Stewarding our joy

By Almero Strauss

It’s that time of year again, when we’re all running at full speed to tie up loose ends and power down our laptops for a while. The pressures and pace of this year all seem to be culminating in this last final stretch – and we are tired. It’s understandable, and to some degree, an inevitable reality for every November of any year. 

We all want to end strong – and we can. But to do so, it requires us to stay focused on the right things – things that lift our gaze and lighten our burdens as we go. 

Lately I have been thinking about our role in Mergon as stewards – not only of God’s entrusted capital but of every aspect of our lives, including our joy. I believe the more we grow in and live from the understanding that ‘God owns it all’, the more effective we will be in stewarding our joy and energy levels in any season. Here are some thoughts that I hope will help take you strong over the 2021 finish line.   

The pressure is off

Somewhere in this past month, as the first signs of ‘Novemberitis’ started showing, a thought suddenly dawned on me: God gave us talents to enjoy them. So often, however, we can turn those talents into burdens. We live and work within a predominantly performance-based culture that prizes hard work as the means to earned success. We are brought up to believe that our talents are given for the sake of excellence and achievement. Our worth is then determined by how well we use and multiply our talents for the sake of God’s Kingdom. If we succeed, it goes to the head. If we fail, it goes to the heart. Either way, it puts the onus on us and takes the focus off God, the only One who can ultimately write this story. Suddenly that which was meant for God’s pleasure, becomes a burden and a drain. 

Received, not earned

There is joy from doing something with excellence. But this joy should be rooted in the act itself of producing excellence, not driven by an appetite to achieve or outperform. There is an unspoken satisfaction in partnering with creation in bringing beauty and innovation to the fore. Whether it be painting, or pouring the perfect cappuccino, or brokering a major investment – we were made to pull heaven down to earth and make things better

What helps us to stay joyful and light? I believe it’s in understanding heaven’s posture towards humanity, one in which God does all the giving, and we simply open our hands to receive it. In a Faith Driven Investor podcast entitled Who Do You Think You Are?, Tim Keller shares from Luke 10 how the seventy-two returned from the field to report their ministry success to Jesus. ‘Even the demons submit to us in your name!’ they boasted, to which Jesus replied: ‘do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

Jesus was saying here that their joy should not be in what they accomplished, but in what God initiated and generously gave in His kindness. Their names, like ours, do not deserve to be written in the book of life. They could not earn their spot on the page. Jesus was essentially saying, ‘don’t fall into the trap of defining your worth based on your ministry outputs – rejoice in the fact that your worth is defined by My unmerited grace.’ 

Although God wants us to succeed, we must mind the fatal gap of self-importance and think He somehow needs us to multiply our talents. He’s shown us through a little boy’s lunch box in Matthew 15 that He can multiply things without us. But if we work from an understanding that everything we have – our money, influence, health, time, talents – is a gift, then we will operate under a light yoke and do more than we could have ever accomplished in our own strength. 

Strategising for joy

To maintain the joy of what we do requires strategy and discipline. Aside from our spiritual disciplines, we need to ensure our work or ministry is in balance with other areas of our lives. Stewardship begins with self, so boundaries are key to safeguard our health and wellbeing. Family and friends are vital – we need to carve out time to invest in these relationships. Hobbies and interests, rest and recreation – all these things are important in the eyes of God and should be woven into our weekly rhythms. 

As the Mergon leadership team we have also been asking the question, how do we ensure our people are getting ‘larger’ and not smaller in their capacities, their vision and their passion for what they do? Are our work rhythms sustainable? Do they nurture a culture where we are inspired and equipped to steward every area of our lives? And though we don’t have all the answers, we are committed to learn how best we can help our people, and our partners, to thrive. It’s an ongoing learning journey for our team and for me personally, but one that I feel privileged to be on. 

As you head into this holiday season, my prayer is that you’ll find your rest and strength in His – the One who owns it all. 

Almero Strauss is a director of Mergon and serves on the boards of multiple investee companies within Mergon’s investment portfolio.

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