Tis the season to be graduating!
Last weekend, I had the privilege to attend a UCLA graduation from one of the colligates at my church. The excitement was in the air – families from around the world gathered together to celebrate this notable milestone for their loved ones. Those in the stands had their cameras poised to catch their soon–to–be graduate enter the auditorium. The cheers that would pierce through the silence as the student speaker finished with, “Congratulations class of 2019!” Finally, the joyful exuberance and warmful embraces of those who supported these students in the midst of their countless hours of study and their attempts to balance school with other priorities. What an exciting time for each graduate as they have finished what was before them and now step into a bright and glorious future.
Watching this scene unfold got me thinking: how do we properly prepare for what God has for us in the next season of our lives? In other words, how can I position myself (as best as I can) to be ready for when that ‘promotion’ comes? The reality is, God wants to increase us in our aptitudes, develop us further into Christlike character, and propel us into our God-given destiny. What qualities do we need developed to be ready for when that day comes?
- HUMBLE THYSELF
We have to remember that humility was the hallmark of Christ’s mission on Earth. Jesus as being God, did not take advantage of His God nature or power (Philippians 2:6), but instead only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19) by living and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25) – he even humbled himself in obedience to die on the cross for you and me! (Philippians 2:8)
As a result, God exalted Jesus to the highest place as the Name above all names in which every knee will bow (Philippians 2:9-11). It seems that a principle of the Kingdom is this: position yourself lower so God can propel you higher. If you want to do incredible things for the Lord, then you have to have an attitude of humility for Him to use you. This is the opposite of our human nature and the pull of our culture as we are conditioned to do what we can to get ahead in life. For some, it is all about getting to what’s next so that they can afford the next material possession or the sense of pride that they ‘have arrived.’
The problem is that “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). I definitely do not want God to be against me, that’s for sure! While this statement is strong, it reveals the nature of God’s purpose through humility – for God to get the glory through you. God ‘will not yield His glory to another or praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8). Otherwise, we might act in pride thinking our talents, resources, brilliance, or spiritual giftings were a result of something that we did on our own. The reality? God gave us everything (listed above and more!), so our humility prepares us – A position of attitude that reveals we’re ready for what God has for us next.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” – 1 Peter 5:6
2) BE POOR, BUT IN SPIRIT
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” – Matthew 5:3 (NLT)
Most people tend to be quite confused when they hear this verse, but it’s quite simple: it’s all about dependency on the Lord. A person is considered poor because they have a lack of material needs – this can make them reliant on God since they are constantly aware of lack and the need to be taken care of. Now let’s take that to regard spiritual matters: Do we have a reliance on God… like that? When I am dependent on Him throughout my day, so I can sense when the Holy Spirit wants me to act. A desire for His presence that is so strong, that I feel empty without it. A longing that I would rather be in worship or in the Word than anywhere else.
I realize how far I am from this as a routine in my life, but that doesn’t stop me from trying again… and again… and again. Although I fail, I shouldn’t give up! Instead, I am reminded that “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The Lord sees the effort I put in despite my shortcomings and He will reward me through it all. Why? I am seeking God earnestly by asking, seeking, and knocking just as Jesus told us to do: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). I am trusting Jesus that He will reward me in His timing, so I don’t have to fear or attempt to shortcut my way to where I think I am supposed to go.
3) CONTENTMENT IS KEY
This one is a tough one! “So you’re saying Nathan that in my career, life circumstance, or in ministry that I am supposed to be content? This sounds like the complete opposite of a PROMOTION!”
While it looks like that could be the case, but it really isn’t. Being content doesn’t mean you put your dreams or that next career promotion on hold – being content is a demonstration of your faithfulness to where God currently has you. It’s too easy to dream about the future – of what ‘could be’ and neglect the present, especially when we are in not entirely happy with our life’s circumstances. Yet that’s not being content, that’s dismissing responsibilities and wishing for an alternative future. We have to be cautious about what I call the ‘if onlys’:
- “If only I get that job I’ll be able to afford what I really want …” “
- “If only I get a house so I can finally be stable…”
- “If only I find the person of my dreams I’ll be happy…”
- “If only I have a church that meets my needs then I’ll grow…”
The problem with the statements listed above is that the state of ‘happiness’ for the person is attached to met circumstances. This means that you cannot be ‘happy’ unless you achieve _________ (fill in the blank). Whereas true happiness is contentment found in God. Paul says this about his own life in ministry:
“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” – Philippians 4:12 (NLT)
God will give you more, so be grateful for what you have. God will increase you, so do what you can to be faithful. God will fulfill the desires of your heart, so be content with where you at in life.
As you probably figured out by now, all three of these points are the opposite of what we would naturally imagine for what a promotion would require. Yet “God’s ways and are higher than our ways” (Isaiah 55:9), which means He does things differently at times! All of these points are preparing us to have Christlike character BEFORE the promotion. Isn’t that what happened to Joseph when he was sold by his brothers? He learned the value of hard work, to stand firm in integrity, and was trusted by men in high positions (See Genesis 37-50). The preparation was required to prepare his purpose – to save His people (and the Egyptians) from starvation. What if you are EXACTLY where you are supposed to be because God is preparing you at this very moment?
I hope these three points help you reflect in preparing well for what God has for you next. Are you humble in heart? Are you dependent upon God? Are you faithfully walking out your current status (being content)? If you follow these points, God will not only reward you for what is to come, but you’ll be more Christlike in the process while you wait upon the Lord.