Time to Grow and Change – Part Four

If you want to expand your potential and therefore your capacity, you must first change your thinking. However, if you change only your thinking and you neglect to change your actions, you will fall short of your potential. To start expanding your capacity, take the following three steps:

1> Stop doing only those things you have done before and start doing those things you could and should do

The first step toward success and fulfilling your God-given destiny is become good at what you  know how to do. But the more that you do what you know, the more you discover additional worthy things you could do. When this occurs, you have a decision to make. Will you continue doing what you have always done, or will you make the leap and try new things? 

Doing new things leads to innovation and new discoveries, and among those discoveries is the realization of things you should do on a consistent basis. If you do those, you will continue to grow and expand your potential. If you don’t, you will plateau. 

In the book “Aspire” the writer recalls a discussion that he had with one of his mentors. The mentor was describing the growth of a tradesman from apprentice to master. He recalls the conversation:

A master doesn’t become a master overnight, he explained. There was a process. First, one must become an apprentice, then a journeyman, and finally a master.

Apprentice. Journeyman. Master. These three words illustrate the importance of going through fundamental and necessary steps to acquire the kind of humility that is commensurate with true leadership,

The mentor then shared: “Do you know that ‘apprentice’ means ‘learner?’ The word comes from the French ‘appendre,’ which means to learn.

In earlier times, apprentice was the name for someone who would select a trade, then find a master in his village to teach him the skills necessary for his chosen vocation. After learning all he could from the local master, the apprentice would then travel elsewhere to broaden his education. Launching forward on such a journey turned an apprentice into a journeyman. A journeyman would often travel long distances for the privilege of working under the master who could best help him further hone his craft. Over time, a journeyman could eventually become a master himself – and be in a position to start the cycle all over again.”

The price of expanding one’s potential is ongoing. It ebbs and flows. Opportunities come and go. The standards we must set for ourselves are constantly changing. What we could do changes as we develop. What we should do also evokes. We must leave behind some old things to take on new things. It can be difficult work, but if we are willing, our lives are changed. 

Often you will feel ‘in over your head.’ You will, at times, have a steep learning curve. Most days you might feel like Pablo Picasso when he said, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order to learn how to do it.”

The process of adaption and expansion, once started, will continue for a lifetime. So, you never want to stop learning. You want to keep enlarging yourself, expanding your potential, improving on what you already do well; never stopping until you depart this world in death. 

Norman Vincent Peale, a pastor and author, said, “Ask the God who made you to keep remaking you.”

More next time…

Time to Grow and Change – Part Three

As we continue our look at continuing to grow and expand our influence and impact regardless of age and circumstances we have seen that the first step in continuing to grow and change is to change the way we think. The book of Provers states, “As a person thinks, so they become.” So true! We have seen that we need to think differently about ourselves.

How should we think?

1> Stop thinking ‘more work’ and start thinking ‘what works?’ 

2> Stop thinking ‘Can I?’ and start thinking ‘How can I?’

3> Stop thinking one door and start thinking many doors

When it comes to growth, you don’t want to stake your future on one “door.” It may not open! It’s much better to consider many possibilities and look for multiple answers to all of your questions. Think in terms of options.

Often we look for a ‘success formula.’ One way others have built a great organization or church. One door. We try copying what they have done. Sometimes it works but most times it does not. And, if it works you end up with a copy of someone else’s dream or vision and not the realization of your own potential and destiny. So, it is better to act on your own dream even if you are not sure of anything but the first small step. You formulate and discover the details of further steps and future growth and change as you go. Mobility is critical to progress, and strategy will begin to evolve out of your journey of discovery.

One of my favourite words is “options.” Anyone who is going to grow and change and reach their full potential will need to make sure they are never ‘fenced in.’ There must never be just one door. When you work with multiple options you avoid mental claustrophobia. And, you will increase your desire to increase your capacity. The more time goes by, the more you will want to explore creative options and the less you will want to rely on someone else’s system and approach.

As I have learned to think “many doors” and explore options for life and ministry, here is what I have learned:

        • There is more than one way to do something successfully and well
        • The odds of arriving somewhere increased with creativity and adaptability
        • Movement with intentionality creates possibilities
        • Failures and setbacks can be great tools for learning and growing
        • Knowing the future is difficult; controlling the future is impossible
        • Knowing today is essential; controlling today is possible
        • Success (progress) is a result of continued action filled with continual adjustments

The greatest challenge you will ever face is that of expanding your mind. It’s like crossing the great frontier. You must be willing to be a pioneer, to enter uncharted territory, to face the unknown, to conquer your own doubts and fears. But here’s the good news. If you can change your thinking, you can change your life. As Oliver Wendell Holmes remarker, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” 

If you want to expand your capacity in what God has called you to accomplish for Him, the first place to start is always in your own mind. You will need to change the way you think.

We have looked at the first of two moves we need to make to continue to grow and change and increase our influence and impact on our world. We have looked at “How to increase your thinking capacity.” We have seen:

1> Stop thinking ‘more work’ and start thinking ‘what works?’ 

2> Stop thinking ‘can I?’ and start thinking ‘How can I?’

3> Start thinking one door and start thinking many doors

Now, for the second step, “How to increase your capacity for action.” Changes in the way you think should always result in changing the way you live life and interact with those around you. 

More next time…

Time to Grow and Change – Part Two

We are looking at removing the finish line and running to race that God has put before us. To continue to run the race and move forward in what we are doing in life and in our work we must be dedicated to growing and changing. We saw last time that the first thing we need to change is the way we think because all growth begins on the inside of us. So, we are looking at how we should be thinking…

How do we need to think?

1> Stop thinking more work and start thinking what works? 

2> Stop thinking ‘can I?’ and start thinking ‘How can I?’

At first glass, the questions ‘Can I?’ and ‘How can I?’ may appear to be very similar. However, the reality is that they are worlds apart in terms of results. ‘Can I?’ is a question filled with hesitation and doubt. It is a question that imposes limitations. If that is the question you regularly ask yourself, you’re undermining your efforts before you even begin. How many people could have accomplished much in life but failed to try because they doubted and answered ‘no’ to the question ‘Can I?’

When you ask yourself ‘How can I?’ you give yourself a fighting chance to achieve something. The most common reason people don’t overcome the odds is that they don’t challenge them enough. They don’t test their limits. They don’t push their capacity. ‘How can I?’ assumes there is a way. You just need to find it. 

A mentor once asked me, “What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail?” The answer for most people would be fairly obvious. A lot more than you are currently attempting! To do so, you will need to think outside the box. You will need to take more risks. You will need to push your boundaries. You will need to test your own limits. You and I need to realize that most of our limitations are based not on lack of ability, but lack of belief.

Sharon Wood, the first North American woman to climb Mount Everest, said of her experience, “I discovered it wasn’t a matter of physical strength, but a matter of psychological strength. The conquest lay within my own mind to penetrate those barriers of self-imposed limitations and get to the good stuff – the stuff called potential, 90 percent of which we barely use.” If you want to tap into that unused 90 percent, ask “How can I?” Do that and greater achievement becomes a matter of when and how, not if.

In Price Pritchett’s book “You” the author writes, “Your skepticism, which you presume is based on rational thinking and an objective assessment of factual data about yourself, is rooted in mental junk. Your doubts are not the product of accurate thinking, but habitual thinking. Years ago you accepted flawed conclusions as correct, began to live your life as if those warped ideas about your potential were true, and ceased the bold experiment in living that brought you many breakthrough behaviours as a child. Now it’s time for you to find that faith you had in yourself before.”

If you have spent time in a negative environment or you have experienced abuse in your life, you may find this thinking transition to be very difficult. If that describes you, then let me take a moment to encourage you and explain something. I’m asking you to shift from ‘Can I?’ to ‘How can I?’ I believe that deep down inside you already believe that you can achieve things. I believe you can do it. I believe that God has put in every person the potential to grow, expand, and achieve. The first step in doing that is believing that you can. 

The second step is perseverance. As you get started, it may not look like you’re making progress. That doesn’t matter. Don’t give up. Pritchett says in his book that everything looks like a failure in the middle. He writes, “You can’t bake a cake without getting the kitchen messy. Halfway through surgery it looks like there’s been a murder in the operating room. If you sent a rocket to the moon, about ninety percent of the time it’s off course – it ‘fails’ its way to the moon by continually making mistakes and correcting them.”

You can change your thinking. You can believe in your potential. You can use failure as a resource to help you find the edge of your capacities. As psychiatrist Fritz Perls observed, “Learning is discovering that something is possible.” So, we need to believe in ourselves and the potential God has placed inside each one of us and continue learning, growing, and increasing our capacity. 

More next time…

Time to Grow and Change – Part One

As I age and look forward to another year of life and ministry in 2020 I am rededicating my life to continuing to grow, expand my knowledge and understanding, and move forward with greater capacity for life and ministry than ever before. It has been said that personal growth increases your capacity. And, as the old Nike commercial once stated, “There is no finish line.”

Have you maxed out your capacity? Have you reached your full potential as a person? Hopefully, like me, you can say a resounding “no.” I believe that if you are still breathing and you are of sound mind, then you have the potential to keep increasing your capacity. In the book, “If It Ain’t Broke … Break It! the authors write, “We don’t have a clue as to what people’s limits are. All the tests, stopwatches, and finish lines in the world can’t measure human potential. When someone is pursuing their dream, they’ll go far beyond what seems to be their limitations. The potential that exits within us is limitless and largely untapped … when you think of limits, you create them.”

How do you push towards your potential and keep increasing your capacity? How can you live without placing limits upon yourself? The only way to increase your capacity internally is to change the way you approach personal growth. Learning more information isn’t enough. You must change how you think and you must change your actions. 

I have read that most experts believe people typically use only 10 percent of their true potential. That statement is truly staggering! If that is true, then the average person has huge capacity for improvement. It’s as if we possess hundreds of acres of possibilities but keep only half an acre under cultivation. So how do we tap into the unused 90 percent? The answer is found in changing how we think and what we do. 

How do we need to think?

1> Stop thinking more work and start thinking what works?

Ask most people how they increase their capacity and they’ll tell you be working more. There’s a problem with that solution. More work will not necessarily increase your capacity. More of the same usually results in more of the same, when what we actually want is better than what we have.

Most people work hard and keep at it for long hours. This is especially true of people in ministry. We need to realize that we are often valuing effort over effectiveness. In my life I discovered that I was doing a lot of things instead of the right things. My to-do list kept getting longer, but my impact was not increasing. I realized that I had to change my thinking. So, I am currently looking at everything I am doing and everything I am involved in and I am asking, “What works?” and “What is giving me a good return for my efforts?”

That’s what I recommend you do. Figure out what works best for you. To do that, ask yourself the following three questions:

      • What am I required to do?
      • What gives the greatest return?
      • What gives me the greatest reward?

These questions will help you to focus your attention on what you must do, what you ought to do, and what you really want to do.

      • What am I required to do? – What you must do
      • What gives the greatest return? – What you ought to do
      • What gives me the greatest reward? – What you really want to do

You will be seriously amazed at what you discover and instantly recognize some basic things that need to change in the way you think and approach life – personal and professional life, home and work life. 

More next time…

I Want To Keep Growing

At the start of this month, 50 years ago, I preached my first sermon. And, during those 50 years I have continued to read and learn hopefully growing wiser each year. Throughout those years I have been very aware of what areas I need to be growing in and how to improve in those areas. So, my skill set has grown and improved, being constantly sharpened and increased. And, I study in a wide variety of areas so I can teach and live life with a wider perspective. As a result I have a tremendous store of information both in books and in computerized notes and teachings and even stored in my mind and heart. 

Knowing ‘what’ to improve and ‘how’ to improve are critical to consistency in personal growth. But so is knowing ‘why’. The ‘how’ and ‘what’ will take you only so far. The ‘why’ is what keeps you motivated long after the first rush of energy and enthusiasm wears off. It can carry you through when willpower isn’t enough. Think of it as why-power.

I love the story of the salesman who looked out the window of the hotel restaurant at a blinding snowstorm. He asked his waiter, “Do you think the roads will be clear enough in the morning to travel?”

The waiter replied, “Depends on if you’re on salary or commission.”

Having a strong ‘why’ will help you keep going when the discipline of learning becomes difficult, discouraging, and tedious. If your growth is connected to your values, dreams, and purpose, you’ll know ‘why’ you’re doing it. And you will be more likely to follow through.

One of the ways to judge whether you have tapped into your ‘whys’ is to take what is called the “Why Test.” Your answers to the following questions seven questions will let you know if your ‘why’ is solid enough to motivate you to consistently grow:

      • Question 1: Do you constantly procrastinate on important tasks?
      • Question 2: Do you require coaxing to do small chores?
      • Question 3: Do you perform duties just to get by?
      • Question 4: Do you constantly talk negatively about your work?
      • Question 5: Do efforts of friends to encourage you irritate you instead?
      • Question 6: Do you start small projects and abandon them?
      • Question 7: Do you avoid self-improvement opportunities?

If you answer yes to many of these questions, you haven’t tapped into a strong enough or big enough ‘why’ to keep you growing.

There is a relationship between motivation – the ‘why’ – and discipline. If you think about it, you can see that discipline and motivation are two sides of the same coin. If you have the motivation you need, discipline is no problem. If you lack motivation (the ‘why’), discipline is always a problem. 

You have to give yourself more and bigger ‘whys’ so you can keep wanting to put in the effort to grow. The greater number of reasons you give yourself to grow, the more likely you will be to follow through. Of course, in certain circumstances one really compelling ‘why’ can also be enough, as Kenyan world-class runner Bernard “Kip” Lagat demonstrated when he was interviewed during the Sydney Olympics. He was asked how his country was able to produce so many great distant runners. His answer: “It’s the road signs: ‘Beware the Lions.’”

When you make the right choices – however small – and do it consistently over time, it can make a huge difference in your life. If you remember ‘why’ you are making those choices, it becomes easier. But to continue to reach your goals and have a life that has meaning and purpose you must continue to learn and to grow. It must be a constant in your life. 

Doing What God Has Called You To Do 

My spiritual life and personal walk with God is in a season for massive change. As a result, my ministry is in a season of flux as the things He is asking me to do are new and different than in the past. And those things that seem to be remaining the same – such as teaching and prophesying – are being done differently. So, I have been thinking deeply about change in this season of change.

To move from what you are doing now to what you want to do is a process. No matter if you are in ministry, in the business world, an academic, or simply someone who is sensing change in your spiritual life – there is a process you are becoming involved in. Here is what I am discovering and learning…

Awareness

Darren Hardy, the publisher of SUCCESS magazine, says, “Picture where you are in [any] area, right now. Now picture where you want to be: richer, thinner, happier, you name it. The first step toward change is awareness. If you want to get from where you are to where you want to be, you have to start by becoming aware of the choices that lead you away from your desired destination. Become very conscious of every choice you make today so you can begin to make smarter choices moving forward.”

You cannot change direction if you aren’t aware that you’re not headed where you want to go. That probably sounds obvious. But have you taken the time to look at where your current choices and activities are taking you? Spend some time really thinking about where you’re presently headed. If it’s not where you want to go, then write out what steps you need to take to go where you desire to go, to do what you want to do. Make them as tangible and practical as possible. 

Will they definitely be the right steps? Maybe, maybe not. But you won’t know for sure until you start moving forward. As I have always said, “God can steer a moving car better than a parked one.”

Action

You cannot win if you don’t begin! The people who get ahead in the world are the ones who look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them. That means taking initiative. If means doing something specific every day that will take you another step closer to your desired goal. It means continuing to do it every day. Nearly all successes are the fruit of initiative. And, no step or change is too small. You don’t succeed by making major decisions resulting in major change. Solid, good, productive change takes place one small step, one small decision, one small change at a time. 

Accountability

Few things prompt a person to follow through like accountability. One of the ways you can do that is to make your goals public. When you tell others about what you intend to do, it puts pressure on you to keep working on it. You can request that specific individuals ask you about your progress. It’s similar to having a deadline to keep you moving. You can even write things down as a form of accountability. That’s what Darren hardy suggests. He says that you should track every action that pertains to an area where you want to see improvement and change, whether it relates to finances, health, career, or relationships. “Simply carry around a small notebook, something you’ll keep in your pocket or purse at all times, and a writing instrument,” says Hardy. “You’re going to write it all down. Every day. Without fail. No excuses, no exceptions. As if Big Brother’s watching you. Doesn’t sound like much fun, I know – writing things down on a little piece of paper. But tracking my progress and missteps is one of the reasons I’ve accumulated the success I have. The process forces you to be conscious of your decisions.”

Attraction

If you become aware of the steps you must take to do what you want to do, take action, and become accountable for following through, you will begin to produce the behaviour you desire and you will start getting closer to doing what you want to do. And that will start to result in a positive side effect: You start attracting like-minded people. 

John Maxwell taught me that “Who you are is who you attract.” That is true in every aspect of life. As your mother used to say, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

If you want to be around growing people, become a growing person. If you’re committed, you attract others who are committed. If you’re growing, you attract others who are growing. This puts you in a position to begin building a community of like-minded people who can help one another succeed. 

So, God has called me to make some changes in what I do and how I do things. These are the four steps I have been working through to move from here to there. To move from what I have been doing to fulfill God’s plan for my life to doing new things and even some old things in new ways thus moving slowly towards the fullness of God’s changing call on my life. 

I have been taking time to review where I am at in my life and looking at where I know God wants me to be. And, as Jesus said, I’m counting the cost. But, now I am ready to make daily and consistent changes to bring me to this new place in my own life and in the ministry. 

Focus On Others…

If we spend time with Jesus, then we will naturally be driven to do the things that Jesus did. In other words, if you tell me you are hanging out with Jesus every day and yet there is no desire in your life to share your faith, or love those he gave his life for, then we should probably dig a little deeper to find out what version of Jesus we are talking about.

Jesus gave his life for others, and one of the freeing realizations you can come to is that life isn’t about you. It’s not about me, either. Life is about knowing Jesus and making him known as we relate to and serve others. Life is about extending amazing grace to people one wretch at a time. We all start wretched; we all need to be shown the way back to God. It takes discipline to keep another’s relation with God at the forefront of your thinking, but it’s a discipline you will never regret. 

Start here: the next time a friend pops into your head, instead of thinking the same old thoughts about them – thoughts based on popularity, clothes, work, school, money, their family, their house, their car, and how you compare to them – try thinking about where they are with God first. How would you like others to be praying for you? I need people to pray for me, and I can guarantee the same is true of each person God has brought into your life. With that friend in mind, say, “God, please bless him today. Please be near to him in a way he can sense. Help him overcome whatever obstacles he’s facing. Give me opportunities to share your hope with him.”

Then, text that person and say, “Hey, thinking about you. Hope you’re doing well. Praying for you today.”

I try to send texts like that every day, and I am always amazed by the responses I get back. Not everyone responds, of course. But, when they do, they tell me how it touched their lives and how big a deal it was to hear from me. Think about it, when was the last text like that you got? Let’s start a new trend.

Another habit I try to maintain as I’m on the go is to ask God to bring me opportunities to encourage strangers. I have actually entered into some neat, and often lengthy, conversations with people I did not know but now keep in regular contact with. And, a number of them, over time, have come to know the Lord. 

In my personal experience Christians spend much too much time talking about themselves. And much too little time listening to others. We need to learn how to hear the life story of others without feeling like we have to jump in and fix something that really is not broken. And even if what you want to share is an experience that you have had that is similar to what they are sharing, they don’t need nor want to hear it. Just sit and listen. And, once they have shared then ask them if you can pray for them. Right then. Right there. Don’t jump into your experience and bore them with your story. The purpose of the encounter is to hear them out and pray for them. We are too quick to speak. 

Even when I sit and chat with pastors and leaders of ministries… I sit and listen. Partly because they need someone to listen to them and, if they trust me, I am certainly a good listener. I don’t need to share what I have done, where I travel, what I have seen happen. So, I listen and care and then pray with them. And, partly because they really are so wounded that they don’t even think about how I am doing or even who I am. They are hurting and are deeply wounded, so focused on themselves and not really interested in who I am or what I am doing in life or in ministry. 

So, no matter who the person is – when God gives you an opportunity just listen intently and engage in the story they are sharing. Then, don’t offer your great wisdom and insight. Stay focused on others. Just pray with them. God will do the rest. 

Now, if they ask your advice – that is a totally different situation. However, I have found that people seldom ask for advice. They just want and need someone to care about them and to listen. Remember, people’s favourite topic is themselves. So listen and pray. 

Two Simple Habits

Despite the thousands of good habits we could adopt in our lives as believers, according to the broad-brush themes of the Bible, I would suggest that there are two basic habits we all need to adopt. “Sit and wait” habits and “go and do” habits.

God says we are to be still and know that He is God, and that we are to wait on His voice and His guidance and His peace. And then He says that faith without works is dead faith. And that a primary purpose in our lives is to go and share the Gospel of the Kingdom with people who need to be saved.

Jesus says, “Come into my presence. Still your mind. Quiet your thoughts. Hear from me. And then take the grace and peace I’ve given you to a chaotic and embittered world.”

If you crave a reset and a change in your daily routine, then this two-part sequence is for you. First, sit and wait. And then, in God’s Name, go and do.

Sit and Wait:

Tomorrow, start your day with a simple prayer. Before your feet hit the floor, say, “God, today I want to follow you. I want to hear your voice. I want to feel joy and peace and fulfillment. I want to live today as your child.” After you pray, open up a passage of the Bible and read until a verse strikes you as relevant to the situation you are in. Write the verse down – log it on your phone, grab a dry-erase marker and jot it down on your mirror, scribble it on your hand – and come back to it throughout your day, letting the power of God’s truth wash over you again and again.

Go and Do:

Next, as you work to stay in conversation with God throughout your day, ask him to give you the strength and courage to practice being grateful and kind and wise. Start with little things, like making eye contact with a stranger and saying hello, or reaching out to a friend with an encouraging word, or changing the subject when a friend starts gossiping to you about someone, or saying thanks but no thanks when you’re offered the drink or the pill or the bong or whatever the thing is that usually leaves you deflated and derailed.

Day by day, add a few small habits that lead to life, and subtract a few that don’t. Over time, you will be remade. You will see drastic and permanent change in your life and in your relationships. As Paul said in his famous letter to the church in Rome – “Do not conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2)

Learn Something New Every Day

I begin each day with the determination to learn something new, experience something different, or meet someone I don’t already know. Doing this requires three things. First, you must wake up with an attitude of openness to something new. You must see the day as having multiple opportunities to learn something new.

Second, you must keep your eyes and ears open as you go through the day. Most unsuccessful people accept their day, tuning things out, simply hoping to endure it. They let life happen to them. They are passive. They are reactive and not proactive. 

Most successful people seize the day, focusing in, ignoring distractions. Growing people remain focused, yet maintain a sensitivity and awareness that opens them up to new experiences.

The third component is reflection. It does little good to see something new or learn something new without taking time to think about it. It does no good to hear something new without applying it. I have found that the best way to learn something new is to take the time at the end of the day to ask myself questions that prompt me to think about what I have learned. For years I have made it a practice to review my day and pull out the highlights. Remember, experience is not the best teacher; evaluated experience is. 

So, every day I set aside time to read. I read, on average, two medium sized books a week. This means turning off the television and excusing myself from chatting with whoever is in the house, and going upstairs to my study, making a coffee, and actually focusing on whichever book it is that I am currently reading. I also turn the cell phone off.

When I spend time out of the house meeting people and doing normal life I have a book with me. I may end up in line for a few minutes or have to wait 20 minutes for an appointment to arrive because they are running late. I get to read. Now with ebook readers, this is even simpler than ever before. However, I still carry a paper book with me most times. When I am on flights heading somewhere to minister I leave the seat-back screen off. I grab my book and I read. 

So, every day I am learning something new and applying what I am learning, reflecting on how it might change my life. 

I have recently read an autobiography of a former First Lady of the United States; a true story of a gifted young man who became a drug addict and what it did to his family as he struggled with the addiction. I have read two leadership books by a former mentor. And several books on relationships. I am currently reading the story of a English gentleman who left the corporate world to start a bookstore in London, England which went on to create a large chain of bookstores through that nation; a book on the fentanyl epidemic in North America, and the autobiography of the captain of Starship Voyager – Kate Mulgrew. 

Every day I look for something that I can read, someone I can speak to, some place where I can go so as to continue learning and growing. It makes life more of an adventure and it is never boring. 

The Stronger Your Character…

I work with a lot of young men who have tremendous calls upon their lives. God has a powerful destiny for each one of them. I see that potential and work to help them release it and enter into the fullness of who God has called them to be and what He has called them to do for Him. However, many times all of this is short-circuited by the lack of character in the person’s life. They simply don’t take the time to work on who they are – their character. Things such as trustworthiness, respect, honesty, responsibility, fairness, compassion, caring. You get the idea. 

Pulitzer Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn spent eight years in prison during the Soviet era for criticizing Joseph Stalin. He went into prison an atheist and came out a person of faith. The experience didn’t leave him bitter. It left him grateful for the development of his faith and the strengthening of his character. Looking back on the experience, he said, “I bless you, prison – I bless you for being in my life – for there lying on rotting prison straw, I learned the object of life is not prospering as I had grown up believing , but the maturing of the soul.” 

If we desire to grow and reach our potentials we must pay more attention to our character – the maturing of our soul –  than to our success. We must recognize that personal growth means more than expanding our minds and adding to our skills. It means increasing our capacity as human beings. It means maintaining core integrity, even when it hurts. It means being who we should be, not just focusing on being where we want to be. It means maturing our souls.

Physician and author Orison Swett Morden once described a successful person by saying, “He was born mud and dies marble. This gives us an interesting metaphor to use to look at various lives. Some people are born mud and remain mud … Sadly, some are born marble and die mud; some are born mud, dream of marble, but remain mud. But many persons of high character have been born mud and died marble.”

That is a great thought. And, we can reach “marble” if we take the time to be self-reflective coming to know who we are on the inside. Character is really who you are when no one is looking. When you are free to allow the inside to be seen on the outside. As we come to know ourselves better we can then see areas of our character that need some attention and some hard work. This allows the mud to become marble. But, it is a personal choice we each need to make. 

A great place to start is understanding the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22… 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” These are part of the very nature and character of God Himself. And, as we journey on our path and run the race as disciples and believers one of the goals must be to become more and more like Jesus. And, these fruit describe so well the basic character and nature of Jesus as we see Him in the pages of the four gospels. 

Remember, the stronger your character the greater your potential for personal growth and maturity.