The eighth of the nine words in this “Words” Blog Series is…

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I’m a pretty driven person. Especially with regards to what I’m passionate about and see great value in. And for a long time, I was living very intentionally at being successful in all areas of my life…my marriage, being a father, and my profession.

Then several years ago, I began experiencing more success in my profession. I was seeing numerical growth in my ministry, starting to connect with more and more of the “higher-ups” within the Student Ministry world, speaking opportunities were being given to me on a more consistent basis, I self-published my first book, and I was getting to travel around the world more on different mission trips.

The more of this success that I experienced, the more I wanted. This led me to be driven to do more, which led me to be busier and busier.

I loved the work I was doing, I cared about the people I was interacting with and being given opportunities to minister to and with, and I truly did have a desire to serve God as much as I possibly could. After all, it’s not wrong to work hard and accomplish much and experience success.

But if I’m honest, I also selfishly liked the attention and praise I was receiving. I felt really good about myself and what I was accomplishing. It almost gave me a high of sorts. And because of that, I didn’t guard my heart as I should have, nor did I manage my time properly.

As I shared back in my blog “Listen“, I began to have quite a lot of confidence in myself, which led me to become arrogant. It was this success I was experiencing that led me to have a lot of confidence in myself. And the arrogance I developed kept me from being careful in my life like I should have been.

Then I lost it all. My career that I had spent years growing and developing. My marriage. And my family. In a manner of months, I went from having it all to losing it all.

I didn’t want to lose it all, I didn’t want to have everything come to an end. And I’m not sitting here blaming myself and saying that because I wasn’t careful and became arrogant that it’s my fault everything was taken from me. What happened was not my choice.

However, over the past 3 years, I have learned that while I didn’t choose for this to happen, I needed to recognize and learn from the mistakes that I did make. So I could grow from this experience. So I could become a more godly man. And so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again in the future.

God wanted me to be humbled by this, not to live in anger because of it. God wanted to teach me with this, not live with resentment because of it. And he wanted to be by my side, giving me strength and walking with me through it, so I wouldn’t begin to isolate myself and become jaded by all of it.

On March 3 of 2016, as I was sitting in my room, I wrote this in my journal…

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Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

“Making the best use of the time”

When I have my kids, I seek to be as intentional as possible to cherish and make the most of my time with them. I listen to them better. I make sure we spend time doing devotions and praying together. I play games with them more. And I seek to not just be a “Disneyland dad” when I’m with them, but rather to really be a father with my children.

When I’m spending time with the Lord, I seek to be as focused and intentional in my time as I can. I want to hear what God has to say to me. I want to pursue him and live for him. I want my life to honor him. Even if it means I’m not “successful” like I was before…I want it to be about him, not what I get out of it.

When I’m using my money, I have been working hard to be more of a good steward and be intentional with how I do and do not spend my money. I want to honor God with how I use what he gives me. I want to be able to take care of my kids financially, even if I am not around them as much. I want to make wise, godly decisions.

When I’m spending time with my girlfriend, I want to really be invested and intentional in the moments I have with her. I want to listen. I want to understand (as best I can). I want to really be present. I want to learn from my past mistakes so I don’t make them again with her in our relationship.

Being intentional isn’t easy. It takes focus. It takes practice. And it takes a willingness to say no to some things so you can say yes to what matters most.

The past 3 years, I’ve realized that what matters most isn’t how much I do in my career. Yes I want to work hard and be successful, that’s a good thing. But it can’t be what comes first in my life.

What matters most is being intentional to stay focused on God, as well as being intentional to guard and cherish the things and people he chooses to bless me with.

As I continue to be intentional, then I will be thankful when God chooses to bless me with success or cool opportunities, but I won’t let them take away my focus from what is more important. Because when I’m intentional about staying focused on what matters most, then my heart will be in the right place.