Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Quest For Fulfilment

The payoff for meekness, and the fear of God is plenty and honour and a satisfying life.  Proverbs 22:4 [MSG]

The starting gun fires! Life gets underway, as does the soul’s early and intuitive search for significance, the pursuit of pleasure and ultimately, The Quest For Fulfilment. Our generation is engaged in a physically challenging; mentally demanding; emotionally charged; and adrenalin pumping; intense roller coaster ride, that we’re often surprised by and unprepared for, as we anxiously and genuinely attempt to find fulfilment in our life!

Fulfilment is, as we perceive it to be. As someone aptly reflected, What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realised it sooner. Fulfilment is very much the willful demeanor and disposition of the soul; which specifically describes a sense of satisfaction; pleasure; contentment and happiness.

People strive to achieve these common objectives in a multitude of ways. Despite the simplicity or complexity of your personality or lifestyle, you wouldn’t be alone if it was your underlying desire to seek out such outcomes in life. It is an innate desire to pursue fulfilling your God-given purpose, destiny or calling, and to achieve something great with your life - to live happily ever after! 

What makes your soul happy? - Life is filled with highs and lows, and fulfilment in life can be fleeting. There are special occasions like weddings; a graduation; a promotion; or a grand final victory that are filled with positive emotion, giving us good reason to be happy! However we can’t rely on events and circumstances as a primary source of fulfilment, as they don’t normally present themselves on a daily basis. And though a little pessimistic, this quote is nonetheless insightful; you need to learn to be happy by nature, because you'll seldom have the chance to be happy by circumstance. However, may these happy circumstances be more frequent in your life! Though we have more control over our happiness than we sometimes realise, as someone once said, the foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet. In other words, the grass will be greener where you water it!

People, knowingly or unknowingly are genuinely looking and longing for happiness in a plethora of places. Happiness for many is either a mirage or a memory – it’s either out there or back there! Enduring fulfilment in life and leadership ironically seems to elude those who are desperately or diligently in search of it, sentiment highlighted in this quote; the search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.  

Recently a journalist was interviewing Warren Buffett, America’s well-known billionaire businessman, seeking to understand his unusual and modest lifestyle choices. He was asked why he still lived in the same five-bedroom family home since 1957, and hadn’t upsized and upgraded. To which he replied, If I thought a bigger house would make me happier I’d buy it. Just because I have the money to do it doesn’t mean it’s smart to do it. Reinforcing the mantra that, money can’t buy you happiness –but mind you, happiness can’t pay the bills! His response reminded me of one of Benjamin Franklin’s quotes; Content makes poor men rich, discontent make’s rich men poor.

The Bible says, You’re addicted to thrills? What an empty life! The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied. You could argue that power; popularity; prestige and pleasure inherently fail to satisfy the soul long-term. Again we quickly realise the soul’s insatiable potential, when experimenting with such finite and often disappointing remedies.  So despite all admirable achievements and acquisitions along the way, all misguided and tenuous personal quests for fulfilment will over time all but leave you feeling internally empty, and having to manage an insolvent soul.

The Apostle Paul shares his own recipe for being happy. He says; I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything with the One who makes me who I am.

My purpose, Jesus says, is to give them a rich and satisfying life. A full schedule; a full crowd; a full portfolio; a full resume; a full stomach; or a full trophy cabinet doesn’t necessarily mean a full life, and neither does the absence of these, point to an unfulfilled one. The Bible says, A pretentious showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life. Fulfilment need not be a pipe dream, elusive or a vague ethereal concept! We can experience-enduring fulfilment in life beyond any contextual catalyst. We need to look beyond the temporary and the transitory, to find lasting fulfilment in our soul.

There's an evident disconnect in society between the timeless Beatitudes profoundly taught by Jesus, and the dubious philosophies and questionable ideals espoused and advocated by our world today. Jesus says, You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are-no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. On the contrary it's been observed, The world is full of people looking for spectacular happiness while they snub contentment. This could be because contentment is poorly misunderstood or misrepresented; it’s as if you’re handing your resignation in, and rejecting all that life has to offer! This couldn’t be further from the truth! After all in the Parable of the Talents, Jesus directed praise to those who showed initiative, and who were innovative and productive with the opportunity they had. Contentment empowers you to stop to appreciate life as it is; to enjoy who you are and what you have. It's been said that plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it. 

Consider the quote, It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfilment it is in the happiness of pursuit. Contentment effectively calibrates the pursuit and conquest of the soul. We begin to pursue achievement, accomplishment and acquisition having already conquered, The Quest For Fulfilment.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Waiting Room [Part 2]

For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfilment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day. - Habakkuk 2:3

The Waiting Room can be a confronting and precarious time, and when we're left feeling suspended in time, unjustly or not; it can motivate a vain and creative attempt to usurp God’s rightful place; it also leaves us more likely to engage in emotionally charged decisions, both of which manifest in undesirable ways.
Many things test our patience but delay, as we see it, strikes at the heart of our hopes, beliefs and aspirations. As a result we contend with an emotional cocktail of discouragement; frustration; disappointment; and disillusionment. We become anxious that somehow we’ve been left behind or been overlooked. Though Charles Swindoll says, true patience is waiting without worrying. It’s been appropriately said that, it is tribulation that we make an experiment of our own sincerity. Proverbs cautions the hopeful saying; Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. The trouble is when it comes to things like dreams being fulfilled we’re in a hurry, but God isn’t! And it’s in The Waiting Room; as we await answers to prayer; desired breakthrough; or the realisation of a dream, that we need the endurance, wisdom and composure that patience affords.

Waiting patiently in God’s economy is not synonymous with inactivity, neither is it a convenient excuse for laziness. Patience pays off, procrastination rarely does! An excerpt from The Daily Bread says; God wants us to see results as we work for Him, but His first concern is our growth. That’s why He often withholds success until we have learned patience. The Lord teaches us the needed lesson through the blessed discipline of delay. Paul uses a pregnancy metaphor in Romans to encourage us; We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.

Jesus’ brother James encourages us that challenges, tests and pressures aren’t pointless, and says; so don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. However it’s generally with the benefit of hindsight that we fully appreciate what The Waiting Room achieves and acquires. Really, we should thank God for delay because without it we would lack what it takes, and be seriously unqualified and unprepared for what lie ahead. Waiting is never a waste of time when you’re becoming someone in the meantime. 

We must confidently know that The Waiting Room has extensive purpose; faith is resolved; attitudes are tested; motives are refined; trust is gained; doubts are dealt with; identity is questioned (and shaped); humility is developed; faithfulness is learnt; priorities are established; and strengths are fortified.

The Daily Bread also says; Many a man called of God to a work in which he is pouring out his life, is convinced that the Lord means to bring his efforts to a successful conclusion. Nevertheless, even such a confident worker grows discouraged at times and worries because results do not come as rapidly as he would desire. But growth and strength in waiting are results often greater than the end so impatiently longed for…

The composure and steadfast nature of a person who exhibits the discipline of patience, whether in life or leadership, has an arguable advantage over those who lack this seemingly archaic character quality; they endure, outlasting adversity despite the challenges; complications; or inconveniences; they are less likely to be tempted with, or persuaded by inferior alternatives; and they also appreciate the importance of prudence and due-diligence in wise decision-making. Patient people rightly understand and take into consideration their own fallibility, which impatience too often highlights!

Let’s carefully consider what the Apostle Paul said; So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time (in due season) we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Therefore it's important to deal promptly and decisively with the distraction of options, and be determined to allow God’s preparation and process to go full term in our lives. God is orchestrating His perfect will, that will unfold and eventuate in His good and perfect time. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Waiting Room [Part 1]

Patience adj
1: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2: manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3: not hasty or impetuous
4: steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity 

One pertinent, ironic motto for more recent generations could be; I want patience - and I want it now! Whether it’s online download speed, waiting in line for your morning takeaway coffee, or waiting for that elusive car parking space – waiting evidently drives us crazy! 

We have become accustom to the upside of modern conveniences, which have dramatically reduced waiting times, and effectively fashioned our expectations. Consequently, society has become more demanding and less patient – but when it comes to what really matters have we lost the art of waiting?

Technology has speed up many things; air travel gets us to our destination in hours, not weeks; a computer via the internet delivers electronic mail faster than it would take to place a stamp on an envelope; a digital camera lets you see your picture instantly, where previously you would need to first finish the film before getting it developed; and a microwave oven accelerates the heating process - but are we able to speed up the timing of God?

The Waiting Room is an unspecified time of waiting, and often endured in suspense! We all could identify in some way with the emotional experience of the Bible's Abraham and Sarah as they endured The Waiting Room. Their faith was being challenged, as ours is from time to time. Time after all, is an effective revealer and shaper of character, and the following sequence of events is an ideal example of what impact patience (or impatience in this case) can have on our decisions and the fulfillment of our dreams.

A vulnerable time, a flawed conclusion followed by an impulsive and fraught approach lead to a serious error of judgment in a moment of justifiable despair. Years had slowly passed since God deposited vision into the heart of Abraham about blessing and influence, and becoming the father of many nations - but as yet the father of none! Isn’t it true that at times there is a great disconnect between the grand vision, and the reality of your present situation! And in a sensitive moment of the month, like many others I guess, Abraham and Sarah desperately wrestled with their doubts, and assisted by rational explanation convinced themselves that they had no other option but to implement an alternative plan. Obviously misinterpreting the following quote that; the secret of patience is doing something else in the mean time!

Abraham regrettably fathered his wife’s maidservant’s child, but it wasn’t long after this as the book of Hebrews records, Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised. No matter the impossibility or timeframe, let’s not jump the gun on God! As He promises, He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 

Patience in contemporary times may well be a rare character quality, but for those who desire to see a measure of success in life, it’s one worth developing, and as the Psalmist says; God, the one and only - I'll wait as long as He says. Everything I hope for comes from Him, so why not?

Stay Posted for The Waiting Room Continued... 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Is it too good to be true...

Authentic. adj. true to one's own personality, spirit, or character.

Is it too good to be true... If so, it's easy to start explaining away, or justifying people's apparent goodness, and concluding that it's simply a case of convenience; They have a positive attitude because they have no real challenges; they are generous because they can afford to be; they’re willing because they have the time; they’re always grateful because they’re blessed. It’s obvious the reason they are the way they are is because of their fortunate position in life. However if that wasn’t their life experience, I’m sure it would be a different story! Assumptions like these can prove to be glib and misguided, as the following account of Job's intense character probe reveals.

Many would be familiar with the adversity that beset Job, and that tragically unfold in his life. Literally, all hell breaks loose on this reputable man! This is a classic case where bad things happened to a good person. It all started with this assertion; that Job had good reason to fear God. The arguable reasons behind why were due directly to God’s wall of protection around him, his home and his property, and that (God) made him prosper in everything.

God spoke very highly of Job saying; He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless – a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. As you can see Job was a prime candidate for the blessing of God, and as a result was the greatest and richest of all the people. Job was the real deal but his authenticity and motive in question, as it seemed too good to be true.

God, confident in the character of Job, said to His adversary with strict conditions; All right, you may test him. Job subsequently was on the intense end of a strategic assault on his personal assets; his family; and then on his health, in an attempt to expose him as being superficial and insincere. However through these relentless attacks, severe setbacks and devastating events, it says he did not sin by blaming God; he said nothing wrong; and maintained his integrity.

Billy Graham is aptly quoted saying; When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. Job may have lost his wealth and his health, but he said; I'll not deny my integrity even if it costs me my life. I'm holding fast to my integrity…and believe me, I'll never regret it. Its been said that tribulation is a test tube, and nothing is proven until it is tested, and Job inadvertently proved many things as he endured tribulation with integrity and dignity.

Unlike the example of Job, human nature tends to blame and critique God, questioning His character in tough and challenging times (more quickly than we attribute good to Him.) We desperately and understandably seek answers to tragedy, crisis and unexplained events. We overanalyse and ask rhetorical questions; what have I done (or not done) to deserve this, only serving to confuse and self-condemn. In Job’s case though, he was blameless. Someone once said; The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don't know what to do. Job’s honorable example graciously instructs us in the art of prudent responses. Despite the well-meaning yet perverse counsel he received by those closest to him, he was well guided by the high standards of his own convictions.

Throughout the trial, Job had a real and robust personal encounter with God. Coming out the other end, Job testifies, I had only heard about you (God) before, but now I have seen you with my eyes. How we view God in our circumstance is critical, and does determine whether anything good arises from the ashes. Job’s testimony is as follows, The Lord restored Job. The Lord blessed the later days of Job's more than the beginning.

As Job experienced, there are many things we don’t have control over. Circumstances change, context continually shift, and many times unpredictably and without our consent. One thing that we do have control over is our character. There are times you have no control over what happens to you (or said about you), but you do have control over how you choose to respond to it. When circumstances are beyond your control, take courage that your character is not. 

Other related reading; Character Calibration, Stand Your Ground

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Stand Your Ground

Stand. To resist successfully; withstand.

There are many opportunities in life to wisely, honourably and courageously Stand Your Ground. However this doesn’t always seem advantageous - whether it’s in the playground or the boardroom! Public opinion, peer or su-peer-ior pressure is a confronting social science. Going along with the crowd is easier and more risk-averse, but doesn’t always prove beneficial. Many find uniformity comfortable, using social camouflages to blend in, effectively concealing any distinctions – or unique characteristics.

We read in the book of Daniel about three young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, who when confronted with a life and death ultimatum, forsook what was popular and protected, to do what was right in their heart, and in the sight of their God. In a courageous act of defiance, as everybody else conformed and fell to their knees to worship the gold image, they remained standing. With the consequences of a burning fiery furnace clearly outlined, and given the second opportunity to comply, they stood by their convictions and shunned compromise at any cost. Demonstrating that, He who kneels before God can stand before anyone. They boldly stared down their intimidators, and with resolve in their heart declared; …we have no need to answer you in this matter...our God who we serve is able to deliver us…But if not, let it be known to you.. that we do  not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image...This showing, that character makes statements not deals!

We live in an ever-increasing politically correct and secularised world. The culture of the world is subtle in its attempt to bring you to your knees, metaphorically speaking. As Romans 12 says, Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinkingthe culture around you, always dragging you down... The crowd shouted out to Jesus as He was being crucified on the cross; If you are the Son of God come down... It took strength and character for Jesus to stay up on that cross, obedient to His Father’s will. Likewise these three young men were not prepared to lower themselves to the level of the crowd, succumbing to the non-values of the compliant majority. It’s been said; The enemies you make by taking a stand generally have more respect for you than the friends you make by being on the fence. Unless the crowd is pursuing God, don’t follow it! 

These three young men cannot be accused of faltering between two opinions or flirting with alternate lifestyles. One thing their peers and superiors accused them of, was that they had not paid due regard to the king’s wishes.  Divided-loyalty is an oxymoron. Jesus says in Matthew 6:24; No one can serve two masters; and in Matthew 12:25 He states; Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

Let us develop a character like these men, who avoided duplicity, defied the king’s worship agenda, disregarded public pressure, survived the fiery furnace, and by doing so influenced the spiritual allegiance of the king and that of the people. Be determined in life to wisely, honourably and courageously Stand Your Groundno matter the cost, knowing that, a man or woman with God is always a majority.

Reference: Daniel 3:1-30

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A Soul in Surplus

sur·plus  adj.
Being more than or in excess of what is needed or required.

Is your Soul in Surplus? There are seasons in life that demand heart and soul; decisions and determination; pursuit and poise; challenge and change; focus and fight. Life can also take us completely by surprise; the unintended; the unexpected; the uninvited or the unforeseen! Whoever you are and no matter what you do, it is to your advantage in life to live with a Soul in Surplus.

The apostle John prayed …I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health just as your soul prospers. Your soul is referred to in the Bible as your core being, and elsewhere, as a person’s total self. C.S Lewis profoundly stated You don’t have a soul. You are a soul and you have a body. Your soul consists of your mind, will and emotions. These are the most influential and interconnected elements of your life – and neglecting them, can have negative consequences on your health and quality of life. Proverbs says, Keep vigilant watch over your [heart]; that’s where life starts. It’s important therefore that we learn to diligently manage these key elements in order to prosper in all things.

Many people’s perspective in life can be black or white, but what I’m talking about is life experienced in black or red! Let me explain. As you may know, in the red and in the black are accounting terms. In the red means a negative value or below zero, and in the black a positive value - and prudently recommended! Therefore across the balance of your life, your soul is either in the black or in the red. We need discretion in this regard, the ability to be sensitive and responsive. Pre-empting the need to make the necessary adjustments in our life. 

Life doesn’t discriminate. Hard times are inevitable but with foresight we need not be unprepared or incapable. Emotional bankruptcy is responsible for many bad decisions with ranging consequences. Struggling to get by with a soul that is either at risk of, or already in the red is debilitating. The indicators are clear; a soul in the red or in deficit is paralysed by problems. They feel anxious and powerless to effect change or take action. They always have something to prove. Achievement is always on display. It is filled with negativity and has a defeated outlook on life. It is consumed with self but focuses on what other’s have. This soul often overlooks their own blessing but notices and resents other people’s and is cynical of their success. They constantly and unwisely compete and compare themselves. A soul in deficit is overcome by need. They have a scarcity mindset, often ruled by lack. A soul in deficit is starved of freeing truth, or healthy mindsets. It is dominated by discontent. It is insatiable; always needing more and impossible to satisfy. Benjamin Franklin said; Discontent makes rich men poor, contentment makes poor men rich.

Consider the following things that I believe replenish and restore the soul; Anchor your soul with prayer. I find that my relationship with God is a source of great peace, strength and confidence. It effectively deals with my anxieties and puts into perspective my challenges. Take time to meditate on the right things. The Bible is full of life principles and timeless truths that graciously instruct us to live well. Discover and fulfill your purpose in life. Your soul needs identity resolve. This is who I am, and what I am on earth for. Look out for the interests of others and find ways to be generous. Proverbs says, The generous soul will be made rich, and He who waters will also be watered himself. Rest your soul. Take time out for recreational activity that refreshes you. Finally, make your peace with people, and with your Maker. Reconciliation is very important to the health of your soul. Forgive and be forgiven.  

A Soul in Surplus is a prosperous soul with enlarged capacity. Whether it’s vision you’re pursuing, temptation you’re resisting, adversity your overcoming or relationships you’re building, a soul in surplus has what it takes - and some! The mind is powerful, emotions are compelling and the will influential. When these elements are healthy, people have the potential to be so resilient in life. Fortitude is one characteristic of a soul in surplus. It’s defined as strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage. Fortitude however, is afforded to those who build emotional capacity and develop healthy mindsets and positive attitudes. This gives them the rare capacity to withstand, persevere and overcome - and prosper in all things.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Character Calibration

tr.v. cal·i·brate
To check, adjust, or determine by comparison with a standard.

Character is not that sexy a subject – unless it’s a public figure caught in a compromising position by a journalist! Many love reading and learning about keys to prosperity, steps to success and or principles of leadership etc. In an ambitious attempt to get ahead in life, we can underestimate the importance of things like character, cutting corners and taking short cuts, which sadly lead to destiny detours, delays and dead ends. But I strongly believe that a good character under girds and gives rise to promotion; longevity; prosperity; success; opportunity and much more.

It’s been said that 'Character is like a diamond, which scratches every other stone.' In other words, character has a significant impact on every area of your life – business; career; ministry; marriage; family; finances; friendship etc.

Character has been defined this way; 'Character is the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life, which determine his or her response regardless of circumstance.' Another defines it this way, 'It is the guiding force embraced with an unshakable set of principles that forge the way in the midst of confusion and disarray…' Character is a predetermined resolve to respond honourably in any predicament despite the consequence.

'The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.' // Proverbs 10:9

A lack of good character tragically stamps an expiry date, limiting the long-term sustainability of success, and the lifespan of blessing in our lives. 'It is impossible to be our best at the supreme moment if character is corroded and eaten into by daily inconsistency, unfaithfulness, and besetting sin.'

Are you becoming the person you want to be, or are happy with? Character is developed daily, and credibility gained gradually, but can be lost suddenly. 'Character may be manifested in great moments but it is made in the small ones.' It’s fashioned by personal choices and private company. It is developed by conviction not convenience, by design not by default. Scripture says, 'Unless you are faithful in the small matters, you won’t be faithful in the large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.' Therefore it’s in the everyday moments of our life, both in the seen and unseen, that we prepare ourselves for the greater ones.

'until the time came to fulfil his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.' // Psalm 105.19

In Genesis 39, we read about Joseph, a young man with bold dreams who passes a series of character tests. He received a promotion and was given the opportunity to oversee all of his boss’ affairs. Joseph was confronted with his own supreme moments, one of those being the intense and consistent sexual advancements from his boss’ wife - and despite the seductive nature of the temptation he refused emphatically. Joseph’s moral compass, based on his fear of the Lord, very effectively overrode his own natural inclinations and urges. Vulnerable moments like these are more character testing, than they are character building. Remember, 'Character is not made in a crisis it is only exhibited.' We are all susceptible to compromise, especially in weak areas of our life, but we are less likely to bow, fall or comply when our convictions are clear and commissioned.

Society rises and falls on the quality of its collective character. It’s reliant on the responsibility and reliability of its people. Embedded in the soul of society are aspirational qualities such as humility; honour; integrity and loyalty. The world often, and rightly so, reminds those who profess to be Christian how they should live. They can easily identify the un-characteristics of godly conduct. Our character is on display for all to see, and more widely publicised and broadcast these days with social media etc. If we set the bar, or believe in the standards that the bar represents, it is only right that we ourselves comfortably clear it and humbly admit when we miss the mark in doing so.

Therefore wisdom beckons your attention, and graciously says to you concerning character, dismiss it and it will be to your own demise - develop it and it will distinguish you.