This article was written by Cory Carlson and published by Faith Driven Entrepreneur
Leadership Trait: Intentionality
Acts 18:11, “And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
In chapter 18 of Acts, the Apostle Paul has arrived in Corinth, which was one of the political and commercial centers of Greece at that time. Like most cities today, Corinth had a mixture of good and high moral individuals as well as immoral and corrupt individuals. So as Paul was teaching the Good News of Jesus to the people of Corinth, there were people who were very receptive to what he was sharing and others who rejected his teaching, even to the point of insulting him.
Like you and me, Paul had his good days and his bad days as he interacted with others. Verse 9 tells us, “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent.’” Paul was obedient to this command and stayed in Corinth for a year and six months, teaching the word of God, as verse 11 mentions.
However, it was not an easy eighteen months. There were days of frustration as some people rejected Paul’s teaching. Even though Paul was being obedient and doing his job, he must have felt some- times like he was swimming upstream. Plus, there was the frustration of waiting for God to reveal his next assignment.
I know one of the hardest things in my life is waiting for what will happen next. When will I get the job? When will they call me back? Why is it taking so long?
While I am waiting and wondering for the next development, I can start to get frustrated. Frustrated that I am not hearing anything about new steps to take. This then leads to feeling anxious about whether I am even in the right place or doing the right thing. What if I didn’t hear God’s signal and should have already moved on? All of these worries can sometimes move me into a place of slothfulness as I feel discouraged and wonder if my goal is even worth pursuing anymore. It’s almost as if I’m thinking, Fine, if it isn’t going to happen, then I will just sit here.
In chapter 1 of this book, I shared a story from about five years ago, when I was President of Sales for a company that went through a company sale process that was ultimately unsuccessful, as we did not find a buyer.
In preparation for the sale that didn’t take place, we spent about six months gathering data and building presentations, as well as conducting the actual presentation and holding meetings with these potential buyers. But after all that hard work, we were back at the starting line.
I felt defeated. Lost. Discouraged.
Before that job, I had left a large company I’d worked at for ten years, where I’d eventually become a divisional Vice President, with many opportunities for future growth. However, I’d felt that I was called to this new job as part of my career advancement.
I started to have thoughts like, Didn’t you bring me here for this company sale? I thought the plan was to help build the company toward this transaction, then off to bigger and better things. What is going on, God? Yet I didn’t receive any answers to these random thoughts.
Months later, I was in Miami, Florida, making sales calls with our local sales team. From there, I was to drive to Tampa for a meeting with the leadership of the company and with the private equity group. As I was driving, I started to think again about this process of the failed company sale, as well as what it could mean for my future. What was I supposed to do now: stay or go?
I was to the point where I was crying out to God for answers. Literally praying out loud. Even yelling to God. “I thought this was going to be my time. My exit. My cash out. Why did you even bring me to this Florida company? Why did I leave a great company after ten years?”
You name it, I was probably saying it. Once again, not my finest moment. But once again, an honest one.
I started rattling off all kinds of thoughts: “Do I update my resume and get out of the company? Do I stick around for another company sale? Should I call other companies and look for a new job?”
Thoughts were running rampant through my head, both good and bad. Then out of nowhere, I heard an audible voice, or at least one that felt audible to me. Its message was very clear: “Stay.”
“God is that you?” I asked. “‘Stay’? Why? For how long? Are you sure? God, do you have any other words for me?”
I heard nothing else. Just the one word: “Stay.”
Now I had more questions than answers. However, a sense of peace came over me. The stress and frustration even began to settle. Even though I didn’t know entirely what the message meant in the long term, I felt that the obedient thing to do now would be to stay.
Over the coming months, our company’s owners directed us to downsize, in order to keep our company profitable as they contemplated what to do next. During this time, I remember employees, and even my wife, asking if I was going to update my resume and look for a new job. I told them “no” and said that I felt called to stay.
Ironically, after receiving that direction, I no longer sat around discouraged. I now felt that God had a plan. I would be lying if I said I never wondered when I would receive another word. But I made a choice to keep moving forward until I heard differently.
During the time I spent operating under the word “stay,” I had my good days and my bad days. I am sure this is how Paul felt in Acts 18:11 when he ended up staying in Corinth for a year and six months! Leading up to that moment, Paul had typically stayed in one place for a few days, or a few weeks at the most, to teach the Good News of Jesus before heading off to the next town. Paul had to be anxious at times during those eighteen months. I imagine he prayed something like, “God, if we are to spread this news, then I need to get to the next town. Haven’t these people heard enough?”
However, he stayed and was obedient as he waited for God’s next signal. During his time in Corinth, he continued to teach the gospel and impact many people who lived there. While Paul was waiting for the next signal, he was obedient and intentional.
HOW ARE YOU PREPARING THIS SEASON?
When we are in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, we can choose to waste our time or be intentional with it. We can sit there and scroll mindlessly on our phone as we wait for our name to be called. Or we can work on some emails, pray about our day, listen to part of a podcast, or even set up our online grocery order.
The same thing is true when we are in a season of waiting for what is next. We can choose to waste time and just do the bare minimum at our job, or we can be very intentional and make the most of the moment.
During my time in the “waiting room,” I doubled down on investing in my sales team. Not only did I work to help them meet their sales goals, I also taught them some of the life coaching skills I was learning, in order to help round them out as leaders. I also spent time investing in myself by exploring the idea of starting my own coaching and speaking business, by getting a few clients, and putting together content.
This continued for a few months. Then in August 2016 I was terminated from that job. However, I was not discouraged by this termination. God had already used that waiting time to prepare my mind and heart for the drastic change of leaving my corporate job, including my high salary and fancy title, and starting at ground zero of becoming a coach.
This transition was possible because God had softened my heart and helped break my reliance on both a corporate executive identity and a sense of financial security. I now realized instead that God was my provider. The truth is, I don’t believe I ever would have started the coaching and speaking business if I hadn’t been terminated and if I hadn’t had the time in the “waiting room” to prepare my heart and mind.
Do you feel you are waiting for the next thing?
If we are not careful, we can miss out on beneficial waiting room time by wasting time instead of being intentional. However, when we believe that God uses all seasons to better us, we can experience the waiting room as a place where He is doing work in us and preparing us for what is on the other side of this season.
Spend five minutes thinking of ways that you can be intentional during this season in the areas of both your personal and professional growth.
Now spend five minutes thinking of ways you can personally invest in those you lead and help them grow, both at work and at home. We need to make sure we are intentional in our leadership so that those we’re leading are better for having had the opportunity to be led by us!
Lord, waiting rooms are frustrating, yet I know you use them for our good. I repent over the times I’ve gotten frustrated, and the times that frustration has turned into sloth- fulness. I will diligently spend my days investing in myself and those around me, so that we may grow closer to you and become better prepared to help you in your work. Amen.