Sunday, August 21, 2011

You’re God’s Unfinished Project

Have you noticed?
We like starting things but we don’t finish them.
Bestselling author John Maxwell likes sharing this example. He said if you go to a fitness gym in January, you can’t park your car. Because the parking lot is full. 
After waiting for 30 minutes, you finally park. 
But when you enter the gym, you’re shocked to see a throng of sweating humanity—like it was a mall’s midnight sale.
You walk up to the front desk and complain. “My gosh, there are so many people! First of all, I couldn’t park my car. Second, there are three people waiting in line in front of each treadmill. You need to make the gym bigger and put more exercise machines!”
The girl behind the desk smiles and says, “Sir, please come back in February and it’ll be totally different.”
In February, you return—and you can’t believe your eyes. 
First of all, you park right in front of the door.
You walk in the gym—and it’s very quiet!
Why does this happen?
Because it’s easy to start but it’s difficult to finish.
You don’t even have to look at the gym.
Do you have an exercise machine in your home? Ab-Flex. Stair-Master. Sky-Rider. Treadmill. Stationary Bicycle. Dumbbells. Yoga Mats. Hoola-hoops. Skipping Ropes. Boxing gloves.
Is it gathering dust? You’re not alone.
According to statistics, 97% of exercise machines are not being used 3 months after their purchase.
Because it’s easy to start but it’s difficult to finish.
       My friend even built a swimming pool in his house worth millions. He imagined doing 50 laps in it everyday. But when I talked to him, the last time he “lapped” was 12 months ago.
But God is different.
When He starts a project, He finishes it. The Bible says, He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
All Success Is About Finishing What You Started
Friend, you’re God’s project. 
He started something good in you.
And He’ll never give up on you. 
People may give up on you, but your God will never give up on you. He’ll complete what He started in you.
Oh yes, like any work in progress, you don’t look rather nice now. You look messed up. Your life isn’t working.
But don’t give up. That’s because God is still working in you.    Stay on course. As the Bible says, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:17)
       All success is about finishing what you started.
       Whether that be in exercise, diet, marriage, business, or even our spiritual life.
       When I was 15 years old, I had a friend who served God with me. Lets call him Raul. Raul and I were in one youth team, giving spiritual seminars together all over the country. While I gave the talks, Raul played the guitar and led the singing. For years, we served together.
But one day, Raul started missing our prayer meetings. He said work got busy. Soon, he just dropped out. I didn’t know where he went. (No facebook then!)
       Years later, I was shocked to learn that Raul became a gambling addict. His wife left him, bringing his kids with her. 
       Raul started well but he didn’t finish well.
       Success is not how you start, it’s how you finish. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:13)
Life Isn’t A Sprint
Decades ago, when I was young and foolish (now I’m just…uh, young), I joined a 400-meter race. 
Because I thought I was a fast runner. As a kid, running was my only weapon against school bullies. But in truth, it was the first time I ever joined a real running race. 
       When I heard the blast of the starting gun, I leapt out like a firecracker. I ran full speed. And I led the entire pack!  I made them eat my dust.  I was ecstatic. Delirious. In fact, I began to pity the 7 runners with me. How can they be so slow?
       But I was still far from halfway when my legs began to buckle under me. My lungs were ready to explode. And I fell headlong like I was diving in a pool.
       My wrists and knees were bleeding, but I scrambled back on my feet. I ran again. That is, if you could call what I did running. Because every ebb of strength in my body had vanished.   I could barely put one foot in front of the other.
       Needless to say, I lost the race.
I didn’t only lose, I was the last guy to cross the finish line.
       In fact, by the time I arrived the finish line, the other runners had showered and were eating their snacks. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it sure felt like it.)
       I started strong. I finished wrong.
Lesson?  Scoreboards don’t remember who started strong. Scoreboards only remember who finished strong.
Because life is not a sprint. Life is a marathon.
Marriage isn’t a sprint. Marriage is a marathon.
Starting a business isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.
Building your Investments isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.
Building a friendship, or serving a ministry, or taking care of your health, or strengthening your relationship with God isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.
This same thing happens in real life. Some people start strong, but finish wrong.
One guy comes to mind…
He Was Both Strong And Weak
From the very beginning, Samson was blessed. The Bible says,The child grew and the Lord blessed him. And the Lord’s power began to strengthen him…” (Judges 13:24-25)
As a teenager, he probably won the “Most Likely To Succeed” Award.
The Bible talks a lot about his strength.  But it also talks about his weaknesses.
What was it? He had no self-control. He couldn’t control his passions. He was impulsive. He had no discipline. He was disobedient to God.   
He was strong yet he was weak at the same time.
Choose Your Spouse Well Or Don’t Choose At All
One of his biggest mistakes: Samson chose the wrong woman for his life. Delilah was a beautiful, but ungodly and unfaithful woman. She didn’t love him, she needed him. (I’ve seen so many people get hurt when they confuse neediness with love.) In the end, she deceived him and sold him to the enemy.
Let me insert this very important message to single people: Choosing whom you’ll marry is the biggest decision that will spell the difference between your happiness and misery. (I would rather that you not be married than be married to the wrong person.)
But because Samson had very little self-control, he didn’t think too much about his choices. He just saw she was pretty and that was enough for him.
Samson’s life started gloriously. But his life ended terribly. The Bible says that this strong man ended up a slave, his two eyes gouged out from their sockets, his arms, legs, and neck chained like he was an animal, working for his enemy until his last breath (Judges 16:28-30).
Samson started strong but finished wrong. 
Let me tell you why….
Capacity And Character
To succeed in life, you need two things: Capacity and Character. 
Samson had capacity. He didn’t have character.
Capacity is what you do. Character is who you are.
Capacity is your abilities. Skills. Gifts. Talents.
Character is your old fashioned virtues. 
The best definition I read about Character? Character is who you are when no one is watching.
I compare capacity to the car and character to the fuel in the car. The car can be a Porsche or a Jaguar or a Lamborghini. But it doesn’t matter. I don’t care how powerful the car is, without fuel, it won’t go anywhere. 
In the same way, your capacity can be incredible. But if you have no character, you won’t go anywhere too.
       Yes, you can enjoy short-term success if you have capacity. But you can enjoy long-term success only if you have character.
Henry, Harry, and Halimaw
       Do you want to know your long-term impact in the lives of people? Here’s the formula: Your character multiplies your capacity.
Let me explain this formula by telling you about three fictional friends: Henry, Harry, and Halimaw
Meet Henry. He’s not a very good speaker. His intelligence is below average. If we’re to give a number for his capacity from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, his capacity is a 3.
But Henry’s character is superb. He’s honest, trustworthy, faithful, loyal, and loving. His character is a 10.
His long-term impact in people’s lives? 3 x 10 = 30.
Meet Harry. Harry is a fantastic speaker. He is a brilliant guy. He’s a born-leader.   He attracts people to himself like bees to honey. No doubt about it, his capacity is a 10.
But Harry has character issues. He’s dishonest.   He doesn’t have self-control. His character is a 0.
His long-term impact in people’s lives? 10 x 0 = 0.
The world worships capacity. We overemphasize it. But without character, all capacity is useless.
       Can I introduce you to a third fellow?
       Meet Halimaw. Halimaw is like Harry—he’s as brilliant, charismatic, and gifted. His capacity is also a 10.
       But Halimaw is an immoral man. He’s not only dishonest, he abuses the goodness of people. His character isn’t 0, it’s -10.
       His long-term impact? 10 x -10 = -100.
       My point? Capacity without character is very dangerous.
       The despots of the world are like Halimaw—leaders like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.,—highly gifted men who killed millions of people.
       Alas, scandalous religious leaders are like Halimaw too. They cause others to lose their faith.
       One story comes to mind…
The Scandal Of The Church
I read the story of a priest who started a congregation of priests. This priest was known to be a very holy man. At least, that was the PR image about him. (The congregation had a rule never to speak negatively about their founder.) 
At one point, his congregation was the fastest-growing congregation of priests in the Catholic Church. Because of its conservative theology, it was the “darling” of the Vatican.
       No doubt about it, his capacities were sterling. He was a fantastic organizer. He was an incredible leader. He was perhaps the greatest fundraiser in modern Catholic history.
       But then the shocking news came out: Several seminarians accused him of sexual abuse. He was also sleeping with at least three women, possibly six, and had children with them. Worse, his own kids accuse him of abusing them too.
He’s also accused of bribing Cardinals with millions of dollars—to buy their favor and silence—amidst the growing accusations against him.
Finally, Pope Benedict asked him to step down and go on retreat to spend the rest of his life in penance for his sins.
Just like Samson—he started strong, he finished wrong.
No One Is Exempt
Why did I research about the scandal above?
To scare myself.
Because what happened to that priest can happen to me too. 
       I’ve been a lay religious leader for 30+ years now. I stand on stage in front of thousands of people. I speak to hundreds of thousands more via media. And I know the great temptations that come with my position. The big three are sex, money, and power. 
Sex. Many times, I’m surrounded with adoring beautiful women. They’re part of my audience. With my position of trust, it would be easy for me to seduce a woman. 
But I thank God for my strong marriage. My wife is one of my greatest protections. I also thank God for my close friends that I meet regularly in “meetings of openness and accountability” (We call them Caring Groups.)
Money.  I could exploit my authority and “borrow” from the community fund to buy myself a luxury car or build a mansion. Who’s to check me?  
Thankfully, I don’t touch the money of the community. All our funds are in the hands of our finance team, audited by SGV. Our accounting books are transparent and anyone can check them.
Power. I can also go on a power trip and be a dictator, telling everyone, “I’m your spiritual leader.   If you obey me, you obey God. What I say is what God wants you to do.” 
To protect myself from this temptation, I’ve always surrounded myself with a team of co-leaders. I never lead alone. And anyone of these leaders has my permission to tell me, anytime, “Bo, you’re wrong!”
I thank God I’m scared. Because that keeps me on my toes. It keeps me alert and sober.
       To close, let me share with you a spiritual tool that has helped me so much in walking the straight path: I fix my gaze on the Finish Line.
Fix Your Eyes On The Finish Line
Someone once said, “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.”
Let me Christianize this statement.
First, dream as if you’ll live forever. Because you have an eternal soul. And that soul will continue to serve God in Heaven. (Talk about long-term!)
I repeat: Life isn’t a sprint but a marathon. 
Researches made a huge study consisting of thousands of people—on why some are successful and others unsuccessful. These Researchers discovered that the key difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is the timeframe of their thinking. The longer their timeframe is, the more successful they are. Unsuccessful people think short-term. Successful people think long-term.
This is so true.
Poor people think what they’ll eat today.
Middle-class people think about the next few years.
Very rich people plan 50 years down the road.
But I’m inviting you to think longer than that.
Think eternity.
       Be a long-term person.
But even if you’re a long-term person, you need to live as if you’ll die today. 
Huh? Isn’t that contradictory?
No, it isn’t.
Here’s the point: Always aim for the finish line. But that finish line could happen anytime. It could happen today.
How would you live if an angel appeared in front of you and told you right now, “You’ll die tonight. You have 12 hours to go…”
How would you live in the next 12 hours?
Would you act differently? Speak differently?
Would you be a person of character?
Would you be more humble? More loving? More unselfish? More faithful? 
Will you hug your parents? Will you spend more time with your kids? Will you tell your spouse you love her?
Will you be more patient when you drive in traffic?
Will you be more forgiving to those who hurt you?
Will you be the best, most excellent, most loving human being you can ever become?
Friend, live as if you’ll die today. 
May your dreams come true,
Bo Sanchez

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