In the last thirty years or so, counseling and coaching people as a pastor and life coach, I have observed basically two types of people: Those vitally engaged in life, and those merely slogging through the motions each day.
The difference between a person vitally engaged in life, awake to their dreams, and someone who is merely going through the motions of living, is a having a vision fueled by passion.
Having vision fueled by passion promotes a special kind of vision–a seeing with “the eyes of the heart”, that makes the future seem tangible and well within your grasp. You can feel, hear, taste and see all that you desire. It is the source of being vitally engaged! You live your life with a vibrant hope!
There is another characteristic I see in achievers- the principle of pursuit. People who pursue are not willing to settle for status quo living. They refuse to disappear into the abyss of the ordinary.
I don’t believe anyone is born average, but I do believe many of us choose a life of mediocrity. If we are honest with ourselves, we may often feel a little sadness in the morning upon waking. Could that be the soul longing for its hero to wake up and pursue dreams wide awake?
To be above average demands a choice. It requires that we defy the odds. You have no control of whether you’ve been blessed with above-average looks, talents or resources, but you do have control whether you live your life defined and determined by the status quo.
Remaining average however, is a safe choice, but it is the most dangerous choice we can make. Average protects us from the risk of failure, and it also separates us from futures of greatness. How does one break free from the gravitational pull of average and soar into the high places of one’s life calling?
We may long for a glorious future, but if we’re not careful, our future will simply be an extension of our past. There is a natural domino effect from the moments behind us to the moments in front of us. However, the moments that will actually define us, the moments that will create for us the future we’ve always longed for, are not those moments that easily integrate into our past. Instead they are the disruptive moments, the moments when we must choose between extending our past or creating our future.
The prophet Elisha of the Hebrew scriptures comes to mind when I consider one who embodied the principle of pursuit. Before Elisha had begun his prophetic career, he was having a day much like every other day, plowing his fields with his oxen. He was being faithful to the life he had been given. Perhaps only in his deepest thoughts and secret desires did he imagine his life would ever change.
Here is Elisha one afternoon, with the taste of dust in his mouth, dripping with sweat and feeling the exhaustion that comes from manual labor when everything changes for him. The older prophet Elijah, who represents his future, unexpectedly comes to him and throws his cloak around him as a symbol that he has chosen him, or more accurately that God has chosen him to be his next prophet.
For Elisha, this is a defining moment when he leaves his past to go and find his future. After he has kissed his father and mother good-bye, he literally sets his past on fire. He takes his yoke of oxen and slaughters them. He cuts the wooden plowing equipment to pieces and uses them to cook the meat. He serves the bar-b-que to his friends, they eat and celebrate.
Then after everything he used to have is only dust and ashes, he sets out to follow Elijah to become his servant. For Elisha, this wasn’t a turn from wrong to right, or evil to good, but rather from the life he had to the life he was offered.
Other than as a memory, the past was no longer available to him. He had only one direction—forward. As long as we have a contingency plan to go backward, then backward is where we will find ourselves going in the end.
Elisha understood the power of pursuit. He didn’t receive a “double portion” of God’s Spirit just by watching his mentor walk away. He pursued even to the end of Elijah’s life. You have to stop waiting for someone to call you off the bench and put you in the game. You need to get up and refuse to remain on the sidelines any longer. You need to get to the front of the battle.
Perhaps the reason so few of us have received a double portion of God’s Spirit is that the lives we have chosen to live require so little of God because they require so little of us- we haven’t pursued.
There is another story involving Elisha at the end of his life that gives us a window into how God works relative to the power of pursuit.
In this story, Jehoash is the king of Israel when the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are divided and at war against one another. His kingdom is being threatened by the armies of the king of Judah.
Jehoash weeps over Elisha, less because of his sorrow for the loss of the prophet and more because of his fear of the loss of Elisha’s protection as a symbol and source of God’s strength and power.
Elisha gives him a somewhat unusual series of instructions. Elisha says, “Get a bow and some arrows.” Then he tells him, “Take the bow in your hands and open the east window and shoot!” So, Jehoash shoots. “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declares. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”
Then he says, “Take the arrows and strike the ground.” He strikes it three times and stops. Then the Scriptures tell us something that is quite unexpected: “The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.’”
It is not insignificant that the text says, “The man of God was angry with him.” Clearly much more was happening here than meets the eye. This was no small mistake. The king began with the promise of a complete victory and afterward was the recipient of much less. And it all centers around one decision: he struck the ground three times and then stopped. Putting it another way: he quit.
The Bible doesn’t tell us why he quit. Maybe he was tired, maybe he felt ridiculous, maybe he thought it was beneath him, or perhaps he sensed it was an act of futility. But it is clear that for Elisha, the fact that the king stopped striking the arrow was connected to his determination to receive the full measure of God’s intention for him. He quit and the victory was lost. He just didn’t want it badly enough.
Elisha understood the power of pursuit and he didn’t see that in the King. How many of us miss God’s very best for our lives and for the world, because we quit too soon? How many of us stop striking the arrows of destiny and give up the pursuit?