Get A Life…  giving up the false pursuit of success, productivity, and greatness in 2014 

28 Comments
January 9, 2014

crane

In 2011, my wife and I spent some time in Key West Florida for a few days.  As we were driving through south Florida on our way back home, we stopped off at at nature preserve.  We hiked back to a lake securely nestled away in a wooded area.  As we walked toward the lake, I became aware of how distinctly different the sounds of the wildlife were from what we normally hear in our part of the country.  As we rounded the corner and the lake came into view, I observed a scene full of exotic birds.

There was one bird in particular that caught my attention. Because I am not a wildlife expert, I can’t tell you what kind of bird I saw.  It could have been a crane of some sort.  I can tell you, however, that it was stunningly beautiful.  It was white in color with a long slender body and neck.  It also had a long dagger like beak.  Each move it made was elegant and graceful.

After observing the bird for a few minutes, I realized that it was on a mission of sorts.  It was intently gazing into the water, looking for something while remaining still as a statue.  Without warning in a split second, the bird thrust his sword like beak into the water, speared and swallowed a fish, and then resumed its statue like position.  It all happened very quickly and gracefully.  This bird knew how to fish!  Just then, I had this thought:

People would pay lots of money to learn how to catch fish half as good as that bird naturally does.

After thinking about this for a few minutes, the following dialogue ensued between the Lord and I.

FATHER:  Observe how well I have made that bird.  Observe how masterfully and gracefully it moves and catches fish.

ME: The way this bird catches fish is like a work of art.  It almost seems effortless.

FATHER: It is effortless for this bird because this bird is operating in the exact environment that I have created it for, and it is operating by the life that I have designed it to operate by.  This bird knows noting else.

ME:  People would love to fish as masterfully and gracefully as that bird does.

FATHER: Consider the ways of the world as compared to the ways of this bird.  Mankind sees something to aspire to and begins to strive to learn a trade.  After much striving and learning, mankind attempts to perform a task with precision and excellence.  For example, consider the trade  of fishing.  People spend their whole lives learning how to fish.  Some even engage in fishing as a competitive sport.  No matter how hard they may try, however, none can compete with the ease, grace, and precision of the way this bird catches fish.  The skill this bird processes to catch fish was not taught externally through effort and striving.  The skill this bird possesses is innate.  When this bird is in its natural environment, this skill naturally comes out.

ME:  Wow, there are so many implications to my own life with this.  I have spent years trying to figure out what to ‘do’ and how to ‘do’ it with excellence.  Maybe there is a better way.

FATHER: Yes.  I have given you a life to live by.  The source of this life does not come from anything external, but the life of My Son dwelling within.  The Son’s life within you is unlocked in relational community with your brothers and sisters.  That is your natural environment.  Just as this bird is a sight to behold in its natural environment, so are you.

Your craft or trade will flow from your being, and your focus should always be on the latter, not the former.

The Idol of Productivity & Success

The world has a fascination with productivity and success.  No one wants to waste their life, and most want to make their mark on the world.  If you’ve spent any amount of time in the business community or the professional religious world, you will know that leadership and success are priority one.  The books, articles, and conferences that are devoted to producing leaders and personal development are endless.  Jon Zens, in his latest book  58-0, sheds light on this tragic imbalance:

It is interesting to compare the number of books on leadership and conferences for leaders versus books and conferences on cultivating body-life among the priesthood of all believers! The deck is stacked! One would think that leadership must be the largest topic in the NT!  –JZ, 58 to 0

In reality, the New Testament speaks very little about leadership.  It does, however, have much to say about how believers should interact with one another in relational community.  In his book 58-0, Zens describes the fact that there are fifty eight different one-anothers in the New Testament scriptures that describe the intimate relational culture that existed in the church community envisioned by Christ.  He also sheds light on the historical & practical reasons why these fifty-eight one anothers are almost non-existent in most church communities today.  I would highly recommend this book to all of our blog readers. (click HERE to purchase a copy)

ARE vs TRYING TO BE

There are two kinds of people in the world.  There are people who ARE and there are people who are TRYING TO BE.  The people who ARE tend to be people who live free from fear.  The people who ARE are people who know their identity.  As a result, they are able to love others deeply.  People who ARE have the ability to have intimate relationships.  People who ARE operate from a deep sense of conviction.  As a result, people who ARE tend to be very productive with their lives by default and greatly impact the lives of many.  History is shaped by such people.

The second group of people in the world are people who are TRYING TO BE.  These are the people who are fascinated with becoming successful.  Folks in the second category are desperately trying to be like those who ARE.  They envy the success of those who ARE, and try to study & dissect their lives down to a set of principles that they themselves can emulate.

Business leaders do this to Jesus all the time.  They see Jesus’ lifestyle and teachings as a road map regarding how to start and lead movements and corporations.  They want to emulate Him in this regard.  This is also routinely done to folks throughout history who have built successful companies, empires, or affected great change to society.  Again, there are no shortage of books and conferences that seek to dissect the lifestyles of folks who have been seen as effective or successful.  Religious leaders who want their institutions to be biblical and effective often study the book of Acts seeking the secret formula or church practice they can emulate that will change who they are.  Despite their attempts to emulate the practices of those who ARE, the folks who are TRYING TO BE have a major blind spot that they regularly overlook.

People who ARE are governed and fueled by something greater than the need to be successful and productive.

The TRYING TO BE folks don’t realize that Jesus didn’t study the practices of influential people before Him so He could successfully build a career & make His mark on the world.

The church described in the book of Acts did not read the book of Acts.

Paul’s letters didn’t become the core of the New Testament because He was an effective marketer.

Harriet Tubman wasn’t motivated to be like ‘effective’ former slave liberators. It is doubtful she read any books or attended any conferences on the subject.

Mother Theresa didn’t love people and impact the world around her because she read about the practices of powerful people.

This list could go on and on, but I think you get the point.  These people were governed and fueled by something much more powerful.  With that said, I’d like to encourage us with something practical that we can all do in 2014 that will help us be people who ARE and not people who are TRYING TO BE.  I’d like to present a New Year resolution of sorts.

Forget About Your Goals in 2014

If you’re the kind of person that needs to set goals to achieve and be motivated, this is going to be difficult for you.  It may even be offensive.  Nevertheless, I would like to ask you to trust me.  Most of the goals that we set in our attempts to be productive and effective might keep us busy and take up our focus, but they are almost always our own ideas.  In my own life, a focus on doing and goal setting has rarely produced anything birthed in the heart of the Lord.  As a matter of fact, quite the opposite.

With that said, I’d like to challenge us to set two daily goals that I guarantee will make us tremendously productive this year in all aspects of our lives (career, relationships, etc…)

1. Drink a lot daily.

Yes, we all know how to do this.  Do you know that you have a very deep well inside of you?  The substance of this well is life and love.  This well is Christ.  This well has no end, and you always have access to this well at all times.  Your access to this well is not dependent upon your schedule, your economic status, or anything external.  You could be the busiest person in the world, yet still have continual access to this well.  To access and drink from this deep internal well, you simply have to remember that the well is there & shift your focus there.

As your daily focus begins to shift into this well, it will beautifully color the way you see everything.  You will notice beauty in people, not faults.  You will notice the Light of Christ in all the creation around you.  You will hear His voice of love to you in every song you hear (yes every song), and every film (yes every film).  All your conversations will begin to shift to Christ and His beauty.  This will have a significant impact on your spiritual,  emotional, and even your physical health!

2. Share your drink with others daily.

This second goal may be significantly more difficult based on our backgrounds.  If you’ve spent much time in the evangelical world, the chances are pretty high that you suffer from relational retardation.  In addition to the law based approach that we have been taught to relate to one another through, it is simply not normal for folks to relate to one another in any sort of significant way due to past relational problems and other fear related issues.

As we begin to drink deeply from our internal well of love, however, fear will be exposed & driven from our lives.  We will begin to notice the brothers and sisters the Lord has put in our circles, and we will begin to share our portion of the ‘well’ with them.  This will become the basis of our relationships, and our relationships will become revolutionary and deeply healing in nature.

As these two goals become part of our daily life, we will find that the areas of our lives that we used to set goals for (career, spiritual life, relationships, etc…) will naturally begin to take shape.  Things will happen in these areas that we could never have set goals for.  Many of these breakthroughs will also defy conventional worldly wisdom as well.  Our lives will rub against the grain of the world’s systems and ideas.  It is through this friction that His light will powerfully shine through our lives.

I think it’s going to be a favorable year,

Jamal Jivanjee

Jamal Jivanjee

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28 responses to Get A Life…  giving up the false pursuit of success, productivity, and greatness in 2014 

  1. Jamal, I was especially struck by these words: “Your craft or trade will flow from your being, and your focus should always be on [Christ within], not on [what you 'do'].”. This reminds me of my favorite blog of yours about the bees. Their whole being goes toward finding and taking in Nectar. They do not even consider all the wonderful effects of their processing of the Nectar (like pollination). Likewise, we must focus on our Nectar (Christ), and not be distracted by anything else.

  2. I agree with Jon,as we learn from the ‘nectar’ analogy.

    “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

    “By this everyone will know that you [are] my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ Jesus

  3. this road is narrow! Im glad we are walking it together. Father blessed us with you!

  4. Yes!

    In 2014 I resolve to become less and less so Christ can become more and more! All things are garbage when compared to knowing Christ. Nothing compares to His Life blasting through a crushed seed, multiplying a-gazillion fold, sprouting eternal Life everywhere. Every crevice and “hole” in our lives will be filled to overflowing with this Life. I’ll drink to that!

  5. Very beautiful–my boss is a trying to be person…he studies books on leadership all the time..I used to be criticle of him but I saw that he would not listen to me so now I just be who I are to him and I pray for him and when we get into a disscusion about spiritual issues I simply show him the love of Christ and gently rebuke him.thanks for the great article,I’m considering to get that book.

  6. Jamal, I agree with Jon, this reminds me too of the Honey Bee post. Both are excellent.

    One thing that struck me was how you noted this beautiful bird was in its natural habitat. Truly, it would be a sad thing to see it on a farm trying to act like a chicken, or jumping off a cliff like an eagle. And yet we humans do this all the time. Animals must be smarter!

    Perhaps we need to start off this year with a book burning? Of all the how-to, self-help, and success teachings we have been wasting our lives with? May your post start a fire of both discerment and holy anger against such.

    Much love.

  7. Jamal, thank you brother, this post really confirms some things that the Lord has been working in me now for a couple of months. Thank you so much for sharing this. For quite a few years now, I had been feeling a kind of envy (or even jealousy) as I would see the things that the Lord was doing with others that I have known and met. I would wonder, when will I get there, when will I achieve something like what they have. It was subtle, but it was there deeply.
    I believe it has damaged several relationships with a couple of brothers who I deeply respect and love. As of late however, Christ has just given me a peace, I am at the place He wants me, and He is able to bring the people and things into my life that He wants, and I don’t have to strive or work for any of it. I just need to continue to seek after Him, or” go to the well”, as you say. Thanks again for sharing this post. Very timely and encouraging. Your brother in Christ. John Morris.

    • John,

      Brother I really respect your comment here. Thanks for your openness and honesty. What you have shared here is not unique to you, but to many of us. Believing that we are not in the right place at the right time, and striving for success, naturally leads to envy and jealousy. This is detrimental to our relationships. As you said, returning to the ‘well’ and knowing our right standing in Christ is key to overcoming this. Thank you John for your bold comment here. It is very helpful.

  8. As a former ‘Trying to be’ I can remember the constant struggle to become a good disciple. This striving to become by reading, praying, doing and doing left me frustrated, and confused. There was never enough time, or effort to ‘make it work’, and thankfully our Lord brought an end to the system that I was in bondage to.

    Today and totally ‘in’ His grace our Lord has expressed His Life, and has impressed upon me that our lives are defined by Him. Our “Being” defines our doing, and not the other way around. He has impressed upon me by many natural events the beauty of His rest. Entering His rest, we can find our best. Just as the bird knew how to fish, He will show us His ‘way’ of life. His ‘way’ is found in Love.

    There is the constant call of our Lord, “come to Me” and it is followed by “and you will find your rest”. To Love our best, we must enter His rest.

    Thank you again my brother for your ministry of Love.

    • My pleasure Jim! I love this line from your comment:

      “To love our best, we must enter His rest”.

      Very true brother, very true. Thanks for sharing:)

  9. Dang JJ. You doin’ it up as usual. Beautifully put.

  10. WOW ! Jamal I love it. One thing God has given me this past year is “permaculture” Which has many definitions but most call it a system of design derived from observing nature and the relationship between all it’s elements and many are having great success with this.
    But I have specifically looked to God for these things and how I relate to everything and have learned that my effort mostly gets in the way or causes me more work. So I try not to eat from the tree of my knowledge of how things work ( which causes me more work usually) and simply let Him feed me LIFE and being who He made me to be. I am amazed at how much peace I get in doing things HIS way !
    I love this journey of Discovering and demonstrating Him ! :-D

  11. All the comments are excellent and your blog is so excellent that I had to really think about what my response should be. I had a lot going on inside. Vinny talked about eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which is the hard way to do it and there is never any rest from this tree. It seems like every church is operating from this tree and are unaware of their condition. God has not led me out of our church but how I appreciate Him revealing to me to switch the tree I am eating from. It is so hard to just be; be still and know I am God, be content, be being filled, etc…… until you rest in Him. Our church will begin another series on transformation and I am going to op out of it. It is a temptation but I think I will just put some good worship music on and soak in God’s presence and see what He will tell me about transformation. Thanks Jamal for making me think more than I want to.

    • Mary,

      I am so glad you found this blog to be challenging, yet liberating. I always appreciate your heart. It comes through loud and clear in your comments! Blessings to you sister.

  12. Hey Jamal,

    The other night there were some folks gathered, and the opportunity and conversation was of such to read everyone this article. It started a great discussion.

    One thing that was developed was how that on a natural level, the first environment we learn to “be,” is as a child in a family. Children just ‘are’, and it’s a beautiful thing.

    Unfortunately, however, when translated to spiritual life it often happens that when there is a sign of new birth, people are often either out on the streets, so to speak, or they go into some sort of perverted, mechanical environment that calls itself family! In both these environments it seems that this is where people learn to “do” in order to survive, or “do” in order to get the validation, affection, and nurturing they so desperately need in addition to good ‘teaching’ to fully mature Christ’s life.

    Sadly this can lead to the ‘relational retardation’ that you mentioned. (Which by the way was a powerful word picture that jumped out to everyone immediately).

    But the good news is, the damage is not permanent. :) . Because Jesus Christ is Eternal Life, we can “jump in” at any time to experience His new, cleansing mercies, and experience a family that He Himself gives to us from heaven.

    With just two simple goals, of course. :)

    Just wanted to come back and share this here. Your article was a blessing to many. And to me.

    • Thank you for sharing Pamela. I’m so glad you could share this with others and that this post has been an encouragment to ‘be’. ‘Being’ is where it’s at!

  13. Dear Jamal
    I have learned this lesson the hard way in my life. I grew up with a stepmother whom I was just never able to please no matter what I did and as an adult it didn’t change as all. Combine this with attending quite a few different denominations in the religion of Christianity, I automatically thought it was business as usual. I am thankful that Jesus stopped me in my tracks with a chronic illness and I had to stop striving. It was there when I stopped striving trying very hard to earn His love that He opened the eyes of my heart to see just how much He loves me. So, I have learned to embrace my limitations and to just sit and rest at His feet!
    Blessings XX
    Mia

  14. Shelby Shock-Marsh March 11, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Resting not striving. Trusting not forcing. Embracing not chasing. Allowing not insisting. Thanks, Jamal. Love your heart.

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