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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beginning with the Wrong End in Mind

There was once a man who lived in a small village whose fishing was legendary. His expertise allowed him to fish for half a day and have enough to feed his family and sell for his other needs. He would spend much of the afternoon just enjoying his family and relaxing.

A tourist coming through the town noticed the ease by which he produced so much fish and asked the man, "What do you do with the second half of the day when you are not fishing?"

He answered, "I enjoy my family and relax."

The tourist explained, "If you would fish all day instead of half a day, you could buy a better and bigger boat. Then you could hire others to help you. You could become wealthy enough to have your own fishing enterprise."

The fisherman asked, "Why would I want to do that?"

"So, that you could relax and enjoy your family, of course!" the tourist exclaimed.

So often we begin with the wrong end in mind. We set profits above principles. We never enjoy what we are doing because it is merely a means to an end rather than the end itself. Admittedly, all things we must do are not pleasant but what we do should be motivated by the fulfillment of doing it.

In other words, painting should not have merely the desire to sell the paintings. It should be something that we do so well that the paintings sell. It should be done with enjoyment. Selling widgets should not merely have the goal of making a profit. It should have an intrinsic enjoyment of having your widgets being used to do something better than could be done without them. There has to be joy in each day or life is a tragedy.

That doesn't mean everyone should stop making profits on their goods and services. It means that the journey to the profit should be the end. Making a needed excellent product should produce profits. The joy has to be found in the making of the product for there is no assurance of joy in the profit itself.

It wasn't long after entering the ministry that I learned that there were certain things I could say and do that would lead people to join my church. I could preach in a manner that would get them to join. I could claim their joining was a "movement of the Lord" but I would know that it was really a "manipulation of the preacher." Instead, I asked the Lord to give me His words and let me be His servant. This is the reason I come to church nearly three hours before the first service begins. I pray that I will be used by God. I pray for His anointing.

I have stopped worrying whether people join the church. They do, but I am confident that it is not because of me. I just enjoy the preaching. I enjoy the worship. I watch what God does with me and others.

Sure, I want my church to grow but setting that as the "end" will change what I do. It will mean that I will preach to "tickle the ears" of those who come. It will mean that I will base success on those who join rather than whether or not I have been faithful. It will mean that I will lose the enjoyment of what I do so that I can see results that have not come from the Lord.

Those who set profits or church growth or any other man made goal will see that it can be lost as easily as it can be gained. I have seen many rich people who have lost their fortunes. I have seen many preachers whose big churches have shrunk.

We forget that we belong to the Lord. We forget that these things are His to give and take away. We must take our eyes off of Him if we are to put our eyes on these things.

The question isn't really, "Are you making a profit?"  The real question is, "Are you doing what you should be doing?" If so, profits are very likely in your future but they will not be who you are.

Do what you should. Do it with excellence. Put the results in God's hands. And . . .

Enjoy the day.

Proverbs 23:4-5 (NIV)
4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. 5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

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