Philippians 3:13 “But one thing I do..”
The most common question i get asked when I travel and speak is “What’s God’s will for my life?” This is asked in a variety of ways but essentially comes back to this underlying wrestle in our hearts, “What on earth am I here for?” God has created you for a singular purpose. You can have many hobbies and interests but you can only have one purpose. You can be gifted and skilled in many areas but God has created to fulfil a specific calling. The Book of Proverbs tells us, “Everything is made for a purpose.” My one big thing is to inspire the global church to fulfil its calling on planet earth. What’s your OBT..? I encourage you and challenge you to discover, develop and direct your time, energy and abilities towards knowing and doing your One Big Thing as if your life depended on it.. because it actually does. Explosive Insights!
One of the wrestles I’ve had for as long as I can remember is feeling the weight of the expectations of others. I think this is in large part of growing up as a pastors kid and feeling like people’s eyes were on me and expected certain things from me because I was the son of a pastor.
My upbringing was a blessing and I have so much to give God glory for but I took people’s expectations to heart and allowed too much of what people thought about me to shape how I would act or how I felt about myself. This is dangerous and unhealthy.
One of my great friends and mentors ‘Mike Grechko’ shared with me a great insight into expectations: He shared that there are 3 basic levels of expectations:
- The perceived and realistic expectations you have of yourself
- The perceived and realistic expectations people have of you
- The perceived and realistic expectations God has of you
Unfortunately, too many of us operate out of a false perception of the expectations people have of us, rather than addressing what it is that firstly God expects of us. Trying to meet the demands of false expectations is to place a pressure on oneself that is too heavy to bare.
When it comes to the senior leadership of a local church, I’ve found that you will never do enough or be enough to meet all the expectations of the people around you. What I’ve had to do is come back to my own sense of calling in my relationship with God and understand what God requires of me and by his grace, work towards fulfilling what’s in his heart.
To be honest, my biggest battle with expectations has been those I’ve had of myself. I’ve often thought, it would be great to be a machine that didn’t have to be concerned with sleep or daily rudimentary tasks and could just keep churning out wanted results. I’ve always had larger than life dreams and bigger expectations of myself than I could meet on any given day. God has taken me on a journey of peeling back the reasons and motivations for this drive and helped me to embrace Gods unforced rhythms of grace in every aspect of my life.
This has been a hard battle and one which I still engage in daily, but inch by inch I’m growing in my love for and awareness of my frailty and weakness as a human being, knowing that, while I don’t want to acknowledge it, Gods strength is made perfect in my weakness. I don’t use this as an excuse for status-quo living and in-activity. God has given you and I capacity for certain things and we are to steward our resources in such a way that we maximize the grace each of us has received. But we are not machines, we are humans created in the image of God with real feelings and real limits. There is only so much we can do in response to the expectations of people and we eventually have to leave it in God’s hands.
I encourage you to not operate out of a sense of false or perceived expectations but get under the surface and actually understand what it is that is expected of you in your role and relationships. Ask the hard questions. Evaluate those expectations in light of what God has called you to do and what he has revealed in his word. Put some boundaries in place if needed and build your identity on Christ, rather than on the opinions of others. You will be better of for it and your relationships with others will be too. Read Matthew 11:28-30 for some good spiritual medicine for your soul.
The word SHIFT means to change from one position to another or to move from where you are to where you need to be. Life and leadership requires shifts of all kinds at various moments in our journey if we are going to continue to grow and influence others toward a preferable future. One of the shifts I have personally had to embrace that I want to pass onto you is:
A PRESSURE shift from the comfortable to the chaotic
When I wasn’t leading people in the context of local church ministry, my life was less chaotic and more comfortable and yet when I answered the call of God to lead and preach, the pressure increased radically. It’s in response to the possibility of stress that people often back away from the call of God but keep in mind the only place where there is no stress in life is the cemetery. Life, let alone ministry is full of chaotic activity, especially, when you are seeking to live in the centre of God’s purpose for you.
The first thing that signals a transition into growing pains is an increase of pressure applied to your life. Life Pressure is the amount of force applied to such things as your schedule, relationships, work and finances. When going through a pressure shift, you will feel overwhelmed by what is being expected of you and as a result you will have a tendency to go to emotional extremes. When you feel like your spiritual insides are going to explode you will generally respond in 1 of 2 ways:
- Push harder, or
- Sideline yourself
Either option isn’t going to help you grow. I encourage you to go contrary to what you think should do and work a little less but spend more time with God to receive the spiritual energy you need to sustain the output required of you in your current capacity. Leadership, be it in the family or work context demands an increasing of capacity to keep growing.
Living on purpose and living with passion go hand in hand because passion is connected to your holy discontent. In John 2:13-17 Jesus found people using God’s house for something it shouldn’t have been used for = commercial trade instead of relationship with God. Holy discontent rose up in Jesus heart and he became passionate about restoring the house of God to its original purpose.
A lack of passion in your life might suggest a disconnection from calling. I think ‘The Passion’ is a fitting title for Jesus death on the cross because it represents a fulfillment of calling for Jesus in seeking and saving the lost. When you connect to your calling, you will have your own ‘passion’ moment because it will be a natural byproduct of you walking in your purpose.
Passion will inspire you to get creative to resolve your holy discontent. Jesus saw the state of God’s house and he got intentional about changing it. The text says, ‘He made a whip of cords and drove out the money changers’. Passion inspires creativity within you to bring about change. Passion enables you to attempt things you would never have attempted on your own. Passion inspires you to pioneer new ministries, write books and songs and go where others haven’t gone before.
Passion isn’t insecure about what other people think. Jesus told the money changers where to go with their pigeons and business. Jesus knew what the call of God on the Father’s house was and he wasn’t going to let anyone bring a distraction to it. When you get a revelation of what God’s call on the House is, you will get passionate about protecting it. You can’t be passionate about God’s house and be worried about what people think of you. I can’t preach God’s word and be insecure about whether or not people approve of my preaching. I can’t build a church and be constantly checking with everyone, if they are OK with what we are building.
Passion is a God thing, not a personality thing. Never make passion about your personality. I’ve seen some of the most introverted people be extremely passionate when it comes to their call. Never let your wiring get in the way of your passion for God and his House. Don’t wait for the preacher or pastor or someone else to stir your passion. You stir up your own passion. Paul said, ‘Stir up the gift within you.’
Our best passion must be reserved for God’s House. Jesus saw Jesus’ passion in the temple and remembered the words of Psalm 69:9 “Zeal for your house will consume me.” God and his house deserves our best passion and energy. Passion is contagious and whatever you are most passionate about will be passed onto others. Connect to your purpose and passion will follow.
Nehemiah 1:4 “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days and I continued in prayer and fasting.”
Nehemiah was a Hebrew living in exile as a slave to the king of the Persian Empire when he received news of the welfare of his people. Nehemiah’s heart was burdened by the plight of his people and it compelled him to deny himself food and seek God in prayer. In fact the rest of Nehemiah’s story is the out working of God’s call to lead the rebuilding work back in Jerusalem.
Not every burden is a call from God but every call will be accompanied by a burden. Too often we misinterpret passing burdens as holy crusades that we must pick up and pursue but not every burden is a call from God. God created you for more than filling a vacancy in a company and receiving a pay cheque each week, he created you to fulfill a unique call.
The burden you carry is a key to recognizing your call. Ask yourself the questions: What drives me? Why do I do what I do? I’m not talking about unhealthy and sinful motivations for acting in inappropriate ways but I’m asking you, what is your holy discontent?
Popeye the Sailor Man was a popular cartoon character many years ago. Popeye had an on again, off again love relationship with Olive Oil and any time Olive’s well-being was threatened or someone was threatening Popeye in some way, he would down a can of spinach and his forearm muscles would grow to twice their size and he would proclaim this phrase before he cleaned up all the baddies, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.” (As you can see, Popeye had an incredible command of the English language)
A burden from God is a holy discontent that declares “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.” Someone once said, “Deep change only comes out of deep pain.” Sometimes it isn’t until we experience a “That’s all I can stands” moment that we rise up and act upon our holy discontent.
When God calls you, a holy discontent will consume your heart and compel you to take action but before you run out and act on the burden, pray into the burden like Nehemiah did. Prayer purifies the burden and releases the power of the Spirit to enable the burden to hit its target. Pay attention to the signals the Spirit of God is sending your way. A call is always accompanied by the right burden.