The Measure of Success

One of my recent Christmas gifts was a pill bottle—not an ordinary pill bottle, but one labeled “Prescription for Success” and filled with uplifting, motivating quotes. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could achieve success by simply taking a pill or punching a computer key?

I’m always torn when I read “success” books. I believe that God created us for success, but my definition and His may sometimes differ. What He’s called me to do is not so much about human success as it is surrender and obedience to His will. I want to know that I have pleased Him and accomplished His purposes in my life, and I want my motives to be pure.

I think of Joseph (Genesis 37-50). He had a vision of God’s plan, but ended up in prison. From outward appearances, he did not look like a success. But ultimately—what a different story! He became an earthly savior. His success was wrapped up in his faithfulness to God and commitment to serve Him, regardless of circumstances.

Then there was poor Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1-25). No one listened to his message, and no one responded to his earnest warnings. Other prophets rejected him. Like Joseph, he was tossed into a prison and worse. But he courageously proclaimed God’s message. Jeremiah was faithful and obedient to his calling, and God called him a success.

Today, people (and even churches) measure success in terms of acquiring wealth and financial security, prestige, or power. This is so far from Jesus’ example of success. He had little and no place to call home. He was rejected by the religious rulers of His day, deserted in His time of crisis, and nailed to a rough, humiliating Roman cross. He was a “failure” by man’s standards, but He accomplished all that the Father sent Him to do (John 4:34; 6:38; 8:28-29; Luke 22:42 ). He declared on the cross, “It is finished!” Because of His faithfulness to the Father’s will, we can have eternal life. Oh, that God would find me faithful and serving, committed to His will. It may mean making uncomfortable, unpopular choices, but it’s the only way to achieve true success.


Why I Know Revival Can Come

I love to study about past revivals in the church. A stone plaque sits on my desk, a constant reminder that revival can come again. It bears the words of a beloved revivalist who shaped my vision for what God can do in His church and through His children.

In the words of Del Fehsenfeld, Jr.: “As long as God is on His throne, revival is as possible as the sun rising tomorrow morning.” In other words, revival is tied in with God’s sovereign control; it as “possible” as the dawning of each new day. Revival does not depend on us; it is the merciful touch of a loving God. God can revive who He will, and when, but we certainly can make the kinds of choices that God may honor with a touch from heaven.

We may think that revival is impossible, but scripture says, “The things impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). We may think that we can generate revival, but “a man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven” (John 3:27). No one can come to God unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). This refers to salvation, but perhaps also to the wooing of the Spirit, calling us to a deeper walk with the Father.

It is the grace of God that works in us (I Corinthians 15:10), and it is God who perfects His work (Philippians 1:6). Power and might are in His hand (2 Chronicles 20:6), and none of His purposes can be thwarted (Job 42:2). We may try to “plan” our lives, but the Lord is the director of our steps (Proverbs 16:9). We may also set an agenda for revival, but God is the giver of even this good gift.

It is our responsibility to trust, to obey, to yield, to submit, to serve, and to be ready. These are all choices that we can make. And we can anticipate, believing: “... the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”


Hoarders and Pack Rats

It happens every January. As I try to figure out where to put all the “incoming” (Christmas gifts), I’ve got to figure out some “outgoing” before claustrophobia sets in. I need space, and by all means, I don’t want to become a “hoarder.” Hoarding is clutter run amok. Hoarders are people who have long abandoned any hope of parking their cars in their garages.

Another name for hoarders is “pack rat.” Pack rats in nature gather stray objects, particularly shiny things. Serious human pack rats tend to be older adults who live alone with no one to regularly monitor their hoarding. Hoarding becomes a serious problem when a person is unable to throw away large amounts of accumulated things; the clutter begins to significantly impair day-to-day functioning; or normal living and work spaces become unusable.

But maybe you’re not a hoarder. Maybe you’re just a “messy.” Messies don’t know where to put things, so their living space gets out of control. They may be lazy, but often are not. Maybe you’re a “collector.” That’s no problem unless collecting takes over your budget or monopolizes time that God wants utilized another way. Maybe you’re a “legacy guardian,” saving things for the next generation (even if they don’t want it). Akin to this is the “save-it-for-someday” woman who still has items sitting on the shelf, unused, 15 years later. Or maybe you’re a house-party consumer. You don’t want to disappoint your party hostess, so your home is packed with items you seldom, if ever, use.

We really need to get honest. Some of these habits can lead to frustration, wrong priorities, fear (of loss), guilt (from out of control spending), regret, embarrassment, or even lost opportunities.

The right choices to overcome hoarding are: (1) Recognize and admit the problem; (2) Embrace biblical truth about things, covetousness, and eternal values (Psalm 119:36; Colossians 3:1-4; I Timothy 6:6-8; Matthew 6:25, 31-33); (3) Take positive action steps to get the “stuff” and your life under control (seek help, if you need it); (4) Share your things with people who really need them; and (5) Set up safeguards to keep future “stuff” from taking over. Don’t be a pack rat!


Embracing Joy

I am so impressed with my sister- and brother-in-law’s practice of choosing an annual theme for their family. It’s a tradition yielding much fruit. Last year, they chose to focus on “Leadership.” On Christmas morning, they and their now-grown children shared what God had taught them about that concept.

For 2008, they chose the theme of “joy.” I’m embracing that, too. There are joy-stealers at every turn, and we have to choose joy proactively and passionately if it is to survive. We sing, “Joy to the world” when we remember God’s great gift of Jesus at Christmas-time. We also know that joy is part of the fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)—but I’ve discovered that when we don’t cultivate that gift, it won’t thrive in our circumstances. We have to act on joy.

We cultivate joy as we celebrate who we are in Christ and when we dwell in Him (John 15:1-11; Psalm 16:11). We cultivate joy as we seek the best in and for others, helping them find joy (2 Corinthians 1:24b). We cultivate joy when we gratefully remember the blessings of God, but we also appreciate His presence in our “day of adversity” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). We cultivate joy when we realize how many times our Redeemer has rescued us from our own foolish choices. We cultivate joy through submission and obedience to God’s will—regardless of our feelings. In that regard, we can have joy when happiness eludes us and tough times come (I Peter 1:7-8; 4:12-13). Jesus is our prime example of this. He, “for the joy” set before Him, endured the cross and separation from the Father so we could enter into His eternal joy (Hebrews 12:2; Jude 24). In the midst of everything, we are strengthened by His joy (Nehemiah 8:10).

I have learned much about joy, and I have much to learn. So I will choose, embrace, and cultivate it in the year ahead, and I encourage you to join me in this Joy Adventure.


R-I-N-G in the New Year

I normally make a long list of New Year’s Resolutions which are broken by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around. This year, my list is short and sweet. I am “Ringing in the New Year” with four areas of focus.

R is for Rely on God. As a stubbornly independent woman, I am continually challenged by Proverbs 3:5-6. My earthly father wisely gave me this passage to help me remember that I need to lean on God. As it says in The Message: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own….”

I like the imagery of leaning—counting on God to hold me up. David expressed this concept of leaning in Psalm 91:2 (Amplified version): “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, My God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I confidently trust.” Sometimes when we lean on God, He takes us through fiery trials, but He is with us (I Peter 1:3-8; 4:12-13). When we remember that God is on the throne, and He owns us (and everything we own), we will more likely rely on Him and His resources.

I is for Invest in Others. To invest in people is to commit to them by spending time with them and devoting resources to their present and/or future benefit. Whatever we have, we allow to flow through us to others. We invest in people by loving and serving them; by planned acts of kindness, comfort, and hospitality; by giving to meet needs, and by entering into their lives—rejoicing and weeping with them.

N is for Nourish Yourself. In the Old Testament, immense wealth was used to construct and care for the Temple (I Chronicles 29:1-5), and we should care for our bodies in the same way, because they are God’s Temple on earth (I Corinthians 6:19-20) … God lives in the believer (I Corinthians 3:16; John 14:23). God wants His children to make wise, biblical choices. When they do, God’s glory will fill their lives, just as the glory of the Lord filled Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-3, 12-15).

We nourish ourselves mentally (2 Timothy 2:15), emotionally and socially (Matthew 22:37-40; John 13:3; I John 4:7, 18), and spiritually (I Peter 4:7; Philippians 4:8-9; I Samuel 15:22; 2 Peter 3:18).

G is for Grow and Go. God wants us to be proactive in taking our growth up a notch, so He can lift our outreach to a higher level. It’s a matter of cause and effect—preparation and ministry. As you consider your New Year’s goals, think about people you want to reach with God’s love, and then think of choices you can make to better prepare yourself to reach them. Grow … and then go. And maybe you can do what I have done. I have a little bell by my computer to remind me to R – I – N – G out strong this year!