How to Grow your Faith, Character & Leadership

My personal mission statement I have tried to follow the last 10 years is “Growing in Faith, Character and Leadership. Most people would probably say they also want to grow in these areas of their lives. What I have learned is that I cannot grow in these areas on my own. I can learn about these areas, but to grow and actually live it out, I can only do that with the help of Christ.

In John Chapter 15 Jesus talks about the vine and the branches. He is the Vine and we are the branches that produce fruit. Jesus talks about remaining or abiding in Him in order to bear fruit. In other words if we stay joined to or close to Christ, He produces fruit in our lives. The key is to stay close to Him, to stay connected to Him.

Abiding or remaining in Christ is just another name for intimacy with Christ. He wants to express His life through us, which comes through your attachment to Him. If our prayer life is just a matter of shooting up an occasional SOS as emergencies come up, we are missing that intimacy or closeness. If we just have our devotions in the morning in order to get it done and check it off our list, we don’t understand abiding.

In order to stay connected or close to Christ we must first understand how much He loves us. That should be our focus, love. Later in this same chapter Jesus says, “Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you.”

Our faith, our character and our leadership can only grow if we stay close to Christ. When we submit to Him and talk to Him on a regular basis. When we regularly read, listen or speak His words from the Bible. When we spend time worshiping Him and soaking up His love, we grow. When we meditate or focus on Jesus some amazing things start to happen in our lives. We have more wisdom, strength, courage, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, righteousness and self-control.

So if you are looking to grow in your faith, character, leadership or other areas of your life, the best thing you can do is focus on Christ and discover how much He loves you. We cannot manufacture Character, Christ produces it when we stay close to Him. We cannot love our spouse unconditionally, but Christ can through us. We cannot lead people as we should, but Christ can direct us and lead through us. We cannot have great faith on our own, but Christ can grow our faith when we stay close to Him. When we are close to Him, we see things more like He sees them and He can do things in us we could never do on our own.

I can’t but He can, should be our prayer every day.

Questions to Ask Yourself

While I was on my run today some questions kept coming to my mind. Maybe these questions will get you thinking as well.

  • What motivates me the most?
  • What are the three most important people in my life?
  • If I could change one thing about myself, I would change…
  • Have I been totally honest with the people closest to me?
  • Do I have something I feel like I cannot share with anyone?
  • What do I need to do to improve my leadership ability by 5%?
  • Who do I need to spend more time with?
  • Who do I need to spend less time with?
  • In what areas of my life do I feel like I am struggling?
  • Who do I need to confront? Who do I need to apologize to?

When we ask ourselves questions like this it forces us to do an evaluation of where we are and where we want to be. The key to a successful life is that you are growing, learning and changing in a positive way. When you are humble enough to realize you can always improve and get better no matter where you are, then you can achieve amazing things.

I try to do this several times a year. Take a moment and think about these questions and write down some of your thoughts. Put in some action steps and then go and do it.

The Happiness Sucker

“Worry is to joy, what a vacuum cleaner is to dirt; you might as well attach your heart to a happiness sucker and flip the switch.” Max Lucado said that, and it makes sense. Worry is focused negative thinking and it can get the best of us. Before we know it we are consumed with a certain problem or issue. It’s all we can think about and it sucks up our time, our thoughts, our energy and our joy.

Jesus tells us “give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know the One who holds the future.

Have you discovered the difference between problems and facts? Problems are things we can do something about; we can solve problems. Facts are things we can do nothing about; therefore we do well not to worry about them. We should apply energy only to those things we can change. We can feel peace and act with poise, because we no longer beat our heads against an unbreakable wall, when we stop worrying and start trusting. When we stop worrying and focus on how we can change through this hardship.

Whatever you are facing today, know that God has promised to walk with you, to give you strength when you need it, courage and wisdom at just the right time. But that can only happen if we are giving our entire attention to what God is doing. So don’t allow worry to suck all the joy out of your life. Try some focused positive thinking for a change and see what happens.

Courage

I came across this today in 2 Chronicles 19:11, the end of the verse – “Act with courage, and the Lord will be with the good.”

The English word for courage comes from the French word coeur, which means “heart”. That is where the saying “Don’t lose heart” comes from. Here are some thoughts about how to act with courage:

  1. It takes courage to face the truth about myself – Often the truth about ourselves is not something we like hearing.
  2. It takes courage to change when staying the same is more comfortable – When we step out of our comfort zone, we often get tested, but we also get stretched and can reach new heights we didn’t think we could reach.
  3. It takes courage to stand for our convictions when we know we will be challenged – Whenever we stand for something or try something that stretches us someone usually takes a shot at us. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon there’s always someone to tell you you’re wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to the end, requires the same courage a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men to win them.”
  4. Courage usually means getting it wrong before you get it right – It takes real courage and humility to learn from our mistakes and make changes to correct those mistakes. It takes courage to face reality and work at making things right.
  5. Courage means taking the “high road” – The high road may mean forgiving someone that hurt you and not holding a grudge. It may mean treating someone with kindness that does not deserve it. It may mean keeping your mouth shut when you would love to criticize or attack. When we practice true forgiveness we show incredible courage.
  6. Adversity is our friend – Each obstacle we face in life teaches us about our strengths and weaknesses. It shapes us, sharpens us and helps us to depend on God more. If there where no adversity in our lives we would not grow or make needed changes in our lives. Adversity brings opportunity to display courage and character.

In what areas of your life do you need more courage? What might God be trying to teach you in your current adversity? How can you take the high road with whatever you are facing? What lessons have you learned from the mistakes you just made?

Determination

Determination is a character quality that I admire and strive for in my own life. All of us need encouragement to endure rather than escape hardship. Determination is essential for seeing a project through to completion and it stirs hope and keeps us positive during the long haul of life’s problems.

Here are two things I know about life:

  • Opposition and hardship is inevitable.

Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 – “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus they did to us – trial & torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does to us – he lives! … While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best.”

The opposition we face today is not much different than what Paul faced. There are relational struggles, marital disharmony’s, difficulties connected with parenting and financial strains. There are also work challenges, sickness, job loss, accidents and injuries. There is no escaping the downside of human life. Just recently I was in a car accident that reminded me that life can be difficult and change in a split second.

Opposition and difficulties, pain, disappointments, and heartache are reality. Expect them. That way you won’t be caught off guard when they happen.

The second thing I know is:

  • Motivation is Essential:

Paul goes on to say this in verses 16-18 – “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Usually everything in us cries out “just quit” when we encounter life’s irritations, one after another. But Paul’s counsel is to not lose heart. He is telling us that an attitude of fortitude is needed in life…the motivation of determination. A positive never-say-die attitude is needed to make it through life’s hardships.

One of the best examples of determination I know of is Nehemiah. The book of Nehemiah describes the story of Nehemiah returning to the destroyed city of Jerusalem to rebuild the walls that protected the city, so that the city could be rebuilt and repopulated.

He had three oppressive obstacles:

  • Verbal criticism – people openly critical of what he was trying to do
  • Secret conspiracy – people working behind his back to stop what he was doing
  • Deception – people using intimidation, fear, lies and rumors to stop progress

Despite all of that he completed his project in 52 days. That took leadership and determination. It’s the same way in our lives. When we understand and embrace what Jesus did for us, we can face any opposition or hardship with a positive attitude and determination to make it through no matter what. Here are four helpful hints for living a life of determination:

  1. Never let life’s difficulties surprise you. Monitor your expectations, be realistic instead of idealistic
  2. Keep a positive perspective. Remind yourself that God is awesome and in control. Focus on your goals or your most important priorities and don’t get distracted by criticism or circumstances.
  3. Fight your battles on your knees. Nehemiah spent a lot of time praying. He prayed for help, for protection, for wisdom, for strength, for God’s intervention. Mix brief moments of prayer into your everyday encounters, and spend extended time with God pouring out your heart.
  4. Stay close to others. God never meant for us to be lone rangers. None of us are totally self-sufficient. Having community or relationships with other people is vital in making it through hardships and opposition. Surround yourself with good people.

Whatever you are facing today, know that God is with you and for you. He has promised to never leave us and to walk through every valley with us. Like Nehemiah and Paul we can have extraordinary determination only when we plug into God. It’s our choice, I suggest plugging into him and following his lead. Be determined to finish the journey you have started on the path God put you on.