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.

Beyond the Obvious: 3 Tips on Finding Rest

Every now and then I notice a wave of articles about research that has proven something we’ve always known. This week contribution? Drumroll, please … Rest matters.

Human beings need sleep. Our bodies need to recharge. We need a good eight hours of sleep, we’re told. And while people who get by on six often think they’re getting enough, research proves their performance suffers.

Followers of Jesus (and others who are scholars of the Old and New Testaments) are usually aware that rest is Biblical. God rested after creating the universe (Genesis 2:2-3), not because He was tired but to set an example (Mark 2:27). Jesus rested (Mark 4:38, 6:31) and promised we can find the ultimate rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

In short, rest helps us stay fit mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, which are all important when it comes to our spiritual growth.

So we should rest. Got it. But how?

If you’re like me, knowing what’s good for you and doing what’s good for you often are two different things. Forcing sleep is particularly challenging. Thankfully, I’m married to a wonderful woman who values rest and has taught me some tricks for sleeping more soundly.

  1. Change your diet. My wife and I generally eat a healthy diet based on The Daniel Plan. I’ve not only lost weight with this approach, but I sleep much better. Research tells us (the obvious) that there’s a high correlation between sleep apnea and obesity, so dieting and exercising to promote physical health also ends up promoting better rest.
  2. Fix your routine. Left to my own desires, I’d stay up late watching television or working or playing games on the computer or ipad. But because I’m married to someone smarter than me, I go to bed relatively early and around the same time each night. I try not to drink anything within a few hours of bedtime. And we turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes before we get ready for bed. We pray together during this time. And if it’s nice enough, we walk out on our deck and stargaze for several minutes. (Note: We don’t have a television in our bedroom, something I highly recommend for anyone who wants a healthy marriage.)
  3. Talk to Jesus. Inevitably, we all have those nights when we struggle to fall asleep or when we wake up and can’t go back to sleep. Our thoughts race around from stressful topic to stressful topic. We problem solve. We pre-schedule work. Or we slip into negative scenario building where we waste time imaging the worst things that can happen. A friend of mine taught me that these are perfect opportunities to talk to Jesus. “If I’m having a hard time going to sleep,” he told me, “I figure Jesus must want to tell me something.” Tell Jesus what’s on your mind. Ask Him what He wants to tell you. Have a conversation with the Word. And you’ll be amazed at how often you soon will find rest in His peace.

Note: Here’s a link to 68 verses that touch on rest.

 

What if Jesus wrote you a Letter?

Here’s the question that kept me up one night: What if Jesus wrote me a letter?

Seems simple. Not scary. Sort of cool, right? Who wouldn’t want a letter from the Son of God?

Without question, I’d love to get such a letter. But I can’t say for sure that I’d like everything it might say. In fact, it could be especially difficult to take, and that’s why the question was keeping me up that night.

Audrey and I had been reading the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, so naturally we noticed that a few of them easily could be letters to the church in America. That’s when it hit me: What if Jesus wrote a letter like this to me? I am the church in America, or at least part of it. Would he find something good in me? Would he call me lukewarm? How would he challenge me to live differently?

With that in mind, I recalled a little writing exercise I learned several years ago during a parent’s weekend at Rollins College. A professor found himself in a room of assembled ne’er-do-wells—dads, moms, and other interested parties. The prof either wanted to give us a taste of what his students typically experienced, or he just needed a way to kill some time before lunch. Regardless, he gave us an assignment: Write a letter to yourself from someone you love but who is no longer living. If you can do this, he explained, you can write fiction, because fiction is something we make up based on what our experiences tell us might happen.

I wrote a letter from my dad to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise.

So as I considered the letters Jesus wrote to the churches, I mentally wrote a letter from Jesus to me. Was it fiction? I don’t know. I asked the Holy Spirit for some help, so I believe there was some inspiration and, well, revelation, involved.

Here’s what I learned: There’s room for improvement.

Well, duh!

I felt affirmation about some areas of my life, but I also felt the pangs of conviction. I felt like God wanted me to experience Him more in two or three specific areas. I shared this with Audrey and asked her to pray with me, asking God to show us what “change” would look like and provide opportunities to pursue it. Frankly, I’m still not so sure how well I’m living it out, but I’m doing my best to trust God to show me the way each day.

So if Jesus wrote you a letter, what would it say? And how will you respond?

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.