There is an old saying that offers this insight. “There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.”
People who make things happen are people of initiative. They see things that need to be done and they don’t wait to be asked or told they just do them.
Webster says that initiative involves the “energy or aptitude in the initiation of action.” Etymologically it’s rooted in the Latin word “initium” which speaks “to beginning.”
We often think of initiative as relating to material, business or financial success. In his classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey observed, “People who end up with the good jobs are the proactive ones who are solutions to problems, not problems themselves, who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with correct principles, to get the job done.”
Cathy Hopkins summed up the spirit of initiative when she advised, “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.”
Initiative, however, or the lack of it is also seen in our homes, our communities, and our churches. Recently a friend of mine was speaking about a fellow Christian who’s a good man and will do about anything he’s asked to do. But my friend said, “He doesn’t have any initiative.” Somehow he lacks the ability to see a need until someone tells or asks him.
People with initiative don’t need to be coerced, coaxed, or cajoled into doing what they ought to do. They see a job and do it. They discover a need and address it. They see something lacking and fill it. They see a wrong and right it.
The book of proverbs often addresses the issue of initiative in connection with diligence, work ethic, motivation, and enterprise.
“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Prov. 10:4).
“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest (Prov. 6:6-10).
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” (Prov. 21:5).
The New Testament also addresses the quality of spiritual initiative with these exhortations.
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col. 2:23).
“To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17)
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10).
Initiative-oriented people seek opportunity. See opportunity. And seize opportunity. In this regard the counsel of Theodore Roosevelt is appropriate, “It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come he is ready.”
Susan C. Young, in her book, The Art of Action, writes, “First, take complete responsibility for your life and current outcomes. Then take proactive steps for the necessary action to move forward in your desired direction. This personal choice is at the heart of your achieving impressive results. Taking initiative is the start of all good things born from action . . .
• Positive Change
Our world and the church are filled with too much apathy, indifference, and inaction. Let’s renew in ‘22 the spirit of initiative.
Finally, remember the words of Andy Warhol, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman