Focus is a major requirement if we are going to accomplish something with our life that really matters. Our culture is such that we are encouraged and drawn to become involved in many, many different things. We are finite people, with a finite amount of time, a finite measure of energy, and a finite amount of money. God can certainly bless us with more, but a major responsibility of those who follow Christ is to be good stewards of what He has given us and make the most of it.
I like to do and be involved in a number of different activities, but I know when I am getting to the point that I am losing my focus on the main things and getting distracted by to many different activities happening in my life. As a kid we used to take a magnifying glass and focus the sun through it to a small point of light which was very hot. That small spot of light would burn holes in paper or even start a fire. But if we would move it around it wouldn’t do much at all.
If we really want to be successful we must be focused on a small number of things that are important to us and have a high potential of impacting the lives of others. We need to steward well our time and energy. A lot of people who are unmotivated and a bit burned out are often just overcommitted. That doesn’t mean to busy, it means to busy with to many things.
It is like going to a car lot and picking out a car. We might like them all, but we don’t buy them all, we find one that is the best for us. We need to regularly evaluate our use of time and energy and see if we can simplify our life cutting out some stuff that is not important. Most have a number of things they could prune easily in their life.
John 15 says that when we start to bear some fruit God the Father will prune us so that we can bear more fruit. Self pruning is not to painful, especially if you keep you mind on the fact that you want to be truly successful.
One time when I was a kid on the farm we were going to build a fire under a huge pile of brush and burn it. No matter what we did my brothers and I couldn’t get the fire to go because we had no paper and the wood was wet. My Dad came over to check on us, and seeing our dilemma he said, “”let me show you how the Boy Scouts do it”. We thought we were going to get this slick way of building a fire that the pioneers must have used, but instead he took the little tobacco can that was in his pocket, emptied the remaining tobacco that was in the can into his shirt pocket, went over to the tractor and opened the petcock on the bottom of the gas tank and filled the little can with gasoline, poured it on the pile of small pieces of wood that we had collected, and threw a match on it. In a few minutes we had a rip roaring fire going. I remember thinking, “I don’t think the Boy Scouts build fires that way, but my Dad sure knows how to get a fire going with wood that I don’t think even the Boy Scouts could have done.
So how do you build a fire in your soul so that you are excited, hot, passionate, motivated, and have a strong desire to do something with your life that matters for all eternity. Contrary to what some people think I don’t wake up with my inside engine revved up to the red line, I wake up lazy, indifferent, and grumpy. My 1949 Ford pickup has the original Flathead V-8 engine in it, and when I start it on cold mornings it takes awhile and I have to follow certain steps or I end up with a dead battery with all the cranking. I am the same way, but I have learned how to start my engine, build the fire in my heart, and become a person of drive and “want to”.
I start every day with a prayer of dedication giving my life afresh to Jesus and I declare Him Lord and master of my life. I ask Him to show me His will for my life, and then I ask for His strength, and desire to be put in me so that I can accomplish His will. I regularly write down crazy ideas of things I could do. I don’t show them to anybody because they are to crazy. I delete them. Later I write them again. At some point I arrive at a clearly written goal that I believe is what God wants me to do, and then I pray about it every day, sometimes several times each day , asking for God to give me everything I need to accomplish this “WIG”, “wildly important goal”. At some point I share it with those people that I need to be part of the process to accomplish it, and sell it to them. By this time I am a blazing inferno, and it is fun.
Passion, desire, drive, want-to, and hot are all words that describe a main characteristic of successful people. The opposite of that is words like indifferent, content, complacent, and Luke warm. Most people think that drive and desire are part of a Temperment that we are born with, and if we have it cool, but if we don’t then we are stuck being mediocre in accomplishments in our life. In Revelation 3 Jesus in talking about a church says “because you are lukewarm I will spit you out of My mouth”, wanting us to be hot. That is an accountability statement, meaning we are responsible for being hot instead of lukewarm, meaning we can change. I know how to build a fire in my house in our wood stove and keep it hot on a cold day or night, because I learned how. We can learn how to build a fire in our own soul, if we really want to. The problem is that many people get comfortable in their apathy and would just as soon stay there as get hot. What we know intuitively is that a strong “want to” in us creates a discontentment in us that is uncomfortable. It is that discontent feeling in us that motivates us to work more, work harder, make sacrifices, study, pray more and with more fervency, and to think and reflect on what we need to do. I could very easily allow myself to become complacent and lukewarm about bearing any more fruit for God because at my age I am tired physically all the time and that is amplified significantly by my Parkinson’s. The thought pops into my head all day long, “take it easy, coast awhile, relax”. I have to resist those thoughts and keep stoking the fire, I can do that and so can you. Fire building instructions tomorrow.
Principle number one for becoming a successful person is “You must become a strong person in order to become a successful person”. Yesterday I identified a cluster of five character traits that strong people have, diligence, endurance, faithfulness, self-control, and toughness. The obvious question is, where do you get those? They are not a prize in a cereal box or something you can order from Amazon or eBay. Many think we are born with them, that is, they are in our genes. Many do get them from their parents, but it is the quality of the training that they receive growing up from their parents that gives them positive character traits. Patty and I targeted certain character traits when we raised our 8 kids and the one at the top was that our kids would be strong. So if I am 68 years old and sitting in my recliner reading this blog and I come to the conclusion that I am a wimp, what can I do to change that? Principle number two is “those whom God blesses will be successful, those who He does not bless will not be successful”. A major component of God’s blessing is His strength and also the fact that things turn out well most of the time when God blesses. Who does God choose to bless? Is it arbitrary? An unknowable mystery? The fact is that God has set conditions that if we meet them He will bless us. So we have this balance in our walk with God, “Apart from Him we can do nothing, but He will do nothing if we don’t do what He says.” It is like walking a tight rope between two skyscrapers, get out of balance and down you go.
Pursuing success is like building a house, you have to start with the foundation and get it right or nothing else works right. I gave you five aspects of true success yesterday and the first is the growth of our character. Character traits have a natural progression in that certain ones need to come early on for others to be developed. There is a cluster group of five character traits that work together to form a very strong foundation for all future growth, accomplishment, and success. I am going to use the word strong as the descriptor/title for this group of five character traits. As I blog on this topic for a couple of months I will end up describing twenty different principles that if followed will result in being a truly successful person. Principle number one is “In order to become a successful person you must first become a strong person”. The five character traits that work together to make a strong person are (1) diligence, (2) endurance, (3) faithfulness, (4) self-control, and (5) toughness. People with the character trait of diligence enjoy working hard, pushing, and sacrificing. Being tired at the end of the day is a badge of honor, not a dreaded consequence. Because getting a lot accomplished is a major source of joy for diligent people they learn how to make the most of their time. Endurance is simply the refusal to quit. Faithfulness is keeping our word, doing what we said we would do. A key component of faithful people is that they are as careful to do what they said with little, seemingly unimportant things as they are with major ones. Self-control is really the core of this group in that if you have self-control the other four are relatively easy, but if you don’t have self control the other four are impossible. Self-control is you being in control of your choices not your flesh, the devil or the people around you. Tough people play hurt to use a sports phrase. They tolerate and handle pain, disappointment, and grief without becoming self -absorbed, consumed with self-pity, and chronic grumblers.
Success is is a cool word, probably my favorite. I want to be a successful person, and so do you, we were created by God in His image and His likeness so desire for greatness, accomplishment, and success is who we are by design. There are some significant problems that most face in regards to success. The first problem is we tend to turn our pursuit of success into a comparison thing with other people which will result in pride, envy, shame, fear of failing, slander, bitterness, and on the list goes. The reason we so easily compare ourselves with others is because we have not established a clear definition of success, which is the second problem, so we look at others around us and declare some of them as successful in our mind and then compare ourselves to them as we pursue the elusive desire of success. True success is never really determined until we get to the end of our life, and so daily success will be a measurement of growth closer to our final goal. Some would say that success is different for every person, I don’t think so. The reason is that I am not the one who declares me a winner at the end of my life, Jesus is, and so His definition of success is what matters, not mine or yours. Let me suggest five aspects of the truly successful person; (1) we have steadily grown in character so that we are like Jesus, we have the divine nature, we will be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. (2) We accomplished the work that God gave us to do in the days that we were given to do them. This will be different for each of us, but we don’t decide, we discover what that work is. (3) We bear much fruit, fruit being permanent changes and growth in character that occurres in other people because of our influence in their lives. (4) We grow to be wise people who think and talk in a way that brings joy to Jesus as we fellowship with Him forever, and (5) we finish well. The third problem is that we don’t have a clear plan to become a successful person. We become successful,people when we apply, obey, and follow the principles of success. “Principles are timeless and self-evident, and they apply everywhere. They are natural laws, like gravity. Whether you understand them or even agree with them doesn’t matter—they still apply” I have written 20 principles for success for myself and I will be sharing them with you the next couple of months.