There is no factor that motivates quite so strongly as the desire to be successful (except, perhaps, the fear of being unsuccessful). Everyone understands the ambiguous term of ‘successful’ differently, which makes it a peculiar bullseye for so many people to fixate on.
We are fixated upon it though. ESPECIALLY at the time of my writing, which is in the midst of final exams for college students.
Generally, if you ask someone what success is, he or she will say different things, from wealth to the company of lovers. Ultimately, though, most people define success as accomplishing a specific goal.
If success is simply a matter of achieving goals, why do we not aspire for goals that are easily achieved? Why do men stretch upward for riches when they could easily step down and be poor?
If we are honest with ourselves, we are trying to achieve goals that others have set for us. Success is not a matter of us reaching our goals so much as it is a matter of being viewed a success by others. It is for this reason men will sacrifice everything they have in order to achieve something they do not want. Success is just a matter of being perceived as a successful.
Another troubling aspect of success is how subjective it is. If I truly were to aspire for poverty, and acquired as much debt as possible while spending all the money I had to begin with, I could look in the mirror and tell myself ‘job well done’. But I would be surrounded by a society that pitied me and looked down their noses at me. I would proudly shout, “I am a success!” while they would whisper quietly to each other “Failure.”
So now we arrive at an interesting question: Who defines what we consider success? The answer to this question will point toward the person, whom you respect most, love most, and most desire approval from.
If you set your own goals, then success is nothing but a selfish game played in order to get yourself to the highest state. If society sets the goals, then success is an impossible attempt to please everyone with the goal always just beyond our reach.
There is, however, a third option.
Suppose man valued something more than society’s opinion of society. Suppose man valued something even more than himself. If God determined our success, and we valued His opinion above all else, would our lives be any different from the Sisyphean task society places upon us? Would it look the same as the self-centered success?
God does not shy away from saying what He expects from mankind. (This is where I expect the reader is sighing “Oh shoot, not those commandments again…) But God’s expectations are simpler than the 613 commandments in the Old Testament. What God expects can be stated in two verses:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
That’s it. That’s what God expects. Emphasis should be put upon that very first word, “Hear.” God does not want us to give him our ears but not our hearts. God wants obedience.
No matter if you are scorned, mistreated, maligned, slandered, beaten, discredited, cheated or spurned, if you are obedient to God then He will welcome you with open arms, and say, “Well done.”
For the Christian, success is this: Faithful obedience to God’s will.
It’s impossible to be obedient to God’s will without knowing God’s will. I cannot stress how imperative it is to be actively engaged in studying the word of God and praying. In order to obey God, it is necessary that we listen to what God is saying.
He doesn’t really grasp abstract concepts like God and Jesus yet. He’s pretty sure Spiderman hung the moon in the sky.
I try not to get too fussy about it; I know these things take time. And if I am honest, prayer is one of my weakest spiritual disciplines.
I still remember sitting in a class for young seminary wives as the teacher went over a prayer notebook she had given us. The weight of the notebook was like a load of guilt on my heart as she explained how we ought to be systematically praying over each aspect of life, ministry, country, family, etc, on a daily and weekly schedule, so as to insure we didn’t miss anything.
I think I gave up right then and there.
This is how Ben closes his eyes.
So, I am circling back, kneeling down, and asking God to teach me.
Teach me to pray. I’m ready now. And I’m beginning to see this: prayer is this way of making the invisible kingdom visible. For we live in this loud world, but we serve this quiet, invisible God.
In the Old Testament, the priest burned incense in the temple, and it pleased the Lord, and the priest prayed for the people of Israel.
But now, we kneel or we close our eyes, or we lift them up in prayer, and the Holy Spirit swells within us, rising to God with the fragrant aroma of burning holiness and this is our incense now.
And if we could see it, the power of these quiet, invisible prayers, rising to heaven and filling Revelation’s golden bowls before His throne, I wonder if we wouldn’t struggle so much to pray.
Abba Father inhales the sweet scent of our whispered words and He is pleased.
We believe in this invisible kingdom, we trust in You as Father, and so we pray, Thy will be done. So be it. Revelation 5:8 “…each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
Psalm 141:2 “May my prayer be counted as incense before You; the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.”
On second thought, it would be a little weird addressing God, “Dear Heavenly Picasso.” So, scratch that, just stick with Father.
God is creative.
Blog post done.
Then again, I think expanding on this statement may bring light to what’s on my heart today.
Last night (Feb. 20), there was a decent little snow storm that blew its way to my house. I woke up at normal time in order to get ready for school, however, my phone was lit up with texts informing me that class had been cancelled for the day.
Naturally, I looked out my window, and saw a thin blanket of snow covering my front yard. Beauty. God’s good. God is so creative in each blessing He bestows.
“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1
On the contrary though, I think there’s a common thought that pollutes the minds of many in today’s society. That thought being this:
God is predictable.
I see churches gathering with a minute-for-minute agenda on how a worship service will be carried out. I see charismatic churches frowned upon because the Spirit “doesn’t work like that.” I see children being told not to pray about their lost dog or cat because “God doesn’t care.” I see people believing God’s plan will work out whether or not Christians pray.
Now, all these together may sound a little vague. However, I believe these things occur because of the lack of hope we have in God’s creative intervention.
We tend to decide beforehand what God can/can’t do in a certain situation. But, as I look at Scripture, I see a creative God that fascinates.
“The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” John 9:11
Using mud instead of Lasik? Okay, I see you Jesus!
“And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.” Jonah 2:10
Making fish spit dudes out? That’s some creative resolve.
“but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkeyspoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.” 2 Peter 2:16
Shrek comes into the scene in the next chapter.
Back to my point, God is creative. I see my Lord and savior using mud to heal blindness, God using a fish to bring Jonah back to Him, and God working through a donkey to bring clarity. Now if that’s not creativity, I don’t know what is.
This is my conclusion: God’s people should always hope in the Lord, but also, hope in His creativity. Trust that He is able to work in all things for the good of those who love Him. Don’t doubt the power of God, for He is capable of all things.
Picture this: broken-down car, it’s 31 degrees outside, no heat, no idea what’s wrong, all of the lights on the dashboard on, and just to top it off it’s snowing. In the world of a single gal I did the only thing possible….I called my dad.
He’s trying to talk a rapidly getting anxious girl into figuring out where a fan belt is under the hood. I didn’t even know my car had a fan belt. I’m thumbing through the owner’s manual thinking that it certainly has to tell me options of what’s wrong. All of a sudden there is that gentle reminder to trust God.
Trust is one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. I’m constantly having to ask for forgiveness because this independent female was bound and determined to do it herself. Then as soon as I fail God gives me the reminder that my failure could have been avoided if I had allowed the situation to happen on His timing and in His way.
How many times every day does God have to remind you to trust with a gentle, or not so gentle, reminder?