Recently we discussed how the most successful in any field are usually those who do the basics the best. I am sure you have noticed how I repeat some of these principles. I may try to say them a little differently, using different stories, but they are nevertheless the same principles. I am trying to make the teaching interesting and effective. Repetition is required in developing any skill, including Christian character. The wise embrace repetition and are always those who are the most serious about training and practice. The wise never waste an opportunity to review a truth and practice it.
In our ministry, we have quite a few gifted musicians, songwriters, and worship leaders. Our School of Ministry seems to attract many very gifted musicians and worship leaders every year, and lately we have been astonished at how these extraordinary gifts seem to be increasing dramatically each year. This is a great encouragement to us, but we also know it is a great responsibility.
MorningStar worship CDs have become known around the world. I hear songs written by our worship leaders and students played almost everywhere I go, even in some of the most isolated, remote places. This is gratifying because those songs have a message that is being carried forth, and even more importantly, they are helping people to worship the Lord. However, this did not just happen. We began with probably the most unimpressive worship on the planet. How did this change?
There can be a great difference between wealth and riches. Riches tend to come easily and quickly, but also leave just as easily and quickly. True wealth is the result of diligence, hard work, faithfulness, endurance, and character, all of which help impart to the one who has the wealth and the wisdom to help preserve and expand it. The true treasure of the Kingdom is the same.
Fruit Requires Cultivation
One of the true treasures of the Kingdom is having our names written in Heaven, where we are known there. It is a great treasure to be trusted with the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit and to be given authority and influence in the Kingdom, all of which is built on character, which is called "the fruit of the Spirit." Fruit is cultivated and grown. You cannot plant a seed and expect it to just jump out of the ground as a mature tree with fruit on it.
I confess to getting impatient with people who ask me to pray for them and impart my gift of writing to them, as if this could be done just by me laying hands on them. It has taken me four decades of hard work to develop the skills that I have. We can be given the gift by God, but like the muscles He gives us, they will remain small or grow dependent upon how we exercise them. Imparting spiritual gifts is not like waving something like a spiritual magic wand over people and giving them a gift that is instantly powerful. It is true that gifts can be imparted by the laying on of hands, but if we impart something to someone who does not have the discipline and devotion required to develop it, we have helped to bring judgment upon them--the judgment of the "wicked, lazy slave" (see Matthew 25:26) in the Parable of the Talents who buried what he was entrusted with.
I have often desired a gift or power that would allow me to lay hands on people for instant spiritual maturity, but I do not find that anywhere in the Scriptures. Wisdom comes from a devotion to knowledge that is combined with experience with the humility to learn from our experiences and others. It is a mentality.
I will confide this to you: One of my greatest disappointments and a grief that I carry is to have watched some of the most spiritually-gifted people fail, backslide, and bury the great gifts that they were given. Because my calling is to build people, the "talents" I have been entrusted with are the people. Though I understand that God has given people freedom to make their own choices, I still carry a grief for those who fail. I cannot help but to wonder what I could have done to prevent this.
Don't feel sorry for me or try to alleviate this feeling because it is basic that with authority comes responsibility, and I am not concerned with feeling better as much as I am with doing better. The only way that I will feel better is to see improvement, and I think that we are, but I also do not want to just sweep our failures under the rug. I want to learn everything I can from them so I can do better with the people the Lord entrusts to us.
On the other hand, we have many success stories, and I get as much joy from hearing of their growth and success as I do grief from the failures. With every success or failure, I feel that I have learned different but priceless lessons. I want to pass these on. Though I may not be able to lay hands on people for instant maturity, the truly wise, who are the truly humble, will learn from other people's lessons, whether mistakes or successes.
Passion Plus Practice Makes Perfect
I have seen one common denominator with all who I consider to be failing to produce fruit with the great gifts that were given to them--they all began to feel that they were so gifted that they did not have to work hard; they only wanted to do the fun part, which for a musician might be something like just playing before large crowds. After a while, we learned that if one's personal discipline in private was not growing with their fame, then their fame would bring them down.
Once when I was going out to speak at the International Church of Las Vegas, I asked a friend of mine who had been a great NBA basketball player to come with me. His name is Armen Gilliam, also known as "Armen, the Hammer," and he was one of the elite players of his time. On the way out, Armen told me about one of his college teammates that he felt was the greatest basketball player he had ever known, but who never made it in the NBA and had never been heard from since. Armen played in the era of some of the greatest basketball players of all time like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. When I asked Armen if his former teammate was better than them, he assured me that he was and that when some of them had played together in summer leagues, this man, John Flowers, won the MVP award.
Like Armen, I wondered how such a great player could just disappear like that. Then, while I was in the green room of the church preparing to speak, Armen came back and said he saw his friend, John Flowers, sitting in the audience. I asked him to bring him back, which he did. I told John what Armen had said about him, and he quickly agreed that he was the most talented player, even more so than all of the other greats of his era. When I asked him why he never made it in the NBA, his response was immediate--he felt that he was so talented that he did not have to work hard, so those who worked harder quickly passed him by. He was now a doorman at one of the casinos downtown.
I, too, have learned over and over that those with the discipline and focus to work hard will quickly pass those who may have much greater talent but do not have the discipline or focus to work hard. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods have obvious talents, but what really separates them from the rest is that they also have a discipline and work ethic. Michael Jordan refused to let anyone get to practice before him or leave after him. Teammates and coaches asserted that he practiced with more zeal than most played the games with.
Run for the Imperishable Prize
Think about this: Any one of you reading this could become God's best friend in these times and do the greatest exploits for the sake of the Gospel. Nowhere does it say that any one of us cannot do what Enoch did--get so close to God that He just takes us straight to Heaven without passing through death. In fact, it could be that this is what the real rapture is--the Bride, the Church, becomes so perfect, without spot or blemish, and so in love with Him that He just takes her.
If great athletes have such devotion for a sport, how much more should we be giving ourselves to run for the wreath that is imperishable?
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
"Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." I Corinthians 9:24-25Rick Joyner