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Through God, We Will Do Valiantly

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I have been thinking a lot lately about excellence. Not just at work, but in every area of my life—as a Christian, husband, father, friend, church volunteer, and board member. I have to ask myself: Do I truly aspire to excellence in the work I do? In the relationships I have? Even in everyday interactions with strangers?

I guess this sudden conviction is a result of the convergence of many different coincidental situations, conversations, books, and Bible readings that ultimately leads me to hear that "still small voice." Or, sometimes, it feels more like a divine kick in the pants, with God telling me what I should already know by now:

"Stop striving. Take a look around at what's right in front of you, and give it your all. Trust God for the future outcome."

That's actually from a page right out of my journal. I went back to read it a few days after I originally wrote it, and it was like God was punching me in the gut with those words. "Uh, yeah, Bradley—Hello?" Bam!

I tend to spend too much time getting caught up in "what's next." You know, the next big exciting deal or promotion or position or recognition. It's like I can't function without having some huge ambitious goal looming in the horizon, calling out to me, luring, pulling, and compelling me towards some "better" future. It's like a mental illness, really. I guess I've been hard-wired that way for quite a while now, and in many ways it has served me quite well, because I got a lot accomplished over the past few years. But I'm getting older now, and God is giving me a very distinct message that says "Whoa, boy. Settle down. Deep breath. Good."

"Now, look."

Quite literally, just like that. He said, "Look."

And when I stop, and breathe, and look, what I see is this: my wonderful family with a beautiful wife and two exceptional teenage daughters whom I love desperately. A terrific job with great coworkers. A beautiful church community. Many other wonderful people and organizations that I share work with on boards or committees. And an interesting and caring group of new friends that I have found online through blogging.

It's not that I have been ignoring or neglecting all of these relationships up to this point, but I wonder if I've been fully present. Have I really, honestly been giving them my best? Have I been excellent? Or, have I been thinking more about what I will get out of this? Or what will this look like on my resume? Or what does this person think of me? Is this integrity in the workplace? Sometimes, I feel like I'm constantly trading up, rather than engaging fully, completely, in the moment.

Then I read Psalm 60:11-12.

"Give us help from trouble,
For the help of man is useless.
Through God we will do valiantly."

That word "valiant" seems like a quaint old 14th century middle-English word. Certainly, it is not a word that we use very often today. But it conjures up thoughts of bravery, courage, victory, boldness . . and excellence. Instead of driving ourselves mad scheming about the future, we can apply ourselves, fully, valiantly, with God's help, towards the things that are in front of us right now. For me, this might mean cutting back on some obligations and committees to do only the few things that I can realistically excel at. It may be that I rearrange my priorities at work so that I am focusing on the things that are the highest and best use of my time, talents, and abilities. It definitely means that I am giving myself more fully to the people and conversations I am having with a clear focus on their needs and interests, rather than my own.

I am learning that God is the God of now. He wants us to do the best with what we have, and then trust him for the outcome.

Through God, we will do valiantly.

Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:

  • Do you feel overextended at work, home, and church? Do you need to end some of your current obligations?
  • Finding balance requires us to say "no" to some opportunities. Do you have trouble saying "no" to some opportunities? Why?
  • List your top three priorities at work, home, and church. How can you restructure your obligations to focus more directly on your highest priorities?
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