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Being Successful Where It Counts

Three suggestions on how to prioritize your life.
By Dennis Rainey


Okay, I'll confess: I'm addicted to baseball caps. When I travel it's all I can do when I walk by a sporting goods store not to stop and buy a cap displaying the local pro team or university. I know I can only wear one at a time. It's just been fun collecting caps that display all sorts of team insignias, messages, and logos. I have caps from several baseball teams including the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, and the Cantrell Lawn and Turf, my boys' Little League team that went 1-14 two years in a row. I have a cap from a second-rate Dallas barbecue joint that a good friend claims has the best barbecue in the world. My other caps advertise a variety of vacation spots, deer and duck hunts, float trips, and a couple lesser-known corporations. I would have had two dozen, but I gave my Mom my favorite—a royal blue Dallas Cowboys cap.

So when we reorganized our closet, Barbara said I had too many and had to get rid of "a few." Painful as it was, I filled a good-sized garbage can with half my original stock. My shoes fit neatly on the shelves again, I still have my emotional favorites in my possession, and I saved my marriage in the process!

The caps we wear

Those caps serve as a reminder of all the different roles and responsibilities I wear as a man. Recently my schedule was getting the upper hand, so I decided to take a year-end inventory of the "caps" I was wearing to see if I could reorganize them or shed a few. A few from my list were: employee, Sunday school teacher, friend, speaker, counselor, recruiter, citizen, manager, motivator, writer, hunter, painter (I sling the stuff for Barbara a couple of times a year), fisherman, tax-payer, financial planner, husband, father, and grandfather.

Like all my caps, these responsibilities reveal that at times I want too much out of life. Too many objectives, too many expectations. The result? Overload. Many of us live by the philosophy I saw on a t-shirt the other day: "I want it all."

But we can't have it all, or do it all, can we?

One thing I noticed about my list of "caps" I wear as a man is that many represented people I am responsible for: As I contemplated all those responsibilities, something I frequently ask myself came to mind: The question is not will I succeed, but where must I succeed? What caps must I be successful in wearing?

Sometimes it takes some hard but loving words to jar us out of a wrong value system. A turning point in James Dobson's ministry occurred when he was traveling to one of his numerous speaking engagements. He opened a letter from his father which read, "Your daughter is growing up in the wickedest section of a world much farther gone into moral decline than the world into which you were born. I have observed that the greatest delusion is to suppose that our children will be devout Christians simply because their parents have been, or that any of them will enter into the Christian faith in any other way than through their parents' deep travail of prayer and faith. But this prayer demands time, time that cannot be given if it is all signed and conscripted and laid on the altar of career ambition. Failure for you at this point would make mere success in your occupation a very pale and washed-out affair, indeed."

What made the difference in Dobson's life, however, was not the piercing truth of that letter, but the decision he made as a result—No more speaking engagements. Instead, he produced a film series called "Focus on the Family." The result of Dobson's hard choices? The blessing of God: an estimated 50 million have seen that film series, and Dobson has been able to fulfill his responsibility to his daughter and son.

Being successful where it counts

As I consider his example, I can't help but wonder if we limit God by trying to do it all ourselves. More hours. More commitments. More, more, more. One would think that Dobson's ministry would have gone backward as a result of his lack of availability for public ministry. But it didn't.

Let's look at three practical tips the Scripture gives us in wearing our many "caps" and being successful where it counts.

1. Be wise. "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise ..." (Ephesians 5:15).

Wearing all these hats demands wisdom, or godly skill in everyday living. Skillful decision making. Skillful shepherding of the needs of your family. Skillful managing of all the "caps" (responsibilities) you wear.

A good friend of mine who found he was giving only his leftover energy to his family determined to pace himself better in his workload. A reminder to pace himself remains on his desk. A note scribbled on a three by five note card propped up against his desk lamp reads, "Leave Some For Home." Many of us would do well to follow that advice.

2. Be a good time manager. "Making the most of your time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:17).

What does it mean to "make the most of your time?" Among other things it is a combination, of the following:

  • Eliminating the time-wasters (like TV and procrastination)
  • Regularly planning and setting goals together as a couple
  • Being strategic with your activity, not just busy
  • It means living life daily in light of eternity

Life should not be something that just happens. It isn't a random collection of minutes, hours, and days. God is Sovereign. He is in charge. He has delegated to us the responsibility to lean upon Him and to manage our time wisely.

3. Discern God's will. "So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of God is" (Ephesians 5:17).

Repeatedly in the Old Testament we see men and women whom God placed in positions of responsibility arriving at a fork in the road, a key decision, and failing to ask God what they should do. Scripture teaches that a person who fails to consult God on decisions and directions is a fool.

God may test us with what looks like a small decision but in reality may be one of the most important choices of our lives. Do you want God's will in just the big decisions or in the little ones as well? The Christian life is composed of both!

In her book, Days of Glory, Seasons of Night, Marilee Dunker has written a bittersweet biography of her father, Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision. It's a daughter's perspective about her father's ministry to the hungry and the choices which took him away from home for months and even years at a time. The story is a troubling one, a paradox of a Christian man's compassion for the homeless and neglect for his own home.

Dunker summarizes an erroneous belief of her father's with the following startling revelation: "Daddy had an agreement with God; He would feed and care for God's children overseas, if God would take care of his wife and children at home. Unfortunately, the agreement was Daddy's and not God's." A daughter's suicide, his wife's poor emotional and physical health, and the final destruction of his family by divorce all give credence to her statement. Bob Pierce built an incredible ministry, but he failed in building his own home.

The warning of others' failures ought to be sufficient to motivate us to avoid the same errors. Why not take a little journey into your calendar, take inventory of the caps you're wearing, and do a little house cleaning and rearranging. You and I only have one life—we need to wear our responsibilities well. 

© 2002 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family. 



Meet the Author: Dennis Rainey

Dennis Rainey

Dennis Rainey is the president and chief executive officer of FamilyLife, a subsidiary of Campus Crusade for Christ. Since the organization began in 1976, Dennis' leadership has enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry that offers families blueprints for living godly lives.  Dennis is host of FamilyLife Today radio program and has written numerous books.  He and his wife, Barbara, live near Little Rock, Arkansas.  They have six children and many grandchildren.

 

 

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