Archive for February, 2009

Two Circles and a Skill-Set

February 20th, 2009

“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings.” Proverbs 22:29 NIV

“In things you enjoy doing and do well, you will discover your skill-set.”

My thoughts today are about “two circles and a skill-set.”

Well, this whole week my devotional thoughts and comments have been about work; aren’t you glad it is time for the weekend? But let’s explore one more aspect of what will involve so much of your lifetime. Work is holy, you know. God gave Adam responsibilities in the Garden at the very beginning. See Genesis 2:15. And in God’s top ten list, He established the important cycle of work and rest when He commanded, Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath.” See Genesis 1:31-2:3/Exodus 20:9-11 NIV.

Let’s talk about an important aspect of work, as relates to your being productive and feeling fulfilled. Everything that you do can be divided into two areas: things you enjoy doing, and things you do well. Would you take a piece of paper and draw two large circles with the second partially overlapping the first? In the one circle, write: things I enjoy doing. In the other, write: things I do well. You can probably list a lot more things in the first circle than the second, but the things in both circles are important to enjoying a well-rounded and fruitful life.

Where your circles overlap – the fewer number of things you both enjoy doing and do well!that’s where your skill-set will be found, and with it will come your greatest success and lasting satisfaction. Too many people spend much of their life doing only what they enjoy, but not succeeding because they never learn the skills to do that well. They fail to develop or acquire the essential skills. They accept mediocrity as the price for fun. Others misapply themselves to things they do very well and prosper doing so, but without enjoying what they spend their lives doing. You are spending your life; so spend it well, where you will receive the greatest joy and reward.

Your skill-set describes the combination of skills and abilities that you possess, unique to you. Your skill-set is the product of your natural gifting, your interests and inclinations, your personality and temperament, your education and training, your life and work experience, and your dedicated effort to further develop and apply those skills – all of those, most effective and productive when recognized as sourced in God, empowered by His Spirit, and used in His service to others.

But know this clearly, the best of your talents and efforts will fall short of true and full success and satisfaction without those final elements – For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To Him be glory evermore. Amen.” Romans 11:36 NLT.

Skill is a most important part of the equation for your success. There are elements about your success that you rarely control or can change, but skill is something completely in your hands. It depends primarily upon your willingness and single-mindedness to give the necessary time, sacrifice, and maximum effort to apply yourself to recognizing your skills, continually perfecting them, and finding the best ways and places to apply them.

“Show me a man who does a good job, and I will show you a man who is better than most and worthy of the company of kings.” Proverbs 22:29 TEV. Skill is the essential for doing a good job; it is not luck, or being in the right place, or knowing the right people; it is your skill, with God’s blessing.

My prayer for you today is to have the success only God can give, and joy for a lifetime.


Putting Others First

February 19th, 2009

“Workers who protect their employer’s interests will be rewarded.” Proverbs 27:18 NIV

“With appreciation and enthusiasm, work hard to make your boss look good for hiring you.”

My thoughts today are about “putting others first.”

A major proportion of your life will be in the marketplace. Approximately one-third of most days will be spent at work, and for most of us taht will mean working for and with others. Let me share some advice that will help you make that a good experience for you, and make you a blessing to others.

There is an old – very old – saying that advises, “Never bite the hand that feeds you.” How about a barrage of clichés that suggest the same thing – “Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs,” or “Be sure you know which side your bread is buttered on.” There is a reason that brief snippets of advice stay around long enough to become very old sayings; they succinctly capture some colorful and practical wisdom. They offer good, common sense.

Today’s thoughts very much include the issue of loyalty. I have come to prize loyalty in personal and professional relationships, and with each passing year that is even more true for me. My Dad’s advice to me as a young minister was that I should be loyal to whomever I worked for, faithful to my work while there and loyal to the one who allowed me that opportunity, while there or when gone. If ever I could not be, his advice was that I should thank them genuinely and work elsewhere for someone to whom I would be loyal.

He taught me the practical truth of today’s verse, “workers who protect their employer’s interests will be rewarded.” I have found that true. Besies being the right and honorable thing to do, it is just practical wisdom to look out for the interests and favor of the one who directly impacts your own best interests. You have to be loyal to be receive loyalty from others. It is very true in life – for the good or bad – that you will reap what you sow, but in greater measure. See Galatians 6:7-10 NIV.

I can recommend my father’s counsel to you as well. It was wise and it works, two very good things. I have never had to leave a place or person in order to remain loyal, but I would have if the situation had occurred. I have known one or two who worked with me that I wish had known and followed that advice. They would have been happier and so would I.

It is shortsighted to do or say anything that would damage the business or people that you work for. Your well being and prosperity is directly tied to theirs. If you cannot be true to the person God is using to supply your living presently, others will see that as ingratitude and think less of you. Work hard to make your boss look good for hiring you. If he looks bad, you will too. Don’t contribute in even a small way to that happening. “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.Ephesians 6:7-8 NLT.

Here’s God’s advice, “In humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also look to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 2:3-5 NIV. Jesus modeled that perfectly and invites you to follow His lead.

How do you do that? It’s simple and practical. In honor give preference to one another, not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:10-11 NKJV. When we were together, a gracious and senior friend and I made a “game” of trying to be the first to open any door for the other when we were together – usually quoting that verse, “in honor, preferring one another.” I learned much from him about respect, honor, and honest humility across the years of our friendship, not because he demanded those things, though he could have, but because he demonstrated those qualities of character and loyalty in his attitude, speech, and conduct consistently. I learned from my friend Campbell about putting others first.

My prayer for you is that wherever you work they would want you to do so again.


Hard Work

February 18th, 2009

“Being lazy will make you poor, but hard work will make you rich.” Proverbs 10:4 TEV

“No one gives you anything but an opportunity;
after that what you get is what you earn with God’s blessing.”

My thoughts today are about “hard work.”

Why is it that many people want everything to come to them the easy way? Good things come neither easily nor quickly. There is work and diligence behind every accomplishment and reward, or else the accomplishment isn’t that great, nor the reward that much. There is no easy way to get ahead and no way for you to prosper without hard work. If success comes too easily, you will not value it sufficiently and conserve it watchfully. You will only feel the greatest joy and pride in your achievement when you know how hard you worked for it.

Promotion and raises do not come to the person who wants them most, but are given to the one who works hard for what they want. Employers will say that their greatest challenge is “finding and keeping good people.” The diligent employee is at the heart of a company’s success.

Make yourself invaluable to the place you work and to the people with which and for whom you work. “No matter how much a lazy person may want something, he will never get it. A hard worker will get everything he wants.” Proverbs 13:4 TEV. Every boss, who wants to succeed and their business prosper, quickly learns to spot the person who is not afraid of hard work, and rewards those who gives their best effort.

Be worth every penny that you are paid. “If you are lazy, you will never get what you are after, but if you work hard, you will get a fortune. Proverbs 12:27 TEV. People do not give you a job nor keep you working just because you need a paycheck. There are plenty of people that “qualify” for that. They hire and keep you when you contribute more than you cost. It is really that simple.

Display faithfulness to your task at all times – the same on your good days and challenging ones. “If you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what belongs to you?” Luke 16:12 TEV. You are given opportunity by another’s kindness; you earn recognition and reward by your own diligence.

I remember a young minister, just out of college, that I was interviewing for a job. He didn’t want any favor, nor anyone to think that he was given the position for any reason except that he earned it. My counsel to him was simple. No one gives you anything but an opportunity; after that what you get is what you earn. But while you are earning that, never forget that without the opportunity you would never have the chance to show what you deserve. Therefore, remember to be grateful not proud.

Treat your job as though it were your ministry, because it should be. “And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus . . obey (those in authority) in everything you do . . Obey them willingly because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ.” Colossians 3:17/22-24 NLT.

My prayer for you today is to be thankful, work hard, play often, and enjoy your rewards.


Honest Day’s Work

February 17th, 2009

“The wicked . . earns deceptive wages.” Proverbs 11:18 NIV

“Practice honesty at all times; preserve honesty at all costs.”

My thoughts today are about an “honest day’s work.”

While still a young man, I was taught the importance of “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage.” If you agree to work for someone at a given wage, be honest, earn your wages, and provide the highest quality you are capable to give. Your opinion of your wage is no justification to give less than you agreed. It is always your option to work elsewhere, but never your option to give less than your best, nor honest to blame another for what you withhold. Solomon’s advice to his son was, “It is better to have a little, honestly earned, than to have a large income, dishonestly gained.” Proverbs 16:9 TEV. Don’t sell your soul for a few coins that are worth far less than they might first appear.

Honesty really is the best policy. First, that’s true because God demands honesty, and for that reason honesty works best. In the play, Hamlet, Polonius gives Laertes, his son, this advice, “To thine own self be true, and then it must follow as night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man.” William Shakespeare. Honesty with all begins with honesty before God and within your own heart. Beware of the temptation of little compromises to do otherwise along the way. Practice honesty at all times; preserve honesty at all costs. Character is better held than recovered.

No one long succeeds without honesty. The Bible requires, “Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” Romans 12:19. That holds true when you speak of business, and especially for relationships. Marriage vows seem increasingly negotiable; business agreements are unilaterally adjusted for personal advantage and profit. Whatever the justification of the moment seems, dishonesty sows a corruption into any relationship, personal or professional.

I learned from my father to value and protect one’s word. Ray Randolph believed that a man was “only as good as his word,” and he held himself to that standard, whatever another chose to do. The world has changed considerably in one generation, hasn’t it? It is sad that we need extensive contracts and lawyers to guarantee the simplest of agreements, and then arbitrators and courtrooms to decide what is binding and what are pre-planned and allowable loopholes to favor one party over the other.

“Happy is the person . . who runs his business honestly.” Psalm 112:5 TEV. That should be true of all; it must be true of the Christ-follower. What others may excuse as good enough, you cannot allow as good enough for you. The Bible teaches the only acceptable attitude of anyone who claims the name of Christ. “We trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.” Hebrews 13:18 KJV. It is sad when that is anything but true, especially of those who profess to be Christians but speak and act in something much less than worthy of their claim.

I have found that rarely is it a person’s not knowing what is right to do; it is their creating excuses that parade as reasons to justify doing something less than they know is right. “An honorable person acts honestly and stands firm for what is right.” Isaiah 32:8 TEV.  You will not be counted honorable to others if you are not first honest with others. Doing the wrong thing will never get you the right result.

My prayer for you today is to live honestly and upright before God and man.



February 16th, 2009

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:17 NIV

“There are things, that if you know and do them, life will be richer and happier.”

My thoughts today consider “if.”

On such a small word hinges so much about your life. There are things that bring heartache and regret, if you do them. You need to learn not to do them. There are things that bring joy and satisfaction, if you do them. A wise person learns what those are, and does them. The tiny word – if – makes such big differences.

You will recognize when you see a possibility available to you and say, “If only I will . .” and be pleased with the result. And along the way you will learn from regrets, some big, some small – moments when after some experience you realize, “If only I had . .” Usually too late, you will recognize something that you could have done, or done better, that would have had better result. Don’t waste those regrets; learn from them.

Aren’t you glad that Jesus doesn’t leave you to guess how life works best? He told his disciples, “Now that you know this truth, how happy you will be if you put it into practice.” John 13:17 TEV. God wants you to know how life works best for you. He wants you to enjoy life to the fullest, finding success with satisfaction. Let me suggest a few things to you. If you do them, on the authority of God’s Word, I can assure you your life will be happier and richer.

Leave lots of room for family and friends. Don’t make the mistake of leaving the people most important to you the leftovers of your thoughts, time, and attention. I think I always knew the importance of friends. I learned that by watching my Dad with his, many of them life-long. When I was younger, I enjoyed them when they were around, but I was busy with family and career as were they. I have noticed that with each year I have grown older, I have learned to truly value and appreciate in practical ways the invaluable and irreplaceable gift of family and friends. When you are young, possessions and position seem important; later, you realize people are. Don’t wait till later. Build friendships across a lifetime. You will have more to have shared.

Learn to express thankfulness. Don’t expect others to read your mind, or merely assume that you are thankful to them or for them. Let them know. Say it, and show its genuineness by your actions. Like love, thankfulness to be authentic must be practical and observable. There are two lessons to learn: there are a few things that should not be left unsaid, and many things that probably could be. The challenge is not having what you would appreciate, but appreciating what you have. Life doesn’t keep things from you; it but busyness can tempt you to take people and blessings for granted. Thankfulness comes from counting your blessings each day. Read Psalm 68:19/103:2 NKJV.

Learn contentment. It is a matter of what you have, not what you don’t. A gardener tried everything to rid his yard of dandelions, finally writing the Department of Agriculture asking what he could do. Their advice? Try getting used to them!” Sometimes that is the best advice. Enjoy what is wonderful, and get used to what isn’t. The first will always outweigh the latter, if you take time to notice. See 1 Timothy 6:6 NIV/Hebrews 13:5 NKJV/Philippians 4:6-13 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you never have the regret of thinking, “If only I had . .”

I suggest to read Rudyard Kipling’s incredible poem, “If.”