In the last thirty years or so, counseling and coaching people as a Pastor and Life Coach, I’ve observed basically two types of people: those vitally engaged in life and those merely slogging through the motions each day. The difference between those vitally engaged in life, awake to their dreams, and those merely going through the motions of living, is having a vision fueled by passion.
Having this kind of passion promotes a special kind of vision—a seeing with “the eyes of the heart” that makes the future seem tangible and well within grasp. With it, you can feel, hear, taste and see all that you desire. As a product of being vitally engaged, you get to live your life with a vibrant hope that can’t ever be put out.
Another characteristic that sets achievers apart is the principle of pursuit. The people who pursue aren’t willing to settle for status quo living; they refuse to disappear into the abyss of the ordinary. Though I don’t believe anyone’s born average, I do believe many tend to choose a life of mediocrity. With the patterns I’ve noticed over the years, I think it’s safe to assume that many people often feel a little sadness in the morning upon waking. Could that be the soul longing for its hero to wake up and pursue dreams wide awake?
Living an above-average life demands a choice that begins with you waking up. Then it requires defying the odds. You may not have control of whether you’re blessed with above-average looks, talents or resources, but you do have control of whether you live your life defined and determined by the status quo. Though remaining average is a safe choice, it’s also the most dangerous one you can make. Average living may protect you from the risk of failure, but it also separates you from a future of greatness. The gravitational pull of this kind of living is strong, but it’s possible to resist it and instead soar into the high places of your true calling.
As you long for a glorious future, it’s important to be careful that it doesn’t just become an extension of your past. There’s a natural domino effect from the moments behind you to the moments in front of you. However, the moments that actually define you, that create for you the future you’ve always longed for, are the moments that won’t easily integrate into your past. Disruptive in nature, these are the moments when you must choose between simply extending your past or really creating an abundant future.
The Prophet Elisha of the Hebrew Scriptures embodies the principle of pursuit; his decision to pursue a better future is a prime example of deciding to live set-apart. Before he began his prophetic career, there were normal days where he plowed away at the fields with his oxen. Being faithful to the life he’d been given, perhaps only in his deepest thoughts and secret desires did he imagine his life would ever change. Picture him one afternoon, with the taste of dust in his mouth, dripping with sweat and feeling the exhaustion that comes from manual labor. In this average moment, everything changed for him by a single choice to pursue.
Elijah, the older Prophet who represents his future, unexpectedly came to him and threw his cloak around him as a symbol that he’d chosen him (or more accurately that God had chosen him) to be his next prophet. Elisha’s choice to accept what was presented to him became the defining moment in his life. As he kissed his father and mother good- bye, he literally set his past on fire. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He cut the wooden plowing equipment to pieces and used them to cook the meat. Then, he served the bar-b-cue to his friends and they feasted and celebrated together.
Once his past possessions settled as dust and ashes, he set out to follow Elijah to become his servant. It wasn’t a matter of turning from wrong to right or from evil to good, but rather a turn from the life he had to the above- aver- age life he was offered. Since he fully chose what was in front of him, his past was no longer in reach other than in his memory. From there, he only had one direction to go, forward. He under-
stood the power of his pursuit. He didn’t receive a “double portion” of God’s Spirit just by watching his mentor walk away from him. Given the option, he decided to pursue, even to the end of Elijah’s life, and he followed through with his actions.
If you want to seize the opportunity in your own life as Elisha did in his, it’s vital to set your own past on fire before you pursue your future. As long as you have a contingency plan to go backward, backward is where you’ll find yourself going in the end. Like Elisha, you can’t expect someone to decide for you. You have to stop waiting for someone to call you off the bench and place you in the game. You need to get up, by your own choice, and refuse to remain on the side- lines any longer. Your future is waiting for you at the front of the battle.
Perhaps the reason so few have received a “double portion” of God’s Spirit is because of an unaware, oblivious, auto-piloted way of living. It’s easy to remain where you are, plowing away in your own field of work or wherever you find yourself today. It’s easy to desire an extravagant future, but it takes the powerful choice to pursue it and actually follow through.
Later on towards the end of Elisha’s life, there’s another lesson in follow- through that you don’t want to miss. He coached Jehoash, the King of Israel, during the time of its division and war against Judah, by giving him an unusual series of instructions. He told him to get a bow and some arrows, then to take the bow in his hands and open the east window and shoot. He declared, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of vic- tory over Aram” and he spoke out that Jehoash would completely destroy his enemies. Elisha gave Jehoash the prophetic word of his victory, his opportunity to have an extravagant future.
After giving him the word he need- ed to follow through, Elisha continued to instruct him by telling him to take his arrows and strike the ground. Jehoash, for some reason, only struck the ground three times and then stopped. At this point, the Scriptures tell us something
quite unexpected. Elisha became angry with him for not striking at least five or six times so that he could defeat and completely destroy his enemies like he was already promised. It’s important to note the significance in Elisha’s disappointment in what he’d just witnessed.
Just as Elijah welcomed Elisha into above-average living, Jehoash had the same opportunity to pursue greatness. For some reason, he stopped short and missed out on what he was promised. Jehoash quit right before he reached his full potential; how devastating. Though the Bible doesn’t tell us why he quit, it’s still a good example of what not to do in your own life. Whether he was tired or felt ridiculous, whether he thought it was beneath him or he sensed it was an act of futility, through Elisha’s encouragement, he had the opportunity to seize victory as well as the promise to fuel his actions. Because he quit, he lost his vic- tory, all because he didn’t want it badly enough. His vision wasn’t quite fueled by passion to pursue.
It’s evident that Elisha embraced the power of pursuit and that Jehoash didn’t. With your future readily in front of you, you have the same opportunity to move forward or to quit. You can mirror Jehoash’s actions and give up too soon. You can stop short without striking the arrows of destiny and give up your right to pursue. On the other hand, you have the choice to become passion- ate like Elisha. Leaving the status quo behind and setting your past on fire, you can tackle every good and perfect thing God’s been preparing for you. The powerful choice is yours.