success

My old church has a softball team. We played in the church league against other churches from the area. I was on the team. I loved playing! I’m wasn’t what I would call a wonderful softball player. Actually, I don’t think I was too shabby fielding. It was my hitting that needed work. Lots of work. But it’s a church league and so, while we had a couple of really good players, the rest of us were just out there for the fun of it. Other churches took it WAY more seriously than we did. Some of the teams we had played practiced 3-5 times a week. We practiced 3-5 times a season! After our last public shaming I told the team that, as long as we’re the 3 times a year team playing against the 3 times a week teams, the public shamings will continue. Whatcha gonna do?

I have no doubt that we COULD have been better. It really comes down to what we’re willing to do and how much we’re willing to put in to rise to the next level of play. Isn’t that life, though? So often we want the fast path to success that we’re not willing to put in the hard work and effort to take ourselves to the next level. This truth is present in business, relationships, spirituality, and every other aspect of life. You cannot get better at something without putting in the work to improve.

I think of the Apostle Paul writing to the church in Thessalonica:

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3b)

Paul had already told the Christians in that church what they should be doing in their “walk” (Paul’s way of saying the way you do the things you do) in order to please God. He simply hopes that they continue to do it more and more and more and more. In other words: KEEP PRACTICING THE THINGS YOU KNOW YOU WHOULD BE DOING SO THAT IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE AND SO THAT YOU CAN DO THEM EVEN BETTER.

Think about your life for a second. If you’re like me (and since I feel pretty normal there’s a good chance we have some human similarities) then there are areas of your life in which you would like to see improvement. I would like to be a better musician. I would like to be a better writer. I would like to be a better parent. I would like to be a better pastor. And yes – I would like to be a better softball player.

But how do we actually do it? How do we move from where we are into greater success? Here are a few suggestions I’ve found helpful:

  1. Read voraciously. Make reading a lifetime habit. When we read we learn. Not just how to books and blogs. Not just non-fiction. Read everything. Reading is a great way to keep new information coming in, and the more information we have the better decisions we can make. Read specifically on the area you want to improve. Because I want to be a better preacher I read books on preaching. I follow several blogs on preaching and leadership. I don’t want the pastor I am tomorrow to be the same pastor I was yesterday. I pray that God continually stretches me and helps me improve. So I read.
  2. Find someone who does it better and ask for input. Yes, this is called coaching. It’s important because books will only take you so far before you need to have a live voice give you feedback. When it comes to softball I’ve asked a couple of guys on the team who are our consistent and solid hitters on how I can improve my hitting. They’ve been VERY gracious with me and offered feedback. In the last month alone I’ve seen improvement in my swing. Not that I’ve arrived, mind you, but I see improvement.
  3. Never be satisfied where you are. I’ve never met anyone who said, “I have arrived” be the king of the hill very long. There’s always some way to grow and improve, and if you’re not seeking that growth you’re gonna get left behind (don’t worry, Kirk Cameron will be there with you).
  4. Finally, recognize that you might be able to see improvements in some areas of life but that you weren’t made to be a superstar in all areas. If you sing like a sick cat, maybe vocal coaching and lessons aren’t the best use of your time and money. This is difficult because our culture tells you, “You can be a star at anything if you just try hard enough or pay the right price.” Um…no. You can’t. There are some things I will never do well. It’s just not reality to think I can do anything. So this is your wake up call. Be realistic in finding areas of your life in which you desire and actually can excel.

So how ‘bout it? Where do you want to see growth and improvement in your life? Your relationships? Your job? Your spirituality? What have you found helpful in achieving your success?