Genesis 2:8-9, 15
1 Corinthians 10:13
God cares about your worldly success.
God cares about your relationships.
Where God wants to take you may be quite different that what you think.
Your image of God and of yourself may get in the way.
Allowing God to take you forward is a great joy.
Week Five: Lord, Can I Succeed?
Success for the Christian is about doing what God is leading us to do today. We are going to look at the experience of a young father, but pay attention to the application. The spiritual principle may surprise you. No matter what your age is or your situation, you have the same job, be a blessing to others. Focused meditation on the nature of the love we meet in Jesus Christ shows us how to live the New Commandment recorded in John 13:34b). Our job, our purpose if to love other’s with the love we meet in Jesus Christ. How you do that job is unique to you and your situation, but blessing others with Christ’s love is fundamental to all Christian ministry. It is the theme of love and of success that ties a lifetime together.
As we age the definition of success changes. Maturing in life is about turning loose of the barriers to ministry whatever they are. Rather than mope about what we can’t do we eagerly involve ourselves in what we can do.
Charlie’s father had done well in business. But Charlie missed him as a child and decided that when he grew up he would be a “real father.” Like many of us, he wanted to improve on what he had received. Like many of us, Charlie found it harder to live out his decisions than to say what they were. Are you surprised?
Remembering his resolve to be a real father, Charlie became a teacher. He would have summers off and would get home in time to be involved in his children’s lives. He was organizing his life to accomplish his goal. The goal of being an involved father was worthy and certainly consistent with the gospel.
Charlie thought Christianity provided principles for life rather than a relationship with our Creator. Since we are created beings designed to accomplish God’s goals in life, ignoring our nature leads to trouble. Charlie’s career choice was not consistent with the Charlie God had made. In short, he hated teaching.
So Charlie tried Real Estate. Most people would rather starve than sell. Not Charlie. He liked people, houses and enjoyed the sales process. He started off strong. He was about to congratulate himself on finding the perfect career.
Real estate suited Charlie as a person. As pleased as he was with his progress as a realtor, Charlie began to run into trouble.
He came to me frustrated and confused. He was this far from a successful career but was sabotaging himself. Do you know any Charlies? Have you been a Charlie?
I quickly realized that Charlie’s prayer life was sporadic and shallow. It was focused on asking God to intervene in this or that crises.
He had a very plastic "churchy" image of God. He had no idea as to how to pray for guidance.
I said to Charlie that in my experience we either take time to reflect on our lives in the context of Scripture and God’s leading or we have decided to live a life we never learn from and find somewhat unsatisfactory.
Charlie looked surprised. I was offering him an opportunity to relate to God and through that relationship God would lead him. He was expected a new principle to follow.
Once he thought about what I said it made sense to him since that was exactly what he was experiencing.
So he agreed to take 15 minutes a day to ponder his life and ask God what was up. In other words, he began to pray with the assumption that the God who loves him actually wants to relate to him.
Then he prayed, “Lord, what did I learn at work yesterday?”
Charlie then prayed each morning, “Who do you want me to bless today?”
Charlie felt odd. Was praying about work really religious enough to please God? He struggled with the idea that God cared about his career. You see, Charlie already had his image of God and was in no hurry to change.
This is probably the most common single problem in the spiritual life. We already have an image of who God is. Because that image cuts us off from who God really is it also makes it impossible to love others with Christ's love. When we meet God in person we are tempted to fit our Creator into an image of our own creation. Guess what? As common as that temptation is, it just does not make sense to try to create our Creator.
As we just read in 1 Corinthians 10:13, our temptations are common. We share them with all sorts of people. Having created us, God knows what we are going to get into. God is faithful and has provided a way out of every situation if we only look for it. Like many millions of Christian people have discovered, Charlie discovered that God will give you eyes that see in a different way if you only ask. Charlie was grateful for the encouragement and persistent. He began to pray for colleagues, clients and to see opportunities. Charlie discovered much about his passions, talents and opportunities to bless others. And Charlie learned to give up his false image of God which prevented him from learning from his career experience. It was all good.
Having cleared one hurdle, Charlie then ran into another almost universal block to success, unhealed pain from the past. As the weeks passed he began to realize that the problem he felt was that he might get so excited about being a financial success that he would cheat his family. Now Charlie was up against the ropes. Unhealed sorrow and unforgiven pain stood between Charlie and what God wished for his carrier and family.
It says in Jeremiah,
“You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there!” Jeremiah 6:14.TLB
When I asked Charlie why he would worry about loving work too much, it clicked for him.
In time Charlie came to realize just how damaging his experience with his father had been. One day Charlie just knew that that he had never really forgiven his father for deciding to avoid the family through work. He was afraid of making the same decision. In Charlie’s words, “I don’t want to be my father all over again. When I get uncomfortable, I give away my success and destroy my own momentum.” Charlie was in his mid-thirties at the time.
Then, and only then, was Charlie ready to experience the faithfulness of God. He had to give up a silly notion about what God thought was spiritual and what God though was not spiritual, then he had to forgive his father before he would let God take him where God wanted him to go.
God always provides a window of escape. God is faithful. One of the most effective salespeople at the agency was a Christian man living a well balanced life between work and home. Charlie was encouraged to believe that you could be successful in business and as a father. Charlie began to accept God’s help enjoying success and enjoy his wife and kids.
I wonder what Charlie struggles with now. He would be retired by now. His children would be in their late forties watching their children finish high school or go to college. Charlie loved to hike and ride his dirt bike, but since he is pushing 75 now, I doubt he is doing what he once loved.
I think Charlie has had a recent struggle with what most of us struggle with. Aging. Recently a friend of mine was sitting there in a back brace. He had done too much work around the house. I was complaining about my knee. Well, I remembered my father saying that he was able to do what he did but it took a day instead of an hour.
We cannot do what we used to do. As we age success no longer has much to do with business or raising children or how many projects we got done. Success gets redefined, doesn’t it? But besides an image of God that we have to give up from time to time we have an image of ourselves we have to modify. If we don’t we will be frustrated and may become bitter.
God is a God of the present and the possible. Praying, “Lord, who can I encourage today?” is a prayer to see the opportunities we have to love others by encouraging them to succeed. No matter what our circumstance in life, God has a plan for us, a plan to give us good hope and a future, a plan for blessing and not a curse. “Lord, who can I encourage today?” teaches us to see the constancy of love throughout all the changes of life.
Like I said at the beginning, watch the principle and the application. The principle is that ministry is about blessing. The application is that how we are able to bless changes as our lives change, but it is all incredibly valuable to God.
I encourage you to learn this passage this week.
“15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Gen 2:15
God created you to work and will remove whatever obstacles to success that you have in your life, but don’t be surprised to discover that what God means by work or success may be quite different than what you were thinking. Most often we clear the barriers to love in our lives by service God by blessing others.
This week, pray,
“Lord, who can I encourage?”