Those who take the fast track often fade in the longer race of life, while the diligent steadily move toward the lead. The industrious person is the one who gets ahead, while those who seek a quick and easy route to happiness—who would rather party, pose and focus on "fun"—will usually be disappointed in the end.
Where will tomorrow's leaders come from, and who will they be? What character traits will set them apart from their peers? How can you know?
Every generation has its challenges and obstacles to overcome, and out of those challenges and obstacles rise men and women who lead the way. When young people look at their friends and classmates, how can they figure out which will someday rise to the top? The Bible's book of Proverbs gives some answers.
"Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men" (Proverbs 22:29). Those of us associated with Tomorrow's World know quite a few men and women who have proved this to be true. Some have come into contact with President Ronald Reagan of the United States and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Some met—and even worked with—the King and Queen of Thailand, as well as many other well-known and influential world leaders in government and industry. Few if any who had this opportunity would have imagined, in their youth, having such experiences when they grew older.
Scripture tells us, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty" (Proverbs 21:5). I like to put this another way, reminding young people that "Street corner cowboys ride short-winded horses." Those who take the fast track often fade in the longer race of life, while the diligent steadily move toward the lead. The industrious person is the one who gets ahead, while those who seek a quick and easy route to happiness—who would rather party, pose and focus on "fun"—will usually be disappointed in the end.
The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom for young people (and old) who are serious about succeeding in life—for those who understand that, as former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill so movingly put it, they have a "rendezvous with destiny"! In particular, young people today should be excited that they are living in a fascinating and unique time in world history, as mankind's 6,000 years of self-willed misrule is soon coming to an end, and many who are alive today will see the ushering in of a wonderful Millennium of Jesus Christ's perfect rule on the earth!
Young people today who have the foresight to see where this world is headed—who reject the wrong values of this corrupt age and embrace the true values that will be the way of the future—will have an amazing opportunity to lead the way for others during the sooncoming rule of Jesus Christ. However, preparing for this opportunity requires foresight and followthrough; two qualities absent in most people, young and old, today. How often have you heard people look back on their lives and say, "If only I had known then what I know now, I would be rich!" Sometimes this is about a missed business opportunity—not buying a piece of land, or not investing in the next Microsoft or Google—but sometimes it is about personal choices not made wisely.
In business, those who can predict the future can become rich. God's word tells us the future of the world! Young people who study the Bible can know much about their future, and the future of the whole world, long before most people have that knowledge. Those who have this knowledge know where to put their focus. The Apostle John warned us: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2 : 1 5 – 1 7 ) . Right now, we live in an age where "sin sells" and almost everyone is buying into it big time. But as John warned, this bubble will soon burst, and all who are heavily invested in it will be swept away. However, those who have the foresight to see what is on the horizon, and to act on that knowledge, will position themselves for greatness—not only to stand with kings, but to be kings (See Revelation 5:9–10; 20:4)!
Foresight is rare enough, but following through is even more unusual. How often are we tempted to delay writing that paper until the night before it is due? How often do we put off that phone call until the last possible minute? How often do we wait until "the pressure is on" before doing what we need to do? Character involves following through—actually doing what one knows is right—and is a lesson that we tend to learn as we grow older. The sooner we learn it, the better off we will be!
Follow-through also involves another "c word"—courage. How difficult it is to go against the tide. No one wants to be different, if being different makes us pay a price with our peers. Nobody likes being called "chicken" or "party pooper" or "loser" or worse. It may seem much easier to get that tattoo, pierce that body part, wear those "sexy" immodest clothes or those thuggish baggy pants. It may seem hard to refuse that cigarette, that pill, that drink or that sexual advance. No, it is not easy to be different!
Because it is not easy, we may fall victim to a common human weakness, and think we can "put off" building our character and courage until the "big test" comes. We procrastinate, thinking that we will do what is right when it is truly important in the future. Sadly, life does not work that way. If we do not exercise character and courage today, we cannot expect that we will have the strength to exercise it tomorrow. As former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani so aptly put it: "The events of September 11 affected me more deeply than anything I have ever experienced; but the idea that I somehow became a different person on that day… is not true. I was prepared to handle September 11 precisely because I was the same person who had been doing his best to take on challenges my whole career" (Leadership, p. x).
Small acts of youthful courage build character for future battles. No doubt Daniel and his three friends of biblical fame learned at an early age to stand up for what they believed. When their world collapsed around them, they did not suddenly start acting with courage. They acted with courage because that is what they had been doing all along. Even in captivity—yes, especially in captivity—their foresight, character and courage served them well. They were riding long-winded horses. You can read about them for yourself in Daniel, chapters 1, 3 and 6.
Tomorrow's leaders will have these traits of foresight, character and courage, because they will have exercised them in small ways every single day of their lives! By diligently serving their King—Jesus Christ— today, they are being prepared for leadership in Tomorrow's World.