Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed - Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT
I have been working out for over two decades and I have found that my best workouts have always involved a workout partner. Having a workout partner is beneficial because they can motivate you to push past your limits by serving as a spotter and a source of motivation. In addition, I have found that I was always able to set new personal records in the way of lifting higher weight or doing increased reps because of the presence of my workout partner who provided encouragement. The beautiful thing is that I am able to reciprocate when it's my workout partner's turn to lift.
Men, we are meant to live in community and help each other in our journey while we are here on earth. The interest of others should also be our interest as well. If we turn a blind eye to others in need, we ultimately harm ourselves as well. Imagine with me, if you will, 2 guys working out and one is settling under the weights on the bench press getting ready to attempt a new personal record. He is counting on his partner to provide a spot in case he struggles, or better yet, provide encourage and motivation during the attempt. As he begins the lift, his workout partner walks away, leaving him alone. Most of us couldn't imagine doing this, but we unknowingly do this with people in our circle of influence on occasion.
I experienced firsthand what the scripture in Ecclesiastes in talking about on yesterday. I had a meeting with a member of our church on yesterday. I initially went in with no expectations other than catching up and congratulating him on his new position. Boy, was I in for a surprise! After the meeting, I left feeling better for having spent time with him. That's the effect we should have on each other as men. Like this meeting that I had yesterday, a few things have to occur in order for us to experience this phenomenon: 1) You need to be transparent and open with each other (this is non negotiable), 2) You have to explore ways to benefit each other without having a hidden agenda, and 3)There should always be at least one thing that you can take away from each other that you can implement immediately. Doing these things on a consistent basis when you interact with other men will increase the chances of success and create an environment where men can thrive.
But if I say, "I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot - Jeremiah 20:9 NIV
Trey is our oldest son and when he was born, we noticed a strange phenomenon that occurred whenever we would feed him. About 30 minutes after he had eaten, he would vomit all of his meal. This wasn't a normal type of vomit (stay with me here, I know it sounds disgusting, but there's a reason for this, trust me). It was a projectile type of vomit that would travel across the room. No matter what we did to try to keep the food down, it would come back up at some point. We knew this wasn't normal, so we took him to his doctor and he was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis at the age of 8 days. The doctor told us this was rare to have it diagnosed in someone so young (I knew our son was special).
How many of us have something that is within us that is struggling to get out? Are we suppressing our talents and calling because of something that's holding us back like fear? Will that calling or talent that we are holding back eventually force it way out like the meals that my infant son consumed? Whatever it is, the longer that you keep it hidden, the worse that you will feel and the more miserable you will become. At some point, it starts to affect those around you. Trust me folks, I have been there and it's not a good place to be.
Jeremiah knew this feeling all to well. In the earlier verses, Jeremiah had experienced insult and ridicule. If he would have had his way, he would have withdrawn from the responsibility and remained silent. However, this was not to be. God was involved and the Word burnt like fire within him, and would not be restrained. The only way that the burning feeling could be quenched was for him to bring the Word. For those of you that are sitting on your talents, the only way for you to gain satisfaction and quench that burning desire within you is to let it out like Jeremiah! The same way that Jeremiah was obligated to speak in the name of the Lord, so are you obligated to fulfill your calling as God has intended.
And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind - Ecclesiastes 4:4 NIV
As a kid growing up, I loved to read Aesop's fables and the messages that they taught. One of my favorites was the Dog and the Shadow which appears below:
A dog, crossing a bridge over a stream with a choice piece of meat in his mouth, saw his own shadow in the water and took it for that of another dog, with a piece of meat double his own in size. He immediately let go of his own, and fiercely attacked the other dog to get his larger piece from him. He thus lost both: that
which he grasped at in the water, because it was a shadow; and his own, because the stream swept it away.
My brothers, does this fable sound familiar when we examine our own lives? Please allow me to explain in greater detail. How many of us will look at other men and become envious of the gifts that God has blessed them with and aspire to be just like them? Like the dog in the fable, we will ignore the gifts that God has provided and start on a senseless and fruitless quest to emulate the object of our jealousy. When this happens, the quest oftentimes results in disaster; we don't get to become like the object of our chase and we lose what we have in the way of gifts and talents. Like Solomon stated in the scripture above, this results in a meaningless chasing after the wind. I don't know about you, but I haven't met anyone yet that has been able to chase and catch the wind. When you try to become like others because you are motivated by envy, in a way you are questioning God who created you in His infinite wisdom. He knew you before you were formed in the womb and has provided you with the gifts and talents necessary to glorify Him. All that you need to be the best you is residing inside.
Men, let's start today by taking inventory of our talents and gifts that our Creator has so graciously blessed us with begin using them to glorify Him and change the world around us. Let's focus on our individuality and embrace it as opposed to looking at others and secretly wishing that we could be like them. They are those of you that read this blog that I know on a personal basis and am familiar with your talents and gifts and know that you have the ability to affect change. My prayer is that you and those that are reading this that I may not know start using your gifts to become a change agent in your circle of influence.
If one of you says to him, Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead - James 2:16-17 NIV
I remember the time that my cousins and I along with a good friend were going to a concert that featured several of our favorite acts. We got to the venue with our tickets and just before entering, some of us noticed that one of the headliners had cancelled and wouldn't be performing. We were disappointed and three of us, after discussing the pros and cons, decided that we would accept the refund that they were offering and save the money for another show. Unfortunately, there were 4 of us in the group and one (I won't say who, but it wasn't me) had gone ahead of us and entered the gate and given his ticket to the usher. Because his ticket consisted of two parts and was torn, he wasn't eligible for a refund. It had to be a whole ticket in order for the refund to be issued. Suffice to say, we all went to the concert that night.
Our lives parallel that two part ticket experience that was vital to receiving our refunds that night. We needed both parts of the ticket to be successful in accomplishing our desired objective. James talks about the importance of possessing two equal parts in the scripture above when he discusses the fact that faith without works is dead. James states that a workless faith is a faith that's worthless. Faith and works go hand in hand with each other. Those people that watch us who are Christians are most influenced by the good works that result from your faith. The good works that you perform as a result of your faith glorifies your Father in heaven and can be the difference between a non believer starting down the path of accepting Christ or continuing to live their lives in the darkness. Faith and works permeates every part of our lives from the relationships with our families and friends to our effectiveness in the workplace. You have to have these two items in order to demonstrate the truth that good authentic faith always has good works that accompany it. Just like the body needs nourishment to function at an optimum level, so also does good works need strong faith to function effectively. Integrating this principle has a profound effect on those around us and can influence our families for generation to come. Living this principle has the opportunity to change this world. Please start now with getting your two part ticket of faith and works together so that you will be able to live the life that Christ calls us to.
He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you - Matthew 17:20 NIV
Our former pastor was a big fan of mountain climbing. As a matter of fact, he was able to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro, which has a height of 19,341 feet (as one who is terrified of heights, I could only imagine) at its summitt. He shared with us how he prepared to make the climb and all the effort that went in to it. His preparation ranged from altitude training to speaking with other more experienced climbers to acquiring the gear needed for the climb. The most important thing was that he started out with smaller climbs in order to acquire the skills needed for Mt Kilimanjaro.
How many of you have Mt Kilimanjaro type goals and dreams that you want to accomplish? Like my former pastor, you need to develop a strategy in order to experience a successful ascent on whatever the goal or dream might be. I utilized a three step process in order to start the ascent for my goals and dreams. The first step involved having the faith to know that I can accomplish the goal or dream. I know that God has provided me with all that I need in the way of talent to succeed. This leads directly into the second step which entails ensuring the goals and dreams that you hope to accomplish align with your skill set and talents. The third step encompasses establishing a relationship with a mentor or a like minded group of individuals that share similar goals and dreams. They can assist you with providing the necessary guidance as you travel up the mountain to reaching your goals. This community of believers will also help to hold you accountable as you start the ascent to the mountaintop. They will also help you celebrate success and be a source of encouragement along the way. I have personally experienced this firsthand along my current journey. I have come in contact with those that have been a source of inspiration and guidance as I began my ascent. Without them, the journey will be that much more difficult. A word of caution to all that harbor dreams and goals; if they are not big enough to cause you to have a lump in your throat when you think about it, or they don't intimidate you, then they may not be big enough. Your goals and dreams, if they are to have an impact on others, need to be large like the mountain that you see in the above image. It is only when you have a large, daunting goal or dream, that you then have to use the faith that comes from knowing Christ and lean on His power in order to accomplish it.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen - 1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV
One of the things that I enjoy about getting up with my 2 sons in the morning before they head off to school is the time that we have to talk. We use that time to talk about a variety of subjects that range from school to relationships. One day I asked them what did they want to be when they grew up. Both of them said I want to do what you do Dad. While that was flattering to me, I knew that wasn't necessarily true. I asked them why they felt the need to follow in my footsteps. Both shrugged their shoulders in response. I then proceeded to explain to me that although it made me feel good that they viewed me as a role model, they should choose their own path according to their gifts and talents. As John L Mason stated in his book, An Enemy Called Average, "all of us are born originals, but die copies." I want my children to be able to choose their calling based on the talents and gifts that God has provided to them. They should be unique and embrace it. In the words of Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
How many of us are on a career path not of our choosing? How many of us are pursuing something because it seemed like the "right" thing to do? We went to college, chose a major and graduated. The next progression seemed to get a job in your field because that's how we were programmed. We then proceed to climb the ladder of success, doing the all of the things so that we can advance. Inside, we are dying a little each day. This is not a physical death, but one that involves our soul. We know that when we take the time to be brutally honest with ourselves, we realize that we are not doing what we were created to do, yet we continue climbing the ladder. At some point, if we are fortunate to "reach the top", we come to the realization that the ladder that we were climbing was leaning against the wrong wall. Thomas Merton echoed this sentiment with this quote: “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”
How do you find the right ladder to climb? Some of the questions that you will need to answer are: 1) Does the ladder align with your talents and gifts? 2) Is the ladder the one that you choose or one that someone choose for you? 3) Do find joy and contentment as you climb the ladder? Properly answering these questions are the start to living a more fulfilling life that is in alignment with the talents and gifts that God has provided.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint - Isaiah 40:31 NIV
I remember when I was younger, I use to be outside playing and would stop and look at the birds soaring high in the sky and wish that I could do the same (this is ironic since I am afraid of heights). I use to dream of accomplishing great things and being able to soar to heights like the birds that I admired when I was a youth. Then something happened: I grew up. I bought into the negative thoughts that society fed me whenever I shared my dreams. I gobbled up all the negative images and words that were given by others when I shared my goals and aspirations: you can't become an entrepreneur, you can't be a speaker, you'll never write a book. The list goes on and on. Over time, I just grew to accept what was saying as true and settled in to live a life according to other's standards.
I know that this experience resonates with a number of you reading this today. I hope that you are as uncomfortable reading it as I am writing it. It's a shame that we, as children of God, would limit ourselves to the things that we can accomplish because we "grew" up. How many of you know that you were created for something more? How many of you know that there is something residing within you that is struggling to get out and you keep suppressing it? What is your calling that you want and know that you must fulfill, yet are still trudging along instead of spreading your wings and flying? Like the eagle , I am returning back to my days as I child to where I dreamed of soaring like a bird. That's why I am committed to growing this resource and helping my fellow men unlock the power within them. I don't want any of you to be like the eagle in the story that I read recently that was written by Gary Barnes that I share below:
Once upon a time, at a large mountainside there was an eagle nest with 4 large eagle eggs inside. One day, an earthquake rocked the mountain causing one of the eggs to roll down to a chicken farm that was located in the valley below. In time, the egg hatched and a beautiful eagle was born. Being chickens, the chickens raised the eagle to be a chicken. The eagle loved his home and family but it seemed his spirit cried out for more. One day, the eagle looked to the skies above and noticed a group of mighty eagles soaring. “Oh,” the eagle cried, “I wish I could soar like those birds.” The chickens roared with laughter, “You cannot soar like those. You are a chicken and chickens do not soar.” The eagle continued staring at his real family up above, dreaming that he could be like them. Each time the eagle talked about his dream, he was told it couldn't be done. That was what the eagle learned to believe. After time, the eagle stopped dreaming and continued to live his life as a chicken. Finally, after living a long life as a chicken, the eagle passed away never fulfilling what it was he was called to be. Do not, I repeat do not, end up like the eagle in this story! Whatever it takes for you to break out of your doldrums and soar like the eagle that God intended, you must do it!
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom - Psalms 90:12 NIV
I received a disturbing text this past Sunday while sitting at home. I was informed that one of our fraternity brothers had passed away. The irony of the moment was not lost on me. You see, Sunday was my birthday and I was in the process of celebrating it with my family when I received the text. I went by myself to our upstairs bedroom to reflect. He was young, not having reached 50 years old when he passed that Sunday afternoon. I remembered that I had spoken to him a few times over the phone, but not recently. The thing that I most remembered, and the thing that saddens me the most, is that I lived only an hour and a half away. I could have made a more concerted effort to stay in contact, and more importantly, driven the approximately 90 miles away to visit.
Men, why do events such as the one that I described above have to happen before we realize the importance of creating space in our lives for the things that matter most? All of us are going to have to travel this same path in our life. Shouldn't we take the time to reexamine our lives in an effort to determine what our priorities should be? I have been guilty of not taking the time to create more margin in my life so that I can spend more time in pursuit of the things that matter most, namely strengthening the relationship with God along with my family and friends. I want every person reading this blog (and I thank those who read this blog consistently for your support) to set aside time TODAY and develop a strategy by which you will make a concerted effort to recalibrate your life to utilize your time wisely in regard to relationships. The 90th Psalm discusses the brevity of life and how our daily pursuit of frivolous items is a waste of time at best. It instructs us to turn our attention to asking our God for the wisdom needed to live a life where we receive and heed the divine instruction given to us. My prayer is that each of us will properly number our days so that we can gain a heart of wisdom needed to live the life that God has called us to.
Does a young woman forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number - Jeremiah 2:32 NIV
One of the most enjoyable things that we do as a family is go on vacations. This past Spring break we went on what we termed a "historical" vacation. We went to Gettysburg, PA and also to Washington DC. During a train ride into on of our sightseeing visits, I was on my smartphone checking and answering emails. My oldest son Trey looked and me and stated, 'Dad, have you forgotten about us?' We are here on vacation and you are supposed to be enjoying the time with us. I had been so engrossed with my work that I had indeed forgot about the reason that I was on vacation. I was embarrassed that my son had to call me out about what I was doing. I put my phone away and enjoyed the rest of the vacation with my family.
Smart phones, IPads, tablets are just some of the ways that modern technology has provided us with ways to stay connected. Or has it? Are we really connected, or have we become disconnected with one another? I was speaking with someone at church the other day and he expressed his frustration with his significant other because she is constantly on her phone checking social media. He stated that it is practically impossible to have a meaningful conversation because she is constantly distracted by the alerts going off on her phone notifying of a new post or comment. Men, are we finding that we are disconnected in our relationship with God and our family and friends because we're distracted by other things? Where are our priorities?
Jeremiah talks about priorities and uses the analogy of a bride preparing for her wedding. In preparation for her wedding, would a bride forget her wedding dress, jewelry, makeup or ornaments? Of course not, she wants to look beautiful for her husband. It would be foolish of her to that. However we have, on many occasions, forgotten to nurture our relationship with our God along with those of our family and friends. We have neglected to prioritize the time needed for strengthen the relationship with Christ by spending time studying scripture and in prayer. We have neglected the time needed in our relationships with our significant others and children? How do start becoming connected to the things that are important in our lives? We start by doing what I did on our Spring break vacation. I realized that I was disconnected (either by the voice of God or in my case, the voice of another) and took the step to focus on the relationship that was important.
Please share with others and comment below.
I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm - Psalms 55:6-8 NIV
My youngest son Connor was a part of the AAU National Club Championships in Florida this past July (man, was it hot!). He ended up placing 9th in the nation in the turbo javelin toss, one spot out of medaling (if he would have listened to me, he could have medaled, just saying). I was extremely proud of Connor and his accomplishments, but this moment almost didn't happen. Connor initially did not want to participate in track. When his older brother made the decision to start running track, Connor wanted no part of it. He was going to be happy staying in the stands with his parents and watching the entire meet. His reasoning behind this stance was that he had not ever done something like track before and he would be content operating in his comfort zone as opposed to trying a new endeavor.
There are many of us that share the same sentiment as Connor. We are content to continue operating in our comfort zone as opposed to stretching our wings and soaring to the heights that come when you tap into your God given potential. I have often wondering why in my life there have been times in my life where I just hung out in the space where I was comfortable, terrified of trying either something that was new or difficult.
How do we overcome the reluctance of moving out of our comfort zone and live the life that we are called to? It begins with knowing the source of your power and accessing it on a consistent basis. The power that I am speaking about is a relationship with Christ. That's the start of realizing your potential and living a purpose filled life. I know in theory that this sounds good, but does it really work? I look no further than myself as an example. To say that I was terrified to start this resource would be an understatement. Every time that I would start to develop the website in our home office, I came up with a number of excuses not to do it. I could always sit down to watch television or surf the internet. I would do anything in my power not to get started. It was only when I prayed (and listened!) about what it was that God wanted me to do next was I able to gather enough courage to get started. I will admit that even now, I still experience doubts when I begin writing another blog posts. Will people find value? Will the number of visitors to the site continue to increase? Am I confident enough with the content to market to others? Even when you find the courage to step out of your comfort zone, you will still experience pangs of doubt from time to time. When that happens, I return to my source of power and recharge. This source is available to all that are reading this blog. If I can do it, so can you. There are talented people that read this blog and the world is waiting and in need of the contributions that only you can provide .
Please help me if you find value in this resource by commenting and passing it on to others.
Ken Sadler is a leader of Men's Ministry at a megachurch and has a heart and passion for helping men become the best they can be.