By Martin E. Willoughby, Jr.
In my professional life, I regularly help organizations streamline their businesses and focus on what really matters. One of my clients used to frequently challenge his team to “reduce the friction” in the sales process. He did not want any unnecessary obstacles in the way of allowing customers to purchase products from the company. It is often said in business, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
I find that in life it is often a real challenge to keep a focus on what is truly important. We wake up each day with a list of tasks to accomplish and usually go to bed with just as many things to do. While I think working hard is definitely a virtue, the challenge is whether the busyness of our lives is in alignment with our real purpose in being here.
While Rick Warren challenged readers to live a “Purpose Driven Life,” another way to consider this is whether we are living a “Person Driven Life?” We may not always consciously acknowledge it, but we all live our lives with an agenda. It is very easy in our consumer culture for the underlying agenda of our lives to be to accumulate stuff and live a life of affluence. An equally tempting trap is to have the agenda of “finding ourselves” or living a “me” focused life. While it may be instinctual, a “me” driven life is ultimately hollow and fleeting.
However, a life focused on the person of Jesus changes our agenda. Frankly, I think our lives become more interesting. We get clarity and realize that our lives are a preparation for eternity. We get to commune with our Creator and Savior to make a difference during our fleeting time here on earth.
In team sports, coaches have to constantly emphasize the fact that, “There is no I in team.” They know that it is challenging to take the spotlight off our selves and focus on others. I believe that it is only by realizing our own limitations and unimportance that we open ourselves up to what the free gift of God’s grace has to offer us—an exciting life of purpose because our gaze is on Christ and not in the mirror.
One of my early business mentors, used to constantly emphasize the KISS message—Keep It Simple, Stupid. This idea, which dates back to the 1960’s U.S. Navy, challenges us to strip away the non-essentials and focus on creating effective and simple systems. When I think about a life focused on following the path of Jesus, it is easy to make it overly complicated. It is easy to layer on dos and don’ts and shoulds and shouldn’ts.
However, when I read the Gospels, the path Jesus laid out for us is simple at its core. It is certainly not easy, but it is simple. By embracing—in faith—the unfathomable gift of His grace, we are brought into the eternal realm of his Kingdom.
Unfortunately, we want to work for it. We want to earn that grace. I know my Type A personality does. It is very hard to keep it simple. God wants us to love Him and others. Over and over again, we see that our lives as followers of Jesus should be overflowing with love as we bask in His incredible love for us. However, there are many things that distract us from truly keeping it simple and allowing ourselves to receive the gift of love.
Perhaps this Easter season, we can try to declutter a bit and enjoy the sweet simplicity of our faith in Jesus.
Martin E. Willoughby, Jr. is a frequent writer and speaker on faith and business and is the author of Intentional Faith (Main Street Books 2014). He and his wife, Nicki, have two children, Ally and Trey, and live in Memphis, Tennessee.