You’ve heard the phrase “Opportunity never knocks twice.” But I take issue with that phrase. Opportunity doesn’t knock on your door. If you’re waiting in your house for opportunity to knock then you’ll never meet it when it’s walking down the street. And even Jesus would agree with that.
Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force (Matthew 11:12). For a long time I did not understand what that phrase meant. I thought it meant something about violent people trying to get into Heaven. But it doesn’t mean that. To understand what it means we have to look at that phrase in context and the flow of the entire passage, and we have to look at what the individual Greek words mean. If we do that, we see that the phrase has as much to do with this life as it does with the next life—because opportunity doesn’t knock.
In that passage, Jesus was explaining who John the Baptizer was. And he told them John was the “Elijah” prophesied hundreds of years earlier: the messenger in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Lord (Matthew 11:7-14; Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 4:5-6). And Jesus invited whoever had “ears to hear” to listen to what he said (Matthew 11:15). He invited anyone to process what he said, but he wasn’t going to make it plain to anyone who wasn’t willing to put forth the effort. Opportunity doesn’t knock.
If we break down the phrase about the kingdom of heaven, we see that “suffering violence” comes from the Greek word biazo which means to allow to be seized. And the word “violent” comes from the Greek word biastes which refers to someone who is forceful or energetic. And “take it by force” comes from the Greek word harpazo which means to seize. So if we put all that together, it means that the kingdom of heaven is to be seized and the energetic seize it. Opportunity doesn’t knock.
This spiritual principle has application in the natural. You can’t wait around for opportunity to knock. God doesn’t work that way, and life doesn’t work that way. You have to be willing to risk stepping out in faith. Here are three ways this applies to you.
Building the ark was a daunting task for Noah. With only his three sons to help him (Genesis 6:10; 7:13), he built a boat that was approximately 450-500 feet long, 75-85 feet wide, and 45-50 feet tall. Using the tools available at the time, this feat could have taken him 120 years (Genesis 6:3). During those 120 years, Noah no doubt dealt with ridicule from his neighbors. The people around him would have thought it absurd that water might cover the whole earth. People likely laughed at the man building the big boat. Noah must have persevered with extraordinary dedication through the mocking and laughing to accomplish his task.
Noah had to prepare his mind to appreciate the significance of his work in order to complete it. The mindset you bring to your work significantly affects what you will get out of it. Kenman Wong and Scott Rae summarize this idea well in their book Business for the Common Good.
Our job may not feel like we are doing God‘s will, but how it feels to us and what it actually is may be two very different things. … Our work can well be our ministry [because ultimately we] all serve God full-time. … The term full-time ministry should be used to refer to one’s attitude toward service more than an arena of service. The term should describe an orientation toward serving God, rather than specific activities … that are deemed to be serving God.
Building a boat may not have seemed like a spiritual thing to do, but Noah’s dedication to that work honored God. Your dedication to your work—or your dedication to serving God through your work—is a spiritual decision you must make every day. You can choose to be dedicated to your work every day. Here are three things you can do each day to help you develop that dedication.
Lately I have been reading, among other books, The Wright Brothers by David McCollough. He is my favorite writer, as I have read all four of his presidential biographies on John Adams, Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, and George Washington. The painstaking detail that McCollough employs in fleshing out these historical figures is breathtaking. His book The Wright Brothers retells a story that I thought I knew, but after a few pages I quickly realized I didn’t. And the detail with which he describes the Wright brothers clearly shows that these brothers were not country bumpkins who happened to get lucky. He vividly portrays two young men who had an insatiable curiosity and an indomitable work ethic that helped them gain victory over the sky.
The process they used to get a flying machine off the ground, and then learn how to perfectly control the craft, belies their simple exterior. Almost all of the people who came into contact with the Wright brothers’ experiments misunderstood them and underestimated them. While looking on their exterior, people could not see the countless hours they had poured over books on flight and the countless hours they had invested in trying to understand how flight worked. All people could see is two young bicycle shop owners who dared to do the impossible.
Their story applies to you as well. People cannot see what is on the inside of you; they can only see what is inside themselves. All people can see is what is on the outside of you—and they project onto you what they believe about themselves. They assume what is on the inside of you conforms to the paradigms they believe about themselves. They don’t know who you can become, and they may try to limit you based on what they perceive about you. Just like the Wright brothers didn’t allow others to limit them—in fact, they seemed delightfully oblivious of what others thought of them—you should not allow others to tell you what you can do.
Based on Proverbs 21:31 (MSG), here are three things you can do—like the Wright brothers—to achieve victory over anything.
About twenty years ago, I tried to get a nonprofit off the ground. I launched a new initiative in my community to kick start it. I spent a lot of time on the phone recruiting sponsors for the event. And I communicated with a government agency to have a public official at the event. And I worked with various media to garner attention for the event—before social media. After all that work, I thought, “This was too much. I can’t do this again. It’s too hard.” I decided I couldn’t stick with it.
Several months later, I was talking to a nonprofit leader about that experience. When I told him that I abandoned the idea of starting up the organization, he was surprised. He said, “It took me three years to get this organization up and running. Why would you think it would take you less time than that? Why didn’t you stick with it?”
At the time I didn’t realize how long it took to start a nonprofit organization. I had unrealistic expectations about how quickly I could get it going. Once I quit, it would never be as easy to keep it going as it would have been, had I not quit. I had already had a successful event. I had already gotten the attention of media. And I already had a connection with a public official’s office. When I quit, all that work I had done was lost. And it would have been even harder to start after that.
Don’t quit too soon. It’s important to stick with it. Watch out for these three things that will make you want to quit—and here’s what you can do to overcome them.
When Noah started building the ark that God told him to build, it was a daunting task. Noah persevered with extraordinary dedication to accomplish a purpose that was beyond the scope of credibility.
During that time, Noah would have likely dealt with ridicule from his neighbors. People may have come from miles around to watch and laugh at the man building the big boat. Considering that it may not have rained up until this point (Genesis 2:5-6), the idea of that water covering the whole earth would seem rather absurd—especially with the caveat that Noah and his family would be the only ones saved from it.
In spite the doubts resulting from the ridicule of his neighbors, Noah built a boat that was approximately 450-500 feet long, 75-85 feet wide, and 45-50 feet tall, with only his three sons to help him (Genesis 6:10; 7:13). It is therefore not surprising that this feat could have taken him 120 years (Genesis 6:3). During that period of 120 years, that is a long time to be focused on doing the same thing.
Noah must have suffered greatly at the hands (and mouths) of the people around him. Despite the difficulties, he knew that this work was what God called him to do.
The Apostle Paul echoes this idea in his letter to the Romans. Here are five words from Paul’s letter to the Romans that will help you develop the dedication to do what God has called you to do.
Success is not what people always think it is. As a result, success can be an elusive target to hit. Many people want to be successful, but they aren’t willing to do what it requires.
Success is not a one and done thing. It takes a combination of things working together over time to produce the desired result.
Here is a process for what will get you to achieve your goal of success.
I once heard a story about a young, aspiring actor in Hollywood who was invited to go to one of the local parties. It was in effect a Hollywood networking function where famous actors and actresses attended. One of the movie actors there was Walter Matthau. Walter Matthau during his lifetime appeared in more than 60 movies, and won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and two Tony Awards. Reportedly, Matthau asked the young actor how it was going. The aspiring actor replied, “I’m just looking for that one big break!” Matthau laughed, and said, “Kid, it’s not the one big break. It’s the fifty big breaks.”
Just like the aspiring actor, you won’t achieve overnight success. One big break will not help you. Unless it is supported by other breaks, that one big break will fade. You will attain success through incremental progress—by gaining one big break after another.
You can achieve the success you want if you will focus on these practices.
I love reading motivational quotes and slogans. But recently I came across The Top Ten Steps to Success, and I thought this one was too good not to share.
I do not know who the original author is, but I have adapted and inverted the list in true Top Ten countdown style. And I also added my commentary to provide additional insight into this list.
Without further ado, I hope you enjoy The Top Ten Steps to Success.
Sometimes things don’t go quite as you planned. Or they completely flop. And you have to clean up your mess. And figure out how to start over.
It’s never easy to deal with disappointment—or even outright failure. It’s tempting to brood about it. Or to ignore it. Or to deny it ever happened.
I have lost count of the number of times that I have had to process what went wrong. And I know it’s no fun to have to admit that things didn’t work out.
But disappointment and failure can be great teachers. If you are willing to be taught by them. Based on my own experience, here are three steps you can take to clean up your mess and start over.
When you have long-term goals, you need something to prevent you from quitting. That’s why it is important to have staying power. But how do you develop it?
Your staying power is your ability to keep doing something for a long time despite fatigue or difficulty. In effect, it is your physical or mental stamina.
Here’s how you can develop your staying power so you can reach your long-term goals.