Hamilton lands the first blow, but Verstappen hits him with a decisive left-hander into the first corner in the second round! This F1 season is shaping up to be a season for the ages. You won’t want to miss a single minute. I’m loving it.
Today, more thoughts driven by Formula 1.
What makes Lewis Hamilton a seven-time world champion? Being fortunate enough to drive the best car? Certainly, the car has helped. (See my last post on the importance of the car). But it isn’t just the car, is it? Raw talent? Well, he’s an exceptional driver. Sometimes he’s so good, the rest of the field just has to stand back and admire his achievements. Take, for example, his qualifying lap at the Styrian Grand Prix in 2020. He qualified 1.2 seconds faster than the next driver. That’s an absurd amount of time. Toto Wolff described it as a drive “not of this world.” The lap at Imola just recently was also breathtaking.
But I’m not here to list Lewis Hamilton’s achievements. This is not a book. I want to examine what it takes to become a world champion. Good car. Check. Talent. Check. But that’s not enough. What it takes is this . . .
Focus, focus, focus
World champions dedicate their lives to the pursuit of just one thing. The G forces going through their bodies – especially their neck muscles – are tremendous. After two hours in the car, they often emerge dripping with sweat. You have to be very fit to drive to your greatest potential all the way to the end. Footballers can’t do it! Most goals are scored in the last ten minutes when one side is flagging. In F1, you can lose the race from one split second of lost concentration.
So what of those who lead churches? What does it mean to focus, focus, focus?
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3.13-14
Purity of heart is to will one thing. Søren Kierkegaard
It is perhaps the greatest heart-breaking irony in a leader’s life, when the very thing which should be first, ceases to be so. God should be first in our waking thoughts, first in our priorities, our time with him protected from every incursion. He is our sole pursuit.
And yet in the busyness of ministry, we are liable to lose our focus. And we do it with the best of intentions, and with a heart which often seeks the good. People quickly become our gods. Aren’t we supposed to love people? Yes indeed, but those two commandments are written with the order in mind. First, love God. And do so by loving your neighbour. If God is not your primary focus, then it won’t matter how much you give to people, because your priorities are out of kilter.
So make the pursuit of your Lord your first priority. Every day. In every action. A time spent with God that drifts from one to two hours is NEVER a careless use of time. Ever. To love God means just that. To place him first before all other things. Listen to John Calvin.
We are God’s own; therefore let every part of our existence be directed towards him as our only legitimate goal.
Lewis Hamilton prioritises the winning of F1 world championships. He organises his life around that one objective. And so do others. They are straining every sinew to achieve that goal. Our goal? To love God with all that we are, all that we own, all that we do. And no, this doesn’t mean over-working. We at Living Leadership are very clear about that.
Let’s take a look at that car.
An F1 car is a thing of beauty. The designers manage to eke out a huge amount of downforce, but they also balance it perfectly between the front and rear tyres. At least, that’s the aim. Do you drive? If you do, do you have your car serviced? Of course you do. So how much work do they do on these F1 cars? There isn’t a nut, a bolt, a duct, a compressor, DRS which isn’t cleaned, examined, tinkered with, serviced and worked on until it’s working as close to perfection as the team can manage. All done within the rules, of course.
Servicing the cars isn’t an added extra. It is integral to the success of the team.
Think of the race as your public performance. A Sunday service. A teaching engagement. Public prayer. What kind of servicing are you doing on your soul? What’s going on behind the scenes?
Recently, I’ve been reading some selections from the classics. Richard Rolle, Frank Laubach, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, C.S.Lewis, Henri Nouwen. Their wisdom is both challenging and humbling. These were people who dedicated their entire lives to the pursuit and service of God. They engaged in the spiritual disciplines, the servicing of their souls. They spent time alone, they meditated on the Word of God, they fasted and they prayed. They often wrestled with God.
If your soul were a car, what kind of servicing does it need? Is your oil leaking? Are your tyres worn out? Do you need to go on a retreat? Do you need a friend to come alongside and encourage you? At Living Leadership, we provide opportunities for leaders to receive prayer and encouragement. The spiritual disciplines are practices which service the soul. They help us draw near to God. They shouldn’t be options. They should be essential.
Finally, those tyres.
The truly great drivers manage their tyres. They are able to drive in such a way that they minimize the wear on the tyres as they drive. Sergio Perez is particularly good at this. So was Jenson Button. I guess you could call this “pacing yourself.”
The Lord is not honoured by a servant who burns himself out – working ridiculous hours with little support until the tank is empty, the tyres are shot. That’s not a healthy way to serve in ministry. If you want to pace yourself, you must learn to rest, to recuperate, to relax. The sole pursuit of God doesn’t mean working until we destroy our mental health. It means enjoying him with all of who we are. Listening to his Spirit. A servant strengthened in God is a servant satisfied in God, equipped for service.
So pace yourself. Manage those tyres.
Focus, focus, focus.
Service your soul.
And pace yourself. Manage those tyres.
So that you’re able to love and serve your God, energized, for the whole race.