Occupy 'til He Comes
When you get the "bug" to do a podcast you have lots of things to think about...
The technical stuff, of course.... HOW? How do you do a podcast?!? Like, what equipment do
you need, how does it work, where do you put it, how will people know about it...all the things!
I was a little intimidated by the prospect, but it turns out that YouTube is a great educational
resource for budding podcasters! I've become a student of at least some basics of the
technology; and this old dog is definitely learning new tricks!
Then, there's - WHAT? What will I talk about?! I have some ideas about that. I want to talk
about Personal Development. Personal Development is all about getting better mentally,
physically, professionally, relationally, spiritually-ALL the things. And I especially want to
explore how we get better in all those areas of life as followers of Jesus! The apostle Peter said
to Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life!" in John 6:68, and that
resonates with me! Wisdom is available! We should talk about that!
I'm also writing a book about leading yourself well. Watching my parents work out their faith
and livelihood with good self-leadership and faithful stewardship taught me practical life-long
lessons-wisdom that is timeless-that I've been sharing with friends, family, and business
associates for decades. Time to get their wisdom words and thoughts out into the wild! And
believe me, some of their wisdom IS wild-catch phrases like "take pride in your laundry" or
"every tub has to sit on its own bottom" may first make you scratch your head, but as we talk
about it, I promise it will make great common sense!
So, we have the HOW, and the WHAT... How about WHY?
First, I believe that my faith in Jesus and personal development are not mutually exclusive. In
fact, they are perfectly paired!
Some might say that any emphasis on self-self-improvement, self-development, or self-
confidence-is at odds with Jesus's call to self-denial. As a result, Faith-based personal
development is sorta this odd-duck, red-headed-stepchild category for personal growth. In fact,
when I googled "faith-based personal development" the first article that popped up was "3
Ways the Personal Development Industry is Spiritually Dangerous for Christian Entrepreneurs."
To be fair, it's a good article, but all the more reason to cultivate our personal development in a
way that IS scripturally sound-not new agey, not based on the latest whim or wind of culture,
but also not too "preachy" as if becoming the best of ourselves is only possible if we are
defending the faith. Just so you know, I believe God is big enough and strong enough to defend
Himself. So, learning to be the best version of myself can be rooted in faith and truth, and
walked-out practically without going on an ego trip, being self-absorbed, promoting myself, or
engaging in some voodoo magic that promises success and compromises my relationship with
Second, Faith-based personal development isn't about elevating ourselves; instead, it is about
becoming excellent as we represent Christ. It's about understanding who and Whose we are, so
that we can function at our best in the marketplace, in our homes, churches, and jobs as unto the
In Luke's version of the Parable of the Talents, (chapter 19:11-the Master tells them to "Put this
money to work until I come back." They were doing business! And I like how the King James
Version records the master's instructions: "Occupy 'til I come." To occupy is to reside, hold,
employ, engage, take control of, to do life. Faith-based personal development is about
occupying until He comes.
In the parable, the first servant who doubled his talents was told, "Because you have been
trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities." The second servant who profited
five talents was told, "Take charge of five cities." The servant who hoarded what he was given
in fear lost everything. It's the lesson of the pain of discipline, or the pain of regret. Are we
willing to do the work to increase what we've been given? How am I occupying with what I've
been given? How are you?
The first two servants of the Master were the ones who dared greatly, who developed what
they'd been given. The third servant allowed fear-fear of the master, fear of the marketplace,
fear of his own performance! -keep him from maxing out the potential he was given. As a
result, he lost all he had. Which of those servants do you want to be? I trust it's not the one the
Third, if we allow mediocrity to be our standard because we think Jesus's call to self-denial
means we neglect all facets of self-improvement, we will never impact culture with the truth
and grace of the Gospel. Mediocrity is the mindset of that third servant who did not improve on
what he'd been given.
I'm reminded of a conversation with a family who chose to homeschool some years ago. They
decided that their children were best prepared for life by withdrawing from the World,
sheltering at home looong before the pandemic, because Christians are to be IN the world but
not OF the world. While it's soundly scriptural to go against the tide of culture, I also believe
that while we are IN the world and not OF it, that we also should not be just ON this planet,
taking up space, withdrawing from the marketplace into our own little Christian bubble, or
cloistered in fear, and having no impact on those around us, making no difference in the world.
Jesus sent his disciples INTO the world, INTO the marketplace. INTO new experiences in
which they honed their skills, preaching, healing, casting out demons in His name. IN it means
contending, engaging, marketplace involvement that points to Christ. Increasing our impact in
the world is muh more likely when we are functioning at the highest levels-spiritually,
mentally, economically, emotionally, physically-excellent, or wise as Romans 16:19 says, in
what is good. Occupying till He comes.
Our personal development in submission to the Holy Spirit goes to the heart of the Parable of
the Talents... to whom much is given, much is required. And the more we understand that our
gifts and talents, multiplied, are in service to the Master, the more likely we are to hear the
ultimate affirmation: "Well done, good and faithful servant."
The apostle Paul said it this way in Colossians 1: 28-29 MSG
We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To
be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That's what I'm working so hard at day after
day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.
Christ in you, the hope of glory! Profound common sense! And working hard, Paul said, to
bring each person to maturity. That's what faith-based Personal Development is about.
It starts with Who we are in Christ. Peter said we are chosen, God's special possession, His
instruments to do His work, accepted in the Beloved. And as such we are to live exemplary
lives. I love how the Message version reads in 1 Peter 2: 15: "It is God's will that by doing
good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you're a danger to society." More
and more, culture insists we followers of Jesus are a danger to society. If that's not a reason to
be excellent in what is good, I don't know what is!!
We are to grow in Grace and Knowledge as Jesus did. Peter wrote
"Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to
knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance,
godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you
possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective
and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:5-8
That's the aim of Christian faith-based personal development. Notice the progression Peter
describes. Some of us old-timers might use the word "sanctification." We don't just wake up
excellent one day. It takes intention and work and conviction. We are to possess these qualities
in increasing measure. Doesn't that sound like Personal Development?
"I'm pressing on the upward way, new heights I'm gaining every day," an old gospel song says.
Getting better, working toward excellence in every way. Effective and productive, more
authentically me as I become more like Jesus. That is faith-based personal development.
Let us occupy 'til He comes.
I praise you that every talent, ability, and dream of Kingdom impact comes from You. And I
thank you that you set the standard for our perfection, our completion, in the person of Jesus.
Help us to pursue excellence, not for our own advancement or edification, but for Your glory, as
a representative, an ambassador of the Gospel and Your kingdom. Help us gloriously occupy
until Jesus returns for us in all His glory, to live and reign with Him forevermore.
In His sweet name, I pray, Amen.