Paul wrote, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualiﬁed” (1 Corinthians 9:27, NLT). No one wakes up one morning and thinks, I’m going to make decisions today that guarantee a heart attack ten years from now. Most people don’t intentionally make their lives more difﬁcult, but there’s something that drives us to pay more for greatness than it’s worth: fear.
If I say no, an opportunity like this may never come again.
Others are more qualiﬁed, so I have to push myself harder than anyone else.
If I don’t keep striving, everyone will ﬁnd out I’m a fraud.
How am I going to pay for a good education for my kids?
When you choose an Uber to take you where you want to go, never get in the one with a driver named Fear. Always jump in the car with Vision.
Decisions based on fears and insecurities won’t lead us to God-pleasing lives that we love waking up every morning to live. Only decisions based on a thought-through and prayed-through vision will take us where we want to go. I don’t just want to lead an amazing church that transforms the lives of thousands. I want to be a father that raises world-changing children who see their dad as the most loving and afﬁrming person in their lives. I want to be a husband that makes it easy for his wife of ﬁfty years to be more excited about being married to me than she was the night before our wedding. I won’t allow fear to trick me into decisions that cause my family to fall apart.
After a particularly painful season leading Union Church, I made a decision: I will make whatever sacrifice God requires, but I won’t make myself miserable overextending myself beyond His will for my life. I don’t believe that’s what He asks of me or of any of us. Yes, there will be seasons of challenging leadership — but those are, like all seasons, meant to be temporary.
But this season had lasted so long, it had basically become a habit. One afternoon during that time, I was on the golf course playing a round on my own and I hit an incredible shot—and no one was there to see me put a four-iron approach from 204 yards out within six feet of the ﬂag, pin high. I stood there all by myself, grinning ear to ear, and heard the Holy Spirit say, It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you smile. I’ve missed it. (It wasn’t an audible voice; I’ve just become accustomed to hearing the internal voice of God that every Christian has access to.) He went on, It makes me smile to see you smile.
That moment marked me for life. I went on to miss the birdie putt (of course), but I came away with a phrase that will be the pursuit of my life: Make God smile.
To all my dreamers and visionaries, those who are pursuing greatness and pushing through the pain of progress like a warm knife through butter: Make it your ﬁrst goal to make God smile. Make your family smile. And don’t forget to smile yourself.