Got Potential?

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Obedience vs. Proactivity

June 25th, 2010 · No Comments

Management guru Stephen Covey says that being ‘proactive’ is the first of seven habits of highly effective people. According to Covey’s ridiculously popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (of course), being proactive doesn’t just mean taking initiative, it means choosing your response to what happens to you. Covey writes that most people don’t act, they re-act, based on ‘social mirrors’ (how others perceive us) or on ‘bad maps’ (how we see the world – what Covey calls paradigms). His advice is that we act based on ‘right principles’ – timeless natural laws of conscience embraced by all major world religions and belief systems throughout human history.

That’s pretty inclusive of him; how can you argue with a guy who says we ought to behave in a way that everyone, regardless of religion or culture, agrees is a good way to behave. These ‘right principles’, Covey says, are present in every world religion, every people group and every major belief system. So everybody’s right and nobody’s wrong – just act according to ‘right principles’ and you’ll be on your way to becoming one of Covey’s coveted “highly effective people.” That’s nice.

Don’t get the wrong impression – Covey’s human potential advice is probably the best the world has to offer. Over the course of my management career I’ve bought every book, tape program and time management system the man produced – so have several million other people. In a sea of success literature sewage and human potential guru whackos, Covey stands out with thoughtful, practical, workable advice on human effectiveness. Like I said, he’s probably the best the world has to offer – that’s the problem.

I don’t belong to the world and I don’t answer to every major religion, people group or belief system. I died to this world, and then I was born again. As Covey would say, my ‘paradigm’ has changed. I have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe and I do what He tells me to do. I’m not nearly as interested in being proactive and I am in being obedient.

Obedience is more than adhering to a set of ‘right principles’. Obedience is a relationship. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing …. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples …. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love …. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” (John 15:5)

God’s purpose in you has already set in motion how He expects you to behave and what He expects you to accomplish in this life. He’s written the general instructions in a Book. The two critical instructions that cover all other instructions, we discussed in the last few weeks: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

He’s also written what He wants you to do with your life (what Jesus meant by ‘bearing fruit’) on your heart and in your DNA. You don’t need to go out and ‘find’ your purpose; it’s already inside you – He’s had it planned for a long, long time. How you ‘hear’ that purpose within is by walking in relationship with Him (what Jesus meant by ‘remaining in the vine’). You walk in relationship with Him by obeying Him – doing what He tells you to do.

Outside of this relationship you can’t ‘hear’ so you can’t obey, and if you can’t obey you can’t fulfill the purpose He has planned for you. Going it on your own doesn’t work; you can’t fulfill your own purpose because it’s not your purpose – it’s His – fulfilled through you. Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing.”

The universe – from the furthest star to you and me – is held in place by God’s purpose. He’s got a reason for its (and our) existence. He says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10)

The amazing thing is that He incorporated my life and your life into that vast purpose He has in all creation! He actually considered you and me and how we would fit in, when he set the stars and planets in motion. Wow!

Do you know what that means? Our purpose is tied up in His purpose – there’s absolutely no way we can fail with that kind of backing. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Our purpose in life is to be a part of His purpose for the universe. That’s pretty big stuff. But how in the world do we know what to do next? That’s easy – just do what He tells us to do. And we’re only going to hear Him if we’re around Him; that’s relationship. And He’s already told us how to have a relationship with Him – obey what He tells us to do. And He’s already told us the two most important things we’re supposed to do: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we work on the big stuff first, He’ll show us the little stuff as we walk along.

Being a part of God’s purpose for the whole universe is what you and I were destined for. It’s bigger than we can imagine, but it’s not difficult. Remember this: Destiny equals obedience, obedience equals relationship, relationship equals obedience, obedience equals destiny. It’s that simple. There problem is that people are always looking for a map instead of a journey. Life is a journey. With Him you don’t need a map, just listen and obey. He’ll take you where you need to be.

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