Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Top

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man." Proverbs 3:1-4 

Sometimes ambition to reach the top blinds us to the simple joys. While searching and striving to achieve the big things in life we miss the truly meaningful things that memories are made of--- the building blocks of a life. Searching for the missing piece that will complete our picture, the one that will make us feel we have achieved all. This piece that will fit perfectly into our happiness formula, the one that will complete our success. Books galore and motivational speakers always preach a formula to get to the top. Somehow if we get to the top from our drive and motivation we are deemed a success.

While wanting to grow, learn and be the best we can be in God's eyes is not a bad thing, when we focus on the gifts of success rather than the giver of success we will stumble. When our focus is on the outward rather than the inward man we begin to lose our way.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” -Albert Einstein

God's version of success is very different than man's. God desires that we follow Him obediently walking the path to His version of success for us. King David gave his son, Solomon, advice about success:

"Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go." 1 Kings 2:3

God desires that we follow Him and walk in His ways first, His blessings come with our obedience. We often have it backwards. We create an idol of achievement and success and being the "master of our own destiny" as Tim Keller says in his book "Counterfeit Gods:"

"More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are God, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength, and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme."

Our success quickly becomes part of our identity as we have achieved a lot, haven't we? After all it was all achieved based on our hard work and smarts! When a crisis happens, a challenging time of life, what is our reaction? Are we suddenly telling ourselves we are "failures?" Only to quickly get up again with the same driven ambition until we reach the top again, missing out on the journey towards God.

God's version of success has nothing to do with our money, our possessions or our smarts. He desires that we commit to Him and His ways and He will show us the path. "Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." Proverbs 16:3

Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury - to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.”
-Albert Einstein

While in America success is looked at as fame and fortune and some measure of notoriety, there are many successful people who do not achieve big things in the world's eyes. Success in God's eyes isn't always big in the world's eyes. The quiet one who follows God faithfully and touches others lives is a success to God. There are many who have no fame, no money, yet they are known to God. They are His creation and His beloved children. All of our work on this earth, our lives---are valued by God, even the most menial tasks. He sees and He knows.

If to be idolized means having a private plane, a bank account full of cash at ones disposal and fame, fortune, and material goods---yet means missing a life with God. is it worth it? A life lived for God, or a life lived for money and earthly success that will pass away. A life lived for God's kingdom goes on into eternity.

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Galatians 5:13

Often the definition of what success is is pressed into our psyche from a young age and is hard to get rid of. We judge success on outward goods and possessions, outer "shininess." Yet examples of a successful man or woman who lived a life for God are few and far between. They held few earthly riches, but many heavenly riches. The sweet and simple life is undervalued. Warm meals, time spent with our families, a good book, knowing God, a simple candle lit in the evenings---these are the good things in life. Leaving our children a legacy of faith, hope and endurance is the best legacy. Leaving them an honorable life, well lived, to look back on and learn from is a huge achievement and one that God values.

"The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker." Helen Keller

As we work to achieve all that God has for us, may we remember that it is not in only striving for the bigger house, the better car, the better outward life, but our efforts to know God and live at peace in ourselves that is valued by God. A peaceful heart, a mind at peace, a heart that abides with God this is what God desires and what He values. May we not miss all that He has for us pursuing our blind striving so that we can live at our fullest in all that He has provided us. Striving for a goal that God does not have for us creates unnecessary stress and wasted time, time taken away from what is truly important.

"God may allow His servant to succeed when He has disciplined him to a point where he does not need to succeed to be happy. The man who is elated by success and is cast down by failure is still a carnal man. At best his fruit will have a worm in it." A.W. Tozer

Our value is not found in the achievements of our straining, but in Christ. Our hearts can abide in Him in peace, knowing that all He has for us He will accomplish through our weaknesses. The striving was accomplished for us on the cross, we can rest in Jesus.

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Galatians 5:13

Prayer: "Lord, I will work hard to achieve all you have for me. Help to remember this may or may not consist of earthly possessions, but of a simple life. May I learn to rest in you, find my identity and worth in you and not my bank account. I know that that does not make me a success or failure. Living my life for you and being faithful is a success to you.  Help me to live my life fully God and not miss out because I am focused on striving for a goal you may not have for me. Help me to leave a legacy of faith Lord and of resting in you. Amen."


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