As we navigate change in our world caused by the pandemic, social, economic, and governmental transformation, wisdom of all types is necessary. Leaders are trying to find new ways to engage those they lead and everyone is working to communicate more effectively in our dynamic moment.
UrbanFaith sat down with one of the most influential leaders in the world, Bishop T.D. Jakes who has seized the opportunity to share his insight and experience on how to remain faithful to our purpose as we communicate in our dynamic context. In his new book Don’t Drop the Mic he shares his wisdom on how to faithfully communicate regardless of the audience. It has been called one of Bishop Jakes’ best books as he explores clear and effective communication in our everyday lives and on the world’s biggest platforms. Bishop Jakes has led a megachurch with tens of thousands of members, The Potter’s House for decades, become an entrepreneur, filmmaker, talk show host, producer, and raise his children without dropping the mic. Two of his children are now successful pastors in his ministry network, Sarah Jakes Roberts and Cora Jakes Coleman. This book explores how he stayed true to his message while adapting his method through the years. Full interview is linked above.
Success is a relevant but slippery topic for Christian young adults. A good number graduate from high school or college and join the workforce with a fresh enthusiasm about life. They find out, however, that the world is different than what than what they expected. Things they considered concrete might seem anything but, including how to measure accomplishments and achievements. Added to this is the idea that a massive amount of advice is available about success and what it is. Very often, the advice is given by people who have already reached the pinnacle of prosperity and spoken like the journey is merely following three simple steps. There is, however, no need to panic. Instead of finding simple steps, there are three truths a Christian young adult can use to find success. By keeping these in mind, the journey may be less daunting, but also it can be educational and be very enjoyable.
Truth #1: No Standard Definition of Success
The first truth is to throw out the cultural idea of a standard definition of success, which may be a challenge because the notion is planted in our psyche from an early age. We are told about millionaires and presidents but not crossing guards and home care nurses. Society lauds students who get full scholarships to 20 colleges but not the student who is the first person to be accepted into college. No one size fits all because no one size fits all people, especially with Christians. Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) states, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Ephesians 2:10 reflects this theme. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” If our lives are His plan, then He determines success. He sets the standard. He has already decided our good works, and all we have to do is find out His plan and follow along. This may be a hard habit to break, but as you continue to submit to the idea that the determination of what is “good works” is not yours, then it will be easier. Success by definition is accomplishing one’s goals. The goal doesn’t matter. The achievement of the goal does. If God directs our lives and we achieve the good works He has prepared for us, that is the highest level attainment. It doesn’t always bring money or fame. If these things are the only way a person evaluates their accomplishments, it will lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction.
Truth #2: God Tailors Your Success to You
The second truth is to realize that God tailors your success to how He made you. Many people believe that attainment is becoming an executive with a corner office, but in their hearts, they would much rather work with their hands. Or the government worker that would prefer to work in a food bank. Or a hair salon. This cognitive dissonance is akin to wearing shoes that don’t fit. Yes, they are shoes, but they may be someone else’s. Finding the right fit comes down to listening to God and watching for patterns. Hearing God is not impossible. As a matter of fact, God very much wants to guide His children to the good works He has prepared for them. The Bible is full of passages in which God promises to guide us. Psalm 32:8 (NKJV) holds God’s promise — “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” This model of guidance points back to the truth that God knows what a fruitful and meaningful is for you and wants to lead you there.
Truth #3: You Can Be Successful Outside Your Job
A third truth is to recognize that a job is not the only place in which a person can be successful. There is much emphasis put on having a career filled with awards and advancement. Picking the right career, right degree and right mentor, all these things are framed as the crucial steps for advancement. But what about those areas of life outside of work? Remember, success is about accomplishing the goals and can impact every area of life. One could be a good father or a caring daughter. One could find fulfillment in being a good friend or a faithful intercessor. Many find achievement in weight-loss and sobriety. By removing the constriction of an occupation, accomplishing the goals enrich a whole life and can be measured in broader terms. Instead of a hard goal like being a millionaire, a goal can be being a better friend or saving more money. God directs our achievements, and He determines the terms. He wants us to prosper in accomplishing His will. By living by these truths, letting go of the idea that there is only one route to achievement, understanding that God determines the good works in life even beyond our careers, the picture of success can become more evident. There isn’t one definition or destination. Success can, however, be reached by following God’s direction.
Most likely you’ve viewed numerous commercials advising the need to start retirement planning as early as possible so that you can live comfortably or to care for your needs in the golden years. It’s an attractive prospect for aging millennials. No more long commutes to work. No more hassles dealing with uncooperative people or someone else telling you what to do all the time. No more reminding subordinates of approaching deadlines. It means you can finally do nothing but kick back and enjoy life and live it up. However, there’s something the advertisers don’t tell you — God designed you to work before sin entered the world and to find meaning in work throughout eternity. And, contrary to what some believe, work is not a curse but a gift to us. Granted most, if not all of us, will lose vitality as we age in this fallen world or lose our health altogether. But if God designed us for work before the fall, he must have wanted us to find meaning in it. So, what should my attitude be regarding career and retirement?
Spiritual Attitude Regarding Work & Retirement
Authors Jinkook Lee and James P. Smith (2009) address the subject of retirement in an article entitled Work, Retirement, and Depression. Their research indicates that retirement is not always what it appears. In some instances, retirees experience a sense of depression because they no longer interact with their former peers in the workplace. And because employers look for younger employees with newer skills and smaller salaries, it often becomes challenging for these older workers to maintain a presence in the workforce. This is, however, in contrast to older workers who find satisfaction in a hobby or alternate line of work suitable for their age. Some continue working in a company beyond retirement years due to the nature of the job, such as being an insurance salesman or educator.
Elizabeth White, author of “55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal: Your Guide to a Better Life”
Now you may be thinking, “Okay! That’s well and good. But what does that have to do with me? I’m putting away for retirement. What else is there?” I’m glad you asked. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that because we are made in God’s image our lives have meaning and purpose when we walk in His will. Scripture says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). My question is have you and I considered work plans that involve being fully engaged in some form of work beyond retirement? In other words, are you developing a Christo-centric mindset that allows you to develop the right spiritual attitude to make satisfying and essential career transitions?
Why is this significant? A few things come to mind. You may have noticed the world continues to change at a torrid pace, which means those skills you acquired through all of your hard work is at risk of becoming obsolete very fast. And so your journey to retirement may be significantly challenged due to resource drain from acquiring new skills. This, in turn, may require you to work longer than expected and most likely have to adapt to newer and more expensive realities. It appears that the challenge facing a new generation of Christians is can they maintain an eternal perspective regarding work, adapt to a changing society, and develop adequate retirement funds without hoarding.
Doing Lifelong Purposeful Work
I grew up in a struggling African American neighborhood in Little Rock, AR, watching men and women of color working as janitors, cooks, handymen, and bus drivers. No one talked to me about my career aspirations in a significant way. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I just knew I wanted to be an artist or a photographer. It was nothing for me to lose myself for hours in a drawing project; however, I could never muster up enough money to pursue the photography dream.
When I became a Christian, my dreams and pursuits took a detour as I yearned to find a purpose in what I was doing. I took up engineering and architectural drafting in high school and then a year in college. I was surprised when I landed a job with a small architectural and engineering firm. The experience was rewarding, but it didn’t fulfill my drive for meaning and purpose. After a year-long battle with cancer, my mother went home to be with the Lord.
I left the firm and decided to attend Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, MO in hopes of finding answers to what God wanted me to do. For five years, I trained as a pastor and radio broadcaster. My “purpose” didn’t reveal itself until I was appointed news director of a small radio station in Atlanta for Moody Radio. The station was part of a larger network of several around the U.S., and I discovered my love for urban outreach. It was the purpose I had been searching for. Through years of trials and challenges, I earned an MBA and a Doctor of Business Administration.
Looking back on my life and calling in Christ, I feel this deep sense of loss and regret that I discovered a deeper purpose later in life. I sense that growing up in a single parent household without the exposure to academic mentors and professionals prevented me from awakening from pursuing amazing opportunities and reaching my God-given potential earlier. Yet, all along the way, I have maintained an embedded desire to do something significant and purposeful. In a very real sense, the Lord has graciously granted me my childhood dream by transforming me into an artist and photographer with a different kind of canvas in which I utilize graphics, communication, and business research/analysis to illustrate the path to a better way of life for others.
Spiritual & Psychological Impact of Working Purposefully
In my estimation, God is the supreme master craftsman who has designed and wired humanity to live with purpose. A team of educational psychology researchers at the University of Louisville, KY — Kosine, Steger, and Duncan — seem to have a pretty good handle on the subject from a scientific perspective. In their research, The Purpose-Centered Career Development: A Strengths-Based Approach to Finding Meaning in Careers, the authors found that people who view work as meaningful are more satisfied and more committed employees. Their findings seem to dovetail what the Word of God talks about regarding the principle of living with purpose.
Essentially, developing a God-shaped mind to work with purpose is usually a work in progress that takes effort and intentionality. It means we become followers of Christ who creatively exercise our minds to filter career and life plans through our relationship with Christ. It means we need to take into account our natural bent and allow the Lord to shape and mold what we’ve come to know and understand about ourselves. It’s not easy letting go and letting Him rearrange things in our lives. Developing a God-shaped mind to work with purpose means we adopt principles of design thinking, which is simply making sure our career passions and goals align with all that He is and all that we are in Him. Even though you may feel a sense of regret for missed opportunities like I sometimes do, I’ve come to realize that so many are insignificant and I am what I am today because of the Lord was busy shaping and molding me through my circumstances.
Kosine, N. R., PhD., Steger, M. F., PhD., & Duncan, S., Ph.D. (2008). Purpose-centered career development: A strengths-based approach to finding meaning and purpose in careers. Professional School Counseling, 12(2), 133-136. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/home/pcx
Lee, J., & Smith, J. P. (2009). Work, retirement, and depression. Journal of Population Ageing, 2(1-2), 57-71. doi:10.1007/s12062-010-9018-0
We have been privileged to live in a generation that has mastered the art of multitasking, being able to do multiple things at the same time and excelling. You really have to, otherwise, life will pass you by.
Sometimes the news changes so fast that if you wait too long, you are outdated. Have you ever been in a situation where you did not check your phone all day, and by the time you turned it on, it seemed as though you were on a different planet because so much had happened? That is the gift of living in a world of possibilities. Everything is possible and anything can happen. The sky is the limit.
Limitation presents itself in a very cunning way in our lives. For some, it begins at a young age through criticism from a parent or guardian, a teacher or peers that begin to conform your mind to think a certain way.
Or, it could be the environment that you are first exposed to. Unfortunately, depending on the zip code that you reside in, it can determine the kind of privileges that are afforded to you.
Limitation can enter your life through rejection, a lack of acceptance, where you never fit in and regardless of how kind you try to be, or all the things you try to do, you just never measure up. Therefore, you feel limited, constrained, suffocated and blocked.
Limitation could be geographical. The opportunities that could bring a breakthrough in your life may not be at the proximity of where you are currently located. Moving out of that geographical region would be coming out of that box of limitation and pursuing something that could change your life.
The mistakes that we make are stepping into these boxes of limitation that are presented to us daily in our lives and getting comfortable. We take our pity party pillow, and our “poor old me” throws, find a nice corner to hibernate, and hope that Jesus will come down and rescue us from our misery.
I love the Bible because it is a wonderful and precious book filled with verbs. God is all about movement, action, and purpose.
In the book of Genesis, our first encounter with God, is His interaction with an earth that was void and filled with darkness. That did not intimidate Him or make Him cower back. Instead, His Spirit “moved” upon the face of the waters.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Your life may be filled with void and darkness, but guess what God wants you to do? MOVE!
I created an acronym for the word MOVE to push me during those times that I sense limitation is looming over me, trying to push me down a dungeon of hopelessness.
Sometimes you have to look at life as a classroom that you show up to master and excel in every lesson presented. By the time we get to verse 31 in Genesis 1, God had taken the earth that was void and made it to be very good. You have to take your void situation, be motivated by purpose and create the environment that makes it very good.
31 And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Instead of throwing a glamorous pity party and sending out beautiful invitations to host limitation in your life, I suggest:
1. Returning the limitation box back to the sender
Just the way you return mail that is not yours, you do not have to receive projections of limitations that are said to you, thrown at you, or even perceived by you from others. You have the power to control what you receive. Learn how to reject that which will limit your progress. Let it “talk to the hand!”
2. Follow God’s role model
The first thing that God did was move. He was not concerned about how things looked, He got busy creating. He got busy with purpose. Instead of complaining about what is wrong and how unfair life may be (which may be true), get busy moving into purpose and finding out why you are here. Passivity is a hobby that many take up, waiting for a change that may never come. You are the agent that triggers the change you are praying for.
3. Believe in yourself
There comes a point of decision and reckoning that you are unique. You have to begin investing in self-affirmation ministry to yourself and build up the confidence muscles that may be feeble in you. You may have to cry sometimes and that is okay, but after crying let there be purpose in your tears. The greatest gift that you can give yourself is to refuse to be limited and live a life that is open to receive all that God has for you.
Help me with the daily struggle of limitation that overwhelms me. If I have limited myself and allowed sabotage in my life, or refuse to step on the platforms that You bring to me, forgive me. I give myself permission to succeed. I look to You for confidence, and I receive the boldness to walk into purpose and the liberty of being myself. That is a gift, a precious gift that I ask You to help me guard. The gift of being me. Thank You God for making me, me.
It can be an eerie feeling to see everyone around you accomplish the same goals that you have for yourself, whether it’s graduating, getting married, having kids, or getting promotions. For me, it’s even more difficult when the people closest to me are achieving these milestones. But I’ve come to accept that everyone’s race is different, and people don’t achieve things at the same time. We can’t compare our personal races with other people’s races because we never know what hurdles they had to overcome to get to where they are.
For me, it took four-and-a-half years to graduate with my bachelor’s degree. I was able to see some of my peers graduate in the standard four years and even some in three-and-a-half years. But I needed an extra semester to complete my undergraduate journey. I was a little devastated that I wasn’t graduating on time. According to The New York Times, “only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years.” But despite the statistics that the majority of full-time students take five-to-six years to graduate, I wanted to graduate “on-time.”
Being Twentysomething it seems that I haven’t been on time for any of the goals I made for myself when I was younger. By 25, I thought I’d at least be engaged to my college sweetheart, but here I am at 24 and have yet to have been in a serious relationship. Sometimes I find myself getting upset that the plans I had for myself weren’t a part of God’s timing. How do we know what God’s “on-time” plan is for us? Did I miss the orientation where God told each of us when we would accomplish certain goals? It can be so frustrating, especially in this age of social media when you can see all the accomplishments of the people around you. It might make you feel like you aren’t doing something right. But trust me that isn’t the case. It’s all about God’s timing, not yours.
Despite things not happening the way I wanted them to, I know that as long as I keep my faith in God everything will work out. The Bible says, “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (from Galatians 6:9 NLT). Knowing that it would take me an extra semester to get my bachelor’s degree I could have easily gotten discouraged, distracted or maybe even thrown in the towel. How many times have we thought about quitting something because it’s not happening as fast or easy as we wanted it to happen? It’s not about how fast or slow we finish the race, but that we finish.
Graduating with your bachelor’s degree at 50 or getting married and starting a family at 20 will feel no different if you accomplish it sooner or later in life. What God has for you will be for you, no matter how long it might take. So take a deep breath and don’t rush through your race to catch up with the masses. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” God has a plan for your life. So go ahead and celebrate your friend’s engagement and know that if it’s in His will it will come to you. If you are feeling down about something not happening when or how you want it to, stay faithful and hold on to God’s hand because He’s got you no matter what. And no matter what bumps in the road you encounter, remember life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Jordan Clayton-Taylor is a twentysomething recent college grad with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and English and a minor in Black Studies. As Jordan navigates her way through life, she tries to walk by faith and not by sight while staying positive despite all the things going on around her.