When Daniel was called into Belshazzar’s banquet hall to interpret the writing on the wall, he was no longer a young man. He was probably a little over 80 years of age. Nebuchadnezzar had died more than 20 years ago, and apparently the current king Belshazzar no longer valued or had need of Daniel’s wisdom and experience.
But when the writing on the wall appears, and no one can interpret its meaning, the queen mother recommends that they call Daniel, who under a previous king, had proven to be a man of “insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods.”
This guest blog post is written by Beth, who with her husband serve in Asia in mission leadership.
I remember the minute personal development became exciting for me. I was sitting in a training room in Singapore listening to the introductory session on Christian coaching. I showed up to the training kind of on accident. I didn’t know the first thing about coaching but a few months earlier someone had asked me to consider going. He also volunteered to pay for the training and to watch my 3- and 7-year old for a week. So I said yes.
These days, I am following a training plan to prepare for a half marathon that I would like to run in September. The training plan is progressive. You start with running 4.8 km, then after a few weeks you move up to 6.4 km. When running 6.4 km is no longer a big challenge, then the training plan asks you to run 8 km. A few weeks later, when 8 km becomes relatively easy, then you are asked to run 10 km, and so on.
There are no shortcuts. This is a 20-week plan, and slowly builds capacity up to 21.1 km as you faithfully follow the plan. Other training plans for half marathons may be shorter, but they all follow the same principle. You run longer and longer distances as your capacity increases over time.
As we think about goals and priorities for the new year, we are frequently reminded of how often we have failed to reach our goals of previous years. Apparently only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions successfully accomplish their resolutions.
In our mission organization, we are asking all of our members to put together an Individual Growth Plan for 2015. Being intentional about and planning our learning is important. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. But planning is only the first step. Unless we carry out the plan, we are no further ahead at the end of next year.
Would the Apostle Paul fill out an Individual Growth Plan (IGP)?
The Apostle Paul was committed to life-long learning. We see this very clearly in Philippians 3:12-16. I will start quoting from verse 7 to pick up the context:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that comes from faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (ESV)
Paul’s example of lifelong learning in Philippians 3:12-16 spells out the reality: we have not arrived. Twice Paul states that he has not arrived: in verse 12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect” and in verse 13, “I do not consider that I have made it my own.” He recognizes that he has room to grow. Going through the IGP process begins with this recognition that we have room to grow. In verse 17, Paul urges us to “join in imitating me.” Imitation must start at this foundational level that we all can grow, we are not already perfect.
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Harry S. Truman.
Reading has always been a hobby of mine. One of my most memorable Christmases as a child was the one where my brother and I each were given 12 books by our parents. I believe all of them were used books, but that made no difference at all to me. The anticipation of being able to read as much as I wanted to read throughout the Christmas holidays overshadowed any other gifts that year. For not only did I have 12 books to read; I had 24 for my brother’s books were fair game as well, once he had read them.