My past has a way of sitting in the back of my mind and whispering sweet nothings in my ear. Things like “If only you hadn’t done _____ your future could look like _____.”
Part of the past will be realized in my future but will I truly get all that I deserve or is there hope for me?
What I write today will be for us personally but also will apply very specifically to the leadership game. Sounds like a strange dual audience but having Irish in my blood I’m confident I’ll be able to talk my way out this conundrum…
The main character today is the Apostle Paul. You might not be a bible person but to think you’d have nothing to learn from the man who was nearly solely responsible for spreading the Gospel into the know parts of the world immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus, through torture and persecution, through impossible odds and great personal pain, let’s just say that he knew how to win?
To become the leading advocate of Christianity when he had been the first in line to murder the first early church martyr Stephen blows my mind. He was the most focused individual of the early church of his day, in my opinion. Yet previous to his encounter with Jesus (remember that Jesus had already been killed, had risen, and was not living in this world when He appeared to Paul – the artist formerly known as Saul of Tarsus), he was also insanely focused…just on the wrong thing. He was eager to kill followers of the Way and thought he was doing God a favour. This leads to a powerful thought:
The secret is focus. The lesser known secret is focus on the right thing.
There’s much talk in business about focus, but a leader knows that their greatest strength can also be their greatest weakness. Want to know mine? I LOVE impossible hills to climb. I LOVE hearing you say that I couldn’t possibly accomplish that with this. I so want to prove you wrong and that I’m up for the challenge that sometimes I find myself climbing the wrong hill. Sounds embarrassing but in another way it’s sort of amusing when my wife or my other handler, who’s like a big sister to me says “Did you want to do that before they said you couldn’t?”
“Congratulations! You just built the wrong company! You just did a turnaround in a department that needed a burial! You just sold your child’s connection to church and God so they could pursue a career in sports that they wouldn’t even enjoy if they actually made it to the big leagues!”
That was totally a cheap shot but I was pretty vulnerable with my blind spot so I thought you might as well return the favour…
To be great means nothing. To be great at the right thing means everything.
You were designed for a purpose. It’s your job to make sure that you get there. Every obstacle or distraction needs to be ruthlessly dealt with, but in dealing with things please make sure you’re actually trying to be great at the right thing? Saul of Tarsus what great at something that would condemn his own soul in the end if Christ hadn’t intervened and put him down. This is a terrific lesson that should forever change how we look at humiliation.
We find Saul on the road to Damascus having full authority and intent to drag men and women off to jail for having the nerve to follow Jesus. He had decided who the true followers of God were and was taking a heavy hand with all who disagreed with him. Many church attenders are the same way today, we just murder other people on the same team with words now. Man, the minute you start naming churches you don’t like and bad-mouthing people I slowly move towards the door of the relationship.
I’ve seen what happens when people talk smack about something above their pay grade and believe me, the bride of Christ qualifies for that. Jesus knocks Saul down and blinds him by saying “Why are you persecuting ME?” That’s how personal it is when you become great at going after other followers of Christ. Though you might receive mercy for a little while at some point the hammer falls.
Life does this to us as well. I mean, just look at Saul…. top of his class, a rising star, the best of the best, highly educated and brilliant! Tenacious! He was going to make something of himself! But being great means nothing if you’re great at the wrong thing… His greatness only qualified him for disdain from the God he thought he was serving because he hadn’t learned the most important lesson many of us miss… the lesser known secret to Paul the Apostle’s greatness. Ready?
I’m still building tension and I don’t think you’re ready for how simple and yet how hard the hinge of his turnaround was. If you call yourself a Christian in North America it is likely you’ve never been confronted with this and, ergo, won’t like it when you are. “How DARE you?????!!!” Haha. My reaction to God exactly when he put me down and taught me this one.
Hang on if you’re not a Christian because you’re going to learn a lesson you might be closer to if you’re in business than many who are in church…
Saul is blind outside of Damascus. God tells him to go into the city and await further instructions. Notice that He TELLS him. He has to be lead by the hand of his retainers to get there. Not very glorious for this great man…
God appears to a nobody named Ananias and TELLS him to go and pray for Saul. Ananias makes the Lord aware that this is insane because hadn’t He heard that Saul’s only reason for coming to town was to arrest people just like him?
God basically tells him to quit arguing and to go and do what he’s told. Ananias goes to the house where Saul has been waiting for three days, sitting in the dark neither eating nor drinking as he ponders how far down he has come in a matter of moments and wondering if he has a future at all anymore? Blind people begged for a living in a day with little government help. Starting to feel his pain?
This is when your marriage falls off the rails. When you find out something shocking about your teenage son. When you fail and your world comes apart at the seams. I tweeted something from my personal experience and from watching many families over the course of my life.
“We’re all geniuses right up until the moment the train goes off the tracks” @coreykope
A nobody prays for a somebody and God heals his blindness. Then Saul is introduced to the members of the early church in town. “Hi Saul, these are my kids and their cousins… why are their cousins living with us you ask? BECAUSE YOU PUT THEIR MOM AND DAD IN JAIL IN JERUSALEM!!!!!”
He’s baptized by nobodies. The teacher is taught by nobodies. He’s fed by nobodies. He’s forgiven by nobodies.
Here’s something I know: You don’t need marching orders if you’re blind and won’t follow anyone.
Everyone wants a promotion at work and greater responsibility. The funny thing is what my dad always said to me “Son, you’re probably making about the wage you deserve so relax and work harder”. Not always true but it’s pretty close most of the time…
Who’s going to promote you if all you want to do is what you agree with?
Who’s going to hand a division over to you is you won’t follow their vision for it?
“But I have ideas too!” So did Saul. Lots and lots of ideas right up until the moment he went blind. Then he learned the lesson most people today haven’t learned yet.
In my opinion ignorance isn’t the most common factor in how we missed this one, though it’s easy to say “I just didn’t know!” Maybe that worked for you when you were seven but it’s your job to know stuff like this now. People are looking to you for help when their world is falling apart. How will you help them if you don’t understand the foundation of greatness?
Here we go.. the part you won’t like…
If you won’t follow a nobody, why would somebody follow you?
Saul of Tarsus didn’t know how to follow. Learning how to follow is the basic ingredient of life, business, family, leadership, Christianity. Some day you are going to be sitting in the dark hungry and afraid just like the guy who had answers for everyone but himself. In that “down time” you will be unmistakably aware that you had no control in the first place. What a horrendous blunder and the shocking fact is that you never even saw it coming!!! We never do!
No crisis and Saul of Tarsus remains Saul of Tarsus and never becomes the Apostle Paul renowned for the rest of time!
No blindness no Paul.
No being lead by nobodies into town, no Paul.
No listening to a nobody named Ananias, no Paul.
No prayer by a nobody, no Paul.
No baptism by nobodies, no Paul.
No forgiveness by nobodies, no Paul.
No being taught what he thought he already knew by nobodies, no Paul.
Saul of Tarsus had to go down and stay down before Paul the Apostle could rise.
The harsh truth is that you will never EVER become who you’re supposed to be without following actual people to get there. I know that you’ll tell me the old lie that people still fall for:
“It’s just me and Jesus!”
Ready for it?
Many Christians are blind because they insist on Jesus…..
who’s insisting on Ananias