Uphill Or Downhill?

…And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice (Philippians 1:18).

Paul is in prison, yet he tells his friends that he is choosing to rejoice. Wow! 

Not only that, but this same imprisoned man also reminds his friends to…

  • … let their joy in Jesus overflow 
  • … conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ
  • … continue to have a servant’s attitude like Jesus
  • … don’t give in to complaining or arguing 
  • … look out for the interests of other people 
  • … rejoice in the Lord
  • … don’t rest on their laurels
  • … forget the past and press on toward the future 

John Maxwell has noted that most people have uphill dreams but downhill habits. That is definitely not a winning combination! 

Paul is making his friends aware of the possible downhill habits that may hold them back from their uphill dreams, and using himself as an example. This first step—awareness—is vital if we are going to break free of the things that are pulling us away from our God-given dreams. 

Solomon wrote, “The path of life leads UPWARD for the prudent to keep them from GOING DOWN to the realm of the dead” (Proverbs 15:24). 

Being prudent is saying, “I’m always on the lookout for what’s best.” 

None of us can go UP by ignoring our downhill habits, or even trying to coast through life. The only way to achieve our uphill dreams is to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our downhill habits so that we can make a plan to turn those around. 

Check out these characteristics that Paul shares—

Downhill Habit              Uphill Habit
Complaining                    Rejoicing (4:4)
Selfishness                      Gentleness (4:5)
Worrying                         Praying (4:6a)
Grumbling                       Giving thanks (4:6b)
Fixing it myself                Giving it to God (4:6c)
Idle thoughts                   Thinking about my thinking (4:8)
Making my own way         Getting a mentor / partner (4:9)
Being discontent              Being content (4:11-12)
Trying to be self-made     Striving to be Christ-reliant (4:13)

A good prayer for all of us who have uphill dreams that we want to achieve—Holy Spirit, reveal to me my downhill habits. I acknowledge that I need Your help to see and break these habits. Then help me to replace them with Christ-honoring uphill habits that will allow me to achieve the purpose God has for my life.

20 Helpful Thoughts On Criticism

“Criticism is something you can avoid easily—by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing.” —Aristotle 

“The Lord uses critics to show us our own hearts, even if what they say is not fully true, informed, or even fair. There is almost always a germ of truth in what our critics (in their own pain and disappointment) shout at us. The wise leader will humble himself and look for the truth embedded in every oppositional interaction.” —Dick Brogden [see 2 Samuel 16:5-12] 

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” —Ken Blanchard 

“Criticism can be received as a gift from God. It is an opportunity to pray, search Scripture, evaluate your own heart, and offer grace to others. The right response to criticism should not be retaliation or pride (which just perpetuates hurt), but rather humility.” —Jeremy Carr

“There is a growing trend to attack, criticize, and resent anyone who has talent or achievements that sets them apart from others. This tendency extends to those who resent the efforts of leaders who challenge the status quo. Opponents of change initiatives often attempt to marginalize leaders by attacking their character and questioning their motives. If the messenger is flawed, then the message and vision they offer cannot be trusted. As disappointing as it is, these challenges come with the territory of leadership.” —Dr. J. Lee Whittington

“If I were to attempt to answer all the criticisms and complaints I receive, I would have no time for any other business. From day to day I do the best I can and will continue to do so till the end. If in the end I come out all right, then the complaints and criticisms and what is said against me will make no difference. But, if the end brings me out wrong, then ten angels coming down from heaven to swear I was right would still make no difference.” —Abraham Lincoln

“If a ministry is God-anointed, it doesn’t matter who criticizes it. If it’s not anointed, it doesn’t matter who praises it.” —Rick Warren 

“Your critics have information that your friends are withholding.” —John Maxwell 

“God never gives us discernment so that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.” —Oswald Chambers 

“No leader is exempt from criticism and his humility will nowhere be seen more clearly than in the manner in which he accepts and reacts to it.” —J. Oswald Sanders 

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body: It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” —Winston Churchill 

“Every man needs a blind eye and a deaf ear, so when people applaud, you’ll only hear half of it, and when people salute, you’ll only see part of it. Believe only half the praise and half the criticism.” —C.H. Spurgeon 

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” —Dale Carnegie

“A mark of a godly leader is one so focused on God’s plan that he pays no attention to his critics or enemies.” —Craig T. Owens

“Never be afraid of honest criticism. If the critic is wrong, you can help him; and if you’re wrong, he can help you. Either way, somebody’s helped.” —A.W. Tozer 

“It’s so much easier to teach correct principles than it is to know and love a person. It’s so much easier to give brilliant advice than to empathize and be open. It’s so much easier to live independently than to live interdependently. It’s so much easier to be a judge than to be a light. It’s so much easier to be a critic than to be a model.” —Stephen Covey

“When is it inappropriate to praise a critical person? One: When you are being criticized for outright sin, and the criticism is accurate. If what is said is true, the tension you feel will be relieved only one way: confession. Two: when you are falsely accused of sin. Sin is a serious charge, obviously more serious than those ‘against you’ realize or they would have done their homework.” —Blaine Allen

Don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it first passes through the filter of Scripture.” —Mark Batterson

“There is no better antidote for unjust criticism than a clear conscience before God.” —James Hernando

“It is not the critic who counts; nor the many who point out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly… who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.” —Teddy Roosevelt 

Bible Study Tools

I love to read (just take a peek at the number of books I read and reviewed last year). But without a doubt, hands-down, the clear runaway favorite read is my Bible. 

“The Bible alone seems broader, and deeper, and fuller the oftener it is studied. We have no need to look for allegorical and mystical meanings. The fresh truths that will constantly spring up before our eyes are simple, plain, and clear. Of such truths the Bible is an inexhaustible mine. Nothing can account for this but the great fact that the Bible is the Word, not of man, but of God.” —J.C. Ryle

I thought I’d share with you some of the current Bible study tools I’m utilizing—

  • I am reading through the Bible on YouVersion’s plan called As It Happened. This takes you through the Scripture in chronological order. 
  • Along with this chronological plan, I have also subscribed to the daily devotional called Missionary God—Missionary Bible. This comes as a daily email from premier missiologist Dick Brogden, and follows the readings of the chronological Bible.
  • I am reading through the John Maxwell Leadership Bible, where events and characters are studied through a leadership lens. 
  • Since I am presently in the Gospels in the Leadership Bible, I am also utilizing Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey, and Expository Thoughts On The Gospels by J.C. Ryle. 
  • I also utilize the Hebrew and Greek resources almost every day at Blue Letter Bible.
  • And I also love doing shared reading plans with family and friends on YouVersion. 

Please share in the comments what Bible study tools you are using so we can all learn and grow together. 

Book Reviews From 2018

13 Quotes From Others In “Developing The Leader Within You 2.0”

John Maxwell does an excellent job of including insightful words from other authors—past and present—in his books. Developing The Leader Within You 2.0 is no exception. Here are a few of the quotes he shared. 

“There have been meetings of only a moment which have left impressions for life, for eternity. No one of us can understand that mysterious thing we call influence… Yet out of everyone of us continually virtual goes, either to heal, to bless, to leave marks of beauty; or to wound, to hurt, to poison, to stain other lives.” — J.R. Miller 

“The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.” — William James 

“A man of character will make himself worthy of any position he is given.” —Mahatma Gandhi 

“Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them, day after day.” —Arthur Gordon 

“We set young leaders up for a fall if we encourage them to envision what they can do before they consider the kind of person they should be.” —Ruth Haley Barton 

“What we achieve inwardly will change outward reality.” — Plutarch 

“Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride. Failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility and learning.” — David Brooks 

“Our world has replaced the word soul with the word self, and they are not the same thing. The more we focus on our selves, the more we neglect our souls.” — John Ortberg 

“The most effective leaders approach problems through a lens of opportunity.” —Glenn Llopis 

“Face reality, and let your first loss become your last loss.” —Larry Maxwell 

“If we learn to appreciate more of what we already have, we’ll find ourselves having even more to appreciate.” —Michael Angier 

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for someone else.” —Benjamin Franklin 

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” —Martin Luther King Jr 

You can check out my full book review of Developing The Leader Within You 2.0 by clicking here. And you can also read some John Maxwell quotes from this book here. 

12 Quotes From “Developing The Leader Within You 2.0”

Whether you’re a novice or a veteran leader, there’s so much to learn from John Maxwell in his book Developing The Leader Within You 2.0! Check out my full book review by clicking here, and stay tuned for even more quotes coming soon. 

“Developing yourself to become the leader you have the potential to be will change everything for you. It will add to your effectiveness, subtract from your weaknesses, divide your workload, and multiply your impact.” 

“You have influence in this world, but realizing your potential as a leader is your responsibility. If you put effort into developing yourself as a leader, you have the potential to influence more people and to do so in more significant ways.” 

“When you say everything is a high priority, then nothing is a high priority. It really indicates that you’re unwilling or unable to make a decision, which means you won’t get anything done.” 

“Instead of filling every space in my calendar, what I needed to do was create some white space. If I didn’t, nobody else was going to. People who keep burning the candle at both ends aren’t as bright as they think they are.”

“People cannot climb beyond the limitations of their character. Leaders cannot succeed beyond the depth of their character.” 

“Instead of wanting to point to my breakthroughs, I want to direct people to the brokenness that has led to my breakthroughs.” 

“When it comes to character, I believe the best guardrails are the decisions you make before you face high-pressure situations.” 

“People do not naturally resist change; they resist being changed.” 

“If life is tough for individuals, its difficulty is multiplied for leaders. Individuals can think me, but leaders must think we. A leader’s life is not his or her own. Thinking we means other people are included, and that means their problems are also yours to deal with.” 

“You can’t solve problems for others. If you do, you’ll be forever solving their problems. You must solve problems with them—at least until they get the hang of it.” 

“Good leaders don’t just resolve the issue to get it off their plates quickly for the sake of their own comfort. They help create solutions that take their people and their organization forward and put them in a better position than they were in before they experienced the problem.” 

“As a leader, you need to see opportunities differently than most people. They are a chance for you to learn about yourself, your team, and your opportunities. They provide you a way to improve your own life, improve the lives of others, and gaining influence.”

Developing The Leader Within You 2.0 (book review)

I not only read John Maxwell’s Developing The Leader Within You for myself many years ago, but I have used the content from this book in numerous teaching settings. When I heard that a 25th-anniversary edition of the book was being published, I originally thought of young people to whom I could introduce this helpful book. 

But I was totally blown away to discover that although Dr. Maxwell had promised his publisher that he would revise 15 percent of the book, he actually revised 89 percent of the book! So not only am I excited to get this book in front of people who haven’t read it previously, I’m also encouraging those who read the first edition to get a copy of Developing The Leader Within You 2.0.

In leadership it’s quite simple—you cannot teach accurately what you haven’t internalized yourself, or else risk being called a hypocrite. So any leadership teaching must start with the leader being educated and expanded as a leader himself or herself. I can think of no better resource on the market than this book. 

In typical fashion, Dr. Maxwell masterfully weaves together leadership principles, supporting quotes, transparently personal stories of how he has—sometimes painfully—learned the principles he is teaching, historical and contemporary examples of those who followed or violated these principles, and up-to-date findings from researchers and other front-lines leaders. 

Bottom line: this is a book that is loaded with content but is also very easy to read and apply. At the end of each chapter, you will find some very helpful application ideas for each of the ten principles Dr. Maxwell presents in this book. 

If you’ve already read 1.0, I encourage you to get a copy of 2.0. John Maxwell has learned so much since the first edition and he liberally shares it with us here. 

And if you’re an emerging leader, or simply want to take your leadership to a higher level, this is an excellent foundational book for you to digest and apply.

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