Ep. 201: Can I Plan for My Future, or Does God?
What kind of Christian do you want to be at 30? 50? Or what about when you’re 70? As young adults, we tend to plan out our future careers, finances, and even our relationships, but are we factoring in our spiritual growth? On this week’s episode of indoubt, Mike Sambrook joins us to explore what a spiritually formed life looks like and the steps on the journey of how we get there. It’s easy to say, “Yes! This is what I want to be when I’m older,” but how do we move towards those big goals? And, more importantly, why is spiritual growth important? Mike and Joshua break down why we should take our future seriously and how we ultimately become better disciples through the process.
Welcome to the indoubt Podcast where we explore the challenging topics that young adults often face. Each week we talk with guests who help answer questions of faith, life, and culture, connecting them to our daily experiences and God’s Word. For more info on indoubt, visit indoubt.ca or indoubt.com.
Hey everyone, it’s Kourtney. So good to have you with us. On this week’s episode of indoubt, Joshua and guest, Mike Sambrook discuss what it means to plan our spiritual growth for the future. When we think about or plan our future, so often we tend to narrow it down to our careers, our finances, our relationships, but we’re not really thinking about where we want to be spiritually. Joshua and Mike answer why it’s important to be thinking about our spiritual growth and what that means in relation to discipleship.
It’s so easy to say, “Yes, this is what I want to be when I’m older,” or “This is who I want to be like when I’m their age.” But how do we move towards that? And the question still remains, what kind of Christian do you want to be at 35 or 50 or even 70? I think it’s a huge thing that we need to be thinking about, so I hope that you enjoy this episode with Joshua and Mike Sambrook.
Hey, welcome to indoubt. My name’s Joshua and I’m your host today and I’m joined by Mike Sambrook, who’s an executive coach of all kinds of leaders. And today we’re going to have a conversation about, particularly, spiritual growth and discipleship.
We’re at a stage, as young adults, of life where we’re making some pretty significant plans, right? We’re planning out our careers, we’re planning our finances. We’re even making relational plans to a degree, but for some reason we don’t plan our spiritual growth, and for good reasons sometimes because we know that it’s out of our hands, right? We can think of 1 Corinthians 3:6, where Paul’s talking about the church growing and how he planted the seed, but Apollos watered. But God made it grow.
We know that it’s kind of out of our hands, but at the same time, we read things like Philippians 2:12 that says, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” And 2 Peter 1:10, where Peter says that we ought to “confirm our calling and election.” So, there’s a labour that we need to be involved in, in our spiritual growth, even though we know that ultimately, it’s in God’s hands. Though we don’t make these plans, we know that it’s a significant part of our lives.
Today I’m going to talk to Mike about what it means to make plans for our spiritual growth so that we actually get 20 years down the road and we see some significant change. I think this is going to be a really interesting conversation and I hope you agree.
Mike, thanks so much for joining us today.
Yeah, it’s great to be here.
I wonder if you could start by just sharing a little bit about yourself, your experiences and what’s brought you now to being an executive coach.
Yeah. Well, as I say, the details of my life are quite boring, but I grew up in a Christian home, in a church, kind of the typical story. Became heavily involved in athletics in high school and didn’t have much time outside of that for anything else. Church was something we did, but there was really no point to it other than because you were supposed to. I went to university to play basketball and had the crisis of life when you leave home and had to find myself and began to have the questions that everybody has. What is this faith, what is it? And didn’t know where to turn. I had no real guidance, didn’t want to lean on my mom and dad still. I needed to break away from that, and just so, started reading the Bible and didn’t know where to read there either. Did the typical open it up and see what happens, and that’s where Christ met me, in His Word.
And kind of fast forward, I ended up in vocational ministry for about 15 years, really focused on disciple-making. What does it look like to lead others on the journey that God was leading me on? But the whole time knew that eventually I wanted to help all people find what’s the purpose of the whole thing? What’s the purpose of life? Who am I, why am I here? What’s the point of the whole thing?
And so a career transition in life as I kind of moved into my late-30s, 40s into executive coaching and leadership consulting, got a master’s degree in leadership and just began to help business owners, not-for-profit ministry leaders, pastors, young people, everybody kind of, on figuring out or helping them to discover, who did God create me to be and what’s the big idea? Like where’s the finish line here? Is there a finish line and am I actually moving towards that finish line? That’s kind of how I got here.
Yeah, very cool. You said it’s about helping people discover what’s the big purpose of it all? How have you seen that actually shape people’s lives where they finally come to conclusion, yes, that’s why I’m here?
Yeah. I think it started with figuring it out for myself and working with my executive coach and mentor and the man who’s discipled me for 25 years to figure out – who am I, what drives me? And to discover that at the core of me, I care; and I want to care for the entire world. Well, you can’t really care for seven billion people, right?
How do you do that? Well, for me it became, well, if I focus on leaders, if I focus on those who themselves have followers, if I coach them on how to live out who they are, that impact will multiply and multiply and multiply. And that allows me to fulfill the purpose why I’m here to care for the entire world, and I do that by coaching leaders.
Right, right. I wonder if we could start with this question. What are the significant hurdles to actually being able to set plans and make goals that allow us to guide and direct our lives in helpful ways? What are the big challenges there?
Yeah. I don’t think that the challenges for young adults are different than the challenges for old adults or medium adults or whatever you want to call us. I think most people get bogged down in the same issues, and the big one is living life and trying to figure out the details as you go rather than beginning with the end in mind and working backwards. And the journey anywhere is difficult if you can only see just in front of your feet.
Think about trying to drive your car. If you’re looking just over the hood of the car, you’re constantly having to adjust. You’re never quite comfortable. But if you can look up and look away down the road, the car almost drives itself. There’s not much steering that needs to happen. You see everything coming. And I think many people, most people are living life just with short term focus right in front of the hood. And I think in our young adult time, that’s particularly true because most of us don’t have someone who’s helping us look further down the road. What’s the point? Where am I going? To drive your car without knowing where you’re going is pretty tough. Siri can’t help you if Siri doesn’t know where you’re going.
So it’s really about being able to see far enough ahead to make plans for the next two steps that get me that much closer, or else I could be going east when I really should be going west.
Yeah, and to be confident that where you’re looking far enough ahead is actually where you are going, where you want to go. And particularly, for those who are trying to follow Christ, is that where Christ wants me to go and how do I know that? How do I know?
Yeah. So, I wonder, we’re talking about spiritual growth, can we apply that very same principle of being able to look ahead to what the goal is and make plans. We do that in our career. We ought to do that in our finances, all sorts of things. Can we do that with spiritual growth?
Absolutely. I think the Bible is full of guidance for us on what the spiritually-formed life looks like, and it’s also filled with the steps of the journey of how we get there. In Psalms it says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” And we hear that verse and we, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.” But what does that mean? It’s actually like a map for our life and the words contained in it really do lead to true life.
So again, applying the same principles to begin with the end in mind, I think the picture that we need, and I think so often we don’t have, is what does a spiritually-formed or a spiritually mature or a full-grown spiritual person look like? What am I aiming for? I’ve heard I should get up early and read my Bible. Why? Why? What’s the point of that? What’s it going to lead to? It’s hard to be committed or motivated to do something if we don’t really know where it’s going and if we want to end up where it’s taking us.
Right, right. So where is it going? And I think that’s actually such a critical question because we talk so much about Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples.” What does that fully formed disciple of Jesus even look like? What is that end that we’re trying to keep in mind?
Yeah. I think this is a huge question for the church today. Whether you’re teaching Sunday school to six- and seven-year old’s or young adults or preaching from the pulpit, what is the goal of the work?
And you think about going to the gym, for example. If you’re a fitness trainer and your job is to help people get in shape, the first question has to be, why do you want to be in shape? What’s the goal of this? Because I can’t guide you to achieve goals or become a new version of yourself if I don’t know what it is that you’re trying to become. The goal of working out at the gym isn’t to work out at the gym, it’s something else.
I grew up playing high level of sports and so physical fitness and working out was part of it and I was the worst. I had zero motivation to go to the gym, could never find the motivation. I would be there; I would stretch and then I would stretch some more because really it was just laying down on the mat. And I realized later in life, like I kept beating myself up, why don’t I have the motivation like other people have to work out? And I finally just gave up and stopped. And I realized later in life, I didn’t have the motivation to work out because I didn’t know why I was working out. What was it for? Okay, so I’m going to be stronger. Why do I need to be stronger? I’m going to look like I have a better physique. Why? None of it was important.
Recently, however, I have found the motivation and now I work out two, three times a week. But again, it’s not because I want to be fit, it’s because I found a reason to be fit and that’s because I have a son who is very, whom I love. And he completed an activity at school for Father’s Day where they’re like, “Tell us about your dad” kind of activity. And one of the questions was, when I get home from school, my dad blank. And he came home with this thing. It was all coloured and all the answers filled in. And the answer to that question is sleeping on the couch. And it was like a knife to my soul.
And I realize I don’t have the energy to play with my son after school. He wants to go out and play baseball and I can’t get down into a catcher’s position, crouch and stay there for more than two pitches. I don’t have the energy to go out and be the rebounder in basketball or throw a football with him. And I realized I need to get in shape. I need to grow in my physical fitness, and it wasn’t because I want to grow, it’s because I love my son and I want to be a dad for him.
Long story, but to get to convert it back to spiritual growth. If the purpose of reading the Bible is to read the Bible or the purpose of engaging in a discipleship program or to really engage in a community of other believers for purposes is just for the purpose of doing that itself, it won’t really go anywhere. It has to be for what purpose am I doing that? What is the end goal? That’s the question. I think all people need to answer, particularly leaders who are helping people on this journey and for young people themselves to say, “Okay, what does it look like when I’m 70 and how do I get from here to there?” And then work from the back to the beginning. Set your destination where you believe you need to end up and then create your course from there. Rather than looking forward and saying, “Well, I would like to do this by the end of next year.” Well, why? Where’s that taking you?
When you work with young people who are exactly in that, the mindless, “I’m just reading my Bible because it’s what I do and I’m praying as much as I can because it’s what I do and I should.” What do you hope to hear from them when you have this conversation and you’re talking about, set your eyes on something bigger? What do you hope to hear from them when they set their sights on 70?
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, and the question becomes, why do you want to be spiritually mature? Who are you and what benefit are you to the Kingdom of God and to those around you? We think, “Well, love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.” This is the whole thing Jesus says. Well, what possibly do you offer your neighbour that’s any different than what your neighbour can come up with on their own? How do I offer my neighbour anything?
I knew when I was 22 years old, I wanted to be an executive coach and a leadership consultant. The problem is I had nothing to offer anybody. I was 22 years old. I could help 18-year old’s get from 18 to 22 basically telling them do the opposite of what I did, but I couldn’t help anyone else. And I realized I don’t have anything to offer. Proverbs over and over and over and over it says, “The counsel of a wise man.” Right? That the wise seek counsel, they seek counsel, they seek counsel. All your ways look good to you, but you seek counsel. And I wanted to be that counsel. I felt like what God made me to be with someone who cared for people. Well, okay, I care for you, but how do I do that practically if I have no skills to help you?
And as an executive coach, I have no physical skills to help anyone. I can’t build anything. I can’t fix anything. I’m not able to really help people that way. If your car breaks down, as long as my phone is charged, I can call somebody. But what I did have the ability to do was to provide guidance and help people see the bigger picture. And if I wanted to do that well and be kind of approved as a worker in the Kingdom of God, to fulfill the reason why He put me on this earth in the first place, to take up oxygen and water and food and leave a carbon footprint, it better have been worth it. And I believe that God believed I’m worth it. And so, what does that look like? Well, it’s to care for people and to help them by coaching.
So the reason I read my Bible is to fill the tank and the wisdom book within me so that when I’m sitting at Starbucks with a client, with a group of young people who are asking these questions, I actually have something to offer other than, “Don’t do what I did.”
Right, right. To be able to be one of those faithful men that 1 Timothy talks about, 1 Timothy 2:2, “And trust to faithful men what you’ve received that they might teach others also.”
Absolutely. I mean, there’s a couple of passages of scripture and my mentor says to me all the time, the Bible is bigger than your favourite parts, but we all have our favourite parts. And two for me… In 2 Corinthians 5, it says that “God reconciled us to become a part of the ministry of reconciliation with Him.” That we’re reconciled to become a reconcile-
Ambassadors of Christ.
Ambassadors of Christ. And my favourite verse, it’s bigger than your favourite verse is. But 2 Corinthians 5:21, it says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for me so that in Him I might become the very righteousness of God.” That’s huge. And that Christ fulfilled his purpose on earth in that I can now become the righteousness of God in Him, and then I joined with Him in that work. And then Peter says, “I’ll always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that you have.”
And again, to apply this, begin at the end and work backwards kind of philosophy of life. We look at that verse and we say, “Well, always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you for a reason, for the hope that you have.” So, to begin in the back, hope that you have, do you have hope? What is your hope?
The next step back is they ask you about that hope. Is that hope evident and would somebody ask you for a reason for that hope? Kind of presupposes that you have friends, that you’re relationally engaged in people. That when life appears hopeless, they see hope in you, and then you’re always prepared to give an answer. Not a big theological diatribe, a defense of your faith, so to speak, but a reason for the hope.
Here’s why I have hope and that’s a part of what it looks like to say when I’m 50, which for me is just around the corner, which is scary, or when I’m 70 or even when I’m 35 that I have an answer for the reason, for the hope that I have. That I’m useful to my neighbour, that I’m useful to my children and to my spouse in being used by God, coaching them and guiding them, discipling them to be formed into who they are to become the purpose of this life on earth.
I think you’re encouraging us to do some really good work when it comes to reading our New Testament, reading the Scriptures and looking and saying, “Okay, what is that end goal?” But even I think of 1 Corinthians 11:1. Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” That the final picture of that is Christlikeness. So, if that’s the end goal, if that’s what I’m looking at as a young adult setting out, looking 50 years down the road saying, “Lord willing, 50 years from now I want to look more like Christ than I do today.” And 50 years hopefully significantly so.
What kind of steps do I take one year, two days? What are the simple steps that I take now to get myself on that, that trail to be getting there?
Yeah. Again, beginning with the end in mind, right? You and I have known each other for a while now and one of the things we talk about is this equation that people try to make happen in their life, two plus two equals five. And we look at that equation when you say, “Well, of course that doesn’t work. Two plus two does not equal five, two plus two equals four.” And you’re right, two plus two equals four but the bigger question is not what does two plus two equal? The big question is what’s more important to me, the answer being five or the equation being two plus two? And if we really want the answer to be five, different. That’s what we want to become.
Then instead of saying it’s wrong because two plus two equals four, we say it’s wrong because two plus three equals five. And we say I’m more committed to the outcome being different than I am to the equation being the same. And the equation being the same really says, “Here’s where I am, here’s what I’m doing. I just want it to end up looking different than it did for other people I’ve seen on the journey.” It’s not.
If you are who you are, and you continue to do what you do; you will end up where you will end up. But if you can say, “I’m committed to the outcome. I’m committed to it looking different.” By definition then, you will be committed to changing the equation. Then the question that you ask becomes, “So how do I change the equation?” Here’s where I am. I’m in my early twenties I have a pretty good understanding of who God is and who I am. At least I’m better than the next guy, but what do I do now to get from here to this picture? So, the first thing is what is the picture, right?
I work a lot with youth pastors and trying to… Like what do you do with high school kids in the church? And again, begin with the end of mind. You’re a guide to help them become something. Become what? The goal isn’t to keep them entertained on a Friday night so they’re not out entertaining themselves in the world, so to speak. The goal is that you’re helping guide them to be elders of the church at 50. What does that look like? Well, that’s going to shape what you do with them at youth group on Friday night, if you know what you need them to look like at age 50.
So what do I do? I think the question is fairly simple. We know what we should do, right? We know that we need to pray. We know that we should read the Bible. We know that we should be engaged in a community of like-minded believers. The question is why? Why am I doing that? What am I hoping to become? You can sit down and aimlessly pray like the disciples did with Jesus and they fell asleep because they didn’t quite get it yet at that point. You can read your Bible and seven verses in, your mind wanders off and then you’re like, “Uh, I can’t stay focused.” It’s being committed to the outcome being different. That creates the motivation.
I now work out with vigour and energy for the hour I have in my day to do it because I’m committed to loving my son and I begin to see the benefits. All of a sudden, I can go out and he can pitch to me for 25, 30 minutes and I don’t have to sit down on the ground. And if he misses the glove, he has to run and get the ball. I can actually get down and move cause I have strength in my legs. I have energy in my body to move and I begin to see the benefit, the payoff of the work I’m doing, the love of other people.
So, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Well, what does it look like to imitate Christ? He glorified God in all He did, and He reconciled humanity to Himself, and He calls us to do that with Him. Ambassadors of Christ. I’ve committed to you the work of reconciliation as you are going make disciples of all nations. Well, how do you make a disciple if you don’t know how to do that? So, I read the Word, I memorize the Word. Not because I should, but because I can only help you and love you if I have the Word in my heart. I can only bring you along in a community of care and love if I have a community of care and love to bring you into. I can only give you hope if I have a reason for my hope.
The beauty of the Kingdom of God and of Jesus’ love is that it’s for me, but it also passes through me to others. It’s not just for me a selfish… And Paul says this too. You can have all these things, but if you don’t have love for other people, it’s a clanging symbol and a gong. It’s you for you. It dies right there. It’s the love of other people and the desire to help people, however you can help them, that motivates, keeps you, reading your Bible with an intention.
Hmm. It’s amazing how simple that is. I know many, many people who go to church and they’ll see somebody, who either as a godly man or godly woman in the congregation, and they think to themselves, and I’ve done this, “I want to be like them. When I’m 57, I hope that I’m like him.? And yet I wake up the next day and nothing in my life has changed, right? I’m still committed to two plus two even though I just looked at five and said I want that.
But I think what you just said was really good that oftentimes when I look at that godly man or godly woman and think I want to be like them, it’s because I think that very selfishly. I think I want a young man to be standing in my place thinking I want to be like him. Not thinking, I want to be that godly man caring for and loving somebody who is now learning to follow after Christ. That shift of the motivation to looking outside of ourselves to then just from looking within ourselves.
Yeah. I think when you ask that man or woman you’re looking up to, if you really go and sit down with them instead of admiring from afar or what you see as the nice tidy package that they have it all together, and you ask them about life, you’ll find that what makes them appear to have hope and a reason for the hope and to be this spiritual giant is that they died. They died in Christ. And that what you’re actually seeing, what you’re attracted, to the aroma of Christ in them… It’s like when your neighbour is baking chocolate chip cookies and it’s coming under the door and you’re just like, “I just have to go there. If I don’t know them, I’m just going to stand outside the door and just smell the aroma. It’s so good.”
We see these spiritual giants in our churches or in our life and we think, “Man, there’s something there that I’m attracted to that I wish I could be.” Go and ask, how did you get there? Right? This is discipleship that you… Jesus didn’t say, “Come follow Me and I’ll tell you about Myself. Follow Me and I’ll read the Old Testament scripture to Me.” He said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Come with Me on My journey and as I engage the world with the reason God put me here, you’ll partner with Me. And then at a point, I will go, and you will continue on. And in that journey, the disciples found themselves. They found the reason why God created them. They found life in dying to themselves and in uniting with Christ, and they were given the Holy Spirit to guide and empower them to be agents of the Kingdom of God and to fulfill that call to be reconcilers.
I think too often we have that, well, we should just read about Jesus. Or if we’re a leader, if we say we work with a youth group or teach Sunday school or work with other young adults, and we think my job is to say, “Okay, gather around and I’ll tell you about… ”
Jesus never said that. He said, “Follow Me. Let’s go do something.” And as we’re doing that, Jesus provided walking commentary. I mean it’s brilliant if you read through the Gospels and it’s just constant banter.
“Come with Me. Oh, here we go. Oh, see this guy over here?”
And the disciples said, “Well, who sinned? This man or his father that he ended up like?” Oh, great, object lesson. Let Me tell you, it was neither. But this happened that the power of God might be displayed right here, right now. And look at this, is it unlawful to heal a guy on the Sabbath? Well, what do you think? And He healed his hand and they went inside, and they sat down at the table and He said, “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. Don’t sit at the head of the table. You might be embarrassed if someone more important new comes around and sit at the end and when you’re invited… ”
And He just talked nonstop as He went, as He discipled them, as He led them, He was their executive coach and He gave them the Word of God and they followed Him. And when the teaching got really hard, right, in John 6, after He feeds the 5,000 and He goes around the lake and they follow and there’s tons of them following Him and He says, “You’re just following Me because you want the free food and the party tricks.”
“No, no, no, no, no.”
And He says, “Well, I tell you, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no part with Me.”
And they grumble amongst themselves and say, “This is hard teaching. Who can follow this?”
And many of them turned away at that point. And Jesus said to the 12 who remained, “What about you? Are you going to go too?”
And Peter said, “To whom would we go? We’ve come to know that You are the Christ and Your words lead to eternal life.”
If you’re someone who knows that if you know that Jesus was the Christ and that His words have eternal life, that will transform you. That gives you a reason for hope. And the love of Christ compels us then to go and love others with His words, with His way.
On my own, I mean, I have nothing to offer anybody, nothing. It’s only Christ in me, the hope of glory. It’s only Christ in me, the aroma that attracts other people to what I have to offer. My words, I’m no smarter than the next guy. I have different experiences that maybe somebody could learn from, but probably not. It’s only the words of Christ. It’s only what has been handed down to me by those who I imitate, who imitate Christ, that is worth offering to others.
Well, I think you’ve forced us to do a lot of thinking and I think put a lot of homework, in some sense, on our plates to think, okay, what is the end? What am I really hoping to become 50 years from now in my spiritual growth? I want to be like Jesus, what does that look like and how do I get there? That two plus two doesn’t equal five. If what I’m doing right now, I’m not seeing any significant spiritual growth. If I’m not even conforming myself to what the scriptures teach, how would I ever expect to get to a mature, faithful follower of Jesus at 50?” I think those are some really good things for us to wrestle with. So yeah, final thoughts?
Yeah. I think it starts with that. Begin with the end in mind. It – maybe you don’t go to 70, picture yourself in a rocking chair on the porch, but maybe you go to 50. You’re in the midst of life and career and family and kind of that’s the mid-point maybe. And say, what does it look like? What do I look like? What do I look like financially? What do I look like relationally? What do I look like spiritually?
And if you have this picture of yourself spiritually as someone who’s providing guidance and love for people, and you have wealth and you can care for the poor and you have time and you can have people over to your home. There’s all sorts of things wrapped up in there. You have to own a home that you can have people. You have to be able to afford to buy food for others. In terms of the practical life goals, we started by saying like financial goals and relational goals, but you have to have something to offer them. And if you want to be that, if that’s the picture God gives you, of what you look like at 50, how are you getting there? And so, you begin with that end in the mind. What do you look like at 50, yeah, what has God called you to be at 50, and then how am I going to get there? And who can help me because you can’t do it alone.
That’s great. So, thanks so much for joining us, Mike. Really appreciate you joining us.
Great to be here.
Thanks for joining us for this episode. I think Mike and Joshua leave us with a really great place to start or continue if this is something that you’re already working on. I would encourage you to find those people if you don’t already have them, who you’ll learn from and who can help you in your spiritual growth and discipleship. And be open to learning as much as you can.
Next week, Daniel is back in the studio talking with pastor and cultural commentator, Mark Sayers about how to be hopeful in a post-Christian culture.
Thanks so much for listening. If you want to hear more, subscribe on iTunes and Spotify or visit us online at indoubt.ca or indoubt.com. We’re also on social media, so make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.