Perspective > Goals: 5 Questions for 2018
December 28, 2017 by Alton Webb
I’m a starter by nature, so New Year’s pumps me up. I usually spend December looking forward to the year to come, but lately, I can’t take my eyes off the road behind me.
This January will mark one year since my father passed away unexpectedly. I stood by my mom as she said goodbye in the ICU. I officiated the funeral. I felt the sting of buying my first truck without his advice this fall. I relive memories of our early years together in real estate every time I sit down to write a check from our “Webb & Webb” account. I can’t listen to an old country song without wondering what Dad ever did with that big, brown box of cassette tapes he kept in his car throughout my childhood. I miss him most in the small, everyday moments.
This year I got up earlier than I wanted to most mornings, drawing a hefty check mark in the “put your family first” box. I changed diapers, built Legos, unloaded the dishwasher, and dropped the kids off at school. I made it home before dinner with few exceptions. I rolled the trash container back to its resting place every Thursday night. I served Rachel and the kids the best I knew how. Martha would be proud, and it turns out, so was I (Luke 10:40).
How can I possess such a mish-mash of mundane/autopilot and grateful sentiments? I married the girl of my dreams in 2005. We have three children – two boys, one girl. In 2010, we led a new church plant in our hometown. I’m an author. I speak at conferences and churches. I’ve been in small business for twenty years, surviving the ups and downs of the economy. And this year our company grew.
“Pride is ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration on the self.” – C.S. Lewis
Maybe it’s partly a mid-life crisis, but this year I spent a great deal of time cycling through my past experiences and achievements in my head. To put it plainly, I thought about myself a lot. What was my next step? What was my next adventure or problem to solve? I audaciously said, “I’m ready to go God…what work do you have for me next?”
I needed direction to answer those big questions, so I sought advice from seasoned mentors. Thankfully, they didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear; they told me what I needed to hear. As I laid out my “running list” of past accomplishments and future possibilities with one of my mentors over lunch, he literally said, “You’ll need to get your EGO out of the way if you want to hear from God.”
Those words felt like a fastball smashing into my temple. But I agreed. I had convinced myself that my motives for figuring out what to do next were pure, but the truth was this: a season of work and ministry was ending, and my “big head” couldn’t stand the idea of not knowing what was next.
“Pride is the carbon monoxide of sin. It silently and slowly kills you without you even knowing.” – Tim Keller
Pride snuck up on me, and I shouldn’t have been shocked. I used to think that pride is when you think too highly of yourself. But now I can see that it’s when you think too much about yourself. Period. My insistence on grasping God’s “purpose” for my life kept me from spending much time really thinking about anyone else, including Him. In all of my searching, how did I forget that God laid my purpose out plainly in Isaiah 43:7? Each of us were created for His glory.
My wife loves a good game of logic, so if she was reading this post, this is the part where she would ask – YES, BUT HOW?! How do I give Him glory? Typically, that’s our cue to rush out to take a personality test, Amazon prime a new spiritual/self-help book, or google key scriptures on biblegateway.com. We insist, “God, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!”
Gaining perspective is tricky. We need our questions answered…like quick. Maybe that’s why I’m addicted to Q & A sessions. My favorite forums are theological, but for some odd reason, I tune into stuff like Prime Minister’s Questions on CSPAN. Don’t you wanna hang out with me? I’m captivated by the layered interaction between the inquisitor and interviewee. Most participants have been thoroughly trained to avoid questions a la Russell Westbrook when he’s being asked about Kevin Durant.
Yet, every once and a while, if the interviewee isn’t careful, their inquiry can lead them to a “real” answer. Remember the Q & A session between God and man in Genesis 3:1-22?
God: Where are you?
man: I heard you in the garden; I was afraid and hid from you because I was naked.
God: Who told you were naked? Did you eat the fruit that I told you not to eat?
man: …I ate it.
Let’s be real. God knew where Adam was. He knew he ate the fruit.
God’s not buying the fake news we forecast. He doesn’t waste time sniffing around the edges. When he asks a question, he always knows the answer (John 6:5-6). And in perfect time, and because He refuses to play religion, He inevitably slides open our junk drawer, exposing our most intimate motives.
Jesus miraculously fed a crowd of more than five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. The people ate as much as they wanted. It’s a good feeling to be full, but the crowd was full solely for material reasons and Jesus knew it. When, with their bad motives, they began to “take him by force and make him king,” Jesus withdrew to the hills alone. Evening came, and Jesus performed another miracle by walking on water. When the crowd of folks realized that Jesus was gone and traveled across the water, they went looking for him. They had questions.
The crowd: When did you get here?
Jesus: “Truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you (John 6:25-26).
Just one simple question regarding logistics, right? Wrong. Jesus’ answer is still rocking the crowd today. He is a personal God, not a detached order taker and filler. His perspective is eternal, anchored to the city that is to come. My energy is mostly spent on today and what I desire to build myself.
The Purpose Driven Life is among the best-selling nonfiction hardcover books in American history. It’s no wonder–we want to know what’s next or how we can find meaning. But instead of asking what the next project is or which hill to climb, I’m rediscovering where to begin from. Turns out, I forgot. Being reminded is a good thing.
As I thought more about the crowd and Jesus, chapters 6 and 7 in the Gospel of John came alive. Join me with our team as we start 2018 with these 5 questions. We hope they will serve as an encouragement as God shows His children what he has next.
1 – What do you really believe about God?
The beginning of sorting out what God wants for our lives probably seems like the same “ole” starting spot. It’s not about doing work; it’s about the work Jesus did. Our call is to believe. In order to hear from God, we need to know and believe in Jesus. Then keep it up. Do you believe that Jesus rose from the grave? Do you believe you need a King? Do you believe in His plan for your destiny? Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29).
2 – What’s your end game?
The crowd went looking for Jesus because they were listening with their stomachs. They missed the big picture. God used something we need (food) to show us He’s all we need. Dang. It’s like I’m late for lunch – all the time. How does the cyclical hunger rooted in pride ever stop? I’m starving for what’s next. Seems like when we get another “opportunity” we just lunge at it. Thankfully, Jesus can look straight into our hearts to assess what seems a sure thing or at best subjective to us. What’s our end game? Are we working for food that spoils or for food that lasts for eternal life? Has your next thing been funneled through prayer, a trusted mentor, or Scripture? Is it a quick fix for financial reasons? Is it for a title? Does it require faith? Does it serve others well? Sincerely ask Jesus what He would have for you. Even if the answer doesn’t make sense or seems off topic, do it. Jesus was perfectly clear about His end game:
Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:47-51).
3 – Who’s the boss?
I need “me” out of the equation. I am prideful and need a kick in the butt. “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. – C.S. Lewis” My will and intellect aren’t capable of knowing what is best. Therefore, I need friends to call me out. I need not take my ball and go home when it happens. Real recognizes real in the kingdom of God. What gives life is God’s Spirit; human power is no use at all (John 6:63).
4 – What’s your time zone?
People will try to convince you of the timing you need. Before long, you’ll start believing them. When it doesn’t happen on your timeline or when others said it should, you’ll be crushed. Even Jesus brother’s told him: “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” Jesus was in step with His father’s timing, “My time is not yet here…” He also reminded them “…for you any time will do” (John 7:4-6). I’d rather not be a part of the Kentucky saying, “Well, juss any ole time will do,” but rather praying for a contented, hopeful patience with a true reliance on His timing.
5 – Who gets the credit?
It takes real guts to do something that brings yourself no glory; to give away your well-earned privilege (that includes our finances, influence, possessions, and earned perceptions others have of us) for the betterment of someone else. When we work in the marketplace or full time in the home like it’s our calling, God gets the glory. When we love others with no fabrication, God gets the glory. When we trade our platform for someone else’s, God gets the glory. When we don’t care how many retweets we get, God gets the glory. When we pray with the hurting, God gets the glory. Not one of us will be perfect in balancing this tension. But the choice is ours today. Are we hoarding the credit? “Those who speak on their own authority are trying to gain glory for themselves. But he who wants glory for the one who sent him is honest, and there is nothing false in him” (John 7:18).
Go Outside is based on the idea (Hebrews 13:11-15) of following Jesus into the messy places. We’ve been commissioned with an urgent mandate. Yet, laboring over what’s next or where to get started isn’t the first step – as it turns out, a personal relationship is still first. Asking these 5 questions will help snuff the pride out – and we need it out. By his grace, God wants our hearts in an intimate relationship more then He wants our spiritual gumption. Only then will we be ready to move forward in boldness.
I do not trust in myself.
I do not boast in my abilities
Or believe in my own strength.
I rely solely on the power of God.
(Portion of FCA Creed)
See ya Outside – Lee