On one of our young prof online bible studies a youth pastor shared about initiative. He mentioned that it is a very important trait we need in many aspects of life, including problem-solving, decision-making, starting projects, settings and reaching goals, and taking advantage of opportunities in our relationships, studies, careers, personal growth and most importantly, in our spiritual life and service. It is a trait that is highly prized especially among leaders because nothing gets started and gets done without initiative.
In one of my favorite parables, Jesus tells of a dishonest manager who made shrewd steps in order to secure for himself a future when his employer was planning to kick him out. The manager was then commended by the master not because of his dishonesty, but because of his shrewdness. Jesus then lamented that “the sons of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the sons of light.”
The gospels attest that Jesus delights in initiative: the people who made a hole through the roof to bring their sick friend in front of Jesus, the woman who touched his hem, Zaccheus not waiting idly by but climbing up a tree, the blind beggar by the gate shouting. Taking action doesn’t mean we do not have faith. On the contrary, these people showed that their initiative is a display of their faith. These are people who didn’t just wait – they did something. They took an action aggressively in order to step closer to what they want. In many aspects of life, we should never get to a “someday, somehow… things will get better” mentality. People without goals or motivation tend to drift down. The natural slide in life tends to be down, not up. You cannot simply stay where you are. If you do then you are only drifting backwards.
Jesus had a goal, the apostle Paul had a prize to look forward to, and so should we. Christians are not meant to be timid. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power…” The book of proverbs called people without goals “sluggards”. “How long will you lie there, you sluggard?. When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”
If Zaccheus was a sluggard he would say: I’m small and the crowd is big, I can’t see Jesus, so I’ll just wait for another opportunity to see him. The sluggard makes all kind of excuses before they act. They want all conditions to be right. They see every obstacle as a reason not to act. Proverbs 22:13, the sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!” How about you? What’s your excuse?
Proverbs 6:6-8 “Go to the ant, you sluggard: consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” The ant doesn’t depend on external motivation. – no boss; officer; teacher or ruler yet it keeps on going. It keeps its goal in mind all the time to motivate itself. There is no need for an external force pleading and prodding when it has a mental lock on its goal. The ant doesn’t make excuses. It says “Let’s go, let’s get to work, and let’s do it now.”
Set goals: spiritual goals, ministry goals; relationship goals; career goals, physical goals, even money goals… then pray and take ACTION to achieve them. The only risk of setting goals is failure, but it is far better to have many failures for a few victories than not to have all of them. When someone kept criticizing Moody on how he did evangelism, he said, “I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.” Teddy Roosevelt said “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
Christian, you are called to be proactive, to be aggressive, and to prevail. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). It is true that we can do nothing apart from Christ, but He has good works prepared for us ahead of time, and does not leave us to labor in our own strength. In the end, grace unleashes effort and not suppresses it. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
So set your goals. Pray. And by God’s grace, act with all your might.