Goal: 20 More Trained Leaders in 2020

Help your volunteers become top producers by teaching them to be ready for the opportunities that come their way. | by Dale O’Shields

“Don’t pray for opportunities. Opportunities will come. Pray to be ready when they come.” – Edwin Louis Cole

History records some huge blunders people have made with opportunities they were given. Christopher Columbus, for one, possessed incredible faith and perseverance as he set out from Portugal to find gold for his patron king and queen. Bravely conquering the hardships of the unknown and frightening open seas, Columbus sailed to the New World. Yet he died without ever knowing what he had truly discovered. Blinded by a search for gold and failing to find the bounty he longed for, he settled for opening new routes for the slave trade. He never realized he’d found the New World. Columbus historian Justin Winsor states, “Hardly another character in the world’s record has made so little of its opportunities.” [Albert Shaw, Review of Reviews and World’s Work, Volume 4. Review of Reviews Corporation, 1892, page 620.]

On the other hand, some people have made a mark on history with the barest of opportunities. Retired ice skater and committed Christian Scott Hamilton had an undiagnosed brain tumor through much of his childhood that caused him to stop growing. Yet he kept training. When he didn’t have the finances to compete, a philanthropic couple gave him his opportunity. He was ready for that opportunity and had an illustrious career winning Olympic gold for the US.

The point for volunteers is this—look at your own opportunities. Do some seem more exciting and enjoyable than others? Do some seem like more work than others? Don’t let work worry you. Not every opportunity that’s good for you is going to be fun for you. Apply yourself diligently to everything God assigns you. You never know where any assignment will take you until you give it that extra effort.

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As I look back over my life, I see lots of testing moments centered around opportunities. Most of the ministry opportunities that paved the path to my current ministry role initially appeared little, mundane, and unimportant—something that I could have pushed aside and rejected. But in retrospect, I realize that these seemingly small opportunities were tests and training points in my life. God was watching my response and my future was being determined by how I handled them.

The key to teach your volunteers is found in this one verse:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23 NIV).

When I recognize that I’m working primarily for God, I automatically want to work extra hard, no matter how large or small the task. I want to give him my very best. Reminding myself of this brings out something more than ordinary. I am called, challenged and encouraged to be extraordinary.

Perhaps no one in Scripture exemplified the proper handling of God-given opportunities any better than Daniel. Daniel was consistently promoted, no matter who he was serving and what responsibilities he was performing. Daniel’s response to small opportunities became a pathway to greater ones. He rose to the occasion in every situation, no matter how challenging or difficult. He was at the top of the top of the class, the crème de la crème.

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What characteristics did Daniel possess that caused him to consistently rise to the top? The following verse tells us a lot about him:

There was no one quite like him. He could do anything—interpret dreams, solve mysteries, explain puzzles. His name is Daniel, but he was renamed Belteshazzar by the king. Have Daniel called in. He’ll tell you what is going on here (Daniel 5:12 MSG).

Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation (Daniel 5:12 NKJV).

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This man Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, has exceptional ability and is filled with divine knowledge and understanding. He can interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means (Daniel 5:12 NLT).

The Bible lists Daniel’s skills and qualities:

  • Daniel had an excellent spirit.
  • Daniel excelled in knowledge and understanding.
  • Daniel applied his gifts by interpreting dreams, explaining hard and complex subjects, and by dissolving the doubts and fears of others.

Daniel was known to people around him as the “go-to” guy. He worked diligently and demonstrated excellence in everything he did. He valued excellence. He was committed to the extraordinary. The king of Babylon needed someone to interpret the frightening handwriting on the wall. It was the queen who said, “I know someone who can do this job!” Wow! Daniel was known in the inner circle of royalty because of the kind of man he was.

Note that Daniel had a reputation. He had consistently and carefully managed the opportunities he had been given to this point. He had a good track record. This reputation provided him a new opportunity.

To be like Daniel, we must be “go-to” people. When people wonder, “Who can take on this responsibility?” we want to be the one they think of. Daniel was that guy.

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What can we learn from Daniel that will help us make the most of the opportunities God gives us? How can we become that go-to man or woman in the local church and in the Kingdom of God?

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See and Seize Opportunities When They Appear

Never forget that tomorrow’s open doors depend on how we handle today’s opportunities.

Every person is given a unique set of opportunities. Your current role and responsibilities are your opportunities. It’s what God has given you right now for a specific reason and for a specific season. How you handle them will determine the trajectory of your future.

It’s so easy to get ahead of ourselves. When we are “here,” we want to be “there.” We tend to look at the “there and then” and forget about the “here and now.”

God challenges you to live in the moment—in your now. Some current opportunities may seem hard and mundane. But guess what? When you step into your future, you’ll discover that it looks very much like your now—hard work and a lot of mundane! Remember, every time you get to your next “there and then,” it becomes your “here and now.” The only time you ever really have in your life is the “here and now.” And how you’re handling it matters a lot.

A vision of the future always looks a lot more glamorous than it actually is. While vision is valuable, the fulfillment of vision requires embracing the moment and seizing present opportunities with excellence.

For example, every time our church has launched additional campuses or ministries, it was exciting, fulfilling, even thrilling. The vision was inspiring. But it also ended up being a lot of unseen, unrecognized, early-morning-to-late-night hard work. Do we regret pursuing the vision? Of course not. But it underscores the fact that when your dreams become realities, you find yourself pretty much doing the same thing you’ve always done —handling responsibilities.

Opportunities have weight to them. The opportunity you’re in now is strengthening your character. It’s building you for your future.

Develop an Extraordinary Spirit

The first thing we notice about Daniel is his extraordinary spirit (Daniel 6:3). Somewhere I read that the word “extraordinary” comes from an ancient term which means a jutting rock. It refers to something that stands out in a clear and obvious way.

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The word describes qualities that are uncommon, beyond what is usual. To be extraordinary is to be exceptional. It means not just going the first mile and meeting basic requirements, doing what’s asked of us, but going beyond what is expected. It’s being the person that doesn’t just talk the talk but walks the walk. You over-deliver on what is required or expected.

What was extraordinary about Daniel? His spirit.

“Spirit” refers to what is in us that comes out of us, especially when tested. Our spirit is the substance of who we are. It is formed through life experiences and how we handle them.

As believers, our spirit is developed through time alone with God (or the absence of it) and by the way we respond to God’s dealings with us. Our spirit is formed by the moral choices we make, the attitudes we adopt, the habits we develop, and the people we surround ourselves with. It’s the attitudes we demonstrate and the atmosphere we create by who we are and how we approach life.

We each have an individual spirit. The collection of all of the spirits in a local church creates the spirit of that church. It is what people see and feel when exposed to the people and ministries of the church. Our spirit can be good or bad, positive or negative, but everyone and every group has a spirit about them.

Daniel had a spirit that was highly unusual in an extremely positive way. This can be seen in the way he responded to the king’s request for Daniel to interpret the strange writing on the wall. Look at how Daniel handled this difficult situation:

“Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means” (Daniel 5:16, 17 NIV).

When the king offered Daniel position and money for his wisdom, Daniel said, “No, thanks!” Daniel was not greedy, self-serving, or opportunistic. He had the right motives. Daniel had a clean and right heart. He was giving and serving with no expectation of return.

God wants you to be like Daniel. He wants you to have an extraordinary spirit. People like this are a rare find and a great asset to the Kingdom of God

Keep Growing in Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom

The next thing that made Daniel extraordinary was his “knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.” People consistently observed these qualities in this young man. The Bible says, “Daniel was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding” (Daniel 5:12 NIV).

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Daniel was a knowledgeable man. He understood his job well. He was wise. He made prudent decisions.

Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom don’t just show up in a person’s life. They are the result of a person’s spirit. They are the result of a person’s determined pursuit to discover and grow. For God to continue to bring opportunities into our lives, we have to make sure that we are personally and proactively investing in the increase of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.

Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom come when we study, listen, reflect, contemplate, and lean into people that can help us learn and grow. These things come to people who diligently apply themselves to gaining them.

Look at the value God places on gaining knowledge, understanding, and wisdom:

Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold (Proverbs 8:10 NIV).

Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin (Proverbs 10:14 NIV).

Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge (Proverbs 23:12 NIV).

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding (Proverbs 4:7 NIV).

Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel (Proverbs 20:15 NIV).

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen (2 Peter 3:18 NIV).

God says, “Even if it costs us everything, go after wisdom!” Knowledge and wisdom come with applied study. They come with late nights, early mornings, and a willingness to pay the price to learn and grow.

Daniel was chosen by the king for this assignment because he was a good student. He disciplined himself. He prepared himself. Because of this, greater opportunity came his way. Remember, opportunities come to the prepared. We must be prepared before an opportunity shows up; otherwise, we will miss it when it comes our way. Once an opportunity for additional responsibility arrives, it’s too late to get ready for it.

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Increase and Improve Your Skills and Abilities

Another mark of an extraordinary person is the conscious development and growth of their skills and abilities. Scripture says, “Daniel was found to have … the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems” (Daniel 5:12 NIV). Another translation says, “This man Daniel…has exceptional ability and is filled with divine knowledge and understanding. He can interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems” (Daniel 5:12 NLT).

Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom don’t always translate into actual abilities or proficient practical skills. Knowledge is what you know. Abilities are what you do with what you know.

Think about sports. I can study a playbook, study the rules, and know every detail about a sport and still be useless on the field. I can talk a big game and know exactly how to run every play and still not be capable of executing. It’s one thing to have knowledge in your head but a completely different thing to have skills in your hand.

We need both.

Daniel had knowledge and understanding, and he also developed his abilities and used them effectively. He studied the things that were necessary to do his job well but he also developed strong, practical skills. He excellently executed what he had learned.

A person with an excellent spirit is always growing their skill set, improving their proficiencies, monitoring their effectiveness and efficiencies, and developing increased capacity for usefulness. They are always self-assessing. They’re asking themselves, “Am I getting better at what I am doing?” They keep on getting better at what they do, and before long they’re doing more than they ever thought they would!

Note what God says about a person who develops their skills and abilities:

Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men (Proverbs 22:29 NKJV).

Do you see any truly competent workers? They will serve kings rather than working for ordinary people (Proverbs 22:29 NLT).

There are five steps to developing your abilities.

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Step One: Use What You Have

Don’t focus on what you don’t have. God has given each of us specific resources. We develop our abilities by using what God has given to us in this moment, not focusing on what we don’t have, could have or should have. It’s dangerous to fail to use what you have. Jesus declares, “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29 NLT).

Step Two: Embrace New, Stretching Opportunities, Responsibilities, and Challenges

Don’t shy away from new, challenging, stretching opportunities. Run toward them. David ran toward Goliath. He didn’t wait for Goliath. What others were running away from, he ran toward. Others may have seen Goliath as an obstacle, but David saw him as an opportunity. Sometimes we shy away from accepting more responsibility or more opportunities, but the extraordinary spirit looks for stretching opportunities.

Step Three: Practice, Practice, Practice

Do the legwork of learning. “Practice makes perfect,” we’ve all heard. Think about it another way—practice also makes permanent. How you practice is how you play. What you practice and how well you practice becomes permanent.

Daniel was extraordinary because he continually increased and improved his skills and abilities. He improved himself. If you are a singer, get better at singing. If you are an usher or greeter, get better at people skills. If you operate the audio, learn and grow so that you excel. Whatever opportunity God has given you, practice, practice, practice!

Step Four: Pay Attention to Good Examples and Teachers

Turn your environment into a training lab. Remember, when Joseph was in an Egyptian prison, the prison became his graduate school. You’re in training right now. What is God preparing you for? Where you are right now is the training lab God is using for where you’re going.

Step Five: Never Give Anything Less Than Your Best. Be a Second Mile Servant.

When someone asks you to clean a room, don’t do the minimum required. Go beyond what is required. When the leader comes back, let them see you’ve not only cleaned the room but the bathroom, too!

Be a Problem Solver

The Bible says that Daniel knew how to solve difficult problems. “Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel…now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation” (Daniel 5:12 NKJV). “Daniel…was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems” (Daniel 5:12 NIV).

Daniel was a problem solver. When it comes to problems, ordinary people fall into three basic categories:

1. Producers

These people need no explanation; we’ve all met them. They produce problems practically everywhere they go.

2. Identifiers

These folks are good at identifying problems—in everyone but themselves.

3. Complainers

These individuals may not cause problems, but they sure can identify them and grumble about them.

Problem producers, identifiers, and complainers attract people with a similar spirit. They gravitate toward one another and their impact can be devastating.

Don’t be a problem producer, identifier or complainer. Be a problem solver. Bring an excellent spirit into your environment and break these things! Give a different perspective. Hold a high standard. Step in and lift the spirit. Work to solve the problems.

The Hebrew term for “solve” means “to loosen.” This is what problem solvers do. They untangle problems and bring timely, trustworthy answers and resolutions.

One of the greatest things we can become in life is a problem solver. True problems solvers are hard to find. These qualities quickly separate people from the rest of the pack and identify them for promotion.

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Here are some things that will make you a better problem solver:

1. Accept Responsibility for Solutions

It’s a mark of maturity to see a problem and immediately accept responsibility to find the solution for it.

2. Pray

As we pray, God gives us vision and clarity. He shows us solutions.

3. Think

It’s enormously practical and obvious, but many people never really do it. Instead, they saturate their minds with music, media, or noise, and never learn how to think through things. You can’t solve problems without thinking. Learn to think and spend time doing it.

4. Explore

For every problem, there are likely multiple solutions. Problem solvers explore the depth and breadth of possibilities for solving a problem or making something better.

5. Execute

It’s a special, unique gift to confront problems, face challenges and look at seemingly impossible issues—and not be discouraged by them. Problem solvers overcome this hurdle. They use all available means to change things for the better. They engage in positive action. They execute solutions. They roll up their sleeves and get to work helping. Problem solvers are persistent. They don’t give up until the solution is in place. And they execute solutions with a pleasant, faith-filled attitude.

6. Increase Your Value

Be a person who grows in value to the people you serve. Be a greater help and blessing today than you were yesterday. Like Daniel, make it your goal to be a go-to person in whatever you do.

It’s not an accident that God has put specific, unique opportunities before you. Remember, opportunities are often challenging and uncomfortable. They require something from us. Think about Daniel. The opportunities as a servant were not glamorous, but he was faithful in them. Because of this, he developed a good reputation. He consistently went the extra mile. Daniel’s name was always at the top of the promotion list.

God wants to move you from the ordinary to the extraordinary. He wants you to develop a Daniel Spirit—an extraordinary spirit.

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Being extraordinary isn’t complicated. It starts with adding extra to the ordinary. Anyone can do this. Start adding extra into your commitments, work, and pursuits. Before long you’ll develop a reputation like Daniel.

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