Taking Care of Business

Thomas Carlyle said, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

Vision is essential to leadership, as is seeing the big picture—no doubt about it. But great leaders also have the ability to see and do what is necessary today.

It’s the principle of first things first. Solomon said it as simply as it can be said: Develop your business first before building your house. (Proverbs 24:27)

This is what great leaders do. Where many flounder week to week, effective leaders make sure that, before anything else, top business gets done each day.

And they do this every day.

What’s your business? I mean your real business? What matters most to you? Is there anything on your agenda today that reflects this priority?

Long term vision is great, but we also need to make a habit of taking care of today’s business today.

How would you complete these two sentences?

1. My real business is __________.

2. I will develop it today by doing this: _______________.

If your real business is following Jesus, then do something today that makes you more like him. Give. Love. Serve. Forgive. Show mercy.

Develop your business (your real business) first, before doing anything else.

John Stott

A Life Well-Lived

One of the most influential leaders of the Christian church in the last century was a quiet and unassuming theologian named John Stott. He spent much of his life serving one church, All Souls Langham Place in London.

But he also served the global church. He preached all over the world.

He challenged evangelicals everywhere not just to preach the gospel boldly, but to live boldly and Biblically. He challenged us not only to tell the world about Jesus, but also to demonstrate the love of Jesus in caring for the poor and the disenfranchised.

Throughout his 70 year ministry he wrote several books. One of them, Basic Christianity, is a book that every believer should read.

When I think of a life well-lived, I think of John Stott. He lived well and he finished strong.

In the final days of his life, confined to bed, knowing the end was near, he asked for two things.

One, to hear Handel’s Messiah again and again.

Two, for a friend to read again and again from one book of the Bible: 2 Timothy.

Like the Apostle Paul, John Stott was prepared to say…

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

I think that’s what we all want to be able to say. The good new is that anyone can.

No life need be summarized with a wistful phrase of regret. Anyone can go out on top. I’m not talking about going out rich or going out famous. I’m talking about going out content. Satisfied. Full of joy, hope, and expectation.

The best time to consider this, of course, is sooner, not later.

And here’s more good news.

It’s never too late. It’s never too late to start fighting the good fight. It’s never too late to become who you might have been.

Leaders like John Stott can inspire us all to stay in the race, or even get in the race … to live every moment as if it matters for all eternity — because every moment does.

Here’s to finishing well. And to making today count toward that end.

Country Church

Results Unknown

W.A. CriswellThere’s a story in W.A. Criswell’s biography that illustrates how you can never measure the impact of your ministry.

Dr. Criswell tells about the day of his conversion: It was Autumn, 1920. His church was holding a revival and W.A. received permission to skip school to attend a special mid-day meeting.

At the close of the service, he responded to the invitation and accepted Christ as his Savior.

Seven years later he was licensed to preach. He soon began a lifetime of ministry, including 55 years as pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. He wrote more than 50 books, led untold thousands to Christ, trained hundreds for the ministry. He was one of the most influential pastors in America during the 20th century.

But this story is really about the man who preached that 1920 revival which changed the course of Criswell’s life.

His name was John Hicks. He had been a guest in the Criswell’s home during the two week revival, and young W.A. had been greatly impressed with the evangelist’s manner and character. This admiration compelled the 10 year old boy to attend every service and hang on every word the preacher spoke.

Years later, as Hicks lay dying in Baylor Hospital, his friend Wallace Basset sat with him during his final moments. Hicks said, “Wallace, my life is over, my preaching days are done, and I’ve never done anything for Jesus. I’ve failed, Wallace. I’ve failed.”

Apparently John Hicks never knew about the special contribution he had made to the kingdom of God: how one revival meeting held in a small Texas town — and specifically one sermon preached on an Autumn morning — touched the heart of a young boy who would, in turn, touch the lives of millions in the years to come.

The words of Paul come to mind:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Maybe you can’t see the full results of your ministry at this moment. Maybe today it seems that your years of sacrifice and hard work resemble next to nothing.

The truth is that you’ve accomplished things that you don’t know about — things you may never know about this side of glory.

During these days when measurable results remain elusive, be steadfast. do not give in to despair. God is using you in ways that you cannot see.

Martin Luther King

Life’s Most Persistent Question

Of the many Martin Luther King quotes that bear repeating, one of my favorites is:

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

Service is built-in to our job description, not only as pastors and missionaries and ministry leaders, but also as believers. One’s ministry — and ultimately, one’s life — will be measured by how this question is answered.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

As America pauses today to remember an influential leader, let’s consider this persistent and urgent question: What will I do today to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ?

Facing the Harvest

Facing the Harvest

Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7)

Your life is a never-ending cycle of reaping and sowing, of planting and harvesting. Every day you experience both.

Today you will enjoy (or, in some cases, not enjoy) a harvest you have planted in past days or weeks or months or years.

And today you are planting tomorrow’s harvest. Your actions today create the life you will experience tomorrow, and in the days to come.

“The one who sows to please the Spirit,” Paul says, “from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

And then he encourages us:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Sometimes it requires all of your emotional reserves just to continue one more day in your journey. Remember: this is a journey worth taking, and it is not without reward. At the proper time, you will reap the harvest that you are sowing today.

So keep sowing. Make the calls that aren’t always easy to make. Finish the task you’ve been putting off. Confront the problems you’ve avoided. Do what needs to be done.

Keep sowing today, and wait for the harvest.

As the book of Job says, God will make all things beautiful for you in his time.