Initiative is defined by Webster as “the ability to get things started or done without needing to be told what to do.”
While much longer, ponder this definition from Elbert Hubbard: “What is Initiative? I’ll tell you: It is doing the right thing without being told. But next to doing the thing without being told is to do it when you are told once.
“Next, there are those who never do a thing until they are told twice: such get no honors and small pay.
“Next, there are those who do the right thing only when necessity kicks them from behind, and these get indifference instead of honors, and a pittance for pay.
“Then, still lower down in the scale than this, we have the fellow who will not do the right thing even when someone goes along to show him how and stays to see that he does it: he is always out of a job, and receives the contempt he deserves…”
“To which class do you belong?”
Initiative is a highly valued characteristic in the business world. Those who are willing to “get the ball rolling” to “do the right thing without being told” are greatly appreciated in any organization. An employer could not feel better than when his subordinates exercise initiative. Every form of organization, including businesses, congregations, families, and even Feast sites, thrives when those involved have initiative.
Stop and think for a minute. Every organization has goals, with specific duties and plans to fulfill them. Often, things may not go as planned. Therefore, any preplanned duty becomes non-applicable. For example, in the family unit, a parent may become very ill; or, in a business, the economy may crash, thereby affecting the business. During these times, those who have initiative step in—and fill the gap (Ezek. 22:30).
Of course, this is not necessarily easy—and is sometimes very difficult to do. By the very definition of the word, one who takes initiative must think it through, because he was not told exactly what to do; therefore, the responsibility of getting a matter right is on him. It takes courage, strength and the ability to go “above and beyond.”
Our Christian Lives
So, what about our Christian lives?
Ask yourself: “How does God see me living His Way of life and sacrificing for His Work?” “As my ‘Boss,’ is He pleased to see that I do the right thing without having to be told multiple times?”
Initiative can and should be applied to every aspect of life. It will benefit you—as you apply initiative to growing in character—and God’s Work, which will become more effective as all of us apply initiative to our roles in it.
Before discussing practical applications, we must understand two great deterrents to our ability to apply initiative.
First, society has bred a culture of the opposite way of thinking. Gone are the days when many were industrious and applied initiative. Today, people seemingly use all their energy to be sure that they do just enough to get by.
For example, when on the job, people often, after they “are on the clock,” take their time to start their workday. But employers never see them move as fast as they do at quitting time. Any thought of filling in for an extra 5 minutes—unpaid—is foreign to most employees’ thinking. To do a little more—to go above and beyond—is practically unheard of.
People make it their goal to make everything easy (Matt. 7:13-14). Parents do the most they can to give their children everything. As these children become adults, they have been conditioned to expect to be given everything. They “deserve it all”—and do not feel the need to do anything beyond what is required of them.
People are encouraged in multiple ways to “be laid back,” “chill out,” “relax,” “be cool,” etc. Ads and the media attempt to convince people that they deserve their second or third car, that two-week vacation, a new house, more money, etc.
We have to remember that the Church often reflects and takes on the attitudes of society. We have to be aware of the tendency in the world to do as little as possible and guard against it!
Second, it is natural to want the easy way. Consider Christ’s words: “Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat…” (Matt. 7:14).
Where does this mindset come from? From human nature—Satan’s nature! Our goal is to become more effective human beings, but Satan’s goal is to make us the least effective and least productive.
It is important to understand that using initiative is not easy! In fact, it takes a lot of energy, focus, time and thought. But, without God’s help, your attempt will be futile.
Also, consider the Church eras explained in Revelation. We are now living during the Laodicean era, and one of the fundamental weaknesses of this era is a lack of zeal—and apparently almost any zeal (Rev. 3:16, 19).
With all of this in mind, the following basic principles and practical steps will guide you in exercising initiative in your life. We all must aspire to try harder to manage our own lives, support God’s Work, and move closer to our ultimate goal—becoming members of the God Family.
Learn by Example
There are people who learn by example and people who learn the hard way. Certainly, personal experience is a great teacher, but learning from the experiences of others is better.
Applying initiative to your life is directly related to this principle. By making it a goal to learn from others, you can avoid making some of the same mistakes. If we do not learn from example, then we are making the choice to allow circumstances and trials to teach us. Often, if we determine that we will succeed in a certain trial before it has arisen, then God will not need to send us that trial. In other words, making it your goal to learn from example is using initiative. Otherwise, you may learn, but it will be the hard way.
Like a parent cautioning his child not to touch a hot stove, God admonishes and teaches His children through examples in His Word. If we decide not to learn from these examples, then we will have to learn the hard way—and get “burned by the stove.”
In I Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul discusses ancient Israel, and how their experiences are to be examples to all of us. Notice: “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted…Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [examples]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (vs. 6, 11; also see II Tim. 3:16-17).
We must set our mind to use God’s Word as examples to learn from. We must go above and beyond our own circumstances and/or trials and learn from others.
It has been said that there are eight different levels at which God deals with us when we need His involvement: (1) Encourage; (2) Exhort; (3) Admonish; (4) Correct; (5) Rebuke; (6) Suspend; (7) Disfellowship; (8) Mark.
Just like any father, God does not take joy in correcting His children. Of course, He does it because He knows it will help them.
How does God have to work with us? Is it mostly of an encouraging and exhorting nature or more often a correcting and rebuking one? When you hear sermons, do you set specific goals to apply them?
In recent years, we have been provided with much spiritual food, and we all must remember that “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). By actively applying the sermons, you are showing God that you are willing to take initiative in your life. If we show God that we are willing to learn by encouragement, there will not be a need for trials or other circumstances to correct us.
Now let’s understand two specific, practical areas in which we can apply initiative.
Manage Your Life
Our ultimate goal is to be Kings and Priests in the Kingdom of God. We are called to train for those positions—to qualify to rule galaxies, millions of angels and, most importantly, people.
God will not give authority to those who will not submit to authority. Likewise, He will not give us rulership over one city, let alone five, if we cannot manage our lives.
Ask yourself: “How am I doing in managing my life?”; “Am I allowing only circumstances to move me, or do I show initiative in managing my life?”
Many in God’s Church will remember the sermon “Manage Your Life,” given in the fall of 2001. Can we remember, and do we continually apply, all the points that were taught within it? (For those who have not heard the sermon, or would like to review it, it is available in the Member Services section of our website.)
Here is just the briefest thumbnail of some of the areas that we need to continue to manage: mind and attitudes, emotions, marriage and children, relationships, health and diet, time, priorities, finances, employment or schooling, and much more.
Consider. If you are able to show God that you can and will always manage your money, and that you will always rely on Him and be faithful in your tithes and offerings, then He may decide not to send you a test in that area. By simply pushing yourself to succeed in all of these areas, you will (1) improve your life and the lives of those around you, and (2) show God that you do not need “correction” in that area of your life.
Furthermore, learning and growing in the ability to manage our lives enables the ministry, headquarters and all of God’s Work to move forward, allowing the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel Warning to become more effective. As we individually learn and prod ourselves to manage our lives, the Work will advance!
Our Part in God’s Work
Do we show initiative toward God’s Work? As members of God’s Church, we all play a vital role in His Work.
One way that you can support the Work is by your fervent prayers. Do you pray about the Work daily? Do you ask God to directly support and strengthen all those in the Work? Do you go into detail about the various needs that arise within the Work? Do you continually pray to “the Lord of the Harvest” for more laborers (Matt. 9:36-38)? Truly, this is the age when the “laborers are few.” Would not all of us like to see God’s Work move forward? To do that, we need more laborers—more leaders, employees, office space, infrastructure, and much more.
Now let’s talk about you as a laborer. The Work is also supported through tithes and offerings. Do you find yourself giving when you are asked and reminded, or do you prod yourself to give more, always trying to go above and beyond?
Many of us also have the wonderful opportunity to support God’s Work by giving our time. Do you take the time to serve those in need, without being asked?
Are you constantly aware of the example you are setting, always striving to do better?
Many of God’s people are able to serve in The Real Truth Newsstand Distribution Program. For those involved, do you show initiative by doing more than what is expected—giving it your all?
Do you give in all these areas with a cheerful heart (II Cor. 9:7)?
You will be rewarded for what you do. The more initiative you show, the more you will be considered a “good and faithful servant,” rather than an “unprofitable servant” (Matt. 25:14-30; take time to review the entire parable).
For the rest of your life, determine to show initiative, applying the second law to success—drive. Your character will greatly improve and God’s Work will grow.
Of course, this cannot be done on human strength. Ask God for the strength to apply initiative. Notice: “He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:29-31).
Remember this basic proverb: “A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Prov. 22:3). Be determined to foresee these things and apply initiative now. It will pay off later.