Ready! Aim! Fire!
If you haven’t yet watched the video interview I conducted with Carolyn Zumwalt, I encourage you to do that. Watch the interview here.
Carolyn and her husband, Claude, “adopted” us when Lisa and I first moved to Oklahoma in 1979. Since Claude’s passing in 2006, Carolyn has given away more than 620 copies of our book, Life After Death, to grieving individuals. Her love for others and her attitude toward ministry are most exemplary. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
“Every day when I go to work, or any day, I ask the Lord to direct my path, and bring across my path those I can minister to. And it has been amazing. I work as a hostess at a McDonald’s in Owasso, and it is amazing. I talk with the customers; I visit with them. That’s how I learn what’s going on in their lives. Some of them are tearful, some of them are very sad. They just don’t seem to have any hope in life right now, and they just open up to me. I know that’s in response to my prayers, to bring across my path those I can minister to. And I will lay hands on people and pray for them right there in the restaurant. The boss is a Christian man, and he has told me, ‘That’s OK.’”
This interview with Carolyn reminded me of a number of principles and directives in the New Testament. Believers are called to be far more than passive recipients of ministry. Rather, we are called to be salt and light in the earth (Matthew 5:13-14). We are also Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Visiting with Carolyn caused me to ask three questions:
- How many believers today are mindful of their responsibilities to a lost and dying world?
- How many Christians attend church and read the Bible, not just to be blessed, to actually become equipped to minister to others?
- How many of God’s children are deliberate and intentional about ministering to others?
Peter gave instruction to early Christians to be ready! “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). It appears that Peter assumed that the character and conduct of Christians—those influenced by the life and the Spirit of God within them—would be so different from “norm” that it would cause outsiders to ask questions.
Likewise, Paul told believers in Colossae, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone” (Colossians 3:5-6, NET). What if every believer embraced this as an assignment for living in the world? Paul stresses the believer’s conduct and the believer’s speech, calling for wisdom and graciousness, and then he uses that tremendous word: opportunities.
When Carolyn prays each day that the Lord will direct her path, she is trusting Him for opportunities. You won’t pray for opportunities if you don’t desire to interact with and impact the lives of others. Francis Bacon said, “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” Some think that opportunities exist only for those who have a special calling, or who minister in some remote, exotic location. Wise people, though, recognize that opportunities are all around them, just waiting to be discovered. John Burrows said, “The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are.”
Galatians 6:10 (NLT) states, “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” In Ephesians 5:16 (NLT), Paul says, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”
Of the phrase, “Ready! Aim! Fire!” Brian Stolle writes, “This legendarily accepted process of operations works universally whether shooting a gun, a bow and arrow, playing golf, or leading a team to achieve an objective. Prepare or ready yourself for the intended action; take aim on the objective and goals; and then fire, or execute.” (1)
Those three words—ready, aim, fire—are so relevant for believers when it comes to doing the work of ministry. Another way to say this is, “Preparation! Goals! Action! The Bible really makes no provision for a believer just going through life, passively and occasionally receiving some spiritual food through devotions or listening to sermons, while never doing anything to impact the lives of others. God wants all of us to be fruitful and productive, and that begins with preparation. Charles Kingsley said, “Have thy tools ready. God will find thee work.”
When it comes to being ready, consider these passages:
- Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share (1 Timothy 6:18).
- If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work (2 Tim 2:21, NLT).
- Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2).
- Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work (Titus 3:1).
When it comes to aiming (or having goals), it is important to know that there are people that God has destined us to reach. Jesus knew that he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24). Paul was assigned to bear Jesus’ name to, “Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Philip was ordained by God to connect with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27). Shouldn’t we expect that God would direct us across the path of certain people to influence their lives? What if we all had an eager heart to walk into “divine connections” that God arranged in order for us to share His love? Lou Holtz said, “If you’re bored with life — you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.”
One of the beautiful traits of believers in the New Testament was an intense eagerness in the heart of God’s servants. If people are hungry to achieve a goal, they are far more likely to see it realized. It’s one thing to know what you’re supposed to do; it’s another thing entirely to be eager to do it. Jonah knew what he was supposed to do (go and preach to the Ninevites) but he was far from eager to do it. Paul told one church, “Always be eager to practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13, NLT). We will never be effective unless we’re embracing our goals with eagerness, cheerfulness, and joy; you can’t touch someone’s heart unless you’re reaching out from yours. Psalm 100:2 admonishes us, “Serve the LORD with gladness.” We’ll never be fruitful in the pursuit of God’s goals for our lives if we are serving him with sadness or madness.
Finally, we need to pull the trigger—we need to fire! Mark Twain said, “Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is the lightning that does the work.” Likewise, Vance Havner said, “The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps—we must step up the stairs.” In other words, it’s good to be prepared, ready, and looking for opportunities; it’s good to have goals and be eager about seeing them accomplished. However, we have to act, take the first step, and say the first word.
Some people think that attending church services is the same as “playing the game,” but that’s not really the case. Attending church services is more akin to being in the locker room and hearing the coach give a pre-game pep-talk. The real “game” is played when people leave church and go into their workplaces and neighborhoods. Time at church, for the most part, is for equipping and preparation. Can you imagine a basketball team that shows up at the gym, gets on their uniforms, hears a great pep-talk by the coach, and feels like they’ve done all they need to do? Imagine that they go home feeling like they’ve really played the game (when all they’ve done is heard the pep-talk), only to come back the next week and repeat the same thing. This is what it’s like when a believer attends church regularly, but never bothers to minister or represent Christ once they’ve left the building.
May God help us all follow these three simple steps: Ready! Aim! Fire!
(1) http://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanstolle/2015/02/04/ready-aim-fire-part-1-how-to-execute-successfully-every-time/#705e46a01b65 (accessed on March 24, 2016).