Initiative – Faith and Hope to Take Steps and Move Forward
What if you had the power to take initiative in any area of your life?
- Think of how effective you could be in reaching your destiny and being an influence for the kingdom of God.
- Think of how much you could get done, how many goals you could reach.
In many ways this is what it means to live in Sonship before God.
Personal Growth Concepts From a Different Viewpoint
Ted Ward in his book, Living Overseas, gives some powerful insights into how personal growth occurs. He uses some psychological concepts but these are really Biblical principles presented in a different language. Seeing things from another viewpoint can open up new understanding for us. Whether we live overseas or not, these principles explain why we do or do not experience personal growth.
In 1999 I was new on the mission field. I went to the Pollo Rey, a fast-food fried chicken place. The problem was, there was nothing fast about it. After I had placed my order I waited and waited. Others came, ordered, even received their food while I still waited! I finally blew up and started yelling for a manager in very broken Spanish. It wasn’t a pretty scene.
Faith Versus Legalism
Ward says that living in a third-world country forces us to face growing in our awareness, patience, and acceptance of people who are different. In these situations we get stretched into facing ways we struggle with being authoritarian (or Biblically speaking, legalistic). Social psychologists measure issues with authoritarianism (legalism) by:
- A tendency toward black-and-white judgment; things are either right or wrong, no grace.
- A tendency to be suspicious or negative about anyone or any idea that is different than what we know.
- The insistence on systems of absolute obedience.
At Pollo Rey, the whole event really depicted, “Give me good service or my look of irritation will reveal my intolerance of your behavior.” This certainly is not an expression of Sonship – as a son of my Heavenly Father, my time is in His hands, He directs my steps and works all things for good. In Sonship I can rest in faith and hope regardless of what I face and treat others with love and kindness.
Locus of Control as a Root of Faith Versus Legalism
Locus of Control has to do with where we believe the power lies. In other words, what is causing us to do what we do. There is both Internal and External locus of control.
Internal locus of control is the values and standards we have internalized that guide us; things like acceptance, grace, self-control, and team work.
For example, consider childhood development. If a child is given some age-appropriate autonomy (self-government) he learns to make decisions and face the corresponding consequences. Then, as he matures, he becomes more self-directing. Internal control leads to personal responsibility. This is Hebrews 12:5-11 in a different language.
External control is those things we look to from other people. A victim mentality expresses external control – my life is controlled by others who are seen as the ones who really count. Whether I succeed or fail depends on them. So we think, why try? It doesn’t matter what I do (initiative issues): “No matter how hard I study, the teacher is just against me.”
The Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness are a great example of this external locus of control. They were constantly looking for someone to help them without taking any initiative themselves. External locus of control is fostered in abusive homes were the child grows up victimized and feeling powerless, however, we can all struggle with this at some level.
A person who has “never grown up” always places blame and responsibility on others. So people can push their buttons and “control” them easily. In this state of wounding, a person takes little or no initiative and is tossed by every wind of those persons who are seen as important.
Personal Growth Concepts
Other cultures and difficult people at work or church can help clarify the differences of internal and external controls. We all have “external religious patterns” that we follow—what we feel displays a Christian, what constitutes morality–the “right” way to do things. Conflict, however, can allow these controls to be stripped away.
“The externals of religiousness tend to decline as internal control increases. If there is no substance underlying the externals, it could be said that such a person could lose his religion.”
“For people who value taking responsibility, being accountable and being self-directing, the stretching of capacity for internal control will be seen as an important plus. Thus the intercultural sojourn and it’s stretching of one’s internal control tendency and capability are eagerly to be desired.” – Ward, T. (1984). Living Overseas. NY: Free Press
Would you consider your own life today? Are you on the wonderful, life-time journey of faith moving from your head to your heart? Are you wanting those internal controls that God writes in our hearts instead of external forces pushing your buttons?
No one has fully arrived. Meditating on the concepts here will give you fresh ways to examine and improve your forward movement to live in the Promised Land as an overcomer!
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