1 - Integrity Costs. Never have I learned the value of sticking to my word and honouring God through my convictions more than this last year. Many opportunities have arisen to cut corners, exaggerate the truth, or gossip, but over and over again I realized the cost and value of integrity. As John Maxwell writes, "Talent is a gift, but character is a choice". There are small moments in every day where a decision hangs in the balance: you've heard someone talking smack about you, you're crossing the border and need to declare your goods or you're facing the opportunity to download software illegally. Its in these moments our character is tested and built. The most costly builder of character is when no one but you knows the right decision you're making. So make the costly decision to live with integrity.
2 - God's provision is unlimited, don't worry. God takes care of and provides for those who love him. Don't spend your life worrying, rather spend your energy on tasks or relationships that matter and rest in God's peace. A great example of God's provision is found in the Bible in a book called Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus reminds those he's teaching that if God takes care of his creation, how much more will he take care of those he loves? If you love God, be confident that he will take care of you.
3 - Save for the future. Due to years of living off the financial principle of 10-10-80 (give 10%, save 10%, and live off of 80%), our family was able to save enough for one years salary. When we went from dual income to single, we lived off of these savings for the entirety of 2014. God has continually blessed us this year, not just because we gave, but because we saved. God is looking for stewards, not just givers. Adjust your spending to create margin so when God calls you are prepared to move.
4 - Friendships are essential to completing anything great. I have the best friends in the world! I mean this and celebrate the relationships that God has brought into my life. Firstly, Destiny (my beautiful wife) and secondly a group of individuals that are too many to name in a short paragraph, that hang out and believe in me. Without relationships I wouldn't be starting a church or enjoying the journey. I've needed friends to step in to correct, encourage, and push me to not give up. 2014 was the year that many of those closest to me saw my weaknesses and failures and still choose to call out the leader they knew I could be. You can't get where you want to go without friendships (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
5 - Follow God's leading, not others well wishes. Pursue God's calling through prayer and a commitment to read his Bible. I find peace in knowing that I am called to plant a church in the Clayton Heights area of Surrey, BC for unchurched people. My goal is to help lead people into a life centred on Jesus and build a life-giving church that lives within the community making it a better place. This is my focus and daily distractions arise from others who believe the church should look differently or think i should be involved in different projects. Many opportunities exist that could have steered me away from where God wanted me to do. My encouragement to those of you reading would be: 1) know what God has called you to and 2) remain steadfast in pursuing it.
6 - Family is the prize. I love my family and the excitement they bring to my life. Although our house is full, noisy, vibrant, overwhelming and crazy, I wouldn't change it for the world. My family owns my heart and trumps anyone else on the planet. As I shifted roles this year to become a full-time care-giver I slowly began to realize how big a gift being at home was. Through spending more time at home with my family my respect for each of their unique personalities grew immeasurably. Destiny is simply one of the greatest human beings I have ever met and has sacrificed more for our family, dreams, and church then anyone will ever know. Ruby (7) has more ideas than the world can contain, Sophie (5) could out-colour any other 5-year-old, Jude (3) has become my little church-planting buddy and Theo (1 month) poops his pants. I love my family and they will always be my prize. Choose this next year to prioritize the gift of your family and be encouraged that it is worth every second you invest with them.
7 - Jesus is better. Simply put, nothing in this world will ever compare to the gift I have been given in Jesus. Jesus is better than money, fame, sex (I said it), food, happiness, Starbucks, Hockey, my GPA, and my own convictions about him. Jesus supersedes all things. As a traditional hymn song says, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus... the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace". If there is one thing I would encourage you with today I would say 'seek Jesus'. He is better!
8 - Hard challenges today will pale in comparison to tomorrow's challenges. If you haven't learned this leadership lessons yet... change careers, spend a year at home, go back to school, start a business, start a new venture, be involved in team building, make a new friend, cast vision, write something, be creative, go against the norm or fundraise. Even one of these options will teach you this lesson. If you're leading, challenges and larger decisions will arise. However, don't be afraid of failure or risk. Challenges and how one handles them is what defines great leaders. If there is one thing I have learned this year, it is to embrace the challenges and look at them as an opportunity to grow. Every day the challenges change and get harder as a leader, but every day is a chance to grow and become the leader God wants me to be. Without challenges leadership is unnecessary.
9 - God loves his church. No doubt about it, God loves his church and has made it his "plan A" to meet the needs of local communities, cities, provinces, nations, and the world. Although it is flawed, it is his prize and his bride (read Ephesians 5:25-27 in the Bible to further understand the bride reference). I have learned that despite the flaws and imperfections of the church, there is much good and many incredible, gifted people. The church is a unique community, where many different people collide to create a living, active collective in the world. The people the church represents are what God loves and what has captured his attention. So learn to love the church, his people, and see the beauty of its uniqueness. The church has hurt me, but not nearly as much as it has blessed me.
10 - What you say matters. People love to talk, don't they? Our news, TV shows, magazines, social media pages and conversations generally revolve around the latest news about a person or events. This year I have learned more than ever that you can't control what people say, but you can control how you respond. This is particularly true when it comes to the words we use about others or the future events we face. 2014 has taught me the importance of choosing to speak the best of others and the skill of learning to hold my tongue. Though people talk about you, I challenge those of you reading today to be people who speak positive, encouraging, and uplifting words to those in your world today.
These are some of the lessons I learned in 2014. Let me know your thoughts below.