But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing - James 1:22-25 ESV
My sons have now experienced the rite of passage that comes with going to the barbershop. They now enjoy going to get their hair cut at the shop that a friend of mine recommended (thanks Jay!). The actions of my youngest son Connor in regard to the barbershop experience has really surprised me.
Since Connor is naturally shy, I initially had to tell the barber how to cut his hair. He went from having me tell the barber how his hair should be cut to him providing the instructions himself. My amazement at his transformation doesn’t stop there. It’s after the haircut that Connor did something that I was able to learn from.
After his hair has been cut, Connor will come home and look at himself in the mirror. He will look at his haircut from every angle and comb it until he is satisfied with the result. He will repeat this ritual every morning until it’s time for his next haircut.
Connor looks into the mirror and works on his hair until it looks perfect. He will not leave that mirror until his job is done. Men, I think that all of us can learn a lesson from Connor and his daily hair ritual. We need to look at ourselves in the mirror and examine who we are and what God has called us to do. We are not to abandon the pursuit of our purpose until it has come to fruition.
Like scripture warns us, we are not to walk away from the mirror and forget what we look like. In essence, we are not to forget our mission or purpose. All too often, we are hearers of the word and not doers. Even though God has spoken to us on a number of occasions, we shrink from the task He has assigned us. Let us lean into the assignment that God has given us and be encouraged.
My youngest has provided a blueprint that we can all learn from in regard to knowing and following through on our Master’s will. Connor progressed from not communicating to his barber to telling him how he wanted his hair cut. You can have the same progression as well when it comes to being a doer.
Embrace your assignment (in Connor’s case it was making sure his hair looked good) and stay in front of the mirror until it’s done. Persevere and use the talents and skill sets that our Father has provided for use to reflect His glory. Become a doer, not just a hearer.
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh - Matthew 2:11 ESV
Christmas growing up was an awesome time in our household. I can remember my sister and I waking up at 4 am (I know my parents probably disliked the fact that we got up so early and as a result, forced them to have the gifts ready sooner than they liked) and running down the stairs to see what gifts we had. We were so excited, that we could not wait for our parents to get up. The thrill of running down the steps to see our gifts was an indescribable experience that I have never forgotten.
Now as I've gotten older, I am able to personally experience what my parents felt during those Christmas mornings. My 2 sons, especially when they were younger, got up early to see what gifts they had waiting under the tree. Like my parents before me, we were fortunate enough to have something for them under the tree to enjoy.
The ironic thing is that I derive a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the looks of joy on their faces as they open their gifts. I am happier because I have given to them as opposed to receiving presents.
Now imagine what the scene would be like if they ran down the steps to open their gifts and nothing was under the tree? How do you think they would feel? Can you imagine their level of disappointment? Is this something you would want to experience as a parent? I would think not!
Unfortunately, we do something equivalent to this when we withhold from others the gifts that our Heavenly Father provided for us. Every time we take our talent and hide it under a bushel, we have deprived someone of the opportunity to feel unbridled joy and satisfaction as a result of seeing your gifts on display.
Like the wise men that brought the best that they had when coming to worship Christ, we should always bring the best of us when we are with those in our sphere of influence. They deserve to see the best that we have to offer. We should give them the best that we have on a consistent basis.
I don't imagine that you wouldn't keep gifts from your children at Christmastime. Let us keep that same mindset when we are tempted to not utilize the gifts that God provided to impact those around us. Resolve to give those in our sphere of influence the very best that we have to offer. Do not withhold our gifts and talents. In doing so, you will learn the value of giving and the wonderful feeling that comes from sharing.
I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw - Proverbs 24:32 NIV
Growing up, I loved to play ping pong. Those who know me from back home are aware that I am a pretty good player (I honed my skills at the local college that I attended and that was one of the reasons I was on academic probation).
I was playing ping pong with my son down in the basement the other day. I was experimenting with shots that I haven’t tried in quite some time. After volleying for a period of time, we decided to play a “real” game.
My son is really good! I had to dig deep and reach into my bag of tricks to beat him. His hand eye coordination is better than mine, so I had to rely on angles and ball placement in order to win. If I hadn’t drawn on that reservoir of experience that I had built up over the years, he would have beaten me.
An amazing thing happened in the subsequent games that we played (he is so competitive that he wasn’t going out like that). Trey starting replicating some of the same shots that I was doing! He had observed what I was doing and was utilizing some of the same strategies that I employed earlier to beat him. He began implementing angles and shot placement.
After we finished, (I still beat him by the way in the other games that we played, just sayin’) I asked what made him change the way he played. He looked at me and said that he watched me and saw my success. So he decided to do the things that he observed me doing while we were playing. He felt that in order to be successful in beating me, he needed to adopt some of the things that I was doing.
The question that I would like to ask is this: how many of you have the chance to model successful behavior to those who look up to you? More importantly, how many of you in that position will embrace the opportunity? As I was able to see when playing a game of ping pong with my son, there are people watching you that can benefit from your experience.
Men, it is incumbent that we model the right behavior and provide an example for those in our circle of influence to emulate. Oftentimes, we have the benefit of experience and all one needs to do is to observe how we conduct ourselves. It may be something as simple as telling your wife that you love her in front of your kids. The key is to make yourself available and do it on a consistent basis.
We need to be focused on providing the proper standard of excellence for our kids to emulate. If you’re not doing it now or feel that you are incapable, start with something relatively small and graduate to larger things in the future. Each of us have something to contribute in the way of passing on positive life experiences to others. There are people that are missing out on what we have to offer. Let's commit to making an impact on those around us by showing them the benefit that comes from observing us.
But the Lord told Samuel, “Don’t look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart.”-1 Samuel 16:7 GW
Recently, we were attending a swim meet for my 2 sons Trey and Connor. My wife and I have a great time trying to predict who will win some of the other heats that my sons are not a part of (I always want to pick one of my sons). In evaluating my pick, a majority of the time I will use the “eye” test in making my predictions of the winner.
In one particular heat, I noticed a young man in lane 3. He was doing all the right things as far as warming up and stretching. The primary thing that I noticed was his build. He had the broad shoulders and the six pack to match. I leaned over to Abbey and said “there is your winner of this heat. Just look at him, he is bigger and stronger looking than everyone else.”
The horn sounded and they were off. My prohibitive favorite fell behind in the first 25 meters. I looked at Abbey and said that my guy will be ok. He can make up the ground once he decides to kick it into another gear. With his build, he obviously had the strength and stamina to come back. At 75 meters, I came to the realization that not only wasn’t he going to win, he was going to lose to the guy that would have been my last choice as a favorite.
After that race was over (my guy didn’t finish in the top 4 by the way), I sat back and thought of how I fallen prey to looking at the outward appearance of the person as opposed to looking within. The young man that won that race on that particular day had more heart that the one that passed the eye test. He wanted to win more than the competition. That was the one thing that was unseen to the human eye.
I know that there are a number of you reading this that have been guilty just like me when I predicted my winner for that race. We looked at the appearance of an individual (it could be you) and made a prediction on whether or not they would be able to accomplish their goals. Why do we look at ourselves on a surface level and use that as a baseline in determining our chances for success?
As the scripture above states, God looks into the heart. Humans look at the outward appearance and make their determination on the "eye" test. Our omniscient Father knows precisely the things to look for. God has predestined all of us for a purpose during our time here on earth. Unfortunately, there are those of us that will not realize that divine purpose. We have looked at ourselves in the mirror and decided because we didn't look a certain way, we are incapable of doing God's work.
My brothers, let's not short circuit our opportunity to use the unique talents that our God has endowed us with. Let us not form conclusions based on the things that we see. Resolve to look deeper and examine the things that are not present to the human eye. Items such as tenacity, resiliency, and the integrity of one's heart are just a few of the items that come to mind. Incorporating this principle will help to ensure the chances of success for you.
I would love to hear from you about a time that you may have made the same mistake by utilizing the "eye test. Please comment below.
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed - Mark 1:35 ESV
In my line of work, there are times that you have to take competency tests in order to be licensed. I remember the first time that I sat for one of those tests. I entered the testing room and provided my identification.
I was then seated at my own individual station with a computer that contained the exam. The last thing that I did was put on a set of headphones. The purpose of the headphones was to block out all noise and distractions so that you could focus on the task at hand.
It was amazing how my environment changed when I placed the headphones on. I could no longer hear any outside noise to distract me. I was able to concentrate on reading and answering the questions on the exam.
When we are faced with critical questions (like trying to discern our purpose in life), do we eliminate all distractions so that we can concentrate? Do we go somewhere quiet where we can focus in solitude? Or are we like most people and try to make important decisions or solve dilemmas in the midst of chaos?
The example that Christ practiced is one that I strongly urged for you to adopt. It has worked for me during those times that I have to answer important questions or make decisions. I go somewhere quiet where I can focus on listening to the voice of God guide me down the proper path.
If Christ successfully utilized this method, why don’t we? He knew the importance of getting away to a solitary place and being alone with the Father. It was so important, that our Savior made time for it every day and so should you.
The benefits of doing this are threefold: 1) It allows you to access the direction giving wisdom of God, 2) It helps to minimize those damaging wordly influences, and 3) It renews, soothes and elevates your mind to prepare you for the day ahead.
Adopting and incorporating this discipline on a daily basis is vital in helping you in making an impact on those around you. Every day, make time do get away (preferably in the morning before the world gains possession of our thoughts) and focus on what our Father has to say. You will be amazed at how your world will start to change.
So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief - Hebrews 3:19 NIV
Connor, who is my youngest, is a little short for his age. We were in the kitchen one day and he needed to get a bowl out of the cabinet. He reached for the bowl and was unable to get it. He unsuccessfully tried several times and was ready to give up. My first inclination was to get it for him. I decided that he was going to get it for himself.
"Connor, close your eyes, get on your tiptoes and BELIEVE that you can get the bowl". Those were the words that I spoke to him. He went through the same routine, but this time he closed his eyes, stood up on his tiptoes and reached. He was able to extend his reach to secure the bowl and bring it down. He opened his eyes and looked at me in amazement. "I did it, I did it!" he shouted. I asked him what was different. He looked and me and said that he believed he could do it.
I looked at him with pride and hoped that he learned a lesson from this episode. It also made me think about how many of us have been in a similar situation and didn't believe? We were unsuccessful in our attempts and decided not to try again. We did not believe that we could set out and accomplish our goals. Why? What keeps us from trying again? It's unbelief and it has serious consequences.
The children of Israel learned firsthand about the consequences of unbelief. An entire generation was excluded from entering the Promised Land. The primary reason behind this: it was their unbelief. God provided the children of Israel with the opportunity to enter Canaan immediately upon their coming out of Egypt. Their unbelief, combined with disobedience, kept this from happening. As a result they experienced hardships instead of enjoying the land promised to them.
My brothers, please don't let what happened to the children of Israel happen to you. Believe that you can accomplish whatever it is that God has planned for you. Believe that you can use your talents to make a difference in the world around you. Believe that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. Like my son, your success begins with belief. Start adopting that mindset today.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing - James 1:2-4 ESV
As some of you may know, I am letting my oldest son practice driving whenever we drop off our recycling at the local high school. Last week, we made another recycling run and practiced driving around the parking lot. As he was making a turn into the parking lot, he overcompensated and drove directly into the curb. The result was a flat tire.
As I got out to observe the damage, I looked back into the car and noticed Trey had his head down. He was despondent and all the excitement of taking on the driving challenge was gone. After getting the tire changed and heading back home, I talked with him about how you experience setbacks when you are trying to accomplish things in life.
The very next day, I grabbed a few items to take to the recycling site and had Trey to come with me. He had no idea where we were going. I dropped off the items, pulled to the side and instructed him to sit in the driver's seat. After looking at me in surprise, he sat in the drivers' seat and proceeded to navigate around the parking lot. As the session drew to a close, he looked at me with a smile on his face and thanked me for believing in him. I thanked him for having the courage to persevere in the face of adversity.
How many times have we been faced with a situation like my son and our first response is to shrink back from the challenge? I know that it has happened to me on more than one occasion. I wanted to show my son that the best response in those situations is to get up, dust yourself off and get back in the saddle. My son was able to experience this life lesson involving perseverance in a real way.
What will you do when you experience setbacks? Are you going to give up the pursuit or persevere and know that this trial is helping you develop habits that you need to succeed? As James stated in the above scripture, you should be excited and joyful when you experience trials because it tests your faith. In addition, it will help you produce perseverance and steadfastness. My challenge to you today is if you've experienced a setback, the best strategy is to charge back into the fray and try again.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things - Philippians 4:8 NIV
I was visiting my relatives on our annual trip to South Carolina for the Thanksgiving holdidays and was sitting with my uncle in the basement as we watched tv together. During a commercial break, I looked over at him and asked how he was doing. He stated that he doesn't move around like he used to, but it could be worse and compared to others, he was doing ok.
He proudly proceeded to tell me about his workout regimen which involved using exercise bands and dumbbells for resistance training. He has a workout routine that he adheres to a minimum of four days a week. By the way, my uncle has Parkinson's disease, long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system.
I was amazed at the attitude that he displayed during the time that I spent with him. My uncle was one of the hardest working men that I know. For him to contract this disease and still maintain his positive attitude has served as a source of inspiration for me. In spite of his circumstances, he still exudes positive vibes and is a pleasure to be around.
If my uncle, in spite of his circumstances, can display a positive attitude, why can't we? Why do display a negative attitude or stop trying when we are faced with obstacles? As I have learned, fulfilling your purpose or finding your passion is not easy. As you move toward to achieving your God given goals, realize that one of your most important allies will be a positive attitude.
The following poem sums up the effect that your attitude will have in regard to determining your chances for success:
I can make you rise or fall.
I can make you a success or failure.
I can work for you or against you.
I control your feelings and actions.
I can make you laugh, work, and love.
I can make your heart sing with happiness.
I can make you wretched, dejected, or morbid.
I can make you angry and resentful.
I can make you sick and listless.
I can be a shackle, heavy and burdensome.
I can be as a prism's hue, dancing bright and colorful.
I can be nurtured and grown to be beautiful.
I can never be removed, only replaced.
I Am Your Attitude
--Author Unknown -
The choice is yours.
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.