is that we feel like we need more information in order to act. When we don’t feel like we have all the information we need, we stall or make excuses as to why we can’t do what we need to. Because we live in the Information Age, we know there is always more information that we can acquire in order to make the best decision. The problem is that our need for information has replaced our ability to act in faith.
We all grew up hearing the words, “Ready. Set. Go.” As a people of faith, I believe God often is asking us to skip those first two words and simply go. Our comfort is in the getting ready and getting set, but we’ve learned to live in those areas without going. The truth is that we will never feel like we’re ready when we are acting in faith. To feel like we need more information, skills or tools means we are trying to do it in our own power and not in God’s. We’ve got to learn to let go of those security blankets and trust that we already have what we just need to “Go”,
Colossians 2:6 says, “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given” (MSG). It’s time for you and I to quit staying where we are trying to get ready. We need to step out with what we’ve been given and let God provide what we lack. Remember God doesn’t always call the most equipped people, but He does equip those He calls. It’s time to move forward with what you have. Break out of the paralysis through analysis, step out in faith and trust God to step in. That’s what faith is all about.
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To me, one of the most interesting decisions anyone made in the Bible came from Peter and the disciples in John 21:3. Peter told the disciples, “‘I’m going fishing.’ And they all replied, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and fished through the night, but caught nothing” (TPT). Three years earlier, Jesus had called Peter away from the fishing boats to fish for men instead. For three years, they watched Jesus perform miracle after miracle. Then they saw Jesus crucified and resurrected. He wanted them to meet Him in Galilee, yet when they arrived, they went back to their old jobs.
I don’t know how long it was after they returned to Galilee before they went fishing, but it’s very indicative of what we all do. God tells us to wait, we wait, He doesn’t show up during our time table and we do something else. We reason, “Maybe we missed God.” Instead of moving forward, we go backwards to what’s familiar to us. We pick up our old nets and step away from our calling. Just like this night of fishing for the disciples, it’s unproductive and unsatisfying. Once you’ve had a taste of your calling, it’s hard to be fulfilled by anything else. Yet Jesus doesn’t leave us there. He chases after us like the lost sheep and redirects us.
I love in this story how when Jesus tells them to cast on the other side and the nets fill with fish, Peter doesn’t wait to bring them in. He jumps out of the boat and swims to shore. I believe that’s what God is asking each us to do. It’s time we jump out of the boat of the familiar and moved toward Jesus. It may be uncharted waters for you, but the fulfillment you seek is to be using the gifts He’s given you in the calling He’s placed on your life. If you’re in the sea of the familiar right now, jump out of the boat and swim to where God is calling you.
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Several years ago I attended a conference for ministers. One of the speakers was Jon Acuff, and he spoke on critic’s math. The way critics math works is 1 insult + 1,000 complements = 1 insult. We can be praised by everyone for our work, but if one person didn’t like it, we allow that one negative comment to erase all the positive feedback we’ve received. It can be like we never even heard the compliments because our mind spends all its time focusing on the one negative comment rather than our feedback as a whole. Critic’s math is a dangerous thing for us to fall into.
An example is in the Book of Esther. Haman was the King’s prime minister. He had been put in such a high position, that the king declared everyone should bow to him as he passed by. Everyone bowed down except one. Mordecai refused. In the fifth chapter, Esther had prepared a banquet for he and the king. When he left, everyone bowed except Mordecai. In verses 12-13, he told his wife and friends, “What is more, Queen Esther gave a banquet for no one but the king and me, and we are invited back tomorrow. But none of this means a thing to me as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the entrance of the palace” (GNT). He allowed critic’s math to cloud his thinking, and it ultimately cost him everything.
You and I need to accept that we can’t please everyone, and that pleasing people is not our goal. Pleasing God is. Ecclesiastes 7:10 warns, “Don’t pay attention to everything people say.” When you receive negative feedback, take it constructively, but don’t give it so much weight that it distracts you from what God has called you to. What He has to say is far more important than what any person has to say. Keep focusing on what God wants to do in your life and through you, and don’t let one person’s negativity keep you from reaching your potential or from finishing your race.
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In sports, there are always arguments over who is the greatest of all time. In football, the question is if Tom Brady is greater than Joe Montana. In basketball, it’s if LeBron James is greater than Michael Jordan. There’s even debate over who the single greatest sports figure is across all sports. People will always have opinions and will argue over who the greatest is when it comes to sports or just about anything really. I believe it’s because God put something in us that wants to be great and fights against mediocrity.
Even the disciples argued over who was the greatest. Luke 9:46 says, “An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them was the greatest” (GNT). I can hear their arguments now. John probably said, “I’m the greatest because He loves me most.” Peter argued, “But I walked on water!” What’s funny is you don’t hear Jesus rebuke them for wanting to be great. Instead, He says, “For the one who is least among all of you [that is, the one who is genuinely humble–the one with a realistic self-view]– he is the one who is [truly] great” (AMP).
Jesus’ desire is that each of us would be great, and He told us how. In God’s Kingdom, the greatest isn’t the person who wins the most souls, heals the most people, has the most famous ministry or goes to third world countries. To be great is to be humble and to serve others. It’s understanding who we are on Christ and that we are only great through Him. He is the potter and we are the clay. If you want to be great, then let Him do what He wants with your life. Your greatest potential lies in being who He created you to be.
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As you know, David was told by God that he could not build the temple. God had told him that his son Solomon would build it. In II Chronicles 22:5, David recognized that his son Solomon was young and inexperienced. He then decided to make preparations for building the temple. He ordered everything that Solomon would need in order to build the temple. Even though Solomon had everything he needed to be successful, it was up to him to do something with all the material if he was going to build successfully.
Success doesn’t lie in having the things God gives us, it lies in doing something with them. In Matthew 25:14-30, we read the Parable of Talents. Jesus told the story of three men who had been given bags of silver from their master according to their abilities. Two of the servants took that material and invested it while one hid it. When the master returned, it was the ones who did something with the material who were considered successful, not the one who let it sit.
I Corinthians 12:7 says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other” (NLT). God has given each of us the materials to be successful just like David did for Solomon and the master did for his servants. The question is, are you going to let the materials sit there or are you going to do something with them? You can’t let the fear of being unsuccessful to prevent you from doing anything. If you do nothing with what God has given you, you’re no better than the man ho buried his bag of silver.
If God has given you a dream, quit often it’s as big as the task given to Solomon to build the temple. You may look at yourself and think you’re too inexperienced to do what God called you to. If you read the Bible, the greatest heroes of faith were the ones who didn’t let their inexperience keep them from their calling. They trusted God to do His part, so they did theirs. It’s up to each of us to take the gifts God has given us and put them to use. The greatest successes in life start with the smallest of steps. What can you do today to get started on your journey of success?