by Rick Joyner
I was sitting in Reggie White’s den listening to him and a teammate from the Green Bay Packers discuss their football careers. Some have called Reggie the best defensive lineman to ever play the game. He has been an All-Pro for ten straight years, and was recently named to the All-Time NFL Team, which is composed of the best players over the 75 year history of the league. Shawn Jones, with whom Reggie was talking that day, has also been one of the outstanding players at his position over the last decade. During this conversation the point was made that there were probably many young men in every city who had the potential to be the very best players, and who dream about doing it, but never would. Why?
What is true of those who have the potential to be great athletes but never accomplish what they could, is probably true of every position in life. Most of the potentially great musicians will spend their lives listening to others perform. The greatest potential businessmen, artists, scientists, statesmen, doctors, lawyers, writers, or ministers, will probably spend their lives doing something they are bored with rather than what they were given the talents to do. Why? The answers are the same in almost every case. Understanding these reasons can make the difference between our having a fruitful, fulfilling life, or one of failure and frustration.
There will be frustration in our life if we do not fulfill what we have been given the natural talents to do, but that frustration is even greater if we do not fulfill our spiritual destiny. This frustration could well be found at the root of many divisions in churches, denominations, and even our families. Frustration is a major problem in the church now because of this, but the latter stages of this frustration, which are boredom and lukewarmness, can be even more devastating.
Being angry is not good, but it does show that at least one still has the ability to care. There is more hope for a congregation that has tensions in it than one that is asleep. However, if those in ministry are doing their primary job, which is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry (see Ephesians 4:12), much of the energy that is now manifested in these tensions will be used to produce fruit. And that is a primary reason why we are in this world.
“By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples… You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you” (John 15:8,16).
According to the Lord, the primary purpose for which we have been called are to bear fruit, and that fruit would remain. Bearing fruit is more than just growing personally in the fruit of the Spirit. The Lord is implying that we are called to do or be something of such consequence that our lives will continue to impact this world even after we have departed. How many Christians do you know that are doing something with this potential? We might even ask how many churches are. They are few indeed. Yet this is the calling that is on us all. That is why the Lord placed in our heart the desire to do something of significance. What is the difference between those who are bearing such fruit and those who are not?
Every Christian has a ministry, a purpose that they have been given in this life. You were made for that ministry. The Scriptures state that you were even foreknown and called by God before the foundation of the world. Yet, the Scriptures also teach that, “Many are called, but few are chosen [or go beyond calling to commissioning]” (Matthew 22:14). Like the first generation of Israel which left Egypt, who were called to go to the Promised Land, but spent their lives wandering in circles in the wilderness, most people are doing the same, Christians included.
God does not want you to live in the perpetual frustration, or boredom, that comes from not walking in the purpose that you were made for. He wants you to live in a land “flowing with milk and honey,” a land with much fruit. He wants you to have the indescribable pleasure of knowing that you have done His will, that you have accomplished all that He put you on this earth to accomplish. The first step to getting out of your wilderness is believing that He has something better for you, and that He is able to bring you into it.
Many of the principles that make one an achiever in any field are the same that enable us to achieve our purpose in Christ. Because it is in the area of these general principles that most fail, these are the ones that we will focus on in this study.
There are five basic characteristics that can be seen in the lives of those who have accomplished notable achievements in this world. These same characteristics can be found throughout the Scriptures in the biographies of those who fulfilled the purpose of God in their generation. They are:
1. They have a clear vision of their purpose.
2. They stay focused on their purpose.
3. They have the wisdom and resolve to gather the necessary resources, or training, for accomplishing their purpose.
4. They do not associate with “problem oriented people,” but with “solution oriented people.”
5. They refuse to let obstacles or opposition stop them; they stay resolutely on the course to fulfilling their purpose regardless of setbacks and disappointments. Now let’s look at each of these in more depth, as well as the stumbling blocks over which many fall, and therefore fail to accomplish their purpose in this life.
Factor Number One: You Must Define Your Purpose.
It is improbable that anyone will fulfill their purpose if they do not know what it is. In the Scriptures we can see that the Lord always reveals a person’s calling to them before He expects them to accomplish it. He desires for each one of us to know our purpose in this life. Yet, I have traveled extensively throughout the body of Christ and have found that a very small percentage of believers even know what their personal calling is. Then only a small percentage of those are actually being equipped to fulfill it. This is obviously one of the most tragic failures of the church, and the reason why it is presently having such a small impact on our world.
A primary reason many do not know their callings is that they do not care enough to seek the Lord for this understanding. He has ordained that we must ask, seek, and knock before we will receive. Our calling is possibly the most precious treasure that we have been entrusted with, and what makes treasure valuable is that it is either rare, or hard to find. Those who receive treasure too easily will not understand its true value. You may reply that the Lord showed the apostle Paul his calling when he became a Christian, but by Paul’s own confession he spent many years, much of it alone in the wilderness, defining that calling.
When you seek the Lord, get specific. Those who have goals that are too general rarely accomplish them. Those who want to “go into business for themselves” almost never do. Those who want to “be a musician,” or “go into the ministry,” almost never do, or if they do, they quickly fail. However, those who go into business because they love a certain product, or service, are much more likely to succeed. Those who fall in love with a certain musical instrument are much more likely to become musicians. Those who go into the ministry because they have a heart for reaching a certain people group with the gospel, plant churches, or perform a certain ministry, etc., are much more likely to both do it and succeed.
Factor Number Two: You Must Stay Focused On Your Goal.
This is truly a rare quality, and the lack of it removes many from the ranks of the achievers. The diversions can come from positive or
negative factors. Many cannot see past the obstacles to attaining their goal, so they seek easier goals. Others are diverted by successes in lesser purposes. Harry Truman once remarked that, “Most people are defeated by secondary successes.” This is true.
One of the hardest tests that we must pass if we are going to fulfill our ultimate calling in our life is not being distracted by all of the other things that God is doing. God is doing many wonderful things today, but it is not possible for us to be involved in all of them. It is often difficult to resist joining another successful move of God, especially when well-meaning people often make others think that they are missing God if they do not join that movement. We must learn to only give ourselves to what God has called us. When we get before His judgment seat, He is not going to ask us how many successful churches or movements were we a part of He is going to ask us if we did His will.
It is even harder to pass up being a part of other movements when God is calling you to just wait on Him before He leads you into your ultimate purpose. It was because Abraham could not wait for the Lord to bring forth His promised child that he listened to the wisdom of Sarah to help God out, which led to the birth of Ishmael. Whenever we, too, try to fulfill the purpose of God in our life it will bring forth an “Ishmael.” What may be even more confusing to us is that God blessed Ishmael and made him a great nation, and He will also very often bless our “Ishmaels,” conceived in our own minds and wills. God will bless things we do that are not His perfect will, but He will not inhabit them. They will never become the seed of promise, or the real purpose for which we have been called. Abraham only had one Ishmael, most of us have many! Even so, if we are going to have Isaac, there is a time when we must drive Ishmael out of the house. Ishmael(s) cannot be an heir with Isaac.
Factor Number Three: You Must Have The Wisdom And Resolve To Gather The Necessary Resources, Or Training, For Accomplishing Your Purpose.
When one has a clear vision of their purpose, and the resolve to stay focused on it, they are much more likely to see all that will be required for fulfilling it. For the fulfilling of every vision there will be education, preparation and training required. Between the time God reveals the calling, and the commissioning to that ministry, there will always be a time of preparation. The inability to understand this difference between the calling and the commissioning of God, and the using of the time between them wisely, has caused the failure of many. Albert Einstein once said, “Premature responsibility breeds superficiality.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones thought that premature success was one of the most dangerous things that could happen to a person.
Paul was called as an apostle somewhere between eleven and thirteen years before he was commissioned to that ministry at Antioch. He spent much of this time in the wilderness seeking his own revelation of God’s purpose in his life, and a deeper understanding of the gospel he was to preach (see Galatians chapter one). He did not just sit back and wait; he used his time to prepare. This is where many fall short, and therefore fail. Instead of being impatient, we should be thankful for all of the time that we are given to get ready for our calling, and we should use every bit of it wisely. This will be a primary factor that determines the quality and fruitfulness of our ministry.
Possibly the greatest difference between the star athletes, musicians, artists, or great professionals in any field, and those who have the talents but are sitting on the sidelines, is the devotion to training, practice, and preparation. We are thrilled by the ball player who wins the World Series with a single swing of the bat, but just to get in that position he probably spent thousands of hours swinging his bat in practice, enduring the heat, the boredom, and the blisters day after day, week after week, and year after year. They do it for “a perishable wreath.” How much more should we be giving ourselves for that which is eternal?
Many years ago the Lord told me that some of His greatest leaders in the last day church were going to come out of professional sports. He said that sports was their seminary, and they were being taught things in their seminary that would be crucial to the church in these times, things which were not being taught in our seminaries. This got my attention. Since then, every time I have been around professional athletes I have tried to listen, to learn all that I could from them, and I have learned a great deal.
I was once asked to speak to the Denver Broncos before a Monday night game. The focus, resolution and determination on the faces of those players as they waited for the game was greater than I had ever witnessed on an audience before. As I was pondering this the Lord spoke to me. He said that when I saw the same kind of focus and resolution on His people that was on those players’ faces, then the beginning of the last day ministry was at hand.
Those Who Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
There is a subtle mentality that has crept into large sections of the body of Christ that planning is not spiritual. Many actually infer that if you know what you are going to do ahead of time that God could not be in it. This is amazing because we are supposed to be taking on the nature of God, and this is profoundly contrary to His basic nature. In fact, the revealing of His plan is one of the most glorious revelations of His character. Jesus was crucified before the foundation of the world, and we were called in Him before the world began. That’s planning!
If we are becoming like Him, planning should be one of our greatest skills. Rarely has anyone ever accomplished anything of significance without planning. It can be argued that the level of one’s ability to plan will be a major factor in determining the significance of their accomplishments. It is true that many who have the mentality that planning is contrary to the work of the Holy Spirit are overreacting to those who make plans according to mere human reasoning. Even so, this overreaction and the failure to plan properly has been far more devastating to the church.
It is during the time of your preparation that you will be able to lay the best plans for your life and ministry. As a pilot, I learned that the quality and safety of every flight was determined by the quality of my preflight planning. I often had to make changes to these plans during the flight, but because pre-flight planning includes reviewing your options, such as alternate airports available in case of an emergency, when the changes were needed they were made much more easily. During my flying career I had to make a couple of such emergency landings, and with one of those the emergency was demanding so much of my attention that I could not take the time to get out my charts to find an alternate airport. I had to know where it was and put the plane down immediately. There is no doubt that the average person’s life would be much more fruitful, not to mention easier, and safer, if they developed their planning skills.
What is it that athletes are so focused on before their game? The game plan. A good coach will know his teams strengths and weaknesses right down to who has a sore foot. He will then seek to know the opposing team the same way. He will formulate a plan to highlight his own team’s strengths, compensate for its weaknesses, while neutralizing the opposing teams strengths and exploiting its weaknesses. Then they practice the plan until every member of the team knows their part and can execute it with the highest efficiency and precision.
Every coach and player knows that they will probably have to make adjustments to their game plan. Even so, the plan is crucial because it at least gives them some parameters to work from. The most successful coaches are usually the ones who can formulate the best plans before the game, but who can also make decisive changes when they are needed on the field. The same is true of pilots, and anyone else in any kind of leadership position.
Even though I was in Naval Aviation, I was once assigned to a ground defense force and had to go through infantry training that was taught by Marines. We were taught many different battle plans and maneuvers. We practiced them over and over. Then we were told that no battle ever goes as planned, and that the only thing that you can count on during a battle is confusion. The side that can best cope with confusion, which is usually the result of plans not going as planned, is usually the one that wins. The way that you cope with confusion is by being able to make new, and effective, plans in the midst of it.
Because my primary calling is to equip believers for their ministry, I have tried to do my best to understand people. In doing so I have found that probably over ninety percent of the people are subject to a high degree of confusion in their life. It has also become obvious to me that this confusion is directly linked to either how well a person understands their calling, or if they are not believers, how defined their goals are. It is also obvious that the ability to formulate a clear and effective plan is a rare human quality, which almost always separates those who are leaders from those who will always be just followers.
Factor Number Four: You Must Surround Yourself With Solution-Oriented People.
One of the first steps that successful leaders implement when assuming a position is to get rid of everyone who spends more time talking about problems than about solutions. Is this not why the Lord Jesus Himself spent so much of His time developing the faith of those who would be His future leaders, and why “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
When General Grant took over the Union Army during the Civil War, it had already suffered many defeats at the hands of General Lee and the Confederate Army. The officers and men of the Union Army had become so conditioned to defeat, when Grant first marched against Lee even members of his own command team prophesied his doom. These were promptly dismissed. Then, in his first engagement with Lee at the Battle of the Wilderness, reports came in from every division of his army that they were beaten. All day long his officers begged Grant to flee back to the safety of Washington before Lee cut them off from their path of retreat. Finally, when it was obvious even to Grant that they were beaten in that engagement, Grant astonished everyone by giving orders to turn south and advance on to Richmond.
When Grant’s generals begged him to reconsider, assuring him that Lee would cut off their retreat, Grant dismissed them and retreated to the solitude of his own tent. He confided to a reporter that he had never been in a battle in which it did not look at some point like they were doomed, but he believed that in every crisis there was also an opportunity. When he pondered the fact that Lee would try to cut off his retreat north to Washington, he saw that it would actually enable him to do something that every other Union general had tried to do and failed-to get his army between Lee and Richmond so that he could advance on the Southern capitol. His “defeat” at the Battle of the Wilderness opened the door for his greatest opportunity, and he seized it.
When Lee heard that Grant had not retreated, but had rather continued his advance, he confided that the end of the Confederacy was near. When the Union troops started marching South, a great cheer went up from the entire army. For the first time they had a general who would fight. Lee would paste several more “defeats” on Grant, but never once did Grant consider retreating. Never once did he pay attention to the doomsayers. He probably never did win an outright battle against Lee, but he held his course until he won the war.
One of the basic principles that every successful leader understands is that, if you are going to win, if you are going to accomplish your goals, you must get rid of the people on your leadership team who are more focused on the problems than solutions. This is the principle of the ten spies at Kadesh-Barnea. The evil, negative report of these ten spies cost their entire generation their inheritance. If you cannot convert or change such people on your staff or teams, you must remove them or they will cost you the same.
Factor Number Five: You Must Refuse To Let Obstacles Or Opposition Stop You.
Some of the factors that have helped individuals attain extraordinary achievements in their life can be controlled, and some cannot. Those which can be controlled are such things as hard work, defining goals, staying focused on our goals, and attaining the necessary resources for achieving them. However, possibly the greatest single factor in releasing the highest levels of human achievement is one that we cannot control, and usually will do everything that we can to avoid. That factor is adversity.
One of the faces of the Lord in Scripture is the face of an eagle. It eagle. If a bird faces an opposing wind at the proper angle it will be carried higher.
Eagles learn this early, and has been said that all of nature fears storms except for the use such opposing winds to reach the greatest heights. The same is true of those who learn to soar spiritually. Every opposing wind is an opportunity to go higher, if you will approach it at the proper angle, or attitude.
One primary delusion about accomplishment is the belief that what allows some to become achievers is the fact that they had favorable circumstances. Using that as an excuse is one of the main reasons why many fail. The obstacles that confronted Reggie, Shawn, and almost every other player in the NFL were as great, or greater, than those facing others. They were not given special breaks. Very few achievers in any field are. In fact, when special breaks are given to those with great ability it often works to cause them to fall short of fulfilling their true potential.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn once made the observation that “Even biology teaches us that perpetual well-being is not good for any creature.” Adversity does more for our development than possibly any other single factor. Adversity helps us to focus, to eliminate the non-essentials and devote ourselves to the essentials. Adversity will cause the truly
devoted to work harder, which will cause them to become stronger. If success comes too easily, we will be weaker.
This Is Not Magic
I have watched many of my friends who play golf try one new golf club or ball after another seeking the “magic remedy” that will improve their game. As one famous golfer said in a commercial for a new golf ball, “This ball really can improve your game, if you will hit three hundred of them a day!” When the same golfer was once asked about a “lucky shot,” he replied, “You know, the more I practice the luckier I get.”
The same is true of our gifts and callings. I am frequently asked by people to pray for them to have the same gift of writing that I have. To me that is almost like one of my student pilots asking me to pray for him to have the “gift of piloting” an airplane imparted to him. Would you fly with someone who received their “gift of piloting” that way? I don’t think so. You would want them to have the best training, and then thousands of hours of experience, too.
I do believe in prophetic impartation, but I think that very few people really understand it. Even spiritual gifts are imparted as seeds, which must be cultivated and cared for with great patience and devotion. Even spiritual gifts must be developed with training and experience or they will be about as dangerous as the above student pilot. For me to just pray and
impart the “gift of writing” on people would only bring judgment on many, because if they are not willing to pay the price to develop their gifts they will be judged for burying them. Having gifts or callings does not impress me. Using them with wisdom and maturity does.
Do you want to know how I got my “gift of writing?” When I was a very young child I just felt that I was destined to be a writer. I did not know any writers, and knew no one to turn to for help, so I did the only thing that I could think of to try to develop my writing skills-I began reading. I did not just read a few books, I read thousands of them.
I felt that if I was going to be the best writer that I could be that I should read the best books, so I started reading the classics. It was a hard discipline at first, but soon I fell in love with them. I then turned my attention to studying everything from psychology to semantics. When I became a Christian, for several years I spent over 40 hours a week studying the Bible. Then I studied church history and the works of the great prophetic voices that shaped church history.
For over 35 years I have read at least one book a week, and often several. I planned to go to journalism school, but when it became clear that because of the Vietnam War I couldn’t, I did not give up. I determined that I would teach myself the mechanics of writing, so I studied it on my own. I have had to learn on my own almost everything that I know about anything, except flying. I know that my writing skills are rough from the lack of a formal education, but I did not let that stop me. Instead I determined to do the best that I could with what I had available.
It has been, and continues to be, a difficult struggle. I’m sure that others with the training could do the writing that I do in much less time and with much less effort, but I am very thankful to be doing what I have been called to do. Even so, it is hard to be patient with those who ask me to “impart my gift of writing,” to them, as if I could just say a simple prayer and they could have what I have. I would love to have the gift to just be able to pray for people and command them to “be mature!” but that is one miracle that I cannot find anywhere in the Scriptures. If you want a high level gift you will have to value it enough to develop it to that level. I have had many friends that I think are smarter than I am, and more gifted, naturally and spiritually. They also had a similar vision to mine. Most of them are not accomplishing very much right now, and some are living a life of frustration and emptiness. Many of these did have the calling, and I think would be accomplishing much more than I am now if they had just disciplined themselves and made the necessary preparations for their ministry.
I have no regrets about how hard it has been for me to do anything that I am now doing. Even though I have not been able to go to journalism school, or even Bible school, in many ways I would not trade my education for anyone’s. I can, like Paul, say that what I received I did not receive from men. Even so, I do my best to make the way easier for others, if I see in them a devotion to the discipline, focus, and resolve, that all true success takes, and that our calling in Christ Jesus certainly deserves. Like it was said of the Lord, if we will fulfill our purpose in this life, we must “set our face like a flint to go to Jerusalem,” (see Luke 9:5 1) the place of our destiny.
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