I don’t want to live a mediocre life. If I have a choice (and I believe I do) I want to be utterly awesome. I want to be an awesome husband. I want to be an awesome father. I want to be an awesome friend. I want to be an awesome pastor. I want everything I do, to be marked by awesomeness, because everything Jesus did was marked by awesomeness.
Now that sounds like a lot of pressure, but this is what I’ve learnt from walking with God: everything with Jesus is easy. Perhaps “easy” sounds too cavalier. Let me say it like this, everything is easier than we think. I've found that things in the kingdom are always simple.
Consider healing the sick; aside from a command or a prayer, there is no human effort required in healing the sick. When I’ve seen sick people get well after I prayed for them, it wasn’t because I did anything. It wasn’t through my effort, my skill or my power. All I did was partner with God; I did my part, God did His.
Awesomeness then, simply requires partnership with God. If I am content to do what He asks of me, He will do the rest. As Graham Cooke says, "God plus you is a majority". In so many ways, our partnership with God enables Him to move forward in our lives.
Take salvation for example: God wants me saved, but He won’t do it for me. While He’s done everything that ensures my salvation, I still need to respond to his invitation in order to be saved. I need to believe in my heart, and confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, that He came and died for my sins and that through His death and resurrection I can be connected back to God. That’s my part. Without that part, God can’t move forward in my life for salvation, even though He wants to.
So when it comes to cultivating awesomeness in your life, I have some very good news. God has made every provision for awesomeness in your life... He has put you in Christ. Think about it: if Christ is the most awesome person in the world, then the most awesome place to be is in Christ.
In Colossians 2.9-10, Paul writes:
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
Read that slowly. In Christ - all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. Jesus isn’t one third of God, He is fully God. And guess what? Because of salvation, we’ve been given fullness in Christ. The fullness of God lives in Jesus and Jesus lives in us. We’re inherently awesome because we’re sons of God. Paul tells us this in Galatians 3.26 - “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
So when I think about being awesome, I position myself like the Apostle Paul who said this,
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3.12-14
As I study the lives of my heroes, both in the Bible and those I know personally, and as I have reflected on my own journey with God, I would like to suggest four ingredients that contribute to being awesome.
- Hard work
Now at first glance, that's a horrible list. But stick with me for a moment because it gets much better. Besides, there are no real shortcuts to genuine awesomeness so let's begin with humility.
In James 4:10, James gives us this instruction:
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
I don’t know what you think of when I mention awesomeness, but I would suggest that anytime God lifts you up or honors you, that's got to be pretty awesome. When I look at the lives of people that God lifted up in scripture, they all seemed to be marked by awesomeness.
Enoch walked with God and was then no more. That's pretty awesome! Abraham and the story of his life was awesome. Job was awesome - at the end of his life we see God's lifting up and it was awesome. Solomon was awesome. Jesus was awesome. So much awesomeness everywhere you look.
But if we want the lifting up we also have to do the precursor: we have to humble ourselves. There are some real practical steps to humbling ourselves. Being quiet and not promoting ourselves, not boasting about our achievements, choosing meekness over being right, apologizing first in our relationships. Preferring other people, making room for less mature people in our lives, letting other people have the best stories at the dinner table. All of these things cultivate humility. Humbling ourselves sometimes looks like going in the opposite direction of what we want. In Proverbs 27.2, Solomon warns us,
"Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips."
As difficult as it seems, one of the fastest ways to achieving awesomeness is to pursue and practice humility.
I've had a love hate relationship with patience. In that I love to hate requiring patience. I like to get things done! I greatly dislike obstacles that block me finishing my tasks. If there is an option for expedited shipping, I’m always going to take it. I have maxed out the RAM in my laptop and switched to a solid state disk so I don’t have to wait! I have the fastest broadband connection my ISP offers. I’ll admit it, I don't like to wait!
Unfortunately, it seems that humility and patience go hand in hand. Peter encourages us,
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time." 1 Peter 5.6
Did you notice that last part - “in due time” ?
God’s timetable is very funny. When God says "in just a little while" remember also that the Bible says that with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day!
In Psalm 37.7 David writes:
"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes."
There are three difficult things wrapped up in this one verse.
First, David says, “Be still before the Lord”.
Maintaining an inner posture of stillness is a very valuable discipline to learn. Life is often chaotic and busy; there are changes to our plans; sicknesses; layoffs and uncertainties. If we don’t learn to still ourselves before God, we'll find life will be a bumpy ride.
Second of all, David says “Wait patiently for the Lord”. Do you know why he says wait patiently? It's because the Lord is going to take longer than we think. If the scriptures just said, “wait” we’d be excused for getting frustrated with God's timing! But David says wait patiently, because he knows the Lord is insistent on killing us (which we’ll cover in a bit). I’ve found in my own life that while the Lord is never late, He sure seems to miss lots of opportunities to be early.
Lastly, David writes, “...do not fret when people succeed in their ways...”. This is a great reminder as there are few things more frustrating while waiting for God to move, than watching those around you getting what you are waiting for! While A.J. was waiting to get married, she was a bridesmaid seventeen times! When we were trying to get pregnant with our first child, we had fourteen friends get pregnant in the same time frame (many who weren’t even trying!).
How you respond in the times when God seemingly pushes pause on your life can either build up your awesomeness or delay your awesomeness. What many people don’t realize is that you develop awesomeness in the absence of what you want. You often cultivate character in the most difficult of places.
When encountering other people’s awesomeness some people think, “If I do what they do, I’ll be just like them”. But it’s not what they do that makes them awesome, it’s what they’ve done - it’s what they’ve overcome. That mindset is like being broke and seeing a wealthy man drive past in a Mercedes Benz and thinking, “So if I buy a Mercedes then I’ll be rich!"
Charles Spurgeon, England's best known preacher at the time (and clearly a beard growing champion) would frequently preach to audiences of more than 10,000 people in days before electronic amplification. Even today, his sermons and writings remain popular classics among Christians. Regarding patience he said this,
Spurgeon knew that everything in life is preparation for what God is going to do next. If you are experiencing delay right now in any area of your life, cultivate a wonderful attitude and response to it, because you are sowing into your future. Joyce Meyer says, "The attitude you have while in the wilderness determines how long you stay there."
Have you heard about the 10,000 Hour Rule? This is the idea, stemming from research by Anders Ericsson, that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. That's roughly 10 years of practicing 3 hours a day to become a master in your subject. Or put another way, 5 years of full-time employment to become proficient in your field.
Anders and his team divided students into three groups ranked by excellence at the Berlin Academy of Music and then correlated achievement with hours of practice. They discovered that the elite all had put in about 10,000 hours of practice, the good 8,000 and the average 4,000 hours. No one had fast-tracked. This rule was then applied to other disciplines and Ericsson found that it proved valid. (Malcolm Gladwell writes more about this in his book, Outliers).
Thus, if you want to be excellent, hard work is in your future. You may as well face it, embrace it, and do it with joy. The good news is that in God’s economy, anything you do well contributes to your awesomeness. Overcoming rejection, forgiving people, paying your bills on time, honoring your mother and father, being faithful, honoring God, pursuing holiness, saying no to sin - that all counts!
Dave Ramsey came up with the above formula. Do something with focussed intensity (hard work) over time (patience) partnering with God will produce unstoppable momentum - or awesomeness.
We have a saying at the School of Supernatural Life "excellence is the sum of a thousand tiny details". In our efforts to cultivate excellence in our work, we take great delight to sweat the details.
Apple - by far one of the most inspiring companies today - produced the wonderful video above that offers an inside glimpse to the way they approach their work. Excellence comes by saying no to many things so you can say yes to the right things. Then, constant refinement. That approach requires incredible focus and hard work.
Tyler Ward is a friend of ours. He's an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, has an amazing wife and gorgeous kids and is dangerously good looking. He often comes up in conversations with guys I mentor. They point at him and ask, "How does he do it all?"
Tyler's not accidentally awesome - he’s worked hard at being awesome (though his good looks are pure favor). He is a very hard worker. I think most of us (myself included) want to be nonchalantly awesome, as if we somehow stumbled into awesomeness accidentally. But that's magic and that's not real. Working hard produces awesomeness.
Paul wrote several letters to the churches he led. Twice in his letters he encouraged slaves toward awesomeness. Read these excerpts:
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Ephesians 6.5-6
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Colossians 3.22
"Obey your earthly masters with respect and sincerity of heart..." - WOW!
You think your job sucks? At least you get paid! At least you get to go home! At least you get lunch! These christians were slaves! And to these slaves, Paul is saying, "Hey slaves, pretend your earthly masters aren't your boss, and realize that Christ is. Whatever is in your hand, do it as if it’s the will of God!"
That's mind blowing! But take Paul's message to heart. Whatever you are doing right now, if you choose to work hard and honor God in it, that attitude contributes toward your awesomeness. Your good attitude while at work does something! It fills up your awesome account! Everything you are doing right now contributes to your future awesomeness!
When I was a school teacher, like any job, there was sucky stuff to do. Stuff nobody got excited about - but listen, your attitude, your approach, your sincerity of heart - you get to take that with you when you move onto your next job. Everything in life is preparation for what God’s going to do next.
I practiced teaching for 2,500 - 3,000 hours as a school teacher. Never in a million years did I think I would use what I learned in a class room in Scotland around the world speaking at churches and conferences. God wastes nothing in his economy. He's a genius at making everything count.
In his letter to the church of Colossae, Paul writes, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything". Most of us aren't slaves but we do have earthly masters or bosses. So our instruction is to obey and do everything out of reverence for God.
- Picking up garbage? Do it for the glory of God.
- Babysitting? Do it for the glory of God.
- Would you like fries with that? Do it for the glory of God.
Here’s why: you are building who you are in secret. You are becoming awesome in the smallest of things. You are becoming the "who" of "who you are when no one’s looking". God loves this stuff. He is the God that "desires truth in the innermost part" (Psalm 51.6)
Given we spend a large portion of our waking day at work, it should come as no surprise that God uses our workplace as the canvas to develop us into wonderful pieces of artwork. At your work, God will see to it that you have opportunity to cultivate your awesomeness in private. We call these successes private victories. God gives you them to help you grow, but to also develop character. And the more of these you have, the better your foundation, because God will always give you private victories before He gives you public victories.
Your private victories are the foundation that supports the glory of God that he wants to deposit on your life. In short, the more AWESOMENESS you want to carry the more you want to develop your character - and one of the best ways to do this is through hard work.
I once mentored a young man who worked in a pizza store. Two of the questions I’d ask him every time I saw him were "Have your financial dealings lacked integrity" and "Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?" One week after asking him these questions he said he hadn't as he had eaten some of the toppings of the pizzas he was making. Well who cares right? It's a little bit of cheese, some pepperoni, no big deal! But it is a big deal! If you are willing to compromise on something that small, then it will be only a matter of time before you justify compromising on something larger. I asked him what he thought he should do about this and I was surprised by his answer.
The next week, he went into work and met with his boss and said, "You know what? I stole from you. Sure it was just some pizza toppings but I'm a better person than that and I'd like to apologize and make restitution. I'd like to pay for my mistake as well as confess it.” His boss - as you may imagine - was surprised by this young man's honesty and refused payment for what amounted to less than a dollar's worth of pizza toppings. But here's the thing, though that may seem small, his confession and desire to make things right is a huge deposit in his awesomeness jar! That little private victory is a contribution toward the public victories he'd have later in life.
If you have learned to cultivate awesomeness in the lowly areas of your life, you will be trusted to wield awesomeness in the public areas of your life.
And finally there is death.
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart. Proverbs 17.3
A crucible is a ceramic container that other metals - in this case silver - would be put into. The crucible would then be plunged into the fire and heated up and melted. Once the silver was melted, the impurities in it could be drawn out of it. The same process happens with gold. Gold is put in the furnace and is heated up until it melts and all impurities can be scooped off.
This verse reveals that the Lord will do the same process with our hearts. In order to be utterly awesome, we need to get rid of the grit that’s in the way. That grit can be anything: jealousy, envy, bitterness, unforgiveness, impure thoughts, ambition - the list can be exhaustive.
Because God is so good, His heart is that we can overcome every situation - so that we can be victorious in every situation.
James in a moment of sheer encouragement says this:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1.2-4
Looking for a good definition of awesomeness? How about being "mature and complete, not lacking anything"? In the brilliance of God, he often uses the first three things on our list (humility, patience and hard work) to achieve the last thing on the list (death).
When we became a new creation in Christ things like arrogance and pride or self sufficiency and impatience, ego, etc die with Christ. But because of habit, we tend to keep resurrecting them. They are our false gods that we've been so used to worshipping that we're often unsure how to live life without them. But God is a jealous God, He doesn't want to share us with anything, not least those things that are harmful to us.
John Arnott often says, "God loves you the way you are, He just loves you too much to leave you the way you are!" Thus, the death process.
God's favorite method of killing us is usually other people. He will use the weaknesses of others to refine the weaknesses in us. That boss you work for who is horribly unfair? They could be in your life as a gift from God to kill you!
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5.10.
The fastest way to get out of the dying process is to die quickly!
So there you have it. Choose humility, cultivate patience, work hard and don’t resurrect that which God is trying to kill. Oh, and flourish through the whole thing. As somebody who designed cute fridge magnets once wrote, "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react." So react positively and invest into your awesomeness.
If we're not sure of God's steadfast love for us, the slightest bit of turbulence in life will blow us off course. Understanding what God is up to makes life easier because we can partner with the process. Take time to ask Him what He's doing in this season of your life or what fruit He's trying to cultivate. Knowing helps lower the anxiety.
One of the great misunderstandings people have about a verse like 2 Corinthians 3.18 is the transformation process. We read that verse and think, "Great, I am moving from glory to glory" and think that process should look like this:
What it more often looks like is this:
The steep incline from one level of glory to another? That's where things like humility are worked out, where we get to choose patience and work hard all the while dying to whatever needs to be killed. Those horizontal landing portions? That's the glory! Understanding the ebbs and flows of life make transitioning from glory to glory easier. If you find yourself in a time of transition, be encouraged! Your upgrade is on its way!
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