Ask, Seek, Knock: Success Steps

In thinking about one of our topics for the month, success, today I want to talk about a passage you’re probably familiar with, Matthew 7:7-8: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” This passage about asking, seeking and knocking establishes a great guideline for us to consider throughout our days and what goes on in our lives.

Ask:
“‘No one has ever seen, no one has ever heard, no one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’ But God has shown us these things through the Spirit.” I Corinthians 2:9-10
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5
“Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” Proverbs 12:15

First, asking is important because it means we’re willing to admit that we don’t know everything and are willing to learn. However we’re not always great at asking questions. Too often we ask the wrong questions, questions that don’t give us the answers we need because they’re not the right questions. We can get too busy asking things like “why me” and “how could you” instead of asking questions that will help us get the necessary answers and find solutions and help for our questions. Second, James 1 makes a point of letting us know it’s good to ask questions. God doesn’t criticize us for asking questions, only for thinking we know more than He does.

Seek
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:35
“Your laws please me; they give me wise advice.” Psalm 119:24
“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11

Asking questions is important because they give us directions to learn and move in. If we don’t ask questions we’ll never be able to figure out what we don’t know and what God wants us to do with our lives. Once we’ve asked the questions we hopefully receive some wisdom and knowledge to use. We start our search with the knowledge that God will not be separated from us by the challenges we face and will give us the strength and peace to learn what we must.

Knock
“May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4
My father taught me, “Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live” Proverbs 4:4
“It is very sad that people leave the world just as they came. So what does a person gain from ‘trying to catch the wind’? They only get days that are filled with sadness and sorrow. In the end, they are troubled, sick, and angry.” Ecclesiastes 5:16-17

In the very action of knocking we’re going from learning to doing. You can’t knock without taking action. There’s not much good to asking the right questions and getting advice unless you do something with it. Throughout the Bible God encourages us to be wise and live lives that reflect the wisdom we’re given or find. Don’t waste your life, your lessons and your abilities, choose to make something of it all if not for you but because your lessons and your willingness to knock may be the difference between life and death for someone.

What questions will you ask, learning will you do and actions will you take this week?

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Spiritual Labor

As we look ahead to this weekend and Labor Day here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a few verses from the Bible about work and what God says about work.  A few of the results caught me by surprise, so as we head into the new month we may take time to dive deeper into a few of them.

Work:
“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23

“The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.” Deuteronomy 28:12

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.” Ecclesiastes 2:18

“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10a

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10a

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Romans 4:4

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

God and work:
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” John 5:17

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Psalm 127:1a

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:6

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What are your thoughts on (spiritual) work?

Concise Communications

Our conversations about listening this month have really reminded me about the value of being a good communicator. If you’re really a good listener you’ll know how to ask questions that clarify what someone else is talking about, you’ll know how to talk to others in a way that doesn’t offend but still communicates your point, you’ll know how to communicate something in a concise but not too brief fashion and you’ll know when to shut up. Presentations, events and speeches aside, the majority of what we do should be listening and thinking. Why? Because there’s lots of things being said in the world and too many aren’t helpful and only add to the overall noise.

As you can tell I’m a writer, and I love to think and talk about communication. Whenever an issue is brought up by a client about a situation in their life or business one of my first questions is about something communication related, because all too often it’s a lack of communication or a miscommunication that created or exacerbated the issue. Of course communication does largely depend on being able to speak the same language and understand each other, two things that are prevalent challenges in our world, whether you’re a police officer trying to take a report or a parent trying to understand your son/daughter who has autism.

I’ve read many a book or article and heard some speeches that I’ve thought were too short and definitely could have been longer (or I would have enjoyed the story continuing). But I’ve also run into a few books, some articles, and too many speakers that run on and on and I’m exhausted by the time they’ve finished, if I even made it that far. Which is what we’re focusing on today, the value of using fewer rather than more words. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t completely explain the situation or that it’s OK to talk in one and two word sentences (if you can call them that).

We all can work on learning how to communicate in a way that gets our point across, answers the question, is polite to those listening, doesn’t wander or go on many tangents, doesn’t waste precious time, and takes into account the very short attention span of many people. God has given us the ability to speak and communicate with each other, are you respecting and honoring Him with your words?

“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27

Thankful for Criticism

This month we’re talking about being thankful.  It’s a topic that is encouraging and brings hope when you think about it typically because it is all about looking for the good and choosing to focus on the good and not the challenges or the problems.  But today I want to take a different perspective and talk about Proverbs 15:31-32 which says:

“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”  

Some people are really quick to jump up and offer criticism, it’s always easier to see ways others can improve.  We also don’t really like thinking about our own failures so sometimes we look for the failures of others to hopefully find that they’ll eclipse what we’ve done wrong.  Can we learn from the mistakes of others? Absolutely.  It’s a great idea to learn from their mistakes so that we hopefully can improve on their decisions.  But the simple truth is that everyone screws up at one point in time or another (and most of us do it on a daily basis).

But the real challenge presented in these verses is that it’s really hard to ask for criticism or guidance about your failures.  It’s not easy to ask others to criticize you or something you’ve created and offer feedback, especially when you think you’ve done something really good and others don’t have as much excitement over it as you do.  And then if you do work up the courage to ask for the feedback and they come back with a laundry list of things you can improve on, it can be discouraging.

However, as these verses point out one of the best things you can do is to get constructive criticism (key word there is constructive), and look for ways you can improve yourself. God may have designed you as perfect but that’s not who we are right now, we’ve all got growing to do before we reach that point.  So this week I encourage you to reach out to trusted friends or even to a mentor or someone who doesn’t know you personally and ask them for feedback on how you can grow through the things that are challenging you most right now.  You don’t have to fix everything at once, but you should take at least one forward step each day.

Humbly Choosing Joy

This month we’re talking about enjoying life, along with the typical Halloween topics.  One of the best reasons to enjoy life and make it a point to do things you enjoy is because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  Tomorrow could be a better day than today (something those of us who have had a bad day certainly hope for), or it might bring serious challenges and require you to make changes in your life, or it might even be your last day.  I’m not the type of person who lives life to the absolute fullest like some people do, but I certainly make it a point to have at least a little fun and joy in each and every day, even if it’s something as simple as having a cup of tea.

But on the other hand I don’t make lightly of the gift that life is or criticize those who can’t find even a little joy in each day.  It’s not something everyone can instantly do, it’s a skill that has to be honed typically as adults because we’ve lost the gift that just about everyone has as a child of appreciating life and being able to see the gifts in each day, even if they don’t seem that remarkable to someone who has lived for several decades.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow are gifts, even if we don’t see them as such yet.  As we head into some of the busiest times of the year there will be a lot on your plate and in your life.  Sometimes all that busyness will drive you crazy and you’ll just want to be done with it.  But I would encourage you to step back and give in to the temptation to truly enjoy it.  Don’t get mad that the Hanukkah and Christmas stuff is out in stores, think about which carols you’re going to sing in your head while going trick-or-treating with your kids.  Don’t rant and rave at the bad driver in front of you, choose to be thankful you’re a better driver than them.  Don’t get mad at your kids when they don’t do well on a test, take it as a lesson and choose to work harder with them on understanding the subject for the next test and talk with them about what didn’t go right.  Don’t give up on a family member because they’ve chosen an addiction and can’t follow through with treatment, remember the good times and be there to support them when they do try treatment.

There’s always more than one way to approach a situation, will you join me in choosing joy?

“Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.”  Proverbs 27:1

Reminders of Love

Sometimes what we need is to be reminded that we are loved.  Life can be one frustration and disappointment after another and that gets old pretty quick.  So today I have a few verses of love and encouragement to remind you that you’re not alone.  What’s your favorite verse that reminds you of this?

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” 1 John 4:11-12

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”  1 John 3:11

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”  Proverbs 17:17

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”  Psalm 46:1-3

“If you look to him for help, he will put a smile on your face. You will have no need to be ashamed.” Psalm 34:5

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.” Proverbs 21:21

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Love, Faithfulness, and Forgiveness

Today in the USA is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As I was thinking about what to write I thought about the man that he was and the example that he set, one we can all learn from. He was a great leader for many reasons, one of the ones that stands out when I think of him is the kind of leader he was. You think about other leaders who were known for their military skills, or their destruction of others and then you find a guy like Dr. King who led with words, peaceful actions and love.

Dr. King set the kind of example that God would be proud of. No, he wasn’t perfect, none of us are, but he led with the goal of uniting people, of inspiring big dreams and of helping the people of the world to see each other in the way that God created us-all people of value and deserving of respect. Dr King never said it would be easy. In fact, he said “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

I encourage you to start your week inspired by the words and work of Dr. King, words that reflect those of Jesus in the Bible. Choose to be someone people can look up to. Choose to be in your relationships with love, faithfulness, and forgiveness. Choose to lead with words of compassion and unity not hatred and division. Choose to make the world a better place.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”  Proverbs 3:3