Staying Inspired

You can be content even if your latest efforts as an innovative leader go nowhere, because your source of contentment is not dependent upon the outcomes of your ministry. You can be at peace if your team abandons you, because your source of peace is not tied to how other people respond. You can live in joyful freedom even if your impact is never recognized, because your source of worth and identity doesn’t fluctuate with the size of your results.

The Kingdom of God within you and you choosing that Kingdom makes “staying inspired” a way of life. An uninspired life or ministry is symptomatic of tuning in to the wrong frequency for the spiritual resources necessary to live and lead with love, wisdom, creativity, compassion and determination.

I was invited to write an article for Neue Quarterly, specifically addressing the subject of “staying inspired.” As days passed, I grew indifferent toward writing it. Yikes, how do you do an article about staying inspired if you’re totally uninspired to write it?! Eventually I realized that my angst stemmed from a basic questioning of the entire premise of the topic.

The typical logic goes as follows:

1. You are a leader involved in some sort of frontlines revolutionary, creative, cutting-edge, innovative, futuristic, trailblazing, missional, catalytic, groundbreaking, world-changing, people-transforming ministry.

2. Wow, that’s a demanding and practically unsustainable proposition, and difficult to maintain for a long period of time.

3. So, you need some tips on how to keep motivated and tanked up to do all this stuff, and to keep from losing your cutting-edge edge. You don’t want to crash and burn, and must learn the secret to “staying inspired.”

4. OK, here we go: Get a new hobby, be physically fit, get plenty of rest, go on a personal retreat, start mountain biking, don’t turn on your computer or cell phone for one day a week, go to a creative leader conference and read the book 51 Ways for Revolutionary, Creative, Cutting-Edge, Innovative, Futuristic, Trailblazing, Missional, Catalytic, Groundbreaking, World-Changing Leaders to Stay Inspired.

But for the purpose of this article I decided to go another route, wanting to press a little deeper into the subject of staying inspired.

I do triathlons. When I first got into it I lost a lot of weight, and it gradually transformed me into top physical condition. Over time you develop a swimmer’s upper body, a cyclist’s legs and the leanness of a runner. Being fit and looking good is nice, but its novelty wears off, and it isn’t enough of a motivation to stick with the demands of training and competing in triathlons. Your waist size seems irrelevant when you are swallowing mouthfuls of nasty lake water; climbing a long, steep hill on your bike; and have aching legs with six miles left to run.

When it comes to triathlons, some motivations are simply not deep enough to sustain you, and these kinds of people are often sent packing. Likewise, there are motivations that won’t sustain you as an innovative leader. Each of us is a mix of many motivations, but be aware of the ones below, which are often lost to us except in rare moments of brutal self-honesty.

WANTING TO MAKE THE “TOP 10 INFLUENTIAL AND CUTTING-EDGE CHRISTIAN LEADERS” LIST

Trust me, it will whip up a frenzy of interest for a few weeks, but then people will forget about it. If your motivation is tied up in making a name for yourself, don’t be surprised when it’s of no help when you are at the end of yourself, and wanting to bail on the whole revolutionary leader thing. Ultimately, all of this comes down to the foundation of your identity. If your identity is linked to your “success” and “accomplishments” in ministry, or your standing among your peers, you’re in trouble!

BEING TOO ATTACHED TO OUTCOMES

For an innovative leader, there are no failures, only lessons and new opportunities for growth. Innovation is a process of trial, error and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the journey as the experiments that ultimately “work.” However, if you are too attached to outcomes, you won’t realize this. Instead, you will fear failure, and every perceived failure will be catastrophically disappointing and draining—and you will not stay inspired to continue.

BARGAINING WITH GOD

Bargaining with God involves holding God responsible for the result you desire because you feel the sacrifice you’ve made to do “God’s work” warrants it. On this roller-coaster ride, God is supposedly “blessing you” when things are going well, which means God is cursing you when things aren’t. It’s the whole Habakkuk mentality: “God, why me, and how could You let this happen?!” This way of thinking almost guarantees you will not stay inspired, because your misplaced frustration with God will create a barrier between you and your source of creativity, wisdom and perseverance.

NEEDING ACCEPTANCE

Cutting-edge leaders are often standing on the edge by themselves because what they do often upsets the status quo and can make a lot of people uncomfortable. Needing the approval and acceptance of others has stopped many innovative leaders short. For example, would you continue on your trailblazing path if your denominational execs disowned you, or your church staff said you were going too far, or your closest friend took you to lunch and begged you to stop? On the one hand, we need to take into account the feedback and wisdom of others. On the other hand, there are times when you must stand alone, and realize that people are not going to line up in praise and adoration for all your revolutionary ways.

FINDING MEANS FOR FULFILLMENT

You and every person on the planet desire the same things: love, peace, freedom, fulfillment, purpose, worth and contentment. You and every person on the planet are currently seeking these things in one way or another. Some people seek love through sex, freedom through financial independence, worth through physical appearance and peace through an endless number of ways of escape. Then there are those who seek these things by accomplishing some huge thing for God. Either way, you are depending on the wrong source for your foundational spiritual needs, and it will lead to suffering.

The underlying problem of all the above motivations is that they are tuning in to the wrong frequency to fulfill what you most deeply want in life. Jesus laid out all the essential truth when He said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” First, Jesus identified the only source for abundant life: the “Kingdom of God.” Then He showed us its location: “within.” Jesus’ point is not that spiritual reality is like a magic ball floating somewhere inside our human body. He’s saying that the frequency for love, peace, freedom and contentment is an immaterial and invisible transmission that exists in an eternal dimension. Jesus wanted people to be aware of this dimension, and to tap into it through an inner awareness, knowing or feeling.

Let’s break this down practically. What is the “Kingdom of God” within you? The “Kingdom of God” within you is the continuous flow of spiritual abundance—love, peace, contentment, freedom, life, worth, beauty, compassion, creativity and fulfillment. None of these attributes are dependent upon circumstances, accomplishments, things, people or anything else outside of you. The source of spiritual abundance is on another frequency—a frequency, by the way, you can tune in to if you choose to. We each have free will to participate in the present reality of the Kingdom of God.

See Also

You can be content even if your latest efforts as an innovative leader go nowhere, because your source of contentment is not dependent upon the outcomes of your ministry. You can be at peace if your team abandons you, because your source of peace is not tied to how other people respond. You can live in joyful freedom even if your impact is never recognized, because your source of worth and identity doesn’t fluctuate with the size of your results.

The Kingdom of God within you and you choosing that Kingdom makes “staying inspired” a way of life. An uninspired life or ministry is symptomatic of tuning in to the wrong frequency for the spiritual resources necessary to live and lead with love, wisdom, creativity, compassion and determination.

HERE’S HOW THE INSPIRED WAY OF LIFE WORKS:

1. Be aware that the spiritual abundance related to staying inspired is available unconditionally within you in every moment for you to choose. Sometimes we lose sight of this fundamental truth, so find ways that work for you to nurture that awareness. I wear a yellow “Livestrong” wrist band, related to Lance Armstrong’s cancer foundation. I have also let the yellow band be a reminder to live in the present reality of God’s Kingdom, which for me is to “live strong.”

2. Get in touch with, experience and enjoy the spiritual abundance of God’s Kingdom for yourself. In other words, as you go along the everyday paths, experiences and people of your life, let the presence of peace, love, freedom and contentment wash over you. Whether you are standing in line at the grocery store or mowing your grass, allow yourself to feel and bask in those spiritual realities emanating from God’s Kingdom within you. Spiritual living is more than head knowledge and mental reasoning; love and peace go beyond the mind into a spiritual dimension, which we often experience as feelings or a deep intuitive “knowing.”

3. Be open to all the ways that people, places and things stimulate your awareness of God’s Kingdom within you. The love you feel from a hug from your daughter, the beauty of the sunset or the compassion you feel when crossing paths with someone who is hurting—these are all ways God reminds you that you feel these things only because they are already present within you. Remember this: The world is rigged to continuously make you aware of God’s life within you.

4. Staying inspired has a lot to do with listening and following those deep feelings and experiences of God’s Kingdom. Next time you feel inner peace, or experience perfect love wash over you, or feel an overwhelming sense of compassion and brotherhood with all humanity, listen in that moment to what those feelings, promptings and stirrings are telling you to do—how to live, lead, create and initiate. In other words, turn God’s Kingdom inside out. Turn the love, peace, freedom, creativity and compassion of God’s Kingdom within you outward into the world around you through your creative endeavors and change-agent initiatives.

For me, the idea of actually being these attributes has been extremely helpful. Rather than thinking you need to go out and do compassionate, creative, loving things or do things to bring peace and hope into the world, concentrate on simply being these attributes or being the Kingdom. Here’s the logic: God’s Kingdom is within you, and therefore is you. So, be that Kingdom. Not random acts of love, compassion and creativity, but being these attributes in every moment and every place you go, whatever you are doing. Wherever you go, the Kingdom of God goes.

The phrase "staying inspired" implies that inspiration comes and goes, and that it’s something you can lose. But if the source of inspired living and leadership is unconditionally available and accessible in every moment within you, then the only thing that changes is whether you are choosing to depend upon it.

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This article originally appeared in Neue Quarterly Vol. 01. You can subscribe to the Quarterly or buy individual copies.

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