Steve Vaggalis Pens “Build Strong,” Finish First in Life, Love and Work

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Steve Vaggalis, lead Pastor of Destiny Worship Center (DWC), along with his wife, Jackie, are the founders of a multi-campus church with locations in Destin, Panama City Beach, Freeport, Crestview, and soon, Fort Walton Beach. Beginning in 2001, Destiny has grown from 100 in attendance at their first service to serving many thousands throughout the region. But if you got to know Steve, really got to know him, you would recognize and he would acknowledge, his success was born out of a deep sense of insecurity. In his new book, Build Strong, How to Finish First in Life, Love and Work, Steve recalls in his own childhood as the “second born” how competing with his older brother Pete was an impossible task. “Growing up, I was always in my brother’s shadow. From the classroom to sports, he seemed to excel in everything,” says Steve. “His teachers and coaches loved him, he had lots of friends. As I got older, I felt completely overshadowed. Pete was the portrait, I was the silhouette,” he says. “I’ve struggled with it all my life.” But, in his new book, Steve relays how feelings of inadequacy plague us all and how those feelings were the foundation for writing it.

Steve An Jackie

Steve relates the biblical story of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25), and how Jacob was born second but finished first. Esau was first born and was entitled to the blessings that position bestowed. But Jacob prized the birthright and sought the blessing above all. Thus, the feeling of being “less than” can either conquer you or be conquered by you he says.

The book is organized around seven key principles woven throughout Jacob’s story to help a disciple build an overcoming life. These Pillars are the “finish first” essentials Steve says are  needed for success through the uncertainty of today’s times. The “Pillars” form an acronym:

P – Priorities; The Priority of Priorities,

I –  Integrity; You Can’t Cheat Your Way to First,

L – Loyalty; The Pillar of Successful Relationships,

L – Love; The Five Aspects of Love,

A – Accountability; The Pillar of Spiritual Health,

R – Righteousness; Choose to Believe and Obey,

S – Stewardship, The Proper Perspective.

The “Pillars” rest upon a foundation and, as any builder will tell you, the foundation determines the strength of the house. Steve quotes Proverbs 9:1 when he states “wisdom has built her house. She has hewn out her seven pillars.” Steve says wisdom is a gift from God, (James 1:5), and not a natural or human gift—it is a God-given skill. In other words, you can be first born, second, third or forth, and this “skill” is available to those who will seek it the same way Jacob desired the birthright. “Wisdom is the ability to see the reaping before the sowing,” he says. “Or to see the end of a thing before its beginning. If we can step out of today and look into the future, we can see the consequences of our decisions before we act on them. Then, wisdom brings us back to today, and asks, “Did you like what you’ve seen?”

Steve explains further in the book that wisdom is essential in building the seven pillars above.


This winter and spring, more than 400 DWC small groups are gathering throughout the region to read and study the simple but profound “Build Strong” principles taught by Pastor Steve. The book and study guide are being offered free of charge to all small group attendees, and each weekend through March, the Build Strong principles are being preached at all DWC campuses. For information about joining a small group, you can call the church at 850-650-6800. You can also view the Build Strong sermon series online at

Build Strong Graphic

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