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Finding Your Path in Life

Air Date 06/08/2019

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How do you know when you're not only in the right job, but on the right track in life? Author Cynthia Tobias shares guidelines to help you determine what talents God has given you, and what strengths will get you where you need to go.

Episode Transcript

Opening:

Excerpt:

Cynthia Tobias: Excuse me, but you can’t change the world if you’re like it. God sent us into the world not to be part of it but to help transform it. You’re supposed to change it.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That leads the question: what are you doing to change the world? Cynthia Tobias is gonna help you explore your options on today’s Focus on the Family. You host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, I think all of us would like to imagine that our life has meaning and purpose, but sometimes we wonder if that’s really the case, don’t we? But you should know that God has a purpose for your life. He created you in your mother’s womb and gave you certain strengths and talents. And today, Cynthia Tobias is going to encourage you to discover those. This message from Cynthia was given at a women’s conference, but it’s also very applicable to teens and young adults, so we thought it would be appropriate to air during “graduation season” here in the U.S.

John: Well it is, and here’s author, speaker and educator Cynthia Tobias now on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.

Body:

Cynthia: They did a study a few years ago - they asked I think something, like, a hundred thousand Americans, “Are you in the exact right job?” Eighty percent said no - 80 percent. “It’s not a bad job. It’s - I’m lucky to have a job. But the exact right job? No.” Only 20 percent felt like they were right where they ought to be. Aren’t we blessed to be in the 20 percent? I just thought, “Wow, I love my job.” I mean, even when I’m trudging on and off the airplane, I keep saying, “I love my job. I love my job. I love my job.”

(LAUGHTER)

Or when we’re waiting at the delay and the mechanical difficulties and all the luggage backing up and getting lost, “I love my job. I love my job.” And I got to thinking, you know, this is - this will be 22 years in January that I’ve been doing this full time. And I’m just - I just stand in awe that God lets me do it. Are you not in awe because we are nothing but vessels. And we get reminded of that. I think there’s a saying that God never gives us more success than humility. Whoa.

So I got to thinking, “Well, how do you really know if you’re not only in the right job but in the right place?” I mean, how do you know if you’re even on track because sometimes you have to do something that’s not exactly right job in order to get where you’re supposed to be. You have lots of different detours you have to take, so how would you know that you’re actually on the right track? And I think there are three ways that you’ll know that you’re on the right track. I think the first most important way that you’ll know you’re on the right track is that you will know what your strengths are. You’ll know how God blessed you. You’ll recognize what you were gifted with and what you weren’t gifted with. You know, we’re not all alike. We know that. Not everyone is like you, and not everyone wants to be like you. See, that’s what we can’t figure out. Why don’t you want to be more like me?

(LAUGHTER)

Because we’re all so different, and we really talk a pretty good game, especially, you know, it’s pretty politically correct and everything else to talk about diversity and how everyone has a right to be who they are, and we talk a really good game. But in the end, it still comes down to us pretty much.

A few months ago, I decided I was gonna design a sticker. And I talked about this virtually for a while. And I was in Delaware a few weeks ago, and they actually - somebody - the principal there at the school made a sticker for me. It’s a sticker that - I picture it being like this, you know, you can hand it to people, then they can just peel it off and stick it on them. And here’s what the sticker says. It says, “So it’s all about you?”

(LAUGHTER)

Could you not do pretty well with a stack of these? Could you not give them out? Could you not have given a few out today, almost every day, to drivers, to people in line in front of you? “So it’s all about you?” I was in Philadelphia, I was waiting to get on an airplane. And we were waiting in line. And I was just talking to the lady next to me. I don’t know who she is. And there were people behind me. And I didn’t realize anybody else was listening. But we were talking, and somehow we got on this topic of ‘so it’s all about you’ sticker. And just as we were getting ready to board this very self-important businessman elbowed his way right up to the front, shoved everybody else aside, and got on first. And the guy behind me muttered, “Oh, I need one of your stickers.”

(LAUGHTER)

Here’s your sticker.

And just about the time I get to thinking, “Well, that’s right, I need a whole stack of them because I could really give them out to people,” then I get reminded of something. Well, Lord gives me a few a day. I can remember being in Little Rock, Arkansas, not too long ago and everything went wrong. And it was a - it was not the crowd they said it was, and the lodging was subpar, and the directions were terrible and nobody was there to meet me. And it was just one of those times when everything went wrong. And I was just - I was feeling really frustrated and a little bit self-righteous. “I have come for much less money, I have done so much, and they’ve done nothing for me, and I can’t believe the books didn’t get here right, and nothing went right. And, brother, what’s the deal?” At the end of the seminar with a very small group instead of the large one they promised, one lady came up to me, and she said, “I just need to tell you, you came for me today.”

(LAUGHTER)

“Lord, I’m so sorry. It’s not about me. It’s not about me.” It’s so easy to think it’s all about you - isn’t it? Because you’re the one that’s impatient and, you know, the humility comes in so many ways. God’s sticker - it comes in so many ways.

I was in the outlet mall a while back there in Seattle and waiting impatiently at the Nordstrom Cafe. I just wanted to grab a peach iced tea. And the lady in front, she was taking forever. And then even when she was finished - because I’m looking at my watch and, “How long does it take? She’s getting one mocha!”

(LAUGHTER)

She finally gets her drink and she still doesn’t move. She’s there digging through her purse and moving things in. And I want to say something. And I’m on the verge of going, “Ugh.”

(LAUGHTER)

And something checks me. I don’t do it. And in just a minute, she’s still rummaging through her purse. She looks back at me, she goes, “Oh I’m sorry, I need to get out of your way.” And I said, “Oh, that’s all right, don’t worry.” And she looks at me, she went, “Oh, I was just reading your book last night.”

(LAUGHTER)

It is so easy to make it all about me. I just don’t understand why blah, blah, blah. I can remember being in Costco a couple of Christmases ago. And the couple ladies - all the aisles were crowded and clogged. And these ladies were stopped in their cart looking at all the beers of the world, talking, and nobody’s moving. And finally, I had had it. I just went, “Ugh.” And the lady looked at me, and she said, “There are other aisles, you know.” And, Lord, help me, but I said, “There are other people in the world, too.”

(LAUGHTER)

That’s when I started my NBY award - Nobody in the world But You.

(LAUGHTER)

I’ll be in stores and I’ll go, “Oh, NBY,” or in our airports where people are just meandering around, I’ve got a plane to catch, everybody’s spread out, “NBY, nobody in the world but you. Did you not realize there are other people in the world but you?”

(LAUGHTER)

The Lord said, “How many times do I have to tell you this is not about you, not about you.” Ethel Barrett, she wrote a book many years ago, and I remember it very well because as a teenager I memorized her saying. She said, “We would worry a lot less about what other people think of us if we realized how seldom they do.”

(LAUGHTER)

We are all concerned. Oh, maybe I don’t look exactly right, and I bet they’re just going to notice that I don’t have the right - they don’t even - they have not even given you a thought, and you are all about yourself. I’m all about myself. It’s terrible. You’re thinking, “Oh wait I gotta” - it’s not about me, certainly not in a place like this. You know who it’s about? It’s about Him. It’s about Him.

I remember reading that shy people were the most selfish people in the world. I thought, “Well, that’s crazy.” And then it went on to explain, “No, if you’re shy, all you’re thinking about is yourself, worried about what other people will think, worried about things, about you,” but it’s not about you. It’s not about you.

One of my favorite stories about the lion who, you know, came crashing through the jungle, and he terrorized all the other animals - the lion terrorized them. The small animals scurry away. And he comes roaring through, stopping everybody saying, “Hey, who’s the biggest, toughest, meanest animal in the jungle, huh? Who is it?” “Oh, it’s you. It’s you, your majesty, the lion.” And he went and he terrorized them all. And then he ran into the elephant. And he said to the elephant, “Hey, who’s the meanest, biggest, baddest animal in the jungle?” The elephant used his trunk, flung the lion up into the brick wall, smashed him and, you know, and he just bruised him and broke a couple of bones, and the lion is lying there bruised and bloody. He looks up at the elephant and he says, “Hey, just ‘cause you don’t know the answer...”

(LAUGHTER)

It’s not all about me. It’s not all about me. It’s about others. And the more you look outward with extravagant love - cautious love makes it about me because “what if they don’t respond well, and what if it’s not really what I’m supposed to do and what if I’m - I mean, I know I should, but what if I don’t and,” you know, that’s cautious love. And that’s sticker love. Give yourself a sticker because you did not use love in any extravagant way to reach out to anyone. You protected yourself. And you were very cautious, so it’s all about you. It’s all about protecting you. And it’s all about who you want to be, not what God wants you to be. See, you know your strengths, but you’re afraid to step out with some of them because you’re afraid what other people will think. It’s not all about you.

Program Note:

John: Cynthia Tobias on Focus on the Family, referring to the ‘extravagant’ love of Jesus Christ, and what He did for us on the cross. That’s the kind of love we’re supposed to be sharing with the world around us. For further inspiration, get a CD of this program, and Cynthia’s book, A Woman of Strength and Purpose. That’ll kinda recharge your spiritual batteries. Uh, you can do that when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY - 800-232-6459, or donate and request those resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and return now to Cynthia Tobias.

End of Program Note

Cynthia: Second, I think after knowing your strengths, I think it’s real important to know what you’re aiming for. What are you going for? One of my very favorite questions - I think it would revolutionize the world of business, it would revolutionize every staff meeting you’ve ever been in, every school you’ve ever had, if we just asked and answered one simple question - “What’s the point?” “So, like, bottom line, though, what’s the point?” Imagine how much time that could save at committee meetings. “So bottom line, though, guys, what are we shooting for here? Where do we want to end up because if we could identify what we’re shooting for, then could we find different ways to get there and then could we - we could all agree on this one bottom line? What’s the point?” But instead we have lots of ways and lots of rabbit trails, and we try to get everybody to do it our way. And, you know, the fact is they’re not going to. We really wouldn’t want them to. It’s like the left hand and the right hand. You can’t get anything done with two left hands or two right hands. We have one of each for a very specific reason. And we try to get the left hand to do what the right hand’s doing, but that wouldn’t make any sense. We can’t do it with two right hands. That’s why we’re drawn to the other, drawn to someone with opposite strengths, admiring them, thinking, “This would be a great perspective.” But now we’re annoyed. “If only the left hand would do a better job of what I do.”

One of the stories I tell in The Way They Learn, I was on a church board many years ago. And we had a board meeting - I guess people like me - kind of global, big picture, sort of intuitive learners, not real detail oriented, um, I think we were in charge that night of sending out the reminder notices...

(LAUGHTER)

...Because we didn’t actually send out anything. We just - we sort of told people, but mostly people that were like us because they’d remember sort of. And so none of the analytic, detail oriented people came. But that was okay because we had a quorum, and we were all having a great time.

(LAUGHTER)

It was one of the most relaxing board meetings I have ever been to - free flowing refreshments and stories and wonderful ideas. And, you know, we had a youth rally coming up. And somebody said, “You know what we should do for the youth rally? Let’s go buy a thousand balloons, we’ll fill them with helium, we’ll put a little notice inside the balloons of the rally, we’ll release them into the air and they’ll come down all over the Puget Sound area in Washington and people all over will come to our rally.” Boy, that was a great idea. We thought, “Let’s do it.” So that very next week somebody went out and bought a thousand balloons. Somebody else went and rented a helium tank. And then we made up all the notices. And we were all - we were just about to put it all together when we had another board meeting and all the analytic folks came. We were enthusiastic, and we were excited to tell them what we had accomplished. So we enthusiastically told them about it. And they patiently listened. And at the end one analytic man raised his hand. He said, um, “Do you have any idea how long helium balloons stay in the air before they come down?” Um, no, actually no.

(LAUGHTER)

He said, “They’ve been known to stay up two or three months. The rally will be over.”

(LAUGHTER)

Well, that’s a good point. Another analytic lady, she raised her hand. She said, “Do you have any idea how far helium balloons go before they come down?” No, actually no. She said, “They have been known to go two or three hundred miles. People on the other side of the mountains aren’t gonna come.” Wow, that’s a good point, too.

(LAUGHTER)

As far as I know for the next several years there was a box of unused balloons underneath the Sunday school desk and a whole bunch of real intuitive learners going, “Oh, you guys, we cannot have another meeting without the analytic folks.” We thought they were just raining on our parade, nitpickers, pick, pick, pick. How much will it cost? Where will you park it? How will you know it works? Pick, pick, pick, pick, pick. Who thought we’d need them? Wow.

(LAUGHTER)

From then on we’re going, you know, the whole point is not that it gets done our way but the point is the point. And we need to know what it is. And then before we were picking at each other going, “Oh, yeah, Ralph, like he ever has an idea that he’ll follow through on. Oh, yeah, Sue, like, she ever has an idea she likes. She criticizes everything,” all of a sudden it all changed. It changed to, “Wow, this is a great idea. Ralph, what do you think? How would we start that? Sue, you’ve got a great idea before, what do you think?” See, we started deciding, you know, we can’t all be one hand or the other. We kind of have to decide what the point is and where we’re going, and then we have to sort of get there.

In the church today, sometimes we - we have a hard time figuring out what the point is. Probably not your church, but we struggle at our church. We struggle between traditional and contemporary. I was at a large church up near the Canadian border - Christ the King Church. They have, like, 3,000 people. They meet in a warehouse. They’ve got a huge, huge auditorium. They’ve got - every time you walk in the doors, they have Starbucks coffee and ice water. You could never walk in the door without the coffee. And before I did the family seminar that day, I’m kind of walking around the sanctuary praying and - and the - I said to the family minister, I said, “Wow, got a lot of coffee stains in here.” He said, “Yeah, there sure are.” He said, “You know, our pastor - we’re building a new worship center.” He said, “And last Sunday in the middle of a sermon our pastor stopped and said, “You know, a lot of you have asked me, Pastor, when we get into the new worship center, are we still going to be allowed to have coffee?” He said, “I want you to read my lips. We want the whole county to come spill coffee on our seats. See, it’s a mess, but the point is they’re here. They’re here.”

Who are we reaching? What is the point? What are we trying to accomplish in your life? Do you know? What are you trying to accomplish? Do you even have a goal defined? Do you know what it is? Do you know where you’re going? Will you know when you get there? Because you need to know where you’re going. It’s a matter of perspective, too. You know, sometimes we get so focused.

I remember years ago - I travel a lot, and I never think about a plane crash. I can’t because I fly 150,000 miles a year. I had another speaker friend, she is scared to death of flying, I mean, absolutely petrified. And the only way she got over it, she told us, is she has a friend who is, she says, “the unluckiest person in the whole world.” This friend has never had any good luck happen to her ever. She lost her husband. She lost her job. She got all these setbacks. And Marilyn, the speaker, she said, “You know what, I finally did?” She said, “I took out a life insurance policy for a hundred thousand dollars and made this woman the beneficiary.”

(LAUGHTER)

She said, “She will never be lucky enough to get that money...”

(LAUGHTER)

“...And I fly in peace.” Perspective. Anyway, I’m in Greenville, South Carolina, and I’m flying back - I’d been - I was teaching for a whole week in the Greenville County Schools, and I was so anxious to get home. And I got on Northwest Airlines 757. And I actually - I got upgraded to first class, which was nice because it was a free thing because I had had so many miles. And I like an aisle seat. But I didn’t get an aisle seat. I got a window seat that time. So when the guy sat in the aisle seat that I wanted, I didn’t even talk to him.

(LAUGHTER)

He was in the seat I wanted.

(LAUGHTER)

So I’m sitting there, and I’m just thinking, “Let’s just get off the ground because I want to read a book, and I want to relax, and I just - I have had it. I have given myself all week long. I just want to relax.” So we were getting up and we had just gotten to the 10,000 mark where they let you have your electronics on. And all of a sudden - because I was - it was nighttime and I was sitting by the window, there were three loud - what amounted to shotgun blasts - boom, boom, boom - really loud, shook the whole plane. And because I was sitting there I saw the flames with each one fly out of the engine on the right side of the plane. And the whole plane - the whole right side of the plane went dark and the plane tilted and went dark. And I just - I remember throwing the book down, sitting straight up in my seat, going, “I cannot believe I am gonna die in a plane crash. I have things to do. My boys are still young. I have books to write. Lord, surely this is not it. This is a - this is a little aluminum can up here - I finally realized that.”

(LAUGHTER)

“There’s no happy ending.” They tell you, you know, “If the oxygen masks come down, put it over your nose and mouth and breathe normally.” You cannot breathe normally.

(LAUGHTER)

You are hyperventilating because you’re thinking, “Oh, my goodness.” And, you know, normally in this, with turbulence and stuff, people scream all over. And that plane was dead silent. It sort of evened out for a minute. There was not a word, not a sound. We were just - all just, like, holding our breath. And there wasn’t a word. And the guy next to me said, “Oh, this is very bad.”

(LAUGHTER)

I wanted to say, “Well, aren’t you a ray of sunshine?”

(LAUGHTER)

He said, “I think we lost an engine.” I said, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that I saw it go.”

(LAUGHTER)

He said, “I wonder -” and I said, “I just want to know where the flight attendant is because I’m going to look at her and determine by her face whether it is serious or not.” That’s what you - that’s when you’ll know, if the flight attendants are crawling on their knees trying to reach their seat.

(LAUGHTER)

Well, we couldn’t find anybody. And it seemed like forever. And finally, the pilot got on the intercom. And he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed...”

(LAUGHTER)

“...We lost an engine.” He said, “It’s okay. The 757 is designed to fly just fine on one engine, but we’re going to turn around, and we’re going to make an emergency landing in the Detroit airport and we ought to be on the ground in about 12 minutes.” I’m figuring, “Yeah, one way or the other we will be on the ground in about 12 minutes.”

(LAUGHTER)

‘Cause, see, what he did not tell us is that you can land once on one engine, but you can’t go back up again. There’s no, I mean, there’s just one shot. That’s it. A Boeing airplane’s a wonderful thing, but it just - it can’t do everything. And so the whole 12 minutes we’re all wondering - I’m wondering - “Do I write a note? Do I call my family? I mean, I have 12 minutes to land one way or the other. What’s going to happen? We’re all still running through our heads.” Well, 12 minutes later we did land safely among the foam trucks and the fire trucks and all the emergency vehicles. And they hustled us right off the plane and right on to the next one before we could say, “You know, I don’t really think I want to...”

(LAUGHTER)

They just did not waste any time. They got us on the plane. We took off - within the hour we were back in the air. And this time, I mean, we just faced near death, I felt like, so this time I talked to the man next to me.

(LAUGHTER)

“Okay, Lord. Okay.” I get to know him a little bit. He was a young man with a couple boys and a young wife. And his name was Michael. And he was a go-getter. He was a - he was in a company that bought other companies and turned million dollar companies into $500 million companies. And he was just a real go-getter. And something prompted me, as we talked, to ask him this question. I said, “Michael, I need to ask you this question, then you can ask the same one of me if you want.” And I don’t even know why I asked this. It was God because I would not have asked this question. I said, “Just now in that airplane, if we had crashed, would you be ready?” He said, “I got to tell you, I am not ready.” He said, “I go to Sunday school. I teach a Sunday school class when I’m home, but I’m not home as often as I need to be.” He said, “I have worked” - and he said, “Let me ask you a question.” So I’m already for this philosophical question. He said, “Have you ever owned a beagle?”

(LAUGHTER)

No. Chihuahua, terrier, not a beagle. He said, “Well, let me tell you, I’ve owned a beagle.” And he said, “Let me tell you about beagles.” He said, “A beagle, when they get the scent of something, they put their nose down and they go after it. They don’t look at anything else. They go and go and go till they find it. And when they find it and they finally get it, they put their head up and they realize they have no idea where they are.” He said, “That’s me. I’m that beagle.” He said, “Just now in that airplane I put my head up and I realized I do not know where I am.” He said, “I have some serious work to do.”

You could be a beagle in lots of ways, you know? You can be dedicated to finding good things to do, but you can be so focused and so blind to everything else that by the time you finally get what you thought you were aiming for, when you put your head up, nobody else is around, and you’re in a strange place and you don’t even know how you got there. It’s important to remember, “Lord, what am I supposed to be doing?” Keep my head up. Keep my mind in the Word and keep my head up so that I can see the people around me and realize I need to know what I’m aiming for. And it needs to be what God wants me to do, not what I’ve determined is important.

Closing:

John: Such great biblical insight from Cynthia Tobias today on Focus on the Family, and we’re gonna share the conclusion of this message next time.

Jim: This is good stuff. And I hope it has inspired you to ask God what goals He has for you, and go after them. And it doesn’t have to mean a whole new career, but maybe there’s something that the Lord is asking you to add to your schedule that could really hold some eternal significance. And if you do that, ask Him to help you balance out your time commitments maybe by cutting back elsewhere. Or start planning how to use your retirement years in a meaningful way - maybe you’ll need to start taking some classes now to be ready when that time comes. We’ll hear a great story about that situation tomorrow.

John: And a lot of this content that we’ve heard today is coming from Cynthia’s book, A Woman of Strength and Purpose. We have copies here at Focus on the Family. And as a strong-willed woman, that’s how she describes herself, Cynthia wrote the book to help women like her use their strengths in ways that really will impact the world for Christ.

Jim: That’s right, John, and we’ll send that out to you for a monthly pledge of any amount, as you partner with Focus on the Family in our efforts to help families thrive in Christ! Monthly giving is really the best way to support this ministry, because it helps keep our budget on an ‘even keel’ for all 12 months of the year. And if you can’t make a monthly commitment, I get it. We can send Cynthia’s book to you for a one-time gift of any amount.

And if you’ve been thinking about a teen or young adult who may need help finding God’s direction for their life, we’ll post two great interviews with Pastor John Ortberg on that subject at our website. You can download those for free. So come visit us online. 

John: Yeah we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or if you’d like, call us and we can tell you more: 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY - 800-232-6459. Again, donate and request Cynthia’s book, A Woman of Strength and Purpose: Directing Your Strong Will to Improve Relationships, Expand Influence, and Honor God.

If you enjoyed today’s broadcast, please, tell a friend to tune in next time, when Cynthia shares encouragement for all ages.

Teaser:

Cynthia: God has things planned for you. You can’t just stop and sit down. He still has a dream and a vision alive in your heart.

End of Teaser

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Guest

Cynthia Tobias

View Bio
For more than 30 years, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias has been teaching people of all ages how to discover and use the strengths of their natural learning style to succeed in virtually any situation. She is an author, speaker, and the founder and CEO of AppLe St. (Applied Learning Styles). Cynthia's latest books include You Can't Make Me! and A Woman of Strength and Purpose, in addition to her classics The Way They Learn, Every Child Can Succeed and Bringing Out the Best in Your Child. She has two grown sons. Learn more about Cynthia by visiting her website, www.cynthiatobias.com.