Where are you holding back?

There is a story in the book of Acts that has always interested me. I will tell you that every time I read this story it evokes something in me on the topic of excellence. In Acts 5 we see a brief retelling of the story of Ananias and Sapphira. You can read the whole story on your own, but the short version is that people in the church were selling all they had and using those resources to invest in the Kingdom. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to be counted among those who were investing in the Kingdom – but they held something back and it cost them everything. Like drop dead in an instant everything.

The story intrigues me because I think it highlights a big value in the heart of God. What did they do wrong? I would suggest they did one main thing, which violated the heart of God….they acted like they were whole hearted when they were really half-hearted. I am not telling you how to interpret the Scripture – I am just telling you the lesson I pull out of this story each time I read it. We violate the heart of God when we say we are whole-hearted but secretly hold something back. (click to tweet)

With Ananias and Sapphira it was money that they held back. Where are you holding back?

A few years ago I started to observe a danger in volunteer environments. When volunteers and paid staff work closely together it is possible for volunteers to express pro-rated effort. Another word for it is mediocre effort. The logic behind it was simple – “I am not paid staff…I just volunteer…so any effort I put in is better than nothing.” This observation set something deep into my heart. It placed a conviction in me for volunteers.

God did not create us to be mediocre; He created us to serve with excellence. (click to tweet)

I need to point out that there is a big difference between excellence and perfection. None of us are perfect. The expectation on Ananias and Sapphira was not to bring enough resources to the table to meet every need. The expectation on them was to do what was within their capacity. Inside each of us we know the difference between putting it all on the line and holding something back. And God created us to invest fully into Kingdom work.

Now when it comes to your specific environment there is likely an expectation of excellence. There is a bar, a standard that leaders want to see reached. So how do you balance an expectation of excellence with the reality of being a volunteer?

First you have to understand that pressure drives excellence. What drives a person to accomplish something of worth or value? It is a pressure that propels them to put in the next step of effort. Some people create that pressure within through their own self-expectations. Others find pressure from outside of themselves. Pressure is a good thing that pushes us towards excellence.

It is important to find a balance of expectations and development. Volunteers are at their best when two things are present in their life:

  • High expectations for excellence
  • High development for excellence.

Volunteers need to know that their leader believes in them. You only hurt people by lowering the bar of expectation. However high expectations must be matched with high development. The more you expect out of people the more you must invest in them to help them accomplish great things. Never push people for excellence if you are unwilling to develop them for excellence. (click to tweet)

3 thoughts on “Where are you holding back?

  1. Enjoyed reading this! I love the text you used and how you connected it to real life now. A lot of times we can read text and say to ourselves “why would they hold back from God? ” when we ourselves are holding back from God maybe not finances but in other areas of our lives. Great read.


  2. I totally agree with pursuing excellence and giving our best in service to God. “Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord”… He deserves the best we can give. I appreciate this post, and it’s an interesting take on the Ananias and Saphira story, because I was taught they lost their lives, not because they didn’t give everything they could, but because they lied to God about it. But I guess it’s kind of like two sides of the same coin.


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