Three Ways Jesus Displayed Grit

Few qualities of success are more vital than grit. Some social scientist, in fact, consider it the essential quality.  So it comes as no surprise that Jesus had grit. And never was the grit of Jesus more evident than during the final week of his life.

How so? Well, to answer that question, let’s start with a definition.

In Forging Grit, co-author Mike Thompson and I define grit as the passion for getting something done and the fortitude to see it through even when obstacles seem overwhelming. That book is written to a business audience, but the definition applies in all areas of life. With that in mind, here are some ways Jesus modeled grit, especially during the week that ended with His death and resurrection:

Jesus knew His core. The wisdom of Jesus was grounded in His understanding of the scriptures and in His relationship with God the Father. He wasn’t guided by self-principles, but by God-principles. He knew who He was and whose He was. (See Luke 24:27, John 8:55, John 17:25, among others.)

Jesus knew His mission. God the Father sent Jesus to earth with a purpose, and Jesus never allowed Satan to distract Him from that purpose. He knew He would have to suffer to accomplish that purpose;  but He also knew that doing so would bring glory to God. (See John 8:14 and Luke 18:31-33, among others.)

Jesus embraced His passion. Passion literally means “suffering” and “enduring.” And Jesus displayed the ultimate passion in dying on the cross for the sins of the world. The obstacles can’t get more overwhelming than that. (See Mark 8:31 and Luke 22:42, among others.)

We read and hear plenty about Jesus around Easter, of course, and it’s worth remembering that His sacrifice for you and for me came with real pain and intense suffering. We can thank God that Jesus had the grit to endure it. Otherwise, all hope would be lost. And we can model what He lived by knowing our core, knowing our mission, and embracing our passion.

Lessons from a Baptismal God Moment

Did you hate going to church as a kid? Not me. I hung out with friends in Sunday School, played hang man or connect the dots on the bulletin during “big church,” and then my family went home and ate Mom’s awesome pot roast for lunch. What wasn’t to like?

I later spent more than a decade as an agnostic, not because I didn’t like going to church but because I was avoiding God. Thankfully, God is persistent in His pursuit of His lost sheep.

My wife and I are blessed to regularly attend an amazing local church, but it’s very different from when I was a kid. We now have small groups instead of Sunday School, I actually take notes (usually on the “communication card”), and we eat out for lunch. But I love going to church more than ever, and here’s why: I love the God moments.

I’ve experienced these throughout my spiritual journey and at four great local churches. The most recent was on a recent Sunday when a family member waded into the warm hot tub waters next to the stage and a pastor dunked him in front of everyone who was attending the 11:30 service.

The baptism itself was a God moment. Jeremy, my step-son-in-law, is nearly 40 years old, comes from what anyone would describe as a dysfunctional family, and spent much of his life trapped in the addictive pleasures of the world. To watch God work in his life and create transformation that seemed so impossible has been awe-inspiring, to say the least.JeremyBaptism

This was the second family baptism for us in less than a year. One of our granddaughters, at the age of 8, gave her life to Jesus and was baptized in the swimming pool of the Boys and Girls Club that’s converted into a church each Sunday. Clearly God can reach us at any age and under any circumstances!

Jeremy’s baptism wasn’t the only God-moment of that particular service, however. Jeremy had been talking about baptism for several months, but one thing or another seemed to delay it. Was it Satan? Or was it God’s timing? I don’t know, but I know God allowed Jeremy to experience baptism on a day when much of the message was about sanctification.

Jeff Crawford did a magnificent job unpacking Philippians 2:12-18. There’s not room here to share all the lessons, but three things stood out as great messages for a new believer like Jeremy and as wonderful reminders for all of us who want to grow like Jesus.

Salvation is a journey. In Grow Like Jesus, I write that “Faith in Christ is a one-time decision that leads to a lifetime of growth.” Or, as Jeff pointed out, there’s an ongoing aspect of salvation. It happens in the past (the moment when we are saved), present (our sanctification), and future (our eventual glorification when Jesus returns). So when Paul says to “work out your salvation” (verse 12), he’s not talking about “earning” it. He’s talking about living it—growing to be more like Jesus.

Salvation is eternal. One of Jeremy’s battles centered on assurance of salvation. He was confident he would stumble. His “fear and trembling” (verse 12) was of his own abilities, but God showed him he couldn’t lose his salvation. At the same time, we should live it out with paramount respect and awe for the God of the universe.

Salvation is “work-out-able.” How do we work out our salvation? Verses 14-18 offer some tips. Don’t complain (verse 14), let God’s light shine in you and through you (verse 15), study the Bible (verse 16), serve others as an expression of your faith (verse 17), and be glad and joyful in how God works in you and others (verse 18).

I left church that Sunday thankful for the lessons I learned and in awe of a God whose timing is perfect, who, indeed, works all things for His good, and who allows us to regularly experience God moments. Take a moment and thank Him for all the God moments you’ve experienced.

 

The Role of Trust in Discipleship

One of the first lessons I learned as a new follower of Jesus was that we’re all called to discipleship. And this weekend, while sitting with my beautiful wife in the Chapel by the Sea, I was reminded of the role “trust” plays in that process.

Discipleship, of course, is something we “do” and something that’s “done” for us. We’re called to go and make disciples, which means we’re supposed to help others grow in their faith. And we’re supposed to grow in our faith, as well.

It all sounds very active. Read a book. Spend time with a mentor. Spend time with a protégé. Practice some spiritual disciplines. Go to a Bible study. Attend a conference.

So where does trust come into the equation?

Well, trust is the foundation for life as a follower of Christ. It all begins when we put our trust in Jesus. But too often we forget to keep trusting because we’re so busy doing.SouthPadre

Audrey and I just took an extended weekend vacation, and that’s how we ended up listening to Chaplain Sam Steele teach on this topic Sunday at the Chapel by the Sea. Perhaps you’ve been to the Chapel by the Sea. There’s one in Alaska. Several in Florida and California, not to mention in a dozen or so other seaside communities. We were visiting the one on South Padre Island, Texas.

The Rev. Steele was teaching from 1 Corinthians 3, where Paul was addressing some in-fighting in the church over who was better – those who followed Paul or those who followed Apollos. He reminded them that we all have different roles to play as “co-workers in God’s service.” Some plant and some water, he tells them, but God makes it grow.

And so it is with discipleship. Whether we are teaching others or learning something from those who teach us, there are things we can and should do. We plant. We water. We do the things we’re called to do so that we can help ourselves and those around us grow like Jesus. But that growth only happens by the grace of God. So as we go about the doing, we have to remember to let go and trust God for the results.

I struggle putting this idea into practice because I like to see results from my doing, and I like to see them quickly. Trust requires patience. It requires faith that God’s timing is what matters. It requires letting go of the human desire control things or to feed our ego with our good works.

Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to this quote from Oswald Chambers: “Trust God and do the next thing.” I’ve found it comes in pretty handy whenever I don’t know what else to tell myself or anyone else about how to deal with life’s challenges. Or blessings. In good times or bad, there’s always something we can do to grow more like Jesus. And it begins and ends with trusting God.

My Platform Dilemma

I grew up in the racially diverse community of Marianna, Arkansas, and in the 1970s, aka my formative years, platform shoes were popular among many people.

Stacks, we called them.

I knew several people who wore them, boys and girls, including some who even had platform tennis shoes. I thought they were the coolest things ever. They looked cool and they made you taller. Not me, mind you. White guys didn’t wear stacks. I’m still not sure why, but it still makes me sad.

Thirty-plus years later, platforms are popular, and not just the kind you wear. Now days, you need a “platform” to grow your “personal brand” so you can market yourself in the digital age and make some money off the “Internet of Everything.”

Platforms are measured in things like, well, … likes. And followers. And re-tweets. And shares. And klout scores.

Some people naturally have platforms: Entertainers. Sports stars. Politicians. Speakers. Famous authors. Preachers.

Missing from that list? Me.

I’ve spent most of my life blissfully in the background. Frankly, I’m in no hurry to find fame. It scares me. I’m not worthy of it, and I’m pretty confident I couldn’t handle it.

So this brings me to what I call my “platform dilemma.” I have been involved with a couple of books that are about to hit the market. I wrote one and co-authored the other because I believed I was given a message to share that would help people.

That’s not a bad reason. I didn’t write them to get rich. I’m not opposed to getting rich, but that’s not why I wrote the books. But books are darn near worthless if they aren’t read. So I want people to read these books and, hopefully, gain something positive from them.

Since I don’t have a substantial platform (or own platform shoes), I’m going to count on something even better to get the word out about these books: God. I’ll try to do my part, because, as the saying goes, hope is not a strategy. So I have a website and I post stuff on social media. But I’ll trust God for the results.

I figure that what ever my “platform,” it’s big enough that God can use it. If people read the books and like them, they’ll share them with others. They’ll buy copies for their friends and co-workers. They’ll donate copies of Grow Like Jesus to their church. They’ll buy copies of Forging Grit for their work teams. They’ll talk about them on social media. They’ll do all sorts of things to spread the word and the message.

Their platforms will become a platform for the books. It’ll be just like junior high school. But I’ll be happy, not sad.

 

Sit Down and Grow

One of the most important steps we can take if we want to grow like Jesus is to simply spend time with Jesus. I know, it makes sense in a way that makes you say, “Well, duh.” But in light of the obvious truth we have to ask an obvious question: Why don’t we actually do it?

It’s not like God isn’t available to anyone who wants to spend time with Him. Ask and you will receive. Knock and the door shall be opened. God is there – everywhere, all the time. Omnipresent.

I know a man who claimed to have a near-death experience. You know the kind: The doctors said he was gone. Call-the-hearse-dead. Then, mysteriously, he was alive again. As far as I know, he’s the only person alive who claims to have died and then didn’t write a book about it. But he did tell me that while he was “out of body,” he spent part of the time sitting on a log visiting with Jesus.

I neither believe his story nor doubt his story. He was, as they say, eccentric, but in a believable sort of way. But I do believe we don’t have to die (or nearly die) to talk to Jesus. He gave us the Holy Spirit. He gave us the Bible. He gave us prayer. So if we want to grow like Jesus, we can start by sitting down and talking with Him. Not just to Him, but with Him. The means we talk some and we listen a lot. Then we obey.

We don’t spend more time with Jesus, frankly, because we think we have better ways to spend our time. Harsh, but true. We’d rather sleep a little later, work a little longer, play a little harder. We have things to do, places to go, people to see. Color me guilty. But when those “things to do” don’t include spending time with Jesus, we miss a chance to connect with the God of the universe and experience real spiritual growth.

Bill Hybels, the pastor at Willow Creek in Chicagoland, tells a great story of how life-changing it can be to pull up a chair and spend some time with Jesus. Here’s a link to the 10-minute video. Watch the video, then pull up a chair and spend some time with Jesus.