How to Get Back on Track
What happens when despite all the clues you get from God, you go off track? How do you get back on track?
“If you have lost your way, pull over to the side of the road and ask for directions. God has the power to provide arrows pointing back to our proper route. As the Psalmist tells us, ‘He restoreth my soul…’ (Psalm 23:3 KJV). If you are not sure that your decisions are lining up with your destiny, then listen to the voice of God. He will speak in your soul and He will restore it.” (Jakes, 1990)
I believe another good way to respond to dying dreams is to revive them; stir them up. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6 (NKJV): “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Peter said in 2 Peter 1:13 (NKJV) “Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you.”
It is so easy to get lost, to get off track because we have so many people bombarding us with their “you shoulds.” Also, we have our self-defeating tendencies, and on top of all that, we have an adversary that actively works to thwart our progress toward our destiny. I keep this quote from Dr. Dollar in my vision book:
“It is important that you keep the dream before your mind at all times. This will keep it active in your heart. Ways to keep a dream alive include thinking about it every day, writing it down in detail, cutting out pictures of things pertaining to your dream and pasting them on a board to look at and talking about it with trusted friends…When you continually keep your dream before you, it will consume you and drive you to take action.” (Dollar, Never Stop Dreaming, 2008)
Despite having a dream/vision book, I still have allowed my dreams to get buried and sometimes so buried that I forget what they were. Thankfully, I have a loving, gracious Heavenly Father that stirs up my dreams for me when I am too discouraged or too distracted to dream. On the 5th of March of 2005, I wrote this entry into my journal:
“I’ve been listening to tapes on purpose and finding your place. Tapes that encourage us to listen quietly to God for instruction; leading into divine purpose and destiny. God has been stirring me in these areas recently. I had gone off track; lost my focus. This morning I just laid still in the bed and quieted my heart and mind and asked the Father to talk to me. He asked me what are your dreams? He then, through the Holy Spirit, began to bring back to my memory things that I have always dreamedabout doing. The Holy Spirit then prompted me to write them down. Here we go!...”
At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I then began writing down every dream I have ever dreamed and many that I had never considered. It is very similar to the exercise that multi-level marketers have you do when they say, “what would you do if you could do anything and money were no object?”
I’m still working off that list of dreams! There are things I have chalked off, such as sing at a national sporting event, sing in a gospel play, and write a book on business principles. But, there are so many more; it could take the rest of my life to accomplish them. I say that because the scale of some of my God-given dreams is so big. I am doing things in many areas related to those dreams now, but just on a smaller scale.
Solomon, perhaps the wisest man who ever lived, said in three different Proverbs, “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6). It may seem after reading this book that I am against seeking advice—quite the opposite. Like my friend Maura Gale said, I’m just very careful about who I get advice from, especially in the intimate areas of my life (goals, relationships, family, spiritual issues).
The number of people in that circle is very small, but the circle does exist. These are people who have proven that they have the ability to accurately hear the voice of God on my behalf and give godly wisdom, wisdom that lines up with the plan of God for my life.
The number of people in this circle is not static. People move in and out over time, based on their track record. Just as Maura Gale said, it’s possible that people can show that they are no longer worthy of that level of intimate access to my life. How do they show this? Their “you shoulds” start missing the mark and not lining up with God’s plan for my life.
In that case, I move them outside the circle or limit their access to certain areas. There are certain people in my circle whose “you shoulds” for career and goal advice are always on target, but maybe their relationship advice is spotty.
I have also learned that I can’t gauge godly advice on how old the person is that gave it, their gender, marital status, position in life, or race. There are teenagers that have heard from the Spirit of God and spoken with laser accuracy into my life. There are people without degrees who have spoken with great clarity about complex issues related to my career and goals. Humility helps us stay on track by enabling us to receive from anyone that has truly heard from God.
Along those lines, I want to share a story about one of my mentors who started out as an enlisted man in the Air Force and ended up as a four-star general and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force. His name is General Larry O. Spencer. He spoke of how one of his main concerns when he first joined the Air Force was to keep from cutting his afro (smile). He said he made an art form of staying out of tolerance with his hair.
As he tells it, one day, a Chief Master Sergeant walked by and noticed him and came back and nearly read him the riot act and personally drove him over to get a haircut. That led to the Chief talking to him about personal appearance standards, and that led to him asking General Spencer about his plans for the future.
That later led to the Chief sharing with him how he got his education and the Chief taking him to the education office to sign up for courses. That led to General Spencer getting his degree and becoming a commissioned officer and, from the way he explains it, developing the habit of “latching onto mentors.” This habit later led to him meeting one of his dream mentors, General Colin Powell. (Absorbing advice: Gen. Spencer's path to four stars, 2017)
I love this story because it’s a story of humility and teachability. It’s a story that reflects the graciousness of a God who will send people along our path to get us on track to our destiny. In this case, a destiny that I don’t think General Spencer had even imagined.
Even though he hadn’t imagined it, it was in the plan of God. As part of that plan, God sent someone along with a divinely-inspired “you should” that helped get him on the path of his destiny. General Spencer’s story ties into a funny story about missed destiny that I saw in “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath.
“But all too often, our talents go untapped. Mark Twain once described a man who died and met Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. Knowing that Saint Peter was very wise, the man asked a question that he had wondered about throughout his life. He said, ‘Saint Peter, I have been interested in military history for many years. Who was the greatest general of all time?’ Saint Peter quickly responded, ‘oh that’s a simple question. It’s that man right over there.’ ‘You must be mistaken,’ responded the man, now very perplexed. ‘I knew that man on earth, and he was just a common laborer.’ ‘That’s right my friend,’ assured Saint Peter. ‘He would have been the greatest general of all time, if he had been a general.’” (Rath, 2007)
One of my favorite books is called “The Dip” by Seth Godin. The subtitle of the book is “A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (And When To Stick).” It’s similar to a book that Rick Wooten, a former pastor, gave me. It’s called “Who Moved My Cheese” by Dr. Spencer Johnson (a great read). When I read “The Dip,” I learned that it was okay to quit something that doesn’t fit.
It calls some opportunities and careers “cul de sacs.” In “The Dip,” we are encouraged to quickly quit everything that leads to a cul de sac or dead end. Sections like that in the book strengthened me to escape the grasp of the “you shoulds” that were surrounding me. These sections emboldened me to launch out towards the things inside me that were often screaming to be born. Here are a few enlightening quotes from “The Dip”:
“Most of the time, we deal with the obstacles by persevering. Sometimes we get discouraged and turn to inspirational writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi: ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit.’ Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time…Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most. Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny majority with the guts to quit early and refocus their efforts on something new…Quit the wrong stuff Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other” (Godin, 2007)
“When Jack Welch remade GE, the most fabled decision he made was this: If we can’t be #1 or #2 in an industry, we must get out. Why sell a billion-dollar division that’s making a profit quite happily while ranking #4 in market share? Easy. Because it distracts management attention. It sucks resources and capital and focus and energy…Jack quit the dead ends. By doing so, he freed resources to get his other businesses through the Dip.” (Godin, 2007)
When you realize that your destiny, the blueprint of God, is calling you, you cannot allow yourself to remain in place, tied down by hundreds of tiny “you shoulds” like the Lilliputians had done to Gulliver in one of his island visits. (Swift, n.d.) This final quote from T.D. Jakes sums up the essence of “you should”:
“If you find yourself involved in mediocrity when you were created to pursue higher exploits, ask yourself: ‘What are you doing here?’ If your ‘here’ is not your ‘there,’ you must begin to arise…No one can confront your ‘here’ but you. You can’t compare yourself with others because their purpose and yours may be totally different…” (Jakes, 1990)
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