Last year, I had lunch with a very successful marketing professional. He had been impacted by the message in the book I’d recently written and asked if we could get together to chat about the principles within. After about an hour of meaningful dialogue, our conversation shifted. “Todd, you’ve got to get this book out to the masses. Everyone needs to read it,” he exclaimed with urgency in his voice. “There’s so much you could be doing to get it on the fast track.” As he continued, I listened quietly, nodding occasionally to affirm his ideas. Finally, in response to my nonchalant attitude, he sighed and, with frustration in his voice, asked me point blank, “What’s your goal for this thing, Todd?” After a short pause I answered, “Obedience.” Needless to say, this was not the answer he was expecting.
Following a somewhat uncomfortable period of silence, I went on to explain that I had faith that God would create the demand in proportion to how He had equipped me to meet needs. I just needed to learn to walk patiently in that faith. So, contrary to everything I’d ever learned or experienced about the importance of speed to market in building a brand, a business, or any other platform, this time around, I was determined to let God lead His way—and in His timing. This brings me to one of the great challenges I believe pastors and many other Christ-following leaders face today: balancing patience in faith with persistence in action.
I must admit, in my 20’s and early 30’s I had very little balance between these two virtues in my life. Determined to let no one stand in the way of my success, I was all about persistence. Out to prove my worth on this earth, I was going to build a great platform for God. The only problem was—I was the one doing all the work. Although God had gifted me in certain areas, I was moving so fast that I left no room for Him to show up and do His work through me. My patience in faith was nominal, and it showed, as the fruit of my labor was revealed much more by the state of my heart than by the work of my hands. Despite my few outward achievements, I was unhealthy emotionally, physically, and relationally—a far cry from peace that transcends all understanding.
So what did I do to find the right balance? I waved the white flag of surrender. Broken by a host of difficult experiences caused by my obsessive persistence, I committed to walk patiently in faith. I was determined to stop conforming to the patterns of the world and start walking obediently. What followed would turn out to be the most unconventional, yet rewarding leadership journey of my life. As I began this walk, I found His steps to building a platform to be quite slow and methodical. But I also found them to come at a pace that allowed me to be the husband, father, and friend I was created to be. In addition, they allowed me to regain and maintain my health physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Finally, I found them to come in a way that made it very clear; He could do things much better than I could ever do on my own.
Now, please understand, I don’t believe it’s wrong to persist in building something we feel called to build—be it a church, business, or any other platform. However, I do believe that our culture has dangerously conditioned us to trust in ourselves, in quick fixes, and in the idea that more is always better. And these beliefs, to a large extent, run in direct conflict with our faith. So when they become the primary force behind our persistence, our faith gets marginalized. Eventually and inevitably, this minimizes the work of the Holy Spirit. In essence, our accomplishments achieved in this way are just that, our accomplishments! My persistence was not the real problem. The real problem was the fact that my persistence was driven by a belief in myself, in quick fixes, and in the fact that my platform had to be bigger to be better!
So I ask you: What’s your goal? What’s driving your persistence? Do you really trust God to do His thing in His timing? Or are you following the more popular notions of our culture today? Wherever you are, I encourage you to make it your goal to walk in obedience daily—and let faith be the source that drives you above all else. And on those days when it seems that persistence is the only way to move forward, persist . . . but persist in faith!
–Todd Gongwer is a former college basketball coach, senior level business executive, and entrepreneur. His first book Lead . . . for God’s Sake! (2011 Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) continues to receive rave reviews from leaders throughout the business, church, and sports worlds. Todd frequently speaks on the topic of leadership. To learn about Todd’s personal journey, visit leadforgodsake.com.