The preacher M.E. Dodd once said, "Many are twisting a tune out of a hand organ when they ought to be playing a four-manual pipe organ. Many are satisfied to play with mud pies when they ought to be making angel food cakes. Many are crawling when they ought to be running. Many are building shacks when they ought to be building palaces."

It's true. If you want to develop the poise that conquers worry, then do everything you do the best you can and learn to master some skill.

First Corinthians 10:31 says: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Therefore if we are going to glorify God, we must do our best. There is no room for mediocrity in the life of the child of God. God deserves and demands our best.

Hear ye the Master's call, "Give Me thy best!"
For, be it great or small, that is His test.
Do then the best you can, not for reward,
Not for the praise of men, but for the Lord

Wait not for men to laud, heed not their slight;
Winning the smile of God brings its delight!
Aiding the good and true ne'er goes unblest,
All that we think or do, be it the best

Night soon comes on a pace, day hastens by:
Workman and work must face testing on high.
Oh, may we in that day find rest, sweet rest,
Which God has promised those who do their best

Skill is essential to poise

The speaker who has subjected himself to rigorous discipline until he has perfected the craft of speaking is poised when he speaks. The speaker who has not paid the price of discipline, and who comes to the pulpit or to the lectern half-prepared, lacks poise—and if he has any discernment, he will be tortured to reflect on the mess he has made of it.

The anxiety produced thereby is totally unnecessary and could have been eliminated if he had simply paid the price in developing the needed skill. The same is true for the doctor, the lawyer, the salesman, the artisan, the athlete, the artist, the cook.

For a professing Christian to do less than his best is inexcusable. The Christian has the motive and the resources to achieve true mastery.

It is tragic that there e so few truly great musicians today. So few great orators. So few great financiers. So few great inventors. Thank God, however, that there are still some who are willing to soar to the heights of the eagle, though they know they will fly alone. For the glory of God and for their own peace of mind, they are willing to exert themselves to the full and to climb the ladder of achievement to the topmost rung.

Some time ago I had an interview with one of the greatest speech professors in America. He showed me seven pages of elementary voice exercises, which, to my amazement, he said he had practiced daily for 40 years. This man cannot tolerate mediocrity.

The great pianist Ignacy Paderewski practiced simple finger exercises for hours every day over a period of years. No wonder the musical world 100 years ago was hypnotized by his skill.

Edison experimented hundreds of times before he successfully developed the electric light filament. While he was working on it, a scientist in England went on record as saying that the electric light filament was an impossibility and anyone who said otherwise was a fraud. But Thomas Edison, who loathed mediocrity, kept on giving his best until success crowned his efforts.

Matthew Henry worked hours every day for 40 years in producing his Commentaries. They probably appear on the bookshelves of more clergymen than any other Bible commentary set. Why? Because, under God, Matthew Henry gave his best.

Jesus told the parable of the man who started the house but never lived in it. Our Master scorned a task half done.

For years, William Jennings Bryan unrelentingly and laboriously practiced the art of oratory. He never won a speech contest. Nevertheless he kept on. As a comparative unknown he attended the Democratic National Convention held at the Coliseum in Chicago in 1896. It was past midnight. The people were weary. Many of them were leaving. He stepped up to the stand and delivered his famous Cross of Gold oration.

This speech, so masterfully delivered by the man who never won a speech contest, catapulted Bryan into the position of standard-bearer for the Democratic Party. In less than 24 hours he had become a national figure. This mightyman of God had mastered the mechanics of the work for which God had called him, and the record of his life is a glittering trophy and an imposing monument to the glory of God.

Too often we don't try hard enough

Peace of mind is dependent upon the awareness of divine approval. When we fail to give God our best, we fail to bring maximum honor and glory to His name. Consciousness of this failure produces anxiety and inner conflict.

There is no poise like the poise that accompanies mastery of a skill in the power of God.

Whatever your personal view of television, I think you must confess that it presents one of the most stinging rebukes to the apathy of church leadership. Performers will work day and night to attain mastery in the field of show business.

Singer Kate Smith dominated television when I was a younger man. I learned that for every hour she appeared on the screen, she spent 18 hours in preparation. At that time she was broadcasting five hours a week. For five hours of TV entertainment, she willingly worked 90 hours to bring to her viewers the finest programs she was capable of producing. She did not have to do this for monetary reasons, for at the time she was reputedly a millionaire several times over.

On the other hand, consider how shoddily professing Christians will treat the work of the Lord. Here's an example: A soloist gets up to sing. Possibly he has rehearsed that particular number, but more probably he has not. He sticks his nose in the crease of the book and has to read every word. Imagine an opera star bound down to script and music! What conclusion do you come to? Yes, that's right. Evidently, the opera star is more devoted to the mastery of her profession than the average gospel soloist is to the glory of God.

In Philippians 4:13 Paul assures us, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." You have the resources necessary to do what God requires of you. And in the fulfillment of His calling, you will have poise that conquers anxiety.

Learn to do at least one thing better than anyone else can do it

It's true of us all that we like to do what we know we can do well. You are less likely to worry if you feel in command of what you are doing. Worry results from a divided mind. When you are doing what you like to do, your mind is occupied with one thing. "This one thing I do," said Paul (Philippians 3:13). Dwight L. Moody added that most people today would have to change this and say, "These 50 things I dabble in."

The high school boy enjoys most the sport he plays best. The teacher feels most confident and comfortable in the subject area she loves and in which she has extensive knowledge. The legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein used to do children's shows on television. For one solid hour he would hold a capacity studio audience of hundreds of children spellbound and charm millions of television viewers. He was totally absorbed. Obviously he enjoyed it. Why? Because he was probably the world's greatest music teacher when it came to explaining music to the masses. He liked to do it because he had mastered the skill of doing it well. At the conclusion of the hour, even the television viewers detected that he was nearly exhausted but supremely happy. He was poised.

There is an important lesson here. At my high school, the principal, who also taught us American history, admonished us over and over again to "learn to do at least one thing better than anyone else can do it."

Have you not had this experience many times? Perhaps it was at a party, or maybe a picnic, that you saw someone who seemed absolutely disengaged from the proceedings, moping around on the sidelines and refusing to participate in the activities.

Then a game or a sport was proposed, and the mention of it brought light into his eyes. He threw himself into that game or sport with everything he had. He was clearly skillful in that activity. And because he was doing something he knew how to do, his body became vibrant. His face shone. His conversation became animated and enthusiastic. In short, he began to show all the evidence of being poised. His skill in the particular activity allowed him to become congenially involved in the group. His mind was no longer divided. His interests were no longer diffused. He had found a place because he could use a skill he had mastered better than anyone else.

The satisfaction of a skill employed

When Bedan Mbugua of Kenya came for a course of advanced Christian leadership training in Singapore, he was a pharmaceutical salesman. Suddenly, however, a fresh idea struck him. He saw the possibility of publishing a magazine that would communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who might never come to church or be interested in religious things.

When he returned to Kenya, he pursued his goal. In less than three years, the magazine he was producing outsold Time and Newsweek in five African nations, including Nigeria. He later transferred the ownership and production of the magazine to another party, and started yet another publication.

Bedan's story has been one of ever-increasing successes. He loves the work. And he loves it for one reason: because he's good at it. Equally, you could say that he's good at it because he loves it!

I repeat, we like to do what we know how to do well. Bedan Mbugua understands magazine publishing. He not only understands the writing needs, the editorial needs, and the demographics of the areas where he intends to sell, but he also understands the business aspects, marketing techniques, and all of the various elements essential to the production of an influential magazine.

If you want to conquer worry, discipline yourself to the point of mastery in the field to which God has called you. For your own peace of mind, excel in at least one thing. Gather your resources, rally all your faculties, marshal all your energies, focus all your capacities upon mastery in at least one field of endeavor. This is a sure-fire antidote to the divided mind. Stop scattering your efforts. Cease halfhearted attempts to be superb in everything. Ascertain the will of God for your life. Enlist His help and strength, and trust that through Him you can do all things. Strive for mastery, and soon you will experience worry-killing poise through your skill.