The Price of Personal Development
From Discover Your Destiny
You’re in a race; run it well.
When you accepted Christ, you began a process. This process goes on for all of life and may well continue into the years of eternity. It is a process that the Bible calls growing in grace.
It is both tragic and fascinating to examine the lives of some Christians and discover how two young people who came to Christ at about the same era and time of life end up in such different spiritual states ten years down the road. One is moving with enthusiasm to larger responsibilities and accomplishments, while the other is lagging, tired and dispirited. One is constantly reviewing the first principles of salvation, while the other, with settled and expanding faith, is cutting an ever widening swath through the harvest fields of life.
Upon examination you may discover that the difference between these two individuals is not primarily that of intelligence or talent or physical stamina. The essential difference probably is that one was willing and the other unwilling to pay the price of personal development.
Personal development—it’s yours, at a price!
The fact that this price exists and needs to be paid comes as a staggering blow to some naive Christians. It should, however, be no surprise, for life already has taught us that nobody becomes a star basketball player, champion golfer, capable writer, or astronaut without strenuously developing his capabilities. The illustration is valid in the life of every Christian. No one develops confidence in the things of God and capability for wide accomplishments for Christ unless he is willing to pay the price in training, discipline, and sacrifice of lesser things in order to excel in the things of God. Some turn back from paying the price that it takes to climb the heights.
But there is no “back” and no alternative, really. When one has discovered Christ, the alternatives to the pursuit of God are unthinkable. This is reality. No one driving his car up a mountain road would turn back to burned bridges and washed out roads. It would be madness to turn for any price from the narrow but passable road ahead which will yield to exhilarating heights and a clearer view of the celestial city beyond. This smoldering ruin of the past soon will be far behind, and the unthinkable will become the unrememberable. Go back? A thousand times no! The call is to press on. The path is onward, higher, forward! Good-bye to yesterday. Welcome to today and the never ending tomorrow.
What must I do to climb the heights? Where shall I gain the strength by which I can endure the heat of the day and the possible dangers and problems of the rock trail? Ask these questions with eagerness and not with fear, for there is an answer. For the Christian life there is always an answer.
But the answer is not simple. Simple answers are for simple questions and simple people. There is no one decisive experience that will relieve any Christian from paying the price of personal development. Let no emotion however ecstatic, no counselor however logical, no theology however convincing prevent you from fully equipping yourself for the incomparable adventure of living successfully for Christ. Probably no human list of requirements can be entirely complete, but the following surely includes both the imperative and the important.
1. Be sure of your personal salvation. Take just a moment now to ask yourself. “Am I sure that I am truly saved?” The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians long after his initial contact with them and said,
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not that your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5).
The most important single quality that will make for confidence in your Christian life is the solid assurance of salvation. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation can be a known and settled fact producing confidence toward God and a strong foundation for the building of the Christian personality. There can be no real spiritual or intellectual growth unless you know that you have eternal life. Take just a moment then to review these questions: Have I truly admitted that I am a sinner? Have I confessed that I cannot save myself? Do I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Do I accept His finished work on the cross as the sole basis for my salvation? Do I believe in Him with all my heart?
Stop! Be sure, very sure, utterly sure, that you have not given a perfunctory answer to any of these questions. Know that solidly in your heart of hearts you can give an honest and untentative yes to each one. If you have, the Word of God promises you,
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Romans 10:9).
A settled and secure salvation will be the basis not only for successful service but for sanity itself. Know that Jesus Christ is in you, and you have the foundation for God’s limitless building.
2. Be sure your life is consecrated to Christ. Consecration and salvation are two separate and distinct works of God in us. We are saved by receiving a gift from God, whereas consecration is exactly the opposite. Consecration is making my life a gift to Him. I retain control, not for my purposes but rather for His purposes. Consecration is seeing the wisdom of single hearted commitment to Christ as against a life that dissipates its energies in the wandering half-life of an uncommitted personality. Consecration is stepping off the curb and joining the parade. Consecration is putting on the uniform and identifying myself publicly with His cause. Consecration is moving from the defensive to the initiative, from the point of the dispassionate observer to the participant.
Forty thousand people attend a ball game to watch eighteen men play. They may yell, scream, cheer, boo, mark their score cards, and become experts at baseball; but they are not participants. Their participation is only vicarious and distant. They may enjoy the home run by the young star, but their participation is not equal to his. He brought years of discipline and training to that moment of impact after which the ball disappeared over the left field wall. His was the deed, theirs the applause.
I wonder if Christianity today has not become in similar fashion a vast spectator sport. We happily congratulate the pastor, compare the qualities of the various evangelists, read the theologians, listen to the radio broadcasters, and rejoice in the victories of the missionaries; still 90 percent of the work done for God is done by 10 percent of the people of God.
Consecration means that one says good-bye to his friends and takes up his cross, remembering that he is not coming back. One who recognizes that he is a pilgrim and stranger in this world commits himself to traveling the road rather than cultivating the flower garden. The Christian who wants to count for God wisely asks himself the question, Have I made my choice forever? Consecration means that there is no turning back.
3. Master the word of God.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
There is simply no possibility of expanded Christian capability apart from a thorough working knowledge of the Bible. The Word of God is your roadmap in the moral maze through which we all must pass. It brings to the seeking Christian mind a form of wisdom, infinitely better than is available from any of the universities of earth. Every other form of knowledge shall pass away, and all of the philosophies of men will ultimately be swept into the dustbin. God has promised to destroy the wisdom of the wise; but He has guaranteed that, though heaven and earth pass away. This Word will never pass away.
A thoroughgoing knowledge of the Word will enable you to speak as one having authority. This Book of God will build into your life a foundation which cannot be moved under any circumstances. All of the other gifts that God will ever bring into your life inevitably will be derived from your knowledge of the Word. No spiritual experience should ever supersede the Bible. In fact, no experience can be interpreted properly without a knowledge of the Word. Never judge the Bible by your experience, but rather always judge your experience by the Scriptures. Let the answer to every question in life be preceded by What do the Scriptures say?
Years ago a vessel was being sailed along the New England seacoast on its way into port. Caught in the teeth of a North Atlantic storm, it was hurled to its destruction. Its steering mechanism broke and the ship was smashed upon the reefs. The captain and the men were thrown into the water. They pulled themselves up on a rock and spent the night in the raging storm. In the morning the tempest subsided. They were taken to shore, where the old sea captain was asked a question by a young man who looked out to the rock that had been their safety for the night.
“Captain, when you were out on that rock all night, weren’t you afraid? Didn’t you tremble?”
The captain, with a gleam in his eye, answered, “Son, when I was out on that rock for the night, believe me, I trembled and I shook. But the rock that was under me, it never shook!”
So it is that God takes His Word and uses it to build into our lives a foundation which cannot be moved. An understanding of the Scripture will bring the answer to every problem in life. The Bible will be an unfailing guide and limitless source of strength.
The best way to know the Word of God is to memorize it. The Bible, when memorized, has a way of affecting your very thought processes, conditioning your logic, and building into your mind the very mind of Christ.
4. Learn to pray. Jesus said, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.” James said, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (5:16). God has made an astonishing provision for every person who is a Christian. He has literally consecrated a new and living way by which we may approach His very throne. Therefore, the book of Hebrews say, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22). The writer of Hebrews also speaks words of marvelous personal assurance to each of us when he says,
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Think of it! The God who created the universe has installed a private telephone line from His heart to mine. It would be pretty difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to call the president of the United States and talk to him in person. Contact with our loving God, however, presents no such difficulty. We are told that we may come boldly to One who thoroughly understands and is ready to instantly respond to our needs. God is for us rather than against us, and He will work with jealousy and industry to bring to pass whatever good is possible in our lives. Because of the daily contact of prayer, we become literally workers together with God.
The time when God is most delighted with us is when He sees our face in prayer. In response to the request of the humblest Christian, God may well move heaven and earth to see the desire of His child fulfilled. The power that corrects the course of the farthest star and energizes a thousand suns becomes mine in a moment of believing prayer. The moving of mountains and the changing of the minds of men—the second sometimes harder than the first—becomes possible for the Christian who prays. In prayer the sincerest desire of the soul is lifted to the heart of the God who cares. More miracles than the world knows anything about have been wrought in the lives of men because somebody prayed.
Under God’s standard, nothing that concerns us is trivial. There is no pang of sorrow or ecstacy of joy that does not touch our heavenly Father more than it is felt even by us. God knows our frame, that we are dust, and has committed Himself to respond to our prayers. How foolish that we should endure needless frustration or unnecessary spiritual poverty for want of a moment of prayer. Prayer is the posture in which we are ruthless with ourselves and receptive with God. Prayer creates that supersensitive attitude of the soul which makes possible a knowing beyond knowledge that God is with us. Christian capability cannot be separated therefore, from daily prayer.
5. Obey the Holy Spirit. Every person who is a Christian has been made a personal partaker of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is the evidence that we are children of God. The fact that the Holy Spirit is able to lead us is further evidence that we belong to Him. The Holy Spirit can be grieved. He can be quenched. Conversely, He can be pleased by our actions when we walk under His leadership. The Bible teaches that it is possible for us to bear the fruit of the Spirit. With His help, therefore, our lives can be characterized by “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance,” (Galatians 5:22-23). We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) by whom God brings into our lives the power greater than our own. Every Christian needs a voice greater than his own voice, strength larger than his physical powers, wisdom beyond his years or his education. This comes as our lives are characterized by obedience to the Spirit of Christ.
6. Expand your faith. We are simply incapable of living lives that are a credit to Christ, unless these lives are characterized by the exercise and expansion of faith.
But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
A pastor friend once gave me this helpful definition of faith: “Faith is believing in something that has never happened before, for which there is no precedent.” I am convinced this definition is valid, and it seems to me that it works two ways in our lives. The first kind of faith is believing in something that has never happened before to me, and the second is believing in something that has never happened before to anyone. This is the distinction between subjective faith and objective faith.
One must have subjective faith in order to be a Christian. Believing in Jesus Christ brings a new experience that has never happened to the individual before. Subjective faith is therefore common to every individual child of God. It is that vehicle by which the person exercises saving faith again—something bigger, higher, broader. It is, unfortunately, not know to every Christian.
Objective faith is that confidence in God by which a man can be used to produce the biggest, the largest, the most effective, essentially the first of its kind by way of a work for God in the world. We can easily see that Christianity’s tragic deficiency is that of objective faith on earth today. In that every new year produces wider and deeper opportunities for Christ, surely God is calling young people to believe Him in producing a work for Christ beyond anything the world has ever seen. No Christian becomes a truly great learner in the things of God unless by faith he conceives of himself as being a man of destiny. He must see himself as facing an unprecedented hour and able therefore to receive from God help that can produce an unprecedented work for Christ.
The words that electrified D. L. Moody are always true: “The world has yet to see what God can do with one life that is fully consecrated to Jesus Christ.
But how do I expand my faith? The answer is through the word of God. The Scripture clearly says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). In essence, we are told that faith comes by understanding the Bible. Many of the formal studies to which we are subjected tend to be destructive of faith. Here, unfortunately, the Bible too often is examined from a critical point of view. Even Christian scholars sometimes forget that it is the Bible itself that is the tool by which God creates faith in our lives. As important, therefore, as it may be to study about the Bible, it is of considerably greater importance to study the Scripture itself. The same goes for the study of the things of God as against learning about God Himself.
7. Exercise sanctified common sense. Every Christian has been given a degree of intelligence by God, and the Lord expects us all to use our intelligence at least to that degree. Sanctified common sense will prevent a Christian enthusiast from going off the deep end. Any proposition that is unsound logically is usually unsound spiritually. It is for want of common sense that most of our prayers usually are an attempt to make two times two equal five. It is unlikely that God will set aside the laws of nature for any of us, but He expects us to work within the revealed facts of His universe. It is unlikely that God would call a one-armed man to be a paperhanger or a blind man to be a taxi driver.
Paul prays that we will know both wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 1:17). God does not usually reveal by divine inspiration the mathematics table or how to fix a watch or how to read Greek grammar. He expects us to learn these things by the use of wisdom so that we can be more adequately prepared to serve Christ. Wisdom dictates that we should prepare today to become the people we want to be years from now.
Once I had a young man come up to me and say, “I want to be a great preacher some day.” “Fine,” I said. “Tell me, how are you doing in your English class.” A quizzical look came on his face as he said, “What does learning English have to do with being a great preacher some day?” I simply looked at him and said, “Well, you intend to preach in English, don’t you?” Somehow the message got through.
Unquestionably the Bible teaches that God is the God of the impossible. Often, however, it seems that God accomplishes the impossible by intermediate successive steps of the possible. Those intermediate successive steps He expects us to take when our mature judgment tells us that this is His direction for us. The development of wisdom, therefore, is inevitably a part of the total development of the personality, without which success will continue to be elusive.
8. Develop your unique gift. Paul wrote to Timothy one day and said, “Stir up the gift of God which is in thee? (2 Timothy 1:6). Paul did not say to Timothy, “Stir up the gift of God that is not in thee but rather “that is in thee.”
Frustration is sure to come to any individual who attempts valiantly but vainly to do what he is simply not best prepared to do. The gifts of God come in different form and measure to each of us. Therefore God insists that we discover what is that gift by which we can best serve Christ. Certainly it is incumbent upon us to choose the thing that we can do best and then develop that talent to the best of our ability.
Watch out for two detours.
The first is to work in terms of your lesser gift and allow your greater gift to go to waste. The potentially great musician who chooses rather to become a mediocre preacher may be betraying a very sacred capability. The master executive who could set up and execute a magnificent global endeavor for Christ but rather chooses to pass out tracts on a corner is being naive, in my judgement. Everyone of us must hear again the question put to Moses, “What is that in thine hand?” We surely will be called upon to answer one day for our talents that we used or wasted.
The second detour is to poorly develop what could be a great gift. The pianist who will not practice, the soloist who will not vocalize, the student who will not concentrate, the genius who will not study—all these are tragic people. Easy capability can be a great curse, for so frequently it leads us to settle for the good instead of the best. You may be tempted by the devil not to fall into gross sin but to settle for spiritual mediocrity. Perhaps yielding to the second temptation is as bad as yielding to the first. The wise pilgrim, however, will choose neither detour but will combine a great gift with great effort and refinement. He may thereby produce a result beyond his greatest dreams.
9. Cultivate creativity. Christianity is “the faith once delivered to the saints.” Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and today and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8), so that we are sure that the message of the gospel of the grace of God does not change from year to year. God has ordained that the gospel should be committed from faithful men to faithful men through successive generations and taught by each to the world. The message of the gospel is clear and changeless.
But the Bible makes no such claim about the Christian method. The method by which Jesus Christ is presented to the world is happily adaptable to the dynamism of any age. A lifelong spur to the progress of Thomas Edison was the motto, “There is a better way to do it. Find it.” Surely the advent of the space age and the atomic age should bring to the fore the creative genius of thinking Christians to ask and answer the question, How can we bring the gospel with renewed impact to our changing generation? There is increasing room within Christianity for leaders of creative capability in this volatile time of world history. Unquestionably the church needs new forms of evangelism, new concepts in world missions, a new structure for Christian education, new ideas in leadership training, anew methods of youth evangelism, to name a few.
Modern industry is learning that to fall behind in creative effort means bankruptcy. Creative people are being escalated to positions of top leadership, for they represent the key to success as well as survival.
The population of our world is now increasing at the rate of 6,000 people per hour. At our present rate of Christian growth, we will not reach and win 1 percent of this burgeoning mass of the world’s population. We must do some serious creative thinking as to how to produce a job big enough soon enough to make the difference enough that our world needs. Someone had better think of better methods of Christian outreach—and quickly.
10. Learn the proper use of time. The moments of most of our lives slip through our unsuspecting fingers unexploited for God. Time is a very unforgiving substance and cannot be made to return once it has flown. Therefore the Bible admonishes us to be “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). The only thing any of us really have in this passing world is the moment that is now present. This present moment can be lost either by letting it be filled with vain regrets of yesterday or daydreams of tomorrow. We should take neither course. The proper course is to take this present moment, seize it, and wring out of it sixty vital seconds of potential for God.
Time brings us a wonderful gift called opportunity. Opportunity that is taken leads to greater opportunity, while opportunity that is left unexploited dies, usually taking a part of us with it. To waste time to waste life. To use time, however, is to redeem it and thereby turn it into a small package of eternity.
A helpful motto in my own life has been, There is no gift like the present. Apart from the pun, this has been a valuable source of faithful reminder to me. The story of many of our lives is summed up in the simple four words, Too little, too late. Paul wisely admonishes us,
Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light (Romans 13:11-12).
This advice should never be ignored as we consider the proper use of time: “Now is the accepted time” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Many never attain unto their spiritual possibilities for want of the simple discernment by which one can tell the difference between wishing and willing. Have you ever said this: “I wish I could be strong,” or “I wish I could be successful,” or maybe “I wish I could be more spiritual.” Nothing is more vain that to wish and wish forever. Unfulfilled wishes have a way of destroying the integrity of the personality.
When this is applied to spiritual attainment, there must come a time when one ceases to say “I wish” and begins to say “I will.” The act of saying “I will” nails the stake in this present moment and that stake forever makes the transition between contemplation and execution. Time can never be used properly unless one brings to each moment the ability to decide. Successful people are usually those who are able to make firm decisions quickly and change them only reluctantly. A moment of opportunity plus the ability to decide—this is the way to greatness and accomplishment for Christ.
11. Become articulate. The ability to speak well in a plain understandable language is a great gift God gives to men. The Scripture says, “Desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Thousands of emergent young minds tragically settle for something less than mature ability to put into words the testimony of the gospel of Christ. The tragic result is that we have, to a great extent, lost communication with the world and to an unfortunate degree have also lost communication with ourselves.
The gospel is a system of faith that cannot be expressed by signs or wonders or even music, lovely as it may be. It must be contained in the spoken word. No one can possibly become a Christian without understanding the word of the Gospel of Christ. How unfortunate, then, that the trumpet of the gospel should be giving forth such an uncertain sound in a day when the alternative voices to the gospel are more articulate than ever. The world is reading more, listening more, thinking more. Surely this is no time for Christians to be saying less and in poorer fashion than in other days.
Christians often hold forth a lame excuse by saying, “God has called me to live the gospel, and He called someone else to put it into words.” Upon reflection we will discover that there is no such thing as “living the gospel.” We can live honestly, decently, circumspectly; but the gospel, being a system of faith, cannot be thereby expressed. It can only be communicated by the spoken word.
Furthermore, it would seem that the excuse of “I can’t speak” is a poor.one. Anyone can speak out fluently about a subject that is exciting to him. The baseball fan or the fishing enthusiast has no trouble speaking with scholarly eloquence about the game or the stringer full of trout. Indeed almost everyone is beautifully articulate about something. Surely no Christian should be ineloquent in his vocal expression of the gospel.
12. Be steadfast for Christ. This final suggestion is the key by which all other capabilities stand or fall. Someone has wisely said, “The best ability is dependability.” The Scripture says,
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the word of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
In the life of the unreliable person, all of his talents go for nothing. The singer, the speaker, the writer, the intellectual genius who is not dependable, places all of his talents in jeopardy. Reliability is the way by which a Christian proves that he means it. The man who is preaching a great message but who succumbs to laziness or greed tomorrow has surely sown more disillusionment than spiritual profit.
I once knew a most capable young man who had many agreeable talents. He was an excellent singer, a marvelous songleader, and a capable preacher. He had promotional talents that were enviable and a personality most winsome. Those who knew him predicted that he would go far in the work of the Lord and spoke with confidence about the opportunities that would surely be made available to him. This young man labored effectively at the beginning of his ministry, but it soon became apparent that there was a flaw in his personality that was fatal to the fulfillment of any great work for Christ. The young man could not be relied upon. A time schedule meant nothing; a promise was mere words. His story can be summed up in four syllables, He tried and failed.
Add a little courage!
There is a higher reliability that everyone of us needs to cultivate as well, and this demands the added quality of courage. Reliability plus courage helps one perform not merely the improbable but the impossible! The characteristic of great leadership is that it does not quit even when it seems as if all is lost. To stand when there is no standing and move when there is no moving means to win when there is no winning. Reliability plus courage creates the uncommon man.
The extraordinary man! This is the kind of man God uses to perform the ultimate tasks of His kingdom. The extraordinary man is one who is willing to leave the crowd and walk with his fears alone. He has the kind of control that will keep his lips from quivering even though his heart is ready to stop from fear. He is undaunted by the lash of pain, the threat of death, the voice of terror. For him a decreasing number of things are impossible, for he is increasingly conscious that with God nothing shall be called impossible. The extraordinary man in dedicating himself to God sees that he has also dedicated himself to greatness, to impossibilities. He has moved from the finite to the infinite while still living in a mortal body.
At this point he makes an astonishing discovery. While paying the price of personal development, he has been in fact traveling the road toward the summit from which the celestial city may be viewed. The refinement of his personality in preparation for the journey has been itself the journey, for spiritual development is not measured in external miles but in inner magnitude. Paying the price of personal development has become the most infinitely rewarding investment in all his life.
Discover Your Destiny