How Does God Define Success?

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One day I was driving home from church and passed a big, shiny, brand new pick-up truck.  It was a beauty…and it was grey.  Oh, did I mention that it was really shiny with lots of chrome and cool lights. Did I tell you that it was impressive like the trucks on the commercials that are driving haphazardly through large mud puddles and hauling tons of important, manly looking items?  That is about all of the technical details I can recall about this truck.  If my husband had seen it, he could tell you the make, the model, the year and several important facts about it.  Then he would say with a frustrated but wistful longing, “I would love to have a truck like that!”

I would love for my husband to be able to have a truck like that!  He has owned at least 4 different pick-up trucks, all of them used.  All of them needed a lot of repairs and were more trouble than what they were worth, in my opinion.  But Chris does do a lot of hauling and hard work, and loves pick-up trucks.  As I passed this particular grey truck, I wondered to myself, “What would it feel like to be able to own a truck like that? What would it feel like to be successful enough to turn Chris’ dream into a reality?”

God used that grey truck to shine a light on the inner workings of my heart.  I realized that my definition of success was this: having enough money to buy an expensive new truck.  Then I thought about my vision for our future, a future where Chris and I had been successful.  I saw our family living in our dream house we had found on the internet.  The one that has seven bedrooms, six bathrooms and ten acres.  We were able to pay all our bills on time.  We were able to buy a new camper.  We were able to take time off from work to use that great new camper on vacations with all the children.  We had enough space and time and money to open our home to missionaries needing some R &R, and maybe we even developed a ministry to special needs children on our lovely property.

In my vision, our future was so beautiful and we were so prosperous…and comfortable.  My idea of success is the American dream: to work hard to earn a good life and then be able to enjoy that good life.  Dictionary.reference.com defines the American dream as: a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.

Exactly!  That is what I wanted!  Isn’t that what we all want?

But is that what God wants for us?  Is that His best for us?  What is God’s definition of success?

Jesus said that we should seek his kingdom first.  Isn’t his kingdom all about…well, HIM??  Isn’t it all about knowing Jesus and having relationship with him and becoming like him? Anything that distracts us from knowing him is no success at all.

I realized that my definition of success was infinitely too small.  A shiny grey truck could make me happy when the most beautiful, powerful, captivating treasure was waiting in the wings…waiting to be sought out, to be discovered, to be experienced, and to be loved.  And that treasure was waiting to show me his love, to blow apart my mindsets and wreck my American dream if necessary to bring me to himself.

“You will not measure true spiritual fruit rightly while you are in the earth.  You can only measure your true success by how much more clearly you are able to behold the LORD, by how much better you know His Voice, and by how much more you love the brethren.

“You must not try to judge by the fruit that you see on earth, but do what you must because it is right.

Even so, more that bearing fruit, your call must be to know the LORD. If you seek Him you will always find Him.  He is always near to those who draw near. ..There is no higher purpose.  Your victory will be measured by your seeking.  You will always be as close to Him as you want to be. Your victory in life will be according to your desire for him” – The Call

A new idea of success was forming in my mind.  To know Jesus more each day.  To look into his eyes every moment and see his great love for me.  To live in that love.  To be able to see the face of God clearly enough to make out when he is smiling.  To desire to make him smile with my every thought and word and deed.  What joy and peace that would bring to any circumstance of life that I might find myself in.

That, my friends, is true success!

Breaking Through to Prosperity

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“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2

I had always found great comfort in this verse during times of trial, knowing that no matter how hard my life got, God would not let the troubles overwhelm me.  Most of these trials have had to do with finances.  How many times can you drive around the same block of “not enough in my bank account” before you realize that you are in the wrong neighborhood and hightail it out of there?  Seemed to me that we had tried a million different paths to a million different locations and always ended up in the same place – that run down, ugly part of town called “Lack”

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otherwise known as “Hope Deferred”

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or “Too many Big Dreams and Not Enough Money.”

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I was praying again for some insight on how to conduct our lives in a way that would lead us to that abundant peace and prosperity that the Bible is always talking about.  Again God gave me Isaiah 43.  But this time I understood it in a very different way.

Perhaps the most dangerous and powerful rivers in this life were not hardships as I had supposed.  Perhaps success, wealth, and the praises of man were far more perilous.  Perhaps the fiercest flames were not that of failure and rejection but that of acceptance and comfort.

My husband, Chris, loves music and had gotten in the habit of watching the TV show “Behind the Music.”  I don’t know very many popular bands, but I could predict the basic story line of almost every show.  A few guys had some talent and big dreams to become rich and famous.  They achieved their dream after varying degrees of time and effort.  They were worshiped by fans. They had enough money to make every desire and whim become a reality.  They had everything they ever wanted…and it just wasn’t enough. They would spiral out of control with excess; drinking, women, and drugs.  Many of them ruined their families and careers.  Some even lost their lives.  The blessed few humbled themselves and got their lives back on track.

What I learned is that quick and easy success is no blessing!  The adoration of fans is no blessing!  Abundant wealth is no blessing…if you do not have the character to handle it…it will destroy you.

If all our dreams came true tomorrow, I wouldn’t become a drug addict.  Chris wouldn’t become a womanizer.  Yet we could become prideful without even realizing it.  We could rejoice in our own wisdom and power.  We might be tempted to lead others to our most excellent way rather than point them to THE WAY.  We might become too comfortable to seek His kingdom first.

I began to read Isiah 43 in a new light.  Chris and I had learned so much through our 19 years of marriage.  How to better budget our money.  How to work as a team.  How to pray and trust God more.  How to leave behind generational curses.  We had made so much progress, yet we still did not see the prosperity that God had promised us.

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Then I heard His still, small voice.

“What is left is for you to do is to seek me and know me more.  Every moment of everyday, take the opportunity to sink your roots deeper into the soil of my love and truth.  I am withholding the mighty river of overwhelming blessing simply because you are not yet ready to handle it. Until your roots are firmly anchored in me, it could sweep you away.”

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I am so thankful that God is keeping me safe from myself.  I am so thankful that his promises mean that someday I will be like Jesus; able to steward great power and responsibility without letting it control me.  Being able to humbly accept both abundance and lack and be content.  I will be able to follow the advice of Rudyard Kipling.

“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same.”

Triumph and Disaster and are powerful forces that could consume all that is good in our lives.  Yet if we are already completely consumed by the Lover of Our Souls, those two impostors have no chance at moving us… except deeper into his embrace.

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