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Complete the Formula

Most people I know are looking for some kind of formula for success in their lives. The desire is expressed in lots of different forms,

  • How can I make more money?
  • How can I have better relationships?
  • How can I feel better about myself?
  • How can I increase my influence?
  • How can I be a better person?

but it boils down to the same goal, “I want to feel like my life is working.”
Acts 9 presents an interesting formula for those of us who are looking for the ingredients that make for a productive, significant earthly journey.
Ingredient #1: Competence. In order to fulfill the purpose for which we were created, we need to develop our skills to the point that they work well. I was on an airplane yesterday flying to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Most of the plane was filled with Boy Scouts in uniform heading for a wilderness camping adventure. The young man sitting behind me was an “expert” on everything. We passed through a cloud that created some dramatic turbulence and he knew all about turbulence. He knew all about the difference between jet planes and prop planes. He knew all about the quality of planes and how to determine which were solid and which were inferior. He knew all about takeoffs and landings and how well the pilot of this plane had approached the runway. I have no doubt this young man will grow up to be a leader and that his confidence will be useful some day in a career. I am just glad he wasn’t the captain of the plane. He may have “known all about flying” but e lacked the skill to be the actual pilot.
The main event of Acts 9 is, of course, the conversion of the apostle Paul. Remarkably, Paul demonstrated competency almost immediately upon meeting his savior. “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished . . . Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.” (v. 20-22) The ability to present his case wasn’t enough however. “After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him . . . But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. (v. 23-25)
Ingredient #2: Courage. Influence is a great thing but it causes people to evaluate their lives and often points out the error of their ways. As a result, your abilities often unsettle others and bring out jealousy and anger from their hearts.  Although your contribution to their lives should make them grateful and motivated to grow, it often has the opposite impact. Anyone, therefore, who wants to live a significant life that makes a worthwhile contribution to their community, needs to have a brave heart and thick skin.
Paul possessed this also. “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas . . . told them . . . how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.” (v. 26-28) From the very beginning Paul was fearless and bold but it wasn’t enough. “He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him.” (v. 29) It became such a distraction that “when the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” (v. 30)
Ingredient #3: Time. You may have the skill and you may have the bold determination to stay at the pursuit despite the obstacles but you can’t force the timing to be right. After Paul went to Tarsus, we don’t hear about him for a while. He spent three years in training adding grace to his intellectual prowess while the rest of the world adjusted to his dramatic change of life. He couldn’t rush it and he didn’t have the ability to choose his launch date.
This makes most of us uncomfortable because we want the world to be ready for us when we think we are ready for the challenge but the timing of our lives is in the sovereign hands of God. I even made this point start with a “t” instead of a “c” because I knew it would make some of you uncomfortable as it messed up the alliteration.
Our job is to seek training that builds our competency and personal growth that raises our courage while we wait on God to make the time right. Be strong as you wait!

One Response

  1. Ha! That’s funny (messing with the alliteration – good SAT word, by the way! ;-). I must admit, when I got to #3, I did do a double-take on the “t”. lol. BUT – you accomplished very effectively a specific purpose, which was to make me sit up and pay extra attention to the content of that specific point, as I really wanted to know what would be sooooo important about “time” that it would cause you to break such a beautifully balanced sequence, having expected quite naturally your 3rd and final “c” that would balance the equation and bring the universe into perfect balance and harmony! Now I feel like I’ve listened and watched Thelonious Monk rumble down the street with that funny asynchronized gait of his! LOL (Aren’t we funny creatures?!?)

    What I’ve noticed in my life is that competency (#1), while unarguably critical to making something happen or achieving success in a goal, is rarely what causes me to stumble and my pursuits to fail… More often than not, I’ve found that God’s equipped me, very well, with the gifts, skills, experience, and the commensurate matching desires of my heart, needed to accomplish whatever it is that He’s set in front of me, “…for such a time as this”. In fact, this has frequently astounded me, if I take even a moment to look back over time and see how he has positioned and prepared me for that moment in the collective sequence of events, circumstances, situations and experiences that He’s previously given me (even those that I’ve struggled or failed in!). It often gives me a strangely eery yet grateful feeling, as if He’s playing a sort of chess game with my life, and He’s the only one in the game who’s a true Grand Master seeing and playing 23 moves ahead. Competence can be always be acquired, by study, research, education, training, experience or even going out and enjoining someone else to your cause or project that has the skills and/or experience that I don’t have that’ll close the gap.

    No, if I’m brutally honest with myself it’s almost always been either courage (#2) or time(ing) (#3) that trips me up. In those instances, I’ll either have the initial passion or personal commitment to jump start an initiative and run with it, but the timing will be wrong, OR, I’ll lack the passion, personal commitment, perseverance or boldness necessary to be able to see over/past/through my fears enough to get me over the hurdles, issues and problems that will inevitably pop up. I’ve sometimes wondered: is lack of courage really a lack of faith?!?

    Lord, give me more courage, and more faith. I believe; please help me with my unbelief.

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