Question: What is mediocrity? What examples of it have you witnessed recently? How do you prevent mediocrity from attacking you, your family, or your business?
Answer: I would say my definition of “mediocrity” is, not pursuing my God-given calling. Examples of mediocrity in my life would include: Not seeking to grow in my faith. Not learning about myself. Not learning how to develop myself so I can increasingly become who God made and called me to be. Not taking responsibility for my life. Not seeking to bear much, good, and lasting fruit for Christ and his Kingdom. General laziness and, sometimes, apathy. I guess with these examples I'm trying to point toward the direction of my life as opposed to results.
Some folks may be given five talents, some two, and some one. What counts is not how much you’re given, but what you do with what you’re given. Are you faithful with what you’ve been given, or do you tend to bury your talents in the ground? No effort – no risk – no trust in God. That describes too many of us. That has described me all too often.
I think we slow the influence of mediocrity in our lives by obeying God, trusting him, staying close with him, continually seeking to be filled with his Spirit, staying in God’s Word, praying, praying, and praying some more, pursuing lifelong personal development and learning, etc. AND... traveling along this path with others is key. And, of course, taking action based on all this introspection is key.
The sanctifying process is more than learning how not to sin. While it obviously includes that, it also incorporates the positive act and attitude of conforming more and more to the likeness of Christ and renovating our lives under his Lordship so that we can grow toward our God-given potential…for his glory. Putting off sin and putting on righteousness. Dying to self and rising with Christ. We must continuously move forward, becoming progressively sanctified (i.e., becoming more like Christ, who perfectly fulfilled his calling). In all of this, God's grace is required. (I'm not endorsing a "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" mentality.)
I have experienced mediocrity in my own life. Every time I have daydreamed or surfed the net too long, watched too much TV, slept in too late, etc., I have embraced mediocrity.* But I think I’ve come to understand that I move toward overcoming mediocrity in my life only as I make the most of the time God has given me.
Very practically speaking, that means having a God-glorifying plan, (related to the various spheres of my life), and then faithfully, strategically, and consistently working that plan. There's certainly more to say about this, but this is a start.
By the way, I just started reading a great book by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, entitled, Living Forward, which addresses these very ideas. Best of all, they provide a great road map (or action plan) for how to "live forward."
* Just a note to say I have not defined how much "too long, too much, or too late" is, regarding the things mentioned in this sentence. That's going to look different for each of us. I know the difference between "taking a break" versus "being lazy" in my life. You'll have to figure out the difference between the two in yours.
Just a quick thought for today.
Every now and then God is particularly good. Of course he’s always good, but every now and then his goodness is lavished in our lives in such a way that we immediately sense how undeserving we really are. Our eyes are opened to who God truly is and we are left awestruck. A whole new vision is set before us and a fresh call is heard.
That was how I felt about 21 years ago when I stumbled upon a book that revolutionized my faith, ministry, and life. The book is entitled, The Micah Mandate, by George Grant. (Get this book!) It’s a marvelous, God-honoring study of what a biblical worldview is and how it should ignite those who hold it dear. Up to that point I had read every book around on the subject of Christian worldview, but those books seemed to only focus on the abstract and philosophical. Grant’s book expanded my world and broadened my horizons. He emphasized that worldview isn’t just something for the ivory towers of academia, but for all of life. Our worldview – our treasured faith – is for every sphere of life. I haven’t been the same since.
With that book's influence racing through my heart and mind, I began a weekly men's discipleship ministry about a year later. My hope was that a few men would gather together around God’s Word and be saturated and transformed by it. I prayed that men would be renewed and revived. I deeply desired that biblical, God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled disciples would be born – men who would change the world – beginning with themselves, then in and through their families, workplaces, churches, communities, the culture, and then perhaps, one day, the world. God honors such efforts. Reformation and revival happens in such ways.
My hope for the men’s ministry way back then, as it is today, was for God to penetrate the hearts, minds, and souls of our men with his Word, so thoroughly, that he would cultivate in their lives a framework (worldview) for viewing, interpreting, and applying their faith in every sphere of life. God has been pleased to work mightily in the lives of many of our men in such a way. May he continue to do so for generations to come. Soli Deo Gloria.
Grace and Truth,
Steve Arterburn, Kenny Luck, and Mike Yorkey have done a great job helping men pursue godliness. Their book, Every Man, God’s Man is, as the title page says, “every man’s guide to courageous faith and daily integrity.” The men’s discipleship ministry at our church has used several of the study guides taken from this book and gotten a great deal of mileage out of them. I highly recommend them.
Here are a few of the key ideas from the Introduction and first chapter of the book…
Underneath all of your horrible habits or terrible treatment of others, you will find muscles of character. That character has been covered up by things of this world.
Author Dallas Willard got it right: What’s needed is a renovation of the heart before a renovation of lifestyle.
If you reach a man, then you reach every relationship he has.
…far too many men do not give themselves fully to being God’s man.
I want to make a quick comment about the quotation from Dallas Willard because I think he’s exactly right. Too often churches want to give men stuff to do and, as Pat Morley puts it, make workers instead of disciples. Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with men serving in their local church and community. Indeed, we’re called to do so. However, if we fail to heed Jesus’ words in John 15 about his words abiding in us and us abiding in him, we will create withering branches that cease to do anyone any good because there's no life-giving nutrients running through them.
Let’s encourage men to first build and strengthen their relationship with God and God’s people and then let the Spirit call and lead each man according to the gifts and graces given him. After all, we want men who will bear much good and lasting fruit… not men who wither on the vine.
The men's groups at my church are working their way through Pat Morley's book, The Christian Man (make sure to check out that link). It's an excellent book and has generated some great discussions, offered helpful encouragement and creative ideas, and even provided a little correction in our mindsets here and there.
Besides the book, there are also videos that go with each week's chapter. Below is the video from this week's lesson on "work." Let me encourage you to read the book, watch the videos, and pursue some meaningful discussions with the men in your spheres of influence.
And while you're here, check out the Theology of Work Project's website. They have two new articles that came out this week on "Women Workers" in the Old and New Testaments.