Going Or Growing Through Life – Part One

Nothing creates a greater gap between successful and unsuccessful people than the choices we make. Too often, people make life more difficult for themselves because they make bad choices at the intersections of their life or they decline to make choices because of fear. But it’s important to remember that while we don’t always get what we want, we always get what we choose.

I am currently in a stage of life where I am making some major changes. This is requiring that I make a number of choices. In some cases it is giving up the good to get the best. In other cases, it is no longer doing things that once worked and simply no longer do. It is a season for trade-offs.

Whenever I face an opportunity for a trade-off, I ask myself two questions:

1> What are the pluses and minuses of this trade-off?

Anytime you react to one of life’s crossroads according to fear rather than looking at its merits, you close yourself off from a potential opportunity. By trying to figure out the pluses and minuses of any given choice, it helps me deal with the fear. Looking at cold, hard facts has also led me to discover that I have a tendency to overestimate the value of what I currently am doing and underestimate the value of what I may gain by giving it up and making the change. 

2> Will I go through this change or grow through this change?

Good trade-offs are not something to be endured. That reflects a passive attitude and a mind-set that says, “I hope this turns out all right.” Instead, positive trade-offs should be seen as opportunities for growth and seized. After all, we become better as a result of them. When we grow through change, we become active. We take control of our attitude and emotions. We become positive-change agents in our own lives.

Author Dennis Waitley said, “A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.” 

I agree with that, and years ago when I first read that I determined that while others may lead timid lives, I would not. While others might see themselves as victims, I would not. While others leave their future in someone else’s hands, I will not. While others simply go through life, I will grow through life. That is my choice, and I will surrender it to no one.

Let’s look at a few truths regarding trade-offs…

A> Trade-offs force us to make difficult personal changes

Often you will hear people expressing the hope that things will change. At those moments, I want to tell them that the difference between where we are and where we want to be is created by the changes we are willing to make in our lives. When you want something you have never had, you must do something you have never done. Otherwise you keep getting the same results.

Changes to our lives always begin with changes we are willing to make personally. That’s often not easy. But to get ourselves over the hump, we need to remember that…

      • Change is personal – To change your life, YOU need to change
      • Change is possible – Everyone CAN change if they want to
      • Change is profitable – You will be rewarded when you change

Change may not always be easy, but it can always be done. As psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl observed, “When we are no longer able to change a situation. We are challenged to change ourselves.” We just need to remember that we are the key.

More next time…

Eagles Make Life Happen

As a leader I am often asked to disciple or mentor young people. I am open to saying “yes” to those who have a call on their lives to be part of the fivefold ministry team as seen in Ephesians 4:11-12

“And he (Jesus) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

However, a call is not enough. I have worked with and even travelled with young men who have a strong call of God on their life who were disasters looking for a place to happen. Others simply were of no help on the trips they took with me and actually created more work for me and damaged the reputation of my ministry that has taken decades to build. The issue is more than a call – it is their character.

So, when saying “yes” to someone wanting to be discipled, mentored, or a member of my team on an overseas trip I am much more hesitant than ever before. I need a season to come to know the person really well and to experience them in action so as to see their character and their relational abilities. 

Now, when I say “yes” to someone I am looking for what I call “an eagle.” These are people with great potential that I can then create an environment for them to flourish, reach their potential, and emerge as powerful ministers of the Gospel of the Kingdom and leaders in their own right. The have the qualities, the character, and the motivation to develop into powerful leaders or “eagles.” If they have what is required to grow and develop and blossom – and are willing to learn and relate to me and my team, then they are considered for entering a mentoring relationship with me. I am looking for “baby eagles’ who have the potential to develop into strong, mature eagles.

The ten marks of an eagle are:

      • Eagles make things happen
      • Eagles see and seize opportunities
      • Eagles influence the opinions and actions of others
      • Eagles add value to you
      • Eagles draw winners to them
      • Eagles equip other eagles to lead
      • Eagles provide ideas that help the organization or ministry
      • Eagles possess an uncommonly great attitude
      • Eagles live up to their commitments and responsibilities
      • Eagles show fierce loyalty to the organization and the leader 

So, I am much slower in saying “yes” to someone who wants to be discipled or mentored. I am much more selective as to whom I choose to invest my time and energy in. I am looking for young people with a call and with character … and the potential, with my help, to become eagles. 

Intentional Growth

Personal growth never happens by accident. To grow as a disciple of Jesus you have to make a decision to grow and then intentionally implement a growth plan in your life. The key word here is “intentional.”

In my experience most people get saved and begin to read their Bible, pray, and attend a local church. All of this is good. But, if you just read your Bible you are not going to grow spiritually or even in your character. The Bible itself states we need to “study to show ourselves approved as a workman who need not be ashamed…” That is much more than a casual reading of two or three chapters a day. That is digging in and learning truths and principles and then applying them to your life. 

And attending church and hearing a sermon each week will also not bring about much change. Many believers have heard thousands of great sermons and have not changed in the least. 

These things, reading the bible and hearing teachings may cause some “accidental” growth but not the constant, intentional growth we need to become effective, mature believers and ministers of the Gospel. 

So, we need to change from accidental to intentional growth and plan to grow in the various areas where we know we need to see and embrace change.

People tend to get into ruts in life. They get in an easy groove and they don’t try to break out of it – even when it’s taking them in the wrong direction. After a while, they just get by. If they learn something, it’s because of a happy accident. Don’t let that happen to you! If that is the attitude you’ve developed, then you would do well to remember that the only difference between a rut and a grave is the length!

How do you know if you’ve slipped into a rut? Take a look at the differences between accidental growth and intentional growth:

ACCIDENTAL GROWTH                                          INTENTIONAL GROWTH

Plans to start tomorrow                                                   Insists on starting today

Waits for growth to come                                                Takes complete responsibility to grow

Learns only from mistakes                                              Often learns before mistakes happen

Depends on good luck                                                      Relies on hard work

Quits early and often                                                        Perseveres long and hard

Falls into bad habits                                                         Fights for good habits

Talks big                                                                              Follows through

Plays it safe                                                                         Takes risks

Thinks like a victim                                                          Thinks like a learner

Relies on talent                                                                  Relies on character

Stops learning after graduation                                     Never stops growing

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” (wife of a former president of the United States)

If you want to reach your potential and become the person you were created to be, you must do much more than just experience life and hope that you learn what you need along the way. You must go out of your way to seize growth opportunities as if your future depended on it. Why? Because it does.

Growth doesn’t just happen – not for me, not for you, not for anybody. You have to go after it!

If Not…

I was thinking of making some changes in the way I live life. Some small. Some of major proportions. These were life changes with respect to how I express myself – clothing choices, where I live, how I live. Also under consideration was a change in what I am doing for a living – how I minister, where I minister, the nature of the ministry. And, of course, like you I can think of so many reasons why I should not make the changes or, at least, not make them now.

This was especially true in regard to changing the focus of my ministry. Doing less travel and more writing so as to complete the books that have been prophetically spoken about numerous times in the past decade. 

As I was thinking about all this I heard God says, “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” And, I was immediately thinking – later, much later.

I then read the following ay Jennifer Reed:

“ Can there be a more insidious word? Later, as in, ‘I’’ll do it later.’ Or, ‘Later, I’ll have time to write that book that been on my mind  for the past five years.’ Or, ‘I know I need to straighten out my finances … I’ll do it later.’

‘Later’ is one of those dream-killers, one of the countless obstacles we put up to derail our chances of success. The diet that starts ‘tomorrow,’ the job hunt that starts ‘eventually,’ the pursuit of the life dream that begins ‘someday’ combine with other self-imposed roadblocks and lock us on autopilot.

Why do we do this to ourselves, anyway? Why don’t we take action now? Let’s face it: The familiar is easy; the uncharted path is lined with uncertainties.”

When it comes to change and grasping something new it seems that there is always a reason why we will not, can not, should not, could not, grab hold of the opportunity that God seems to be speaking to us about. We think that it can wait. I mean why rush into things. However, that too is just an excuse. 

It seems to be that we are lacking a sense of urgency. A sense of “redeem the time” as the Bible states. A lack of a sense of adventure which prevents us, anchors us, to what we think is safe, secure, and comfortable but often seriously is not. However, we don’t know that, so we hang on to the comfortable thinking we are safe. And, hang on today thinking there are endless tomorrows still to come in our lives. 

But, as believers, we were born again into a new life as a new creature. And within this new life we are given is a radical nature that craves adventure and does not want to settle for what is. In fact, if that sense of adventure is ignored and we settle for being safe we become seriously self-centered, selfish, and, worse still, boring. And, I think that most Christians are boring. Have you listen to what they talk about? Right, themselves.

So, I made a decision. I would “do it now.” I would make the changes. I would step out in faith and begin a new phase of my life and my ministry. I would move forward regardless of my fear of failure. I would start regardless of having to trade security for the unknown. And, yes, I needed to move forward in spite of the fear of being overextended financially. Then there is the fear of what others will say or think. Wow! So many fears to simply ignore so as to move forward and do it now. 

What about you? Are you waiting for something or holding on to something that is preventing you from just “doing it now?”

Is It The Right Time?

Over a decade ago I heard a prophetic word from a recognized international prophet that I was to write a book. I was busy pastoring and church planting. So, I put the word to one side and thought that I would do it later, probably much later. Several years after that the same prophet was back in the network of churches I relate to and prophetically spoke a number of things over my life – including that I was to write books. That’s ‘book’ but plural. My reaction? I went up to him and said, “What do you mean books?” I don’t have the time to write even one book – the one you first prophesied over me. Now you are saying ’books’.” I was not happy. 

Did I start writing? No! I was busy ministering. Then a few years later as I was flying home from overseas the Lord spoke to me at 36,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. He said that writing a book or books was not taking time away from my ministry. Writing books was part of my ministry and He would make the time for it to happen. I made the decision right then to begin preparations to write books. The desire to write was released. I decided to write the books.

Did it happen? Not yet. You see, often we miss God’s best for us because we think “it is not the right time to begin.”

John Maxwell tells the story about his childhood. His father’s favourite riddle to them went like this: Five frogs were sitting on a long. Four decided to jump off. How many are left? John goes on to say, the first time his father asked him that, he answered “one.” His father responded, no, there were still five. Why? Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing!

So, I had decided but that is not the same as actually doing it. I just kept thinking, “It is just not the right time. I am so busy…”

Then I read this the other day. “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.” Oh, how true! At least in my life.

So, now is the right time to start growing and developing in this new field of work and ministry. I have done more than decide. I am now intentionally doing.

Maybe you have something you know you need to do or should be doing. And, the pressure is building. But, you are still making excuses including suggesting that it is not the right time to begin. Well, it is time to stop procrastinating and move forward in your life. Now is the time to accept the next challenge and start growing even if you feel that you are not ready. Don’t wait until tomorrow. 

Author and professor Leo Buscaglia asserted, “Life lived for tomorrow will always be a day away from being realized.” The reality is that you will never get much done unless you go ahead and do it before you are ready. If you are not already intentionally growing, you need to get started today. If you don’t, you may reach some goals, which you can celebrate, but you will eventually plateau. Once you start growing intentionally, you can keep growing and keep asking, “What’s next.”

It is always the right time to be intentional about accepting the next challenge and growing into it as you move forward in faith.

A Sense Of Direction

Do you have a sense of direction? Any person who wants to grow as a person but doesn’t know himself will fail to accomplish any growth as a person. To grow you must know yourself: your strengths and weaknesses, your interests and opportunities. You must be able to gauge not only where you’re been, but also where you are now. Otherwise you cannot set a course for where you want to go, And, of course, every time you want to learn something, you must be able to take the new thing you’ve learned today and build upon what you learned yesterday to keep growing. That’s the only way to gain traction and keep improving yourself.

To reach you potential, you must know where you want to go and where you currently are. Without both of those pieces of information, you’re liable to get lost. Knowing yourself is like reading “You Are Here” on a map when you want to find you way to a destination.

I have observed that there’re really only three kinds of people when it comes to having direction and thus purpose in life.

1> People who do not know what they would like to do

These people are often CONFUSED. They lack a strong sense of purpose. They don’t possess a sense of direction for their lives. If they are growing, they are unfocused about it. They dabble. They drift. They can’t reach their potential because they have no idea what to shoot for; what direction to go in.

2> People who know what they would like to do but don’t do it

These people are usually FRUSTRATED. Every day they experience the gap between where they are and where they want to be. Sometimes they aren’t doing what they want because they worry that it will cause them to neglect other responsibilities, such as providing for their family. Sometimes they aren’t willing to pay the price to learn, grow, and move closer to where they want to be. Other times fear prevents them from changing course to pursue their passion. No matter what the reason, they, too, miss their potential.

3> People who know what they would like to do and do it

The third kind of people know themselves, possess a strong sense of passion, are focused on purpose, grow in areas that help them move closer to their purpose, and do what they were created to do. The word that best describes them is FULFILLED.

Most people fall into the first category. They don’t know what they want to do. I believe the main reason is that they don’t know themselves as well as they should, and thus remain unfocused in their growth – if they grow personally at all. 

Knowing yourself isn’t necessarily an easy thing for everyone to do. What makes finding themselves and growing to their potential difficult for some people is that it can be a bit of catch 22. You have to know who you are to grow to your potential. But you have to grow in order to know who you are. So what’s the solution? Explore yourself as you explore growth.

The way to start is to pay attention to your passions. In my life my passion is to teach and mentor young men, raising them up into the calling that God has on their lives and releasing them to accomplish their purpose in the Kingdom. This involves four areas represented by the word REAL: relationships, equipping, attitude, and leadership. My passion led to my growth. But then my growth led to my passion as I discovered my love for and ability to mentor the next generation of apostles and prophets. That continues to be a major focus of my life and ministry even today after 40 years. 

So, self-awareness is the key to growing, changing, finding one’s passion and purpose, and then moving from where you are to where you should be and need to be to live fulfilled and on purpose.  

Paying The Price

I have had a number of prophetic words over my life that I need to write books. I like writing. I enjoy working with words. I think deeply and often. I would enjoy the challenge of researching and writing a book or two or three. I wouldn’t do it for money. I would simply post them as ebooks and give them away. And, of course, pay to have them translated into Russian as in most of the countries where I work, Russian is the predominate language. 

So, what is stopping me? Several of those prophetic words are now over a decade old. And, I am getting older. So, what is stopping me? Well, there is a price to pay and I have wrestled with the price that is required to be paid often over the past decade. I will need to spend more time in my study researching, reading, and writing. I enjoy doing all of those. But, that means less time travelling and ministering. This will also mean less income being earned as I travel and minister for a living.

I have never written a book before although I have written 30 different training manuals over the years and a number of conference or seminar manuals. But, writing a book or books is a little different and much more involved. However, I believe I am up to the challenge. So, I have made the decision jump in and dedicate a good portion of each week to the task at hand thus fulfilling the prophetic words and that part of my divine destiny. 

I recently came across a piece called “Dream Big.” It’s full of encouraging words but also captures what it takes to follow your dreams and fulfill your prophetic words.

If there were ever a time to dare

To make a difference, 

To embark on something worth doing,

It is now.

Not for any grand cause, necessarily – 

But for something that tugs at your heart,

Something that’s your aspiration,

Something that’s your dream.

You owe it to yourself to make your days here count.

Have fun.

Dig deep.


Dream big.

Know, though, that things worth doing seldom come easy,

There will be good days.

There will be bad days.

There will be times when you want to turn around,

Pack it up, and call it quits.

Those times tell you that you are pushing yourself,

That you are not afraid to learn by trying.

                                           Author and source unknown

Taking the steps necessary to live your dreams and fulfill the prophetic words spoken over you thus doing what you want to do will cost you. You will have to work hard. You will have to make sacrifices. You will have to keep learning and growing and changing. 

Are you willing to pay the price?

I certainly hope you are. But know this: Most people aren’t. 

Life Is Not a Dress Rehearsal

I am amazed that some people live life as if it is a trial run, a dress rehearsal for a second go at it. I am not talking about reincarnation or recycling life. I am talking about the fact that believers are not taking responsibility for their life – who they are, how they live, and who they are becoming. They live life as if this is a trial run and they get to do a do-over later on. Not true. 

There is no warm-up for life, no dress rehearsal, yet that’s the way many people seem to be treating it. Each of us goes on life’s stage cold, with no preparation, and we have to figure it out as we go along. That can be messy. We fail. We make mistakes. But we still need to give it our best from the very start.

Regret over not being proactive enough is a common theme among people looking back on their lives. In his book “Aspire,” Kevin Hall tells about a trip he made with a group of Boy Scouts and his desire to inspire them to set bold goals for themselves. He did that by telling them about a study of retired successful executives conducted by Gerald Bell, a noted behavioural scientist. Hall writes,

I told them what those seventy-year-old executives answered when Dr. Bell asked them what they would do differently if they could live their lives over again.

Their response, an answer that ranked far ahead of any others, was this: I should have taken charge of my life and set goals earlier. Life isn’t practice, it’s the real thing.

I shared the rest of the survey answers with the scouts:

            • I would have taken better care of my health
            • I would have managed my money better
            • I would have spent more time with my family
            • I would have spend more time on personal development
            • I would have had more fun
            • I would have planned my career better
            • I would have given more back

We don’t get a rehearsal for life. We have to do the best we can in the moment. But we can learn from others who have gone before us, people like the executives that Bell studies. They should inspire us to plan as best we can and then give our all. 

Comedian Fred Allen once said, “You only live once. But if you work it right, once is enough.”

Few People Want to Stretch

I have observed that most people do not want to change or to grow. They often talk a good talk but the walk is missing. They know what they should do to improve their family, their job, their financial situation, their level of satisfaction and fulfillment. But, they simply don’t do it. And, you can offer them an amazing amount of good advice based on your own life experiences and your education and knowledge and nothing changes. As a result they simply keep going around and around the same mountain all of their lives never conquering the issue or the situation. They simply never grow up and talk responsibility as an adult to grow and mature, to change, to reach their potential, to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for their life. 

Most people use only a small fraction of their ability and rarely strive to reach their full potential.  There is no motivation to grow in their lives, little to no desire to stretch and become a better person and build a better life. Sadly, a third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives, and 42 percent of college graduated similarly never read a book after college. And publisher David Godine claims that only 32 percent of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore. I don’t know if people are aware of the gap between where they are and where they could be, but relatively few seem to be reading books to try and close it. 

To many people are willing to settle for average in life. Is that bad? Read the description written by Edmund Gaudet, and then you decide:

      • “Average” is what the failures claim to be when their family and friends ask them why they are not more successful.
      • “Average” is the top of the bottom, the best of the worst, the bottom of the top, the worst of the best. Which of these are you?
      • “Average” means being run-of-the-mill, mediocre, insignificant, an also-ran, a nonentity.
      • Being “average”is the lazy person’s cop-out; it’s lacking the guts to take a stand in life; it’s living by default.
      • Being “average” is to take up space for no purpose; to take the trip through life, but never to pay the fare; to return no interest for God’s investment in you.
      • Being “average” is to pass one’s life away with time, rather than to pass one’s time away with life; it’s to kill time, rather than to work it to death.
      • To be “average” is to be forgotten once you pass from this life. The successful are remembered for their contributions; the failures are remembered because they tried; but the “average,” the silent majority, is just forgotten.
      • To be “average” is to commit the greatest crime one can against one’s self, humanity, and one’s God. The saddest epitaph is this: “Here lies Mr. and Ms. Average – here lies the remains of what might have been, except for their belief that they were only ‘average’.”

I cannot stand the idea of settling for average, can you? Nobody admires average. The best organizations don’t pay for average. Mediocrity is not worth shooting for. As novelist Arnold Bennet said, The real tragedy is the tragedy of the man who never in his life braces himself for his one supreme effort, who never stretches to his full capacity, never stands up to his full stature.” 

We must be aware of the gap that stands between us and our potential, and let the tension of that gap motivate us to keep striving to become better. 

Stretching As a Lifestyle

Too many people are dead but just haven’t made it official yet. I read that comment a few days ago in a great book that I just finished. And, as I read the comment I said, “Amen, so true” and thought of a number of young and middle aged people for whom this would apply.

I am in my early seventies and I am still reading two books a week. As I read I take notes, file material, and apply the truths and insights that I am gaining through reading. I must admit that every once in a while (about every three months) one of those two books a week ends up being a good detective novel. I read to stretch my understanding about life. I read to learn and to grow. I read to discover new truths or see old truths in new ways. I read because inside me there is a serious hunger to learn, to grow, to change, and to mature. 

If you think of a rubber band … wow! There are so many uses for a rubber band in every day life. But the one thing every possible use for a rubber band has in common is that they are stretched. Rubber bands are only useful when they are stretched! That can also be said of each one of us. So, I am a perpetual learner always hungering for new insights and understanding; new ideas and perspective; new thoughts and insights. Always stretching.

When we stop stretching, I believe we stop really living. We may keep on breathing. Our vital life signs may be working. But we are dead on the inside and dead to our greatest possibilities. James White observed, “Nature has everywhere written her protest against idleness; everything which ceases to struggle, which remains inactive, rapidly deteriorates. It is the struggle towards an ideals, the constant effort to get higher and further, which develops manhood and character.”

I’m getting older. And, I am noticing that I am not as fast nor as sharp as I once was. But, I intend to keep reading, asking questions, talking to interesting people, working hard, and exposing myself to new experiences until I die. Too many people are dead but just haven’t made it official yet! A Rabbi once said, “If you won’t be better tomorrow than you were today, then what do you need tomorrow for? I refuse to give up growing. 

Now, it is not easy to find time to learn, develop, grow and mature. In fact, I don’t “find” time to do it. I “make” time. I schedule it into my calendar as an appointment with myself. I intentionally find a time each day to retreat from the active lifestyle I live to read and study, to think and write. That means less of my favourite music. It means only one hour of television an evening. That means less company and fewer people contacts in a day. It also means fighting to keep that time and not give it away to a worthy cause. It is my time to invest in me as a person and as a minister of the Gospel. 

I am planning to keep on stretching until I am all stretched out. How about you?