I’ve spent the past few weeks talking to friends about, “what does living really mean?” It seems that everywhere we turn, there is someone dying young or getting very sick just after retiring. I good friend said that no where but in America do people save their whole lives, work until they are too old to enjoy their savings and skip the best parts of life while they are capable of enjoying it. There is a TV commercial that starts with the phrase “when did leaving work on time become a bad thing?”
Despite all of our desires, we can’t chart our own course through life. My life was planned out through age 59 – a secure career, a strong financial plan, a pension when I retired and good health. At age 44 my career was over and my financial future was uncertain. Injured in freak accident at work, I would have major surgery and have to find employment with a mild disability and put two kids through college. I was NOT in control of anything. Once I put my faith in God, people started entering my life and new connections were being formed. Soon, I was working in a new field and expanding my view of “work”. Like a tree growing and spreading its roots, soon my life was filled with great opportunities, great people and options. I was not directing my steps and I’ve stopped planning everything. This brings me back to the opening of paragraph; we can’t plan for everything so perhaps we should be taking advantage of the things that are right in front of us.
Jeremiah 10:23 “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own, it is not for a man to direct his steps.”
I biggest thing that I learned from my life being turned upside down was that I was not in control. I often write about God’s plan and I have personally experienced it. This life is God’s will; the beginning and the end are decided by Him. “It is not for man to direct his steps” is today’s verse that God reminds us that He is ordering the events of our lives and not us.
The moment when we start thinking that we are in control, is when we start to get lost. Our lives are not our own because we are here to serve each other and give all of the glory to God for His work in and through us. Focus on serving the Lord and do His will by letting Him direct your steps. Lead others by providing a good example of how to care for each other. Be the “middle man” and care for everyone around you; it’s a test of your faith and I assure you that it isn’t hard to do.
It seems like every day this past week we opened the newspaper or saw on the television a story about a manhunt or a terrorist cell’s plan being foiled. Everywhere we turned, was another scary story about trouble in the world. I often wonder if these events have been going on for years but we are now just hearing about them because of the technological explosion we’ve seen in the past decade. It sure makes life seem chaotic and leaves many people unsure and afraid. Pretty soon, we are too afraid to travel or go to large events. We are all extra careful about what we say or who we say it to. I was one of the 20 on-duty Battalion Chiefs in the Phoenix Regional Response System on September 11, 2001. Most of the Emergency Operations Centers were opened that morning in anticipation of further chaos. The skies were quiet and people were glued to their televisions. I remember speaking with a radio operator that morning who was scared about what the events meant for the future. I reminded her that if she became terrified that the terrorists had won and got exactly what they came for – America in fear. She appreciated my remarks and we went on with our respective duties. I offer that when things start getting scary, we have two options, we can lose focus and run scared or we can stand tall and gain control. The choice is ours. For me, I choose to stand tall and live without fear.
For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
God reminds us in this verse that we should stand tall, in power, love and self-discipline. The events in Paris and Belgium these past two weeks are enough to scare anyone. Terrorists running free in Paris, terror cells plotting attacks, police crackdowns; all in addition to the regular things we have to fear. God is here for us. He gave us a spirit that can handle the fear by giving us the power to see through the terror. God is our strength! He will not give us more than we can handle, He believes in us. It is our sinful nature that convinces us that we can’t handle the stress and we look for outlets. Instead of being full of fear; become filled with the power and love of God our Father and then exercise your self-discipline to stand up to the fear. Do not let the fear win, you are strengthened by God and can defend against it. Our strength comes from God through our faith in Jesus Christ and His work on our behalf. Would you walk without fear if Jesus were literally standing next to you? He is with you always, start walking!
I am in this group so I can say it, some of us are simply too old to change. It’s not easy to admit but I am generally too practical to see the positive in things. I ask “why?” a lot or look at things from such a practical application that I fail to enjoy the moment because I’m looking for the lesson in the experience. On the flip side however, I have an awesome sense of humor. I hope it balances things out. Do you know what kind of person you are? Being self-aware is so important today. I think that people are loosing the ability to know or understand who they are or how they come across because we are having fewer “in-person” experiences. We are having fewer phone calls and conversations but more e-mails and text messages. “Social media” is making us less social. It’s just another example of me being too old to change and too practical. Without a little self-awareness we have no idea how people receive and perceive us. When people see you, do they hide or do they seek you out? If you don’t know how to answer that question, you have a little work to do. Listen to what you say, if you use the word “I” often or you are regularly critical of others; rethink your view of the world. Your spirit tells a lot about you think is important. I’ve always said that you can leave a mark just make sure that it’s not a skid mark.
“For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
God has given us everything we have and need for this life, but most importantly, He gave us our spirit. God wants us to be confident in Him and not ourselves. God has given us the power or strength necessary to survive in this world, the love in our hearts to reflect or mirror the love He has for us and the self-discipline to keep our lives in order. God does not want boastful disciples that are selfish or who live lives full of chaos. He wants disciples who can live a godly life of faith putting Him before all others. What do people see when they see you? Do they see a cross necklace on someone who is difficult to work with or who doesn’t lend a hand because they are too worried about their own goals? God gave us this spirit of power, love and self-discipline because we were created in His image. There is no better way to witness to others than by showing your spirit everyday in everything you do. Timothy is not telling us to be self-confident or self-righteous, he is telling us to be strong because that is how God made us. He reminds us that we are not timid; we do not lack courage or confidence. We should have confidence in God to be with us and it’s in that confidence that we have the power to face what this world puts before us.
Thanksgiving was last week and I had another devotion on thankfulness in my heart to share. As leaders we are in the position to influence the lives of those that work for us, those we work with and occasionally, those who we work for, especially if you are in middle management. We are so busy trying to juggle all of our priorities that sometimes we forget to say “thank you”. We lead people only because they choose to follow us. If they are following us because they have to, well, we are just managing them. True leaders are influencing people’s lives each day by what they say and do. If the people who work for you are truly following, they will alter their perceptions, attitudes, knowledge and behaviors all because of you. Maybe you never realized it but you have a lot of power over your employees. For some people, that power goes right to their heads. Last week I suggested that you pick someone who makes your life just a little easier and say thank you to them. I’d like to suggest that you say thanks to the team that follows you. Tell them about the great work they do and how it impacts your business, then tell your coworkers how great it is to work with them and what they do to support you and then thank your boss for what he or she does for you personally and how you’ve grown from your experience working for them. Even if your boss is horrible, you are still learning something. Don’t let this Thanksgiving time slip away without thanking those that make your workdays a little more bearable. As a leader, it’s important for your people to know that you notice and that you care.
8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 9Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.1 Chronicles 16:8-9
We are taught that when we pray, we should give thanks to God for all that he’s done for us. Even if you are struggling right now, God is with you making you stronger. We often pray when we are worried or if we need something but how often do we pray just to give thanks? We see people accepting awards or scoring points in a sporting event point to the heavens as if to say “thanks to you God”. We don’t have to wait until we win an award or score a touchdown; everyday is reason to celebrate. Today’s verse reminds us to tell others what God has done for us: “tell of all his wonderful acts.” The greatest thing that God has done for us is to send us a savior, someone to intercede on our behalf with God so that our sins are forgiven. Jesus Christ taught us how to live, how to treat each other and how to be saved from ourselves. He is a great leader and deserves our thanks. Today, tell God how thankful you are for everything in your life and ask for the courage to spread to the word.