“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

My entire adult life I’ve been taught to be proactive. To act based on what I wanted to happen instead of just reacting to what has happened. Strike first! Shape the world to my plan rather than being shaped by the world.

It’s a popular concept. It’s management guru Stephen Covey’s first Habit of Highly Effective People. “Habit One: Be Proactive.” If you’ve ever been in a business management course or a personal development seminar you’ve heard ‘be proactive’ as a foundational characteristic of success.

And it works. When you’re proactive things happen, work gets done, people respond. Being proactive is an essential habit for success. If you want your employees to work smarter, be proactive. Give them training, tools, feedback on their performance. Act on making them more effective before you have to react because they’re not.

If you want your kids to be responsible and respectful, be proactive. Teach them when they’re young to pick up after themselves, teach them to ask with a ‘please’ and respond with a ‘thank you’. Thanks to Elaine, our girls were taught to answer adults with a ‘sir’ or a ‘ma’am’. Every parent knows that waiting until a child is an adolescent to correct irresponsible or disrespectful behavior is a losing battle. Be proactive; “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Being proactive works well with things too. Everybody with a yard knows it’s better to cut the grass when it’s a few inches high rather than waiting until it’s a foot high.

Being proactive works in our relationships with each other and it works with our responsibilities, like mowing the lawn. Being proactive works so good, we tend to be proactive with God. Too often we approach God with the attitude of getting Him out of the way for the day or to getting something we want from Him. It sounds harsh put out there like that, but think about it. Is it true?

“I have my twenty minutes with God every day.” “I read my daily devotion. I ask God to watch out for me, provide for me, forgive me, and keep me out of trouble.” “There! Finished! My daily booster shot of God. What’s next on the agenda?”

Or, we come to God only when we’re really in trouble. We get on our knees and cry out to God. We lay our burdens on Him. We don’t have the rent money. We’re sick or in danger. Our lives are in crisis; so we reach out to God. We act on God so that He will react to our prayers and do something to fix our crisis.

And He does. I’m not taking daily devotions or our crises lightly. God loves us, He wants us to spend time with Him and He hears us when cry out to Him when we’re in big trouble. And He responds.

But acting on God so He will react isn’t the nature of our relationship with Him as He intends it. It’s not up to us to be proactive with God. He spoke the universe into existence. He knew you and purposed your life before the sun first shed its light on this planet. He knows you and your situation right now; He knows what situation you’ll be in tomorrow. God is the proactive One. He acts on the universe and it responds. He acts on you and for you; it’s up to you to respond.

Don’t make your relationship with God into a grocery list or a chore to finish before starting your day. Don’t approach God with, “This is what I need from You today.” Approach Him with, “What would You have me do today?” Then shut up and listen.

When we do come to God, too often it’s for a reason of our own. We’ve got something on our minds. We need something and we need it quick. We do all the talking, make all the requests and then we’re gone. We’ve made God into our butler instead of our Master.

We were made to respond to God, to do His will, not visa-versa. When it comes to the voices in our heads, there’s One voice we were made to respond to; the other we were made to be proactive with.

Being proactive does work with the other voices. And it works well.

When the ‘accuser’ whispers in your ear, toss him out on his. He doesn’t belong there. He’s a liar and you’ve got the authority to boot him out. The more you toss him and the harder he lands the less often he’ll visit. He’s easily discouraged. “… Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) What a wimp.

‘Sin-nature man’ has been with you from the beginning and he’ll stick around the whole time you’re here on earth using his body. Since he’s been around so long, your body and brain are used to him and they’re used to him getting his way. It’s like they’re on auto-pilot. That’s why you’re so surprised when something happens and you blow up. You yell, you throw a fit, you storm off – ‘sin nature man’. Or some little temptation floats your way and without thinking you’re in the middle of an old habit – ‘sin-nature man’. He loves it when you’re on auto-pilot. His antics come naturally to you; you don’t have to think about them, when he speaks body and brain react. “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19)

But you’ve got a new nature; one that’s not bound by ‘sin-nature man’s’ demands. “[B]ecause through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) Once you’ve been ‘born again,’ born in the Spirit, ‘spirit-man’ comes to life in you. That’s the real you; the voice you’re going to keep into eternity.

‘Sin-nature man’ is a pretty dominant character when he’s fed regularly. But he’s anemic; he fades fast when you cut off his resources. He gets weaker as you starve him.

Your body and brain just want to be told what to do. They’re used to ‘sin-nature man’; he’s always been there. When he hollers, they jump. But ‘spirit-man’ the real you, has the power to tell ‘sin-nature man’ no. Your body and brain will follow along with whoever’s orders stick.

It’s not easy at first due to the whole auto-pilot thing. Your body and brain are just used to hearing ‘sin-nature man’s’ voice and he’s used to getting his way. But beating him back isn’t as tough as it seems. Most times all you need is a few seconds. When you feel ‘sin-nature man’ coming on and body and brain wanting to react, just take a breath.

Take two.

Remember who you are; you’ve been born-again; you’re not a slave to that old man anymore. Remember the Voice you serve, the One who knew your name when the sun was young. Remember that the ‘accuser’ is a liar; he’s got no right to a voice in your life. He can take his lies and his fear and his pride with him to a place where the sun doesn’t shine.

The first time you put ‘sin-nature man’ in his place you’ll be exhilarated. Like you’re breathing clean air. ‘Spirit-man’s’ voice becomes stronger as you use it. Your body and mind will learn the sound of it; they’ll fall in line, they always do.

‘Sin-nature man’ is down but he’s not out. He’ll be back. But you’ve put him down this time; you can do it again. And every time you do, he’ll get a little weaker. And every time you do, body and brain will become a little more accustomed to the new boss. That’s when your new nature really starts shining through. And that’s just a hint of who you’ll become, who you were meant to be, who He intended you to be from the beginning.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)


Until next week,

Steve Spillman