Several years ago I ran across a copy of Andy Stanley’s book ‘Choosing to Cheat.’ In this book Stanley offers a compelling argument against the workaholism that has plagued and inundated generations of American families. “Choosing to Cheat” is built on the premise that everyone cheats somewhere, be it work, school, family, spouse, church, etc. He affirms that there simply aren’t enough hours for everything and everyone pressing an vying for your attention and primacy. And of course, it’s easier to cheat our families than to cheat our families. Scripture teaches and avows a structuring of one’s life and prioritizing the elements of our attention in a direction that will ultimately strengthen us from the inside, out. As a bi-vocational Pastor with the growing needs of a growing congregation, challenges of serving as a chaplain to a level-1 trauma center in a large metropolitan area, and keeping up with my love for preaching, Christian education and learning the scriptures and writing – I can sometimes feel like I am drowning. Couple this with being a devoted husband to a wonderful woman for 14 years, Dad to growing boys, son to aging parents and a host of family and friends who cannot be measured in time increments – well, it all can become overwhelming; especially without an administrative assistant or full-time secretary. I tend to agree with Stanley’s notion when I say, in my own way, ‘Something’s Gotta Give.’
The preacher/pastor must set priorities. The challenges I faced at 25 are not the same as challenges I face now at 35. My life is completely different. Andy Stanley writes, “Following the principles of God results in the blessings of God.” The author’s dad, Charles Stanley, says, “God doesn’t reveal His will for our consideration. He reveals it for our participation.” The challenge is finding a way to emulate and become a direct reflection of the man described in Psalm 1.
1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
God wants His people to flourish and lead a positive life in a negative world. But often, people tend to be creatures of habit and conventional routine. We often gravitate toward what is safe, not necessarily what is good. Or we settle for the ordinary rather than pursue what is superlatively greater. Tragically, this is often the case for those in ministry.
In order to succeed in one’s call, one must want to be successful in ministry BAD ENOUGH. One must desire more for every area of life—especially as it relates to that which is spiritual and eternal. This requires a willingness to obey God’s plan and principles; and a willingness to ‘cheat’ where needed, in order that priorities may be established and we may show ourselves, ‘approved’.
As I sort through how I can be a better 1) Follower of Christ 2) Husband 3) Father 4) Pastor/Teacher 5) Son 6) Friend….there are 5 ways that setting objectives and goals for cheating can help:
1. Imagination. Psalm 33:5 says that “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” I am asking God in prayer to rule over my imagination and my thought-life; and asking Him to show me how to creatively navigate through all of the challenges and pressures of my schedule, as I seek to prioritize what’s important to Him. In Jeremiah 29:11, we discover that God has ‘plans’ and ‘thoughts’ concerning the affairs of His people. The term ‘plans’ is a picture of a craftsman who gnits together fabrics for the purpose of creating a garment to be worn and adorned. The craftsman has a plan for the product. In like manner, we must visualize the dream and vision God has for us, and how He seeks to ultimately reveal His plan for our lives.
2. Anticipation. A man cannot truly know where he is going without knowing how he will get there. As you visualize and identify your goals, you place yourself in a posture to ask God (the Creator of the universe) specifically for what He desires and then to look for His prescription or provision.
3. Inspiration. How does God view your life? How does God view your priorities? What’s most important to God in your life? What in your life displeases Him? Is there any part of your life that others would view and make them think you don’t know Jesus? The ultimate aim is to see your life as the Father sees it, and then act on what He guides you to do. Psalm 32:8 clearly teaches that God is concerned about the direction of our lives, and is willing to instruct us and teach us the way that we should go.
4. Reflection. This is, essentially, meditation. Meditation comes through submission to the Father. I think we fail to often understand the Lordship of Christ. Someone has said, ‘If He is not Lord in all, He ceases to be Lord of all.’ As you meditate on His Word, you learn more about the lordship of Christ, the goodness of God the father, the leading of God’s Holy Spirit and His plan for your life.
5. Realization. True to His Word, God will faithfully guide His servant into all truth. I am convinced that God will reward those who are faithful. Whether one’s assignment is to preach to 10 each week, or you have been entrusted to lead thousands; or one’s spouse is gainfully employed or challenged to make ends meet – thank God for what you’ve been given as your lot. Let God better you and grow you, as you draw closer to Him; and watch Him reveal His plan for your life, even in life’s testing places.