Cultivate Character to Sustain Growth
October 6, 2021
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“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’”
–Exodus 14:13-14 (NKJV)
In 1987, a group of engineers, entrepreneurs, and earth scientists set out to build an artificial ecosystem in Oracle, Arizona. Biosphere 2 encompassed 3.14 acres, making it the largest closed system ever created. Designed as the ideal ecosystem for plant life to thrive, the climate-controlled environment included purified air, clean water, nutrient-rich soil, and natural light. Despite what seemed like perfect conditions, something curious kept happening. The trees that were planted would grow to a certain height, and then they would fall over. After some head-scratching, the scientists finally figured out what was missing. The biosphere lacked a critical component for growth. Care to venture a guess?
In their natural habitat, trees are buffeted by winds that blow every which way. Trees respond to that wind resistance by growing stronger bark and deeper roots. Without adversity, trees atrophy. Newsflash: humans do too!
One of the mistakes we make as parents and as leaders is this: we do everything within our power to create emotional and relational and spiritual biospheres. We avoid conflict. We mitigate risk. We minimize discomfort. We sidestep sacrifice. Then we wonder why people grow to a certain stature and stop. We wonder why leaders fall. We wonder why friendships experience a falling out. Like seeds planted in rocky soil, they lack the root systems to sustain growth.
When God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, He didn’t take the shortcut to the promised land. He took the scenic route! Why? They weren’t ready. The goal of going after a God-sized dream isn’t simply accomplishing it. It’s who you become in the process—big dreams make big people! Don’t be so anxious to get out of difficult situations that you fail to get anything out of difficult situations. You’ve got to learn the lesson, cultivate the character, and curate the change.
When you encounter an obstacle, any obstacle, think of it as resistance training. On days when you experience decision fatigue, God is building emotional fortitude. On days when you feel like throwing in the towel, God is preparing you for something bigger, something better. And, I might add, it’s those bad days that help us appreciate the good days!
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.