From a very early point in my life, I realised the power of asking questions. Why? Because more often than not I got answers! My favourite kind of book that I asked for as a gift for birthdays and Christmas was the kind that often had something like this as a title – ‘1000 Answers to 1000 Questions’. Asking questions gave me answers to life’s little puzzles. Why do we not spin off the Earth if it’s moving so fast? Why is the Sun hot? What are toenails made from? Why do we cry? Why was I born ginger?
I was the boy that always asked the questions, that seemingly everyone else around me was too embarrassed to ask because they thought it was a stupid question. But, I learned, the only stupid question is the one never asked.
Asking questions without fear or hesitation enabled me to move on with what I was doing or planning to do. Asking questions didn’t make me a bookworm (though I love books), it didn’t make me an academic (though I like to learn). Asking questions actually created a person of action. And so I went on to discover that if I wanted to get stuff done not only did I have to not shy away from asking questions, but actually I had learned to ask the right questions. The one appropriate for that moment. The question that would quickly get to the bottom of the issue, the question that landed the plane, the question that enabled me to move on.
However, even writing all that, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like discussion, that I don’t want to get stuck into a good debate throwing opinions and facts about like confetti, seeing what pattern they make when they land. But ultimately, it is all for a purpose, to advance, to move forward, to further the mission, to execute the plan, to get the job done. In other words, I like to take the initiative, start digging the hole, while those around me are still talking about what type of spade to use.
I want to encourage people I influence that they can be a people of action and independent thought. By taking the initiative, they can change their city, their nation and the world in so many excellent and fruitful ways. There are many contemporary Christians who have, asked questions, listened to God’s reply, took a risk, used their initiative and have impacted the Church and society:
- John Kirkby took the initiative in creating something that now helps thousands of people every year across the world become free of debt starting Christians Against Poverty. Incidentally, this was founded in 1996 in Bradford, Yorkshire.
- The Alpha Course since its humble beginnings in 1971 has literally helped bring millions to faith in Christ. And although we honour those who came before him, Nick Gumbel grabbed the initiative after being asked by Sandy Miller of Holy Trinity Brompton in 1990, to grow the course into the faith-based juggernaut it is today!
- The Trussell Trust organisation is a charity based firmly on Christian principles. The Trust began its work helping the homeless children of Bulgaria find a safe place to sleep. Soon after Carol & Paddy Henderson, who founded the Trust and named it after Carol’s mother, took the initiative and brought principles of the Trust to the UK and began to work out of their back garden shed helping to store food and deliver food to those in need. Thus the Foodbank was born.
- In war-torn Korea in 1952, God moved the heart of Everett Swanson to take the initiative to help the orphans of that country, so the seed of what would become the organisation Compassion was born. An organisation which over time has helped at least 1.8 million children from 25 different countries have a future filled with hope, which has enabled them to support their families, their communities and their nations.
There are so many, many more people I could mention, over so many many different ministries and organisation big and small, some not even well known, just going about their business doing God’s work after taking the initiative to do what they felt called to do.
It’s worth saying at this point that as a Christian without the prompting or assurance of the Holy Spirit, sometimes our initiative might take us off on a path that isn’t so good for us. So when taking the initiative, we need to make sure that our motives line up with the values of God’s Word and exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit. Without this, we might find ourselves rationalising all sorts of excuses for what we are doing – as someone wrote we might, “find ourselves running blindly into oblivion.”
And then there might is the opposite of all that, and we come up with all sorts of reasons not to take the initiative and do something. Our excuses keep us from giving our best, fear of change keeps us in a proverbial jungle of worry and despair. If we’re ever feeling like this, let’s take encouragement and challenge from Scripture and not what we see around us. For example in Ephesians 5 and part of verse 8 and verse 14 it says:
“…Your mission is to live as children flooded with his revelation-light! And the supernatural fruits of his light will be seen in you – goodness, righteousness, and truth…” (Verse 8)
“…Scripture says, “Arise, you sleeper! Rise up from your coffin and the Anointed One will shine his light into you!” (Verse 14)
Here are some questions to help us process how we are to handle how to be a person who takes the initiative:
- How do I exhibit initiative in my daily life?
- What can I do to develop a better attitude of taking the lead with initiative?
- What blocks initiative from working and being exhibited within me?
- How can I learn how to still take the initiative, function better, stronger, and indeed faster, even in times of uncertainty and stress?
When we develop within us a character that is able to take the initiative, it will help us power through setbacks, failures, adversities, persecution, opposition, injustice, ingratitude, and get over the favourite excuse, “we have never done it this way.”
And it is worth noting that we don’t all need to be the leader to use our initiative. And in fact, as someone who is generally leading the activity or strategy, there is nothing more fulfilling or makes my heart fly, when a volunteer (or employee) takes the initiative in presenting an idea and who then goes on to work out that idea.
So we don’t always need to be the leader, as Christians, it’s as much about motivating yourself to grasp what Christ has in store for you. It’s the moving of yourself and using your ingenuity to serve. We, ultimately can’t make a stand for Him or move for Him, if we don’t rise up and get off the sofa. Making a move and getting on with the life Christ has given us.
One final question: What is it that God has spoken to you about being or doing in this present season where you need to take a step out in faith and take the initiative so that you bring glory to God and make His name known?
*This blog post is based upon a series I delivered in July 2018 at Freedom Church, entitled: ‘Something for Nothing? (Initiative)’. You can find the video for this here: