In my last article I wrote about purpose. My focus was in helping people to discover their “sweet spot” in life. It was also to resource other leaders to help the people and teams they lead to discover purpose. This newest installment is a sequel to the first. Within its title there is a very simple, but powerful word; Preparation! When the meaning of this word is put into action it’s the difference of success and failure or significance and mediocre. People often have dreams, but all too often there is very little effort in preparing to make those God-given dreams a reality.
Those who know me best know that I’m a die-hard hoops fan. I love the game. In fact, there was a season early in my life that I had to choose between making coaching, or five-fold ministry my life’s pursuit. I don’t mind telling you it was a close call. Altogether I’ve spent 12 years of my life coaching the great game of basketball. I’ll never forget as an athlete in my freshman year, our coach, Jim Barr, told a life-changing story to our team.
We were halfway through the season, and we hit a slump. Coach knew we were not reaching our potential, and it showed in the effort of our practice. I’ll never forget him blowing the whistle as he sat us all on the court. He told us about the small town he grew up in. As I remember he went home after a long period of time and met an old friend. This friend was working at a gas station and still talking about the dreams he was going to fulfill. Now there’s nothing wrong with working hard and pursuing your dreams. However, this guy was talking about the same dreams he’d had for ten years, and he wasn’t a step closer to fulfilling them. Why? He grew content in the stage of life he was in and stopped preparing for something greater. Of course, this story was to motivate us to stop going through the motion of our practice time and to prepare for greater and better!
The same principle from this story applies to all of us. Perhaps you know exactly what you’re supposed to do in life. You have discovered your purpose. However, as you walk in life you’re not any closer than you were ten years ago. The familiar has become common and your pursuit has become dry. A good part of my week is spent with leaders. God has blessed us with the opportunity to work with some amazing people, and we are honored to be a part of their journey. Many of these leaders hit the wall of frustration when deciding how to mobilize their team. How can they activate those who are on the bench and get them into the game? We teach what we call the three D’s: Discover, Develop & Deploy.
So often when a young leader discovers that gift called “purpose”, all they want to do is deploy! They’re living on the high of God speaking to them so that all they see is the imagery of them actually working out the manifestation of the dream – if only it were that easy. I was seventeen years old when I knew that God called me to the ministry. Although I initially ran from that call, I eventually became consumed by the call. I saw myself traveling and preaching to hundreds and thousands. In fact, I would go regularly to the airport and watch people board and disembark their planes (this was all prior to 9/11, when you were allowed to walk straight to the gate without a ticket.) I would look at the cities of those planes and ask God to allow me to travel to those cities and preach the gospel. I would go to Miami International Airport and sit outside of customs and watch people arrive from all different nations. I would ask God to send me to those nations. I saw myself traveling and leading people to Jesus. However, what I was not aware of was…a journey of preparation was required.
Isn’t the discovery phase so exciting? The moment we hear God and it seems that all of life makes sense. There is only one moment in life that is more exciting. That’s when you actually step out and deploy into your life’s purpose. However, the time in-between discovering and deploying is where your dreams are tested and tried. It’s what will guarantee the fruit of your efforts. This part of the journey not only develops your skills, it builds the character necessary to become the “fire breathing, devil stopping, soul winning Christian” you always want to be. (Please forgive me. That was a Ron Luce moment.) Unfortunately, it’s not always the fun and exciting part of the journey, but it’s necessary. We must DEVELOP and prepare for what He has called us to do.
Here are just a few helpful tips to assist you in the journey of preparation:
1) There are no short cuts.
Don’t avoid the process. In the USA and Europe you can tune into the local television late at night and find a common theme. The “get rich quick” or “lose weight fast” schemes are being broadcasted. People who worry stay up late at night and this is why marketers target this hour. They are trying to attack people who have never committed to anything, to try their fast way of life improvement. However, statistically these fads and efforts last about as long as the commercials. It’s a billion dollar industry.
In my 40 plus years I’ve learned the hard way that there are no fast tracks that have value. Nothing replaces the hard work necessary to prepare for your life’s calling. Jesus lived 30 years of life preparation before he entered his three years of ministry. His teachings and ministry are still changing the world today. In fact, it’s because of His message you are reading this article today. We are all connected to His cause and purpose.
2) Stay faithful to the mundane.
Matthew 25:23 – “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
This could be a very life changing point for some. Have you ever felt you were in a cycle of just simple mundane activity? You want to see something new and do something different. However, God has not spoken anything new. We have all been there. Stay consistent in this season! We will never be able to handle the stress and anxiety of greater things if we don’t show ourselves faithful with the simple. David stayed faithful to His father’s sheep. It might have seemed mundane at the time. However, in the midst of his faithfulness, he was required to kill a lion and a bear. That was the training ground for something more significant. He would eventually kill Goliath, and that would thrust him into the public spotlight. What if he avoided the mundane responsibility of tending sheep? Would he have been prepared for Goliath? Stay faithful…God is preparing you.
3) Find a Mentor
I can’t stress this point enough. Proverbs 18:1 states; “ A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.”
God designed us for relationships. Everyone has horizontal relationships. However, we absolutely need vertical relationships to be a success. You need people who have been where you’re going. There must be a voice or voices in your life that will ask you the hard questions. When we isolate ourselves and feel we can succeed with only Jesus we are missing a great element in our preparation journey.
I have several people in my life who challenge me. However, I have three men who speak directly to my life. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt they are committed to my success and that God has placed them in my life. Ask God to put these kinds of people in your life. The reality is…He’s already assigned them to you. You probably just don’t know it.
4) There are many forms of preparation.
Preparation involves every area of life. As a leader your entire life is on display. I often tell the leaders I lead, “When you’re being promoted publicly, it’s not your gift that’s being promoted. It’s your life.” There are four areas of preparation I think everyone should focus on. By doing so this will bring some balance in the way you influence others.
A. Educationally – The classroom is a vital part of everyone’s journey.
B. Physically – Your longevity in becoming a world changer will be cut short if your health is not in order. It will also limit your ability to work harder and more effectively.
C. Financially –We are slaves to our debtors. If you take care of your finances, your finances will take care of you. Being financially free will provide a sense of freedom to every area of your life.
D. Relationally – We have already mentioned the value of mentors and relationships. However, so often home is neglected. Your public ministry will always be validated by your home life, family first!
I hope this encourages all of us to continue the journey of preparation. Really every stage of life requires some level of preparation. We should always be willing to learn and grow. I pray that your ministry and life journey will bear the fruit of the preparation you have committed to.