John Sikkema seemed to have it all. Running a successful business in the financial services industry with a dream house and a family that loved him, he appeared to be the epitome of what success looks like. But looks can be deceiving – the reality was that John’s life was on the verge of falling apart as he faced challenges in his business, health and marriage. It all changed when he had what he calls his “defining moment”.

“A lot of people wait till they’re divorced, (have) cancer or are bankrupt before they make changes in their lives,” says the now 65-year-old who now lives in Melbourne. “And I suppose mine was my wife (Sue) saying ‘John, you’re not the same guy I married and you’ve to change or otherwise I want a divorce’.

John Sikkema.

 

"I suppose that’s what I help people do now through Halftime: help them find their Ephesians 2:10 calling, to slow down, spend time with God and get your unique assignment from Him.”

- John Sikkema

“And I was thinking – typical male – what’s wrong with this woman? She’s got a beautiful house, she’s got a beautiful car, the kids all go to private schools, there’s food on the table, I’m faithful – what more do you want? Inadvertently I’d been trying to change her to suit my success. So I had to switch to helping her be who God created her to be rather than be just another team member in my quest to be successful.”

While he'd grown up in a Christian family - his Dutch parents were of the Reformed Presbyterian church - and had surrendered his life to Christ in his early 20s, Mr Sikkema says it was more of a "head commitment" than one of the heart. "I'd only really surrendered probably half (of my life)," he recalls.

The moment of change came after hearing God's Squad founder Rev Dr John Smith speaking at a church service, explaining how God had created people for a “greater purpose” and challenging those who had wealth to use it to help others instead of just looking to their own comfort.

Even as he was being challenged to put God first in his priorities, Mr Sikkema talks of hearing what he describes as the “almost audible voice of God” telling him that he wasn't created to be successful but to help others succeed. Having had a spiritual epiphany, it was then that Mr Sikkema decided to make a list of 13 things that he needed to change in his life in order to fulfill the purpose that God had given him. Including everything from making himself available for community work to reading the Bible as though it were written for him personally and putting an end to chasing success and pursuing purpose instead, it was a list that would radically change the direction of his life.

“The real compelling reason on why I existed didn’t fully become clear until that defining moment,” Mr Sikkema recalls. “I think most of us are searching for that and we have the gist of it but I think that if I asked a lot of people, even church-going people, ‘What’s your purpose in life?; what’s your Ephesians 2:10 calling (“the good works that God created in advance for you to do”)?; are you clear what that is?’, a lot of people (would) fumble around and say, ‘Oh, well, I keep the 10 commandments, I go to church, I tithe, I try and help my neighbours when I can, I try and lead a good life’.

“And I say, ‘Yeah, that’s great, now is there any legacy that you think God wants you to leave?; is there any (sign) that you’re here for a greater purpose than that? And they’ll say ‘Well, I work in this industry or that industry or I generally enjoy doing this or that but generally it’s very vague...And so I suppose that’s what I help people do now through Halftime: help them find their Ephesians 2:10 calling: to slow down, spend time with God and get your unique assignment from Him.”

The Halftime he’s referring to the executive coaching organisation, Halftime Australia, that he founded in 2010 as a mirror organisation of one established by Bob Buford in the US. Buford, the former head of a cable TV company, founded his organisation in 1997 after confronting the tragedy of losing his only child in his mid-40s with the aim, according to Mr Sikkema, of “unleashing the latent potential of the American church” and helping them to build infrastructure to do that.

Mr Sikkema, who had by then sold his business in Tasmania and moved to Melbourne, was intrigued by Buford's vision for transformation and, encouraged by his mentor David Bussau - founder of micro-finance organisation Opportunity International, he went to Dallas and met with the Texan. Needless to say, it was an inspiring meeting.

“So I brought it to Australia about six years ago and we’ve been coaching people...from different walks of life, different backgrounds, predominantly church-going people but not all...and just seeing fantastic life transformation...” he says.

John Sikkema's 2012 book Enriched, in which he shares his story of transformation.

The non-profit organisation now has coaches operating in most states in Australia and, says Mr Sikkema, they’re looking to expand it.

Those who resonate most with the message of the ministry, he says, are business and community leaders who are “really dissatisfied with where they are now and think, ‘Maybe I’m in the wrong job’ or ‘I’d like to do something that’s more aligned with my faith but I’m not sure what’...They’re already got a bit of a spirit of generosity – they’re people with either affluence or influence.”

While he's had the chance to share some of his story with many people through public speaking events, Mr Sikkema decided to write a book to give a more complete picture of the change that took place in his life - in particular, the critical role God played in it.

“Because the catalyst of that success wasn’t my own brilliance or whatever, it was really a God thing big-time and so I wanted to get that across,” he says.

Mr Sikkema says he deliberately wrote the book - Enriched: Redefining Wealth, it was published in 2012 - so it will appeal to those who don’t have a faith in Christ as well as those who do.

“You’ll notice in the book, I don’t mention any Bible verses in the front half of it...I don’t try to preach, I don’t try to talk down,” he says. “What I’m trying to do is to say ‘Well, if your life isn't working - and mine wasn’t - maybe God’s worth a go...I can tell you (in) my life, I had my back to the wall, I could have lost my marriage, gone bankrupt and had major ongoing health issues and something turned my life around. Maybe surrendering 100 per cent like I did is what you ought to do if you want to develop a plan and purpose for your life.”

“So it’s for those who are sitting in pews who are disengaged like I was; those who are in the marketplace saying well, maybe I’ve got enough money or my life isn’t working, here’s a guy’s story that I can relate to that maybe I can adopt or learn (from).

As for what's next? As Mr Sikkema notes in the book, there is no retirement in the Bible.

“I just enjoy coaching and mentoring people and having them reach their full potential in Christ, be they individuals or organisations, so currently I’m just expanding the number of programs we do under Halftime.”

He’s also looking at working more with people overseas – the programs run by Australian arm of Halftime are being used as a model for programs which are being rolled out in Asia and Europe.

“(I)t’s a life of adventure really...I’ve got 20 years where I can make a difference in this world so…(I’m going to) go for it. I’m living the dream, really.”

~ www.halftime.org.au

~ www.enriched.com

This article was last edited on 26th October, 2021