Seven keys to personal growth. The first, live daily with the end in view, it’s the key to motivation. Second, make a personal commitment; it’s the key to overcoming inertia.
Third, value process more than event; it’s the key to progress. See, you get discouraged thinking you’re not making progress. You’re making progress. Real growth is slow. Fourth, cultivate stimulating relationships. It’s the key to inspiration. Growing people arrange their lives and their schedules, are you ready, to be around growing people. To be inspired, to be challenged, to be stretched, every time I rub up against people that are walking with God and are ahead of me here, and they’re making progress there. Every time I get near them I want to lean forward into it.
And there are times when there are people that have huge needs and I feel inadequate. And I don’t know, but when I get involved in their life and I get stimulated, and I realize God can use a regular guy like me, He can use a regular person like you.
Growing people cultivate, I chose that word carefully. You have to rearrange your schedule. You cultivate stimulating relationships. In fact, the Bible commands us to. Hebrews 10:24 and 25 it says, “And let us consider, let us ponder how we may spur” or “stimulate one another on” – to what? “love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage, exhort” – get the idea? “one another all the more as you see the day approaching. The day of Christ’s return.”
You’ve got to have a small group. You’ve got to have a mentor. You’ve got to have a “mentee.” There are some people that can mentor you. You can become close friends with some of the greatest people in the world today because of technology.
Billy Graham and I are on a first name basis. I’ve never met him. But I’m on page six hundred and eighty something. I’ve learned and been inspired because I’m reading his autobiography.
Every week I listen to three or four messages of other people around the country. And they inspire me and they encourage me. And it’s not a hard thing to say I’m going to read a half hour before I go to bed instead of watch TV for an hour before I go to bed. Do you know what happens when you read a half hour before you go to bed and you do that three hundred days a year? It transforms your life.
But see, you’ve got to cultivate, with the time that you have, /stimulating relationships.
Why? Next verse Proverbs 13:20, “He who dwells with the wise man will be wise. She who dwells with the wise woman will be wise. But the companion of a fool will suffer harm.”
I don’t know anything about you, but I can tell this about you and about me, right now. Whoever your closest friends are, whoever you’re running with right now, in five years you’ll be just like them.
So, I’ve just made a decision. I’m going to run around with people better, smarter, more holy, more godly, more energetic, more intelligent, more creative than me. And I’m just praying some of it’s going to rub off. You’ve got to balance the positive relationships with the draining relationships. You need both. Both stimulate.
Fifth, people who grow choose to become progressive risk takers. It’s the key to change. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it’s impossible to please God.” Not hard, it’s impossible. Because anyone who comes to Him must believe two things; first that He exists, second that He rewards. Do you believe that? God rewards those who diligently seek Him. God is looking to bless, and to honor your life, and to reward you. He wants to do good in you; He wants to do good through you.
Where there is no risk, there is no faith. Where there is no faith, there is no change. Where there is no change, there is no growth. It is impossible to grow unless you become a progressive risk taker.
Now, I put that word progressive in there, and I put the word choose for a reason. Because it doesn’t come easy does it? Now, some of you had that spirit and you like change just because you like change. The rest of the world likes things the way they are, and change feels very threatening.
But if you want to grow, you must choose to become a progressive risk taker. You must choose to move out of your comfort zone relationally and initiate things that you’re uncomfortable with. You have to choose to move out of your comfort zone and get involved in ministry beyond what you think you can handle. You have to choose to move out of your comfort zone, and your time, and your structure; and be a little more flexible than you’re comfortable with. You have to choose to get out of your comfort zone and begin to do some things, financially, that will really reveal where your heart’s at. And it’s risk.
If a personal quiet time transformed the values, the thinking, and the relationships and shaped my life in the area of faith, learning how to give biblically was, absolutely without a doubt, the greatest risk taking area ever.
Now, I didn’t grow up in church. And the churches I grew up in I didn’t like. And my big suspicion about Christianity was all they want is your money because that’s what it sounded like from those people on TV.
And so I trust Christ, and they give me a Bible, and I start reading it. I had a long way to go in my views. So, I’m a Christian three years and finally I decided I’m going to give five dollars a month to this missionary couple in Japan, and I’m thinking, They may be the luckiest group in the whole world to get that from me.
I had a clear philosophy of giving growing up. You give a quarter in the bag every time it comes around as a kid, when you get older you bump it to a dollar, and if you’re feeling kind of spiritual, you go with a five. I’m serious. That was my view of giving.
The idea of a percentage, the idea of ten percent of my gross income was like, are these people nuts? Where does this come from? You know what I understood? If you don’t learn according to Jesus to give your money, your heart, your time, your relationships, all those are a lot harder.
See, Jesus talked more about money than heaven and hell combined. Why? He didn’t live in a mansion. He didn’t want nor need anyone’s money. What He understood is the link between money and your heart; money and worship is inseparable. And so, according to Jesus, you can serve God or mammon, money, but there’s no in between.
And so early on, for me, I started with five dollars, and then I started with five or ten percent and now over the years I willfully put myself in a place as a team, as a family, to give where if God doesn’t show up this year, Theresa and I have a major problem.
But He’s shown up in ways beyond what I ever dreamed. I’m not starving. We’re among the richest people in the whole world. And if I didn’t spend that money there and give, you know what? I’d spend it someplace else.
And the fact of the matter is, I could give you a list of blessings in my life, but here’s the point; I’ve learned to trust. Until you learn to trust with money, you really believe something tangible and easy where you can see God show up, you’re going to start to break through life-long relational patterns? Probably not. You’re going to take steps of risks into ministry? You’re going to begin to face things and say, “I’m going to be a difference-maker in my world.” See, it’s just, actually, the smallest risk you’ll ever take is learning how to give money.
Now, I know it’s a really taboo subject and all the rest in the Church because of so much poor teaching, and lack of teaching, and abuse. But, the Bible, it’s clear. If there’s no risk, there’s no faith. And so that’s why Jesus said in this area, Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap.”
His point is you’re not going to out give Me; and I don’t want your stuff, I want your heart. So give. “And it,” give your time, give your compassion, give your money, give your love. You know what happens? It always will come back shaken down, pressed down, more. I don’t know about you, but that was a toughie for me, and I really had to trust the people I was giving it to because I’m a skeptic.
It’s the key to change. Unless you try something beyond what you can already do, you will never grow. Have you realized that’s the way life works? You know how God usually does that in your life? Instead of us willfully choosing to put ourselves in that position, He brings in a crisis, doesn’t He? He allows a crisis where you have this capacity and God brings a crisis or a situation that demands this. And the distance between what you have and what’s required, you know what you do? You grow.
You can’t handle it. Boy, you have a child. You get laid off work. You have a problem relationship and the distance between, what do you do? It’s amazing how my prayer life just perks right up when crisis occurs. It’s amazing how I seek out stimulating relationships, like, “What did you do with a teenage son? Help me, help me, I’ve never been through this before.” You know? It’s amazing, you will grow. But God says you don’t have to wait for a crisis. You can do it voluntarily.
Six, people who grow leverage life’s hardship. It’s the key to character. Notice what it says in James 1, verses 2 to 4, “Consider it,” that means it’s a choice, “pure joy,” that’s an attitude. “Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds,” not if, but whenever, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance or endurance.”
Now, notice what endurance does in your life. “Perseverance or endurance must finish its work so that you may be,” here’s our word again, circle it, “mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
People who grow leverage life’s hardships. Stagnant people – when difficulty comes their way, here’s their question: “Why me, Lord?” People who grow when hardship comes into their life, they say: “What do You want to teach me, Lord?” See the difference?
Stagnant people blame God, blame other people, and look outward. Growing people say, “A sovereign God Who is good, Who loves me, somehow has allowed something to come into my life that’s very hard.”
And by His grace, I am going to – the word here for endurance is hupomeno, literally, to be under the pressure of. Hupo, under the pressure of. And God puts something on your back and you can hardly take it. And it’s heavy and you can hardly take it.
Ninety percent of success in life is not giving up! You can hardly take it. You can hardly take it. You can hardly take it. You know when you can hardly take something and there’s weight on your back, you know what happens after a while? You athletes know, don’t you? What happens? Your muscles get stronger. After a while the weight doesn’t change, but you strengthen and you can take that, and put that weight on a backpack, and walk right through life. And we see people doing it with leukemia. We see people doing it with shattered lives. We see people who have been rejected and hurt, and boy, they walk right through life. Because they’re special? No, they endured.
What’s your attitude? Are you leveraging life’s hardship or are they leveraging you?
Notice the final one. People who grow make time for solitude and silence. It’s the key to guidance. Speaking of the life of our Lord, it says, “Very early in the morning,” literally a great while before dawn while it was still dark, “Jesus got up, He left the house, He went off to a solitary place where He prayed.”
See, growing people have a very clear sense of transcendence and worship. If you read the context in Mark 1, it’s the busiest day ever recorded in the life of our Lord. He’s teaching. He’s praying. People are packed in, they’re getting in from all, man, I mean He is just packed.
I don’t know about you, but when I have a day or a week like that I sort of think: “I deserve a break today so get out and get away.” But Jesus didn’t. Jesus understood the more pressure on your life, the more private time, the more silence, the more solitude you need with the Father.
And so after an exhausting day a great while before dawn, and I think I know what He prayed. I think He prayed, “Father, man this thing is going too fast. I feel pulled. James wants this, John wants this, the crowd’s in, there are more needs, I can’t handle it. Help Me remember, Oh God, Father,” being fully God, yes, but fully man, “help Me remember what You sent Me to do. Everyone has a wonderful plan for My life, but I want the plan We came up with. Give Me focus.”
And you’re saying, Boy Chip, you must have tremendous insight to get all that out of that verse. No, what I know is if you read the context afterwards, Peter, John, James, the guys say, “Hey, You were a hit! It’s awesome! The crowd’s waiting. You’re famous, we’re famous. It’s big time!” And His answer was, “I have need to go to other towns and to other villages. We must leave.” Grammatically imperative, must leave, “…for I came to preach, and to heal, and to forgive sins.”
You see, you need guidance and the only way you get guidance is by stopping life. Busyness is the enemy’s tool for a barren life. And we must stop and get guidance. We must stop and remember: what is it that we’re put on this earth to do? So that we can come back and say no boldly to all the world’s wonderful plan for our life.
And you’re saying, “I don’t have time to stop.” I say, “Well why?” “Well, because I’ve got to get to work.” “Why are you going to work? Because I’ve got to do this, because I’ve got to do that.” “Well, why?” “Well, because I’ve got to.” “Says-a-who-ah?”
You’ve never had a sick day at work? You’ve never had something happen where life stopped for two days and you had to go to the emergency room? And I bet the company just fell apart both days, right? See, the fact of the matter is we can choose to stop planning our schedule, and hear from God. I think you need to do it a little every day, and I think every month or six weeks you need a full day to say, Lord, help me remember why I’m here, where I’m going.
If you want to do a quick review – people who grow have some things in common. People who grow live daily, wow, with the end in view. It’s the key to motivation. People who grow make a personal commitment to grow. Have you made it? It’s the key to overcoming inertia.
Third, people who grow value process more than event. It’s the key to progress. Fourth, people who grow cultivate stimulating relationships. It’s the key to inspiration. Fifth, people who grow choose to become progressive risk takers. It’s the key to change. People who grow leverage life’s hardships. It’s the key to character. And finally, people who grow make time for solitude and silence. It’s the key to guidance.
Want a game plan for today? First, make a commitment to grow today.
Second, prioritize the area of your growth. There’s a domino principle here. You can’t do all seven of these things. Don’t even try. What one thing is a little light that keeps pulsating in your heart and your mind that says, “I need to address that”? And you address that and then God will show you. Don’t get overwhelmed.
Third, take one specific step this week even if it’s small. But do something. Take a step toward God, one specific step this week. Write it down and tell someone. Growth is exciting. It’s normal. It’s fun. It’s fantastic. It’s difficult. It’s not automatic, and we get stuck, but we don’t have to stay there, do we?