Read an Excerpt
Made to Count!Discovering What To Do with Your Life
By Bob Reccord Randy Singer
W Publishing GroupCopyright © 2007 Bob Reccord and Randy Singer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMade to Count
Starting books is hard. So we sought some sage advice. Authors and editors, publishers and readers-they all told us basically the same thing: Start with something that draws the reader's attention, something unpredictable, something that makes a big stink.
"Are you sure?"
"Yep, we're sure."
Okay, you asked for it:
Andy was building a new home. As often happens, his construction crew was having an awful time with their subcontractors, suppliers, and schedule. Nothing was going right, the boss was frustrated, and the men were grouchy. The weather was hot and humid, smothering the men like a wet blanket. To add to the misery, the construction site's port-a-john reeked with odors that made the crew gag. The company that was charged with keeping it serviced hadn't been heard from for days.
Suddenly, blaring music pounded the air as a truck rolled down the street toward the site. The music seemed to fill the block with its rock beat, and everybody's attention shifted to the vehicle that slid to a stop in front of the partially completed house. They noticed that it wasn't the regular maintenance man who got out of the truck. Instead, it was a big, burly guy, covered with tattoos, flashing a huge smile, and singing at the top of his lungs. He greeted the entire crew with a contagious grin, grabbed his materials and headed-enthusiastically!-into the odiferous disaster. Just before stepping in, he yelled across the yard that the former man had quit, and he would be taking over. Then he disappeared into the four-by-six-foot cubicle. Rumblings began inside the port-a-john and grew louder and louder, as though he were attacking every inch of the relief station. It almost sounded like he was wrestling with a tiger in there.
The construction crew suspended work temporarily, their gazes drawn to the spectacle of the port-a-john. A few snickered. They knew that the only thing worse than the smell of a port-a-john that hadn't been maintained well was the smell of cleaning that same port-a-john on a hot and humid day. But this guy seemed to stay inside forever. Every man on the site wondered how he could stand it and thought of how quickly they would have raced in and out just to escape the stink.
After a while the crew noticed something radically different. An inviting smell drifted across the yard. Then Mr. Good-natured finally emerged with his smile still intact. "Hey," he said, "the guy taking care of this for you wasn't doing a very good job. From here on out, I guarantee this will be the best it can possibly be, because I'm here to serve you." With that, he hopped in his truck, grinned, waved, turned on the blaring music once again and began to back out of the driveway.
Dumbfounded, one man yelled to the driver, "How can you do that? More important, why did you do that?"
"Oh, it's simple," replied Mr. Good-natured. "You see, I work for the Lord. And I do every task as though I were doing it for Him. See you next week!" And with a smile, and singing at the top of his voice, he drove away leaving the awestruck crew with their mouths on the ground.
* * *
Making life count is not so much about what you do as how you do it. And why. And, most important, for whom you do it.
This book will outline some principles designed to make your life count. The temptation for those of us who want to make a difference is to jump right into the what or at least the how. But we started this book with our friend from the cleaning crew for one very critical reason. We can know the eight principles of this book by heart, backwards and forwards and in three different languages, but if we don't have the right motivation for doing what we do, our lives will never make an eternal impact.
The ironic thing about the way God works is this: If you yearn for an important position, a major platform, a lot of fame, or massive power, He won't use you. We didn't really start with the port-a-john story because it made a "big stink"; we started with it because the cleaning guy illustrates a foundational issue about motivation. To make life count, we must first die to ourselves and be willing to do whatever God asks us to do. In the words of Paul, we must be "crucified with Christ." For some that means doing for the glory of Christ a job that might make others turn up their noses. For others, it might mean following God's call into an arena of life they feel totally unequipped to handle.
Death to self. It sounds so hard. And if we're not careful, it brings about images of God as a big ogre in the sky, consigning each of us to a mission in life that will make us most miserable. But that's not the God of the Bible nor the God who caused our friend to have so much enthusiasm when he cleaned port-a-johns. When we trust God's plans even more than our own, we discover a level of contentment and impact that we never dreamed possible. It allows us to glory in the most menial tasks, and to attempt the most impossible ones. After all, shouldn't the same God who created us also know the most fulfilling mission for our life?
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
These comforting words, spoken by God through the prophet Jeremiah thousands of years ago, still echo in our hearts today. And if you've ever wondered whether they still have relevance in our hectic twenty-first century society, we'd like you to meet someone. Her name is Ruth Okediji.
For some, an acceptance to Harvard Law School would be cause for celebration. But not for Ruth. She remembers being entirely underwhelmed. That's nice, she thought. But it wasn't Ruth's first choice. She had her heart set on becoming a full-time missionary. Maybe I'll just get a law degree first, thought the Nigerian whiz kid. Then, I can fulfill my dream and go to Bible college.
Sound crazy? Well, you haven't heard the half of it. Welcome to Ruth's world-a place where God speaks and moves in mysterious ways, just like in Bible times.
Ruth was born in Nigeria to parents who'd been led to the Lord by missionaries. Her parents "paid a high price" for following Christ and eventually moved the family to the United States. There, at age seven, Ruth also became a Christ follower. The girl who seemed to do everything early graduated from high school three years ahead of schedule. The family moved back to Nigeria where Ruth attended college, abiding by the Christian "dos and don'ts" and generally living a godly life.
But Ruth wanted more. She would get up early in the morning and pray: Lord, I can be a good girl all my life, if that's all you want. But Lord, I've got a hunger to do more.
God answered with a persistent friend who dragged her to a Bible study on the book of Jeremiah. It was through that study that Ruth discovered a God who cares about every step of our lives. For eight weeks, she couldn't get away from this challenge: "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."
At the end of the study, Ruth got down on her knees and took God at His word. I want to know if You have a specific plan for my life, she prayed. If not, I'll just keep being a good girl. I know I can do that. But if there's more, show me what it is, and I'll do all of it. Her life would never be the same.
"It was like a love affair," Ruth says, the joy still in her voice. Even now you can tell that Ruth still hasn't gotten over it. "My life changed so radically that my parents, who were sold-out Christians themselves, wondered if I'd joined a cult." She chuckles at the memory.
Radical faith. A radical commitment. What could it mean? For Ruth, she was sure it would mean full-time ministry. "I wanted to be a missionary," she recalls. "I wanted to go to Bible school."
"So why didn't you?" we asked.
"Because I couldn't get any peace about it. I would wake up early, around three or four in the morning, and pray." (For this lady, early means early.) "I would beg God to let me go into full-time ministry. I wanted to be with Campus Crusade, but it was clear as day to me that He just kept saying no." It was, according to Ruth, one of the most difficult periods of her life. "I was crushed. I concluded that I just wasn't good enough to go into full-time Christian ministry."
And so, at the age of nineteen, as a recent college graduate not "good enough" for the ministry, Ruth decided to pursue Plan B. She "cast [her] bread on the waters" and applied to a few graduate schools-the usual culprits from the American Ivy League: Columbia (her dad's alma mater), Harvard, and Cornell. Poor girl. No wonder she couldn't muster any excitement. "In the back of my mind, I still wanted to go to Bible school. I figured I would just go ahead and get a graduate degree first."
"I remember when the acceptance letter came from Harvard. It just didn't seem like a big deal, compared to my dreams."
Ruth tucked her acceptance letter away after showing it to her mom and dad (another "that's nice" reaction, but remember, he's a Columbia man). She also didn't give it much thought, because the family simply didn't have the funds to afford a Harvard education. Her father was a professor and couldn't afford the high tuition of an Ivy League school. Not to worry. Ruth's uncle had a brilliant idea.
"Harvard Law School is fine," said her uncle, who had business and academic connections in Toledo, Ohio, "but why don't you go to Toledo Business School, get an MBA, work a little, and save money for your Harvard Law School tuition?" Barely bothering to pray about it, Ruth set her face toward Toledo. She sent Harvard a letter deferring and went on with her life. Months later, after hearing a Harvard alum speak, Ruth knew she had missed God's call. "I prayed hard about it later that night, and God convicted me. I just wept before the Lord and repented of my prayerlessness in the decision to turn down Harvard." Ruth immediately wrote Harvard asking to be reconsidered and then prayed for six weeks, watching the mailbox every day. Harvard did not respond.
As August crept along Ruth became more passionate in her prayers. Then one morning, just a few weeks before law school would convene, she heard God's answer. "It was like an audible voice in the room with me, telling me I would attend Harvard. Nothing in the natural realm had changed, but I knew beyond a doubt that this was what God had planned for me. I ran and woke up my roommate, shaking her out of bed and saying, 'God speaks! God speaks!' She, of course, thought I was crazy."
Ruth felt compelled to fast that day and tell others that she was now going to Harvard. When the mail came that very day, she received a letter from the Harvard admissions office, giving her details about the start of school, as if they had never even received her rejection letter. The letter from Harvard had an April postmark. Ruth received it in mid-August. A few weeks later, she started her law career at Harvard. God had spoken indeed! And it wouldn't be the last time.
For the next four years, Ruth saw God do some amazing things in the lives of her fellow students, many times using her in the process. She came to realize that Harvard was her mission field, but it was also just a temporary assignment. "I decided that if I couldn't be a missionary, I could at least go to Wall Street with one of the megafirms and make a lot of money to support missionaries."
God had other plans. During her final year of law school, Ruth received notice that she had been granted an interview for a job even though she hadn't planned to apply. The problem was that she didn't find out about her time slot until less than an hour before the interview. There was no time to clear up the mistake. So she threw on a dress and headed to the interview room to tell the prospective employer that it was all a big misunderstanding. The employer was the associate dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, interviewing Ruth for a teaching position.
Ruth felt impressed to go through with the interview, then committed the matter to prayer. "I didn't want to go to Oklahoma," she recalls. "First, I had never even been to Oklahoma, and I had all the East Coast snobbery going. Second, my parents had been in education their whole lives. I didn't want to do the same thing. And third, I was headed to Wall Street to fund missionaries!" But she didn't say no this time without praying it through. For days, she just told God all the reasons she didn't want to go to Oklahoma. "Then finally, one morning, I just gave up. 'If you want me to go to Oklahoma, I will go to Oklahoma.' I felt an immediate pop of relief."
At Oklahoma, Ruth discovered that she had a gift for teaching. We talked to students who studied under Ruth years ago and still rave about her teaching style and what a great role model she was. She taught for eleven years in Oklahoma, with stints as a visiting researcher at Harvard Law School and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and as a consultant to the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. She now teaches at the University of Minnesota.
I have an open door policy. And a teacher gets lots of questions. This gives me a chance to give my testimony. If they want to know who I am, what makes me tick, I share from the Bible. I can't separate who I am from the words of Scripture. And if students have needs, I pray with them, and I share from Scripture. There is no situation in the lives of my students that the Word doesn't have something to say about. I tell my students: "I am interested in you!"
Ruth recognizes that students respond to authenticity and love. The approach has served her well. She shows them Christ-in the form of a law school professor.
"Two words that sound so easy," says Ruth: "Follow me." She hesitates. "But it's not just following Christ geographically. It's going where He would go and doing what He would do for the reasons He would do it."
Later in this book, you'll learn about others who God is using in surprising ways to redeem the dark corners of our culture. And in the next chapter, we'll begin looking at the first of eight Biblical principles about how God calls us to a mission that will change our world. For now, it's enough to know that God speaks. And to know that He is speaking to you! The same God who said He has a plan for us, makes it clear that we can hear His call and discover the plan: "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"
That's the message of this book. Discover what God is saying to you. Learn how He's guiding you-not just in what you do, but how you do it. And most important, why you do it in the first place. For both Ruth and the man cleaning port-a-johns, making life count was not about status or power or positions. "I work for the Lord," said the port-a-john guy.
"It was like a love affair," said Ruth.
From port-a-johns to the ivy-covered walls of Harvard Law School, and everywhere in between, God is searching for those who love Him enough to trust His plans for us. Plans to prosper and not harm us. Plans to make our lives count.
God prepared a unique plan and calling for your life even before you were born.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5).
"God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace ..." (Galatians 1:15 NRSV).
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV).
God designed you with your destiny in mind, creating you with every gift and resource necessary to perfectly accomplish His will.
Everyone is designed with a unique plan and calling in mind, not just those in full-time ministry.
It's time to let God "out of the box" as you search for His unique plan and calling for your life.
Excerpted from Made to Count! by Bob Reccord Randy Singer Copyright © 2007 by Bob Reccord and Randy Singer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.