March 4, 2010
Most Americans today resemble floodwaters spread over a great distance, stagnant and somewhat shallow, Dr. Tim Elmore told Oklahoma Baptist University students during a campus chapel service Wednesday, March 3. He urged the students to choose to go against the flow of society and be more like a river, a deeper force which harnesses the power of a focused path.
"It's hard to say ‘no' in America, the land of opportunity," Elmore said. "Our problem is lack of focus. Because we don't want to miss anything, life is fuzzy. When your life is focused, energy flows, creativity flows, resources flow."
Elmore, the author of the Habitudes series, is the founder and president of Growing Leaders, an Atlanta-based non-profit organization created to develop emerging leaders. Since founding Growing Leaders, Elmore has spoken to more than 250,000 students, faculty and staff on hundreds of campuses across the country. The mission of Growing Leaders is to develop young leaders who will transform society.
"More is not always more," Elmore said. "When you find your focus, you can get more done. When you focus, you will see there are layers of creativity and innovation available to you that you had never seen before."
Elmore shared the story of the Apostle Paul, who found his "river" - or focus - in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even when he was imprisoned for his efforts. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:18, "What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed."
Paul's secret for success, Elmore said, even while his circumstances seemed bleak, was that he lived life on purpose. All people have "prisons" of sorts - circumstances which seem beyond their control - but Elmore said the secret to success is how a person chooses to deal with those circumstances, those "prisons."
Through years of working with people, he said he discovered people deal with their "prisons" in four ways: they curse them, nurse them, rehearse them or reverse them.
People who curse their circumstances feel they have received an unfair turn in life, he said. They have resentment, which grows into anger, which transforms into a bitterness that overtakes their lives. One sign of people who curse their circumstances, he said, is to overreact in even mildly stressful situations.
"We start killing a roach with a shotgun," he said.
When people nurse their circumstances, Elmore said they wallow in a pool of self-pity. They feel they have not only had a bad day, but also a bad week, a bad month and a bad decade. Because of a focus on self, there is no focus on God's kingdom or his mission.
"You mope and groan, and you hold onto the prison and treat it like a pet," he said. "We love it because we have an excuse for not doing well. The smallest things happen, and we have lost the mission."
When people rehearse their circumstances, Elmore said they mentally pace and review the day over and over. They are so caught up in rehearsing current situations, they are unable to focus on moving forward. The worst part of cursing, nursing and rehearsing poor circumstances is that it renders a person useless in the kingdom of God, he said.
"Is it any wonder that in the same book, Paul instructs believers to focus on good things?" Elmore said, quoting Philippians 4:8, "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable - if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise - dwell on these things."
Elmore said the productive way to deal with circumstances which imprison a person is to reverse them. He told how Paul realized the very (actual) prison he was in could be used by God if he stayed focus on his mission.
"Most American people are fuzzy, not focused, running around with unused potential God gave them, and shallow in all areas," Elmore said. "I dare you: find your river, and see how God will propel you forward."