The key to success in any area of life is evaluation. How I spend my time, what’s going on in each class in each of our services, my personal life, my health … everything deserves evaluation. Each Sunday for more than 40 years I’ve used my M.B.W.A. (Management By Walking Around) to inspect and evaluate the ministry. Each day I rely on tools like my bathroom scales, blood pressure cuffs, and heart rate monitors to evaluate my health. (We even rely on our smart phones to tell us how many steps we take each day.) Only the things we evaluate on a regular basis will grow and bear fruit.
All of us rely on gauges to make our lives better. Every time I get in my car, I check my gauges—the gas gauge, the check engine light, the service required, the oil pressure gauge, even the air pressure gage. I fly a lot and although I don’t understand all the gauges on a plane, I’m thankful there is a skillful Southwest Airlines pilot getting me where I’m going, checking those gauges with a fine tooth comb. From riding my bicycle to going to the doctor, gauges and tests are lifesavers. I’m finding that those who ignore the gauges in their lives are cruising for a bruising.
Information is power in every single area of your life. This includes spiritual things. The information that comes from reliable gauges will not only keep you heading in the right direction but they will help you be the leader, the man, the woman, the husband, and the person God wants you to be. Simply put, gauges let us know what changes or what action needs to take place before it’s too late. Failure (trouble) comes from ignoring your gauges. I’ve found in my personal walk with the Lord there are seven gauges I have to keep my eyes on and watch intently to not only be a leader or children’s pastor but also to be the Christ follower I need to be. What are they, Jim? I’m glad you asked.
This tiny little word has a major impact on your life and leadership. I don’t know why we forget it’s the secret of our strength. Just like Samson guarded the secret of his strength, if we don’t guard ours, we’re headed for disaster.
We’ve all used Neh. 8:10 in children’s church to teach kids, but it’s also true for us! “… for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” As we go through each day, it seems we can use up the joy we have stored up. A great question to ask yourself is: “How quick can I replenish my joy?” I see people who seem to go from happy to down in the dumps at the drop of a hat. A great indicator of a loss of joy in someone’s life is the silent treatment or being pouty. This is never acceptable!
Joy is a choice. It has nothing to do with your circumstances. James reminds us that even in times of difficulty and testing we should count it all joy. Don’t let your joy gauge get on “E”. My wife has a rule I’ve learned from. She never let’s her gas gauge get way past half a tank. As soon as it’s halfway, she’s looking for a gas station. That’s also a good rule of thumb for our joy gauge. Keep it on full and you’ll be amazed at the strength you’ll have.
One of the smartest things I’ve learned about navigating life is that you can’t control what happens, but you can control how you respond to life. Your attitude is tied to your thinking and so are your actions. Wrong thinking produces a wrong attitude every time! And when you start believing wrong information, it creates a stronghold. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:4 that our weapons are different from earthly weapons and that God’s Word is always the right weapon to use against the tearing down of a stronghold or wrong thinking. God’s Word always works and is the right thinking in every situation. Your attitude will make you or break you.
A sub-goal that’s tied to your attitude is your thankfulness level. It’s a terrific indicator of your true attitude. The truth is, it’s very hard to have a bad or wrong attitude when you’re truly thankful. If you can be thank-full you can also be thank-empty. Never be thank-empty. I also believe your attitude is a by-product of your self-image. The key to a biblical self-image is to line up how you view yourself with what God’s Word says about you!
Just like it is impossible to run your car engine without oil, we cannot function at all without faith being ever present in our lives. Hebrews 11:6 tells us: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him.” It just can’t be done. The good news is you can build your faith just like you build your muscles. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” When you speak God’s Word out of your mouth and you hear it faith increases in your heart. The time to build your faith is before problems come. A way to know your faith is low is by the amount of fear that’s present in your life. Fear is simply faith in reverse.
Faith moves you toward the things you and God want for you. Faith always moves you forward where fear will move you backwards every time. 1 Timothy 6:12 instructs us to “Fight the good fight of the faith.” (If there is a good fight, there is also a bad fight!) A believer should always be on the lookout for the bad fight and not take any part in it. Be on guard and watch out for feelings and emotions. You can never trust your feelings … ever. A leader must master their emotions and hide them in certain situations.
As I said before, fear is just faith in reverse. It is the devil’s number one weapon.
Everyone’s fear is different. No matter what the particular fear is, you must deal with it or loose your leadership, effectiveness, and victory. Most “me issues” come from a place of fear and insecurity. I know this is cheesy, but I like cheesy sometimes … There is no “I” in team. To build a great team you have to be fearless, not fear more. A team must draw its strength from the leader. That’s why you have to choose to lead others from a place of strength. Have you ever heard the term “fearless leader?” Does that describe you? Just like thankfulness affects your attitude, it also affects the absence of fear. I love these two scriptures. Colossians 2:6-7, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” And then 1Thessalonians 5:18 that says, “In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
It’s a blessing to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself. I served a wonderful leader who used to say he didn’t have a great vision, a great vision had him. He lived it too. A vision is simply to know where you want to end up. Any time you don’t know where you are or where you’re going, you’re lost. That’s why vision is so important. Just like you need a vision for your ministry, you also need a vision for your family.
Knowing where you’re headed in every avenue of your life also helps you understand the importance of focus. Focus in every area makes things clearer. I like to take pictures and when something is not in focus it’s never good. Just like an image out of focus is not acceptable, any part of your life that’s out of focus lacks vision. This gauge not only affects you, but those you are leading, both at church and at home.
Excellence is a gauge that sets your life apart from that of unbelievers. When you are mindful of excellence it keeps you from relying on your own strength. None of you should aim at the best you can do. Instead you should aim for God’s best in every area of your life! This too must become a way of thinking in your every day life. Phillippians 4:8 says it best. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellent and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” We have to make our thoughts line up with excellence. In 1 Corinthians we are told that love is the most excellent way, so another way to keep that excellence gauge where it needs to be is to identify where love is lacking.
John 3:16 says that God loved the world so much that He did something—He gave. Giving or being generous is one of the greatest expressions of the love of God that I know. God wants us to be like Him. He is generous to us, so in return, we should live a life of generosity. Be quick to give of your time, money, and talents. Look for opportunities to be a blessing!
It only takes one overlooked gauge to cause a catastrophe in your life and family. What are your gauges telling you?