Two Questions to Start Each Day

by Andy Wood on January 28, 2011

in Five LV Laws, Following Your Passion, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Abundance, Time

(Time Leadership, Part 2)

What kept Jesus on the cross?

That’s been the subject of many a sermon or song.  And the answer is always the same, ranging somewhere between the ugliness of our sin and the beauty of His love.

You know He could have come down, don’t you?  When He was mocked and taunted, Jesus could have called a legion of angels and put an end to the whole shebang.

But He didn’t.  So what kept Him there?

Hint:  the answer to the question is not, “love.”

Want to try again?  Read the following verses from Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Lately that phrase has been ringing over and over in my spirit…  “who for the joy set before Him…”

What kept Jesus on the cross?  We often say it was love, and doubtless, He loved the world.  But this verse says something different.  Love may have sent Jesus to the cross, but joy kept Him there.

On the cross.

Joy!

He endured the unspeakable agony of the cross… for the joy.

He dissed the shame associated with the cross… for the joy.

Wow.  That must have been some kind of joy.

And it was.

Now Jesus is presented to every believer as the model of how to endure this marathon called the Christian life.  “Look to Jesus,” the author of Hebrews says.  So let’s take a look.

The Race

In the verses that follow, the author of Hebrews makes it clear that this is a race for the long haul.  It takes discipline.

In the previous chapter, he has thoroughly dealt with faith.

So get this… Your beliefs and confidence in God lead you to the starting line of a race, of which Jesus is the author and finisher.  But what keeps you running is the same thing that kept Jesus on the cross – the joy set before you.

Know why people become exhausted and quit?  They lose sight of the joy.

Know why they get distracted or consumed with trivia?  They lose sight of the joy.

Know why runners stumble and fall?  They lose sight of the joy.

The Stages

This marathon is a lifetime event.  But it’s broken down in to much smaller time units.  And time is ultimately where I’m going.

In the previous post I mentioned the huge difference between managing time and leading it.  I want to show you a simple, but potentially revolutionary way to approach these 24-hour divisions of the marathon we’re in.

We know from third grade science that God designed three specific time units:  years, days, and seasons.  He added months and weeks later; they are also useful.  Our focus is going to be on days, but you can take the same ideas and apply them to weeks, months, seasons, or years.

Every day you have the opportunity to run with endurance the race that is set before you.  And that day is divided up into hours and minutes.  Most likely in our culture and your life, it’s also divided into lists of things that have to be accomplished.

But what guides the list?  The urgent?  The stressful?  Pleasure?  Routine?  Pleasing other people?  Pay attention to how you answer this. Whatever guides your task-making and relationship-building is, in essence, your life coach.  It may not be the Author and Finisher of your faith (Jesus), but it is the framer of your life.

No wonder it’s easy to get discouraged or exhausted or distracted.

A Different Way

What if every day we asked, before the Lord, What is the joy that is set before me today?

Could you answer that for today?

In other words, assuming this day went perfectly from a time-stewardship perspective, when you get to the end of this day’s stage of the race, and you run into the arms of your Coach, where will you find the joy?  Remember, joy is NOT a feeling.  It is a choice, based on awareness of the presence of God and on relationships.

One more question:  What feelings, or state, will accompany the joy?  Feelings of productivity or accomplishment?  A state of intimacy or closeness with others?  Feelings of relief from having resolved some issue?  Feelings of satisfaction from a job well-done?

Those two questions, faithfully addressed, can make the subtle shift in your life from being a time manager to being a time leader.

Why All This Talk about Joy and Feelings?

If joy could enable the Son of God to endure the cross, something tells me it’s a powerful motivator and an often-untapped power source.  Probably the best example from our experience is that of a woman giving birth.  She endures the pain of labor for the joy set before her in the form of a baby boy or girl.

Remember, joy is in the presence.  It’s in relationships.

Feelings?  They are a completely different matter.  But you can be just as intentional about them.

Perhaps you have spent a huge part of your life ignoring, disregarding, or underestimating the role that feelings play in the larger scope of your life.  After all, I think it’s written somewhere in the Official Guy Code:  Feelings are for girls and sissies.

Added to that, many Western Christians, as they grow, seem to develop a deep suspicion of emotions as barometers of anything spiritual.  I get that.

But think about the most significant goals in your life.  Don’t they have some sort of emotional connection?

  • Want to make more money?  Does that have anything to do with sniffing pieces of colored rag with pictures of dead notables on it?  Hardly.  Keep digging, and you’ll find that what you want is the feelings that more money will provide.
  • Want to lose weight?  Why?  “To be healthier.”  Why? However many times you address that, ultimately it will take you to a feeling.  I want to feel more attractive.  I want to feel more energy.  I want to feel less pain.  I want to feel more confident that I will live longer.
  • Want to read through the Bible this year?  Why?  Curiosity?  Growth?  Accomplishment?  Every one of those and more has an emotional component.
  • Want to finish that degree?  Why? Don’t answer that by telling me what you want to accomplish or what advantages a degree holds.  What are the feelings behind that?

I completely understand that feelings, powered by flesh, lead to dangerous territory.  But powered by Spirit, they also lead you to higher ground in every dimension of your life.

Applying the Two Questions

I am writing this on a Friday morning.  Here is something of what the last week has looked like for me.  Remember, these are questions for the start of the day, not necessarily how I wound up.

Friday:  Joy Set Before Me – Nearness to those I love.  Desired Feeling(s) – Creative satisfaction.

Saturday:  Joy – Finishing the “races” I’m running in a way that pleases the Lord.  Desired Feeling(s) – Exhilaration.

Sunday:  Joy – Fellowship with other believers.  Feeling(s) – Satisfaction, usefulness.

Monday:  Joy – Spiritual strength and wisdom.  Feelings(s) – Energized by progress.

Tuesday:  Joy – Clean hands and a pure heart.  Feeling(s) – Peaceful.

Wednesday:  Joy – Expectancy (from the Lord).  Feelings(s) – Free, Amazed.

Thursday:  Joy – Delighting in a God of Abundance.  Feelings(s) – Creative satisfaction/flow, gratitude.

Your Turn

Today or tomorrow, when you’re at the virtual starting line of your day, ask these two questions:

1. What is the joy set before me today? Remember that joy is relational, so the answer to that will have something to do with relationships with God or others.

2.  What do I want to feel at the end of this day? Try to limit your answer to one or two feelings.

I am crazy enough to believe that once you offer the questions to the Lord and your own spirit, the answers will come easily and quickly.

Once you identify the joy set before you and the feeling(s), then identify what you have to do to get there.  Your race may be over some rocky, treacherous terrain.  It may be through a delightful valley.  It may be through unspeakable pain.  But at the end of the day, joy is set before you!  Joy accompanied by one or two other feelings or states.

Now it’s time to run.

This is time leadership.  Time management is for the details left behind.

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