During the past three weeks since I was diagnosed with shingles (and I’m happy to say I’m finally getting on the other side of it), I’ve had a lot of time to think, or rather, to not think about the past eight years since I lost my job in Houston and this “odyssey” (for lack of a better way to describe it) first began.
This post is for those who struggle with reading all of those “Christian success stories” and wonder if or when their own success story is ever going to finally show up. However, we should keep in mind that not every writer will make it to The New York Times bestselling author’s list, and most of us will never reach even a modicum of “celebrity” in our “celebrity obsessed” culture. Many of us will never be millionaires, either–not even close for most of us–although as a culture we are rather obsessed with money and possessions and looking good and being successful as our culture defines it.
Here’s a hint . . . put those stories away for now. I’m not saying that those stories aren’t inspiring as many times they are quite inspiring. However, one never knows what is really going on “behind the scenes” in anyone else’s life. We often don’t even know what is going on “behind the scenes” in our own life. But what I have learned is that there is always something going on “behind the scenes,” and trying to figure out what’s going on “behind the scenes,” after spending eight years combined between a massive and fruitless job search and now a low-income housing search of over three years’ standing was beginning to wear me out. And it’s the “behind the scenes” stuff that seems to be getting in the way of whatever I have personally tried to do to improve my circumstances.
In my last blog post, “A Heaven Sent Reminder,” published five days ago, I quoted Joyce Meyer from her book, “Let God Fight Your Battles” (2015) on the topic of “Total Dependence on God” (the entire quote is available here). Within that quote is the following statement:
We often try to figure out things we have no business even touching with our minds, and we forfeit peace and joy by not giving God total control over our lives. Some things are simply too difficult for us understand, but nothing is too hard for God. God is infinite, but we are finite human beings with limitations. God has surpassing knowledge, but ours is limited (see 1 Corinthians 13:9). We know some things, but we don’t know everything. There are some things we just need to leave alone. We won’t ever know everything, but we can grow to a place where we are satisfied to know the One who does know. When we arrive at that place, we enter God’s rest, which also releases joy in our lives.
One of the most liberating things we can say is, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, and even if I did, I couldn’t do it without You. But Lord, my eyes are on You. I am going to wait and watch for You to do something about this situation, because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it unless You give me direction.” (Quote source: “Let God Fight Your Battles,” pp. 14-16.)
“We know some things, but we don’t know everything. There are some things we just need to leave alone.” Within these past five days I can’t tell you how many times this particular statement has crossed my mind. I have tried for a long time now to figure out those “some things,” and I have finally realized that I just need to leave them alone. As frustrating at times as these past eight years have been, God’s timing is never the same as our timing when it comes to needing a solution for any particular issue we are facing (see Joyce Meyer’s article titled, “When God’s Timing Is Taking Too Long,” at this link for more on that topic).
The shingles arrived just in time to give me some much needed perspective. It slowed me down to the point where I physically couldn’t do much for those first two weeks, and it reminded me that I’m not in charge of “figuring it out” anyway, but I know the One who knows everything about my situation, and He is the One who is in charge of it.
I reminded of what David wrote in Psalm 39:4-5 (ESV):
“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!
And also what James stated in James 4:13-15 (ESV):
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Now that’s perspective!
We are literally on this earth for an incredibly short amount of time even if we live to be 100. And our concept of “success” here in America is not the same as God’s idea of success. GotQuestions.org gives us the biblical definition of success:
When King David was about to die, he gave his son, Solomon, the following advice: “Do what the LORD your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go” (1 Kings 2:3 CEV). Notice that David didn’t tell his son to build up his kingdom with great armies, or to gather wealth from other lands, or to defeat his enemies in battle. Instead, his formula for success was to follow God and obey Him. When Solomon became king, he didn’t ask the Lord for wealth and power, but for wisdom and discernment in order to lead God’s people. God was pleased by this request and granted it, giving Solomon a wise and understanding heart, more than any man had ever had before. He also gave Solomon the things he didn’t ask for—riches and honor among men (1 Kings 3:1-14). Solomon took his father’s advice to heart, at least for most of his reign, and reflected on it in his writing in Proverbs: “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 ESV).
Jesus reiterated this teaching in the New Testament when He declared which is the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). Loving God means obeying Him and keeping His commandments (John 14:15, 23-24). The first step in this process is accepting the free gift of eternal life offered by Jesus Christ (John 3:16). This is the beginning of true biblical success. When the gift is received, transformation begins. The process is accomplished, not by human will, but by God’s Holy Spirit (John 1:12-13). How does this happen and what is the result? It happens first through trusting the Lord and obeying Him. As we obey Him, He transforms us, giving us a completely new nature (1 Corinthians 5:17). As we go through trouble and hard times, which the Bible calls “trials,” we are able to endure with great peace and direction, and we begin to understand that God uses those very trials to strengthen our inner person (John 16:33; James 1:2). In other words, trouble in life does not cause us to fail, but to walk through trouble with God’s grace and wisdom. By obeying God, we gain freedom from the curses of this world—hate, jealousy, addictions, confusion, inferiority complexes, sadness without reason, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, selfishness and more.
In addition, followers of Christ (Christians) possess and display the fruit of the Spirit of God who resides in their hearts—love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We have at our disposal knowledge to know what to do and where to turn (Proverbs 3:5-6), unhindered amounts of wisdom (James 1:5), and the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). As we grow and mature in Christ, we begin to think not only of ourselves but of others. Our greatest joy becomes what we can do for others and give to others, and how we can help them grow and prosper spiritually. Those who have risen to these heights of achievement understand true success, because a person can have all the power, money, popularity and prestige the world has to offer, but if his soul is empty and bitter, worldly success is really failure. “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
One last word on biblical success. While transformation of our inner lives is God’s goal for us, He also abundantly provides good physical gifts to His children (food, clothing, houses, etc.), and He loves to do it (Matthew 6:25-33). Yet, most of us, at one time or another, focus on the gifts rather than on the Giver. That’s when we regress in our contentment and joy and we quench the Spirit’s transforming work within us, because we are focusing on the wrong things. That may be why the Lord sometimes limits His gift-giving to us—so we do not stumble over the gifts and fall away from Him.
Picture two hands. In the right hand there are the offer of true contentment, the ability to handle life’s problems without being overcome by them, amazing peace that sees us through all circumstances, wisdom to know what to do, knowledge and constant direction for life, love for others, acceptance of ourselves, joy no matter what, and at the end of life, an eternity with the God who freely gives all these gifts. The other hand holds all the money and power and success the world has to offer, without any of what the right hand holds. Which would you choose? The Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there also is your heart” (Matthew 6:21). That which is in the right hand is the biblical definition of success. (Quote source here.)
Perhaps an even better question we need to be asking ourselves is what makes a person a genuine Christian? GotQuestions.org defines a Christian as follows:
A dictionary definition of a Christian would be something similar to “a person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ or in the religion based on the teachings of Jesus.” While this is a good starting point, like many dictionary definitions, it falls somewhat short of really communicating the biblical truth of what it means to be a Christian. The word “Christian” is used three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Followers of Jesus Christ were first called “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11:26) because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ. The word “Christian” literally means, “belonging to the party of Christ” or a “follower of Christ.”
Unfortunately over time, the word “Christian” has lost a great deal of its significance and is often used of someone who is religious or has high moral values but who may or may not be a true follower of Jesus Christ. Many people who do not believe and trust in Jesus Christ consider themselves Christians simply because they go to church or they live in a “Christian” nation. But going to church, serving those less fortunate than you, or being a good person does not make you a Christian. Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. Being a member of a church, attending services regularly, and giving to the work of the church does not make you a Christian.
The Bible teaches that the good works we do cannot make us acceptable to God. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” So, a Christian is someone who has been born again by God (John 3:3; John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23) and has put faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it is “…by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
A true Christian is a person who has put faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including His death on the cross as payment for sins and His resurrection on the third day. John 1:12 tells us, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” The mark of a true Christian is love for others and obedience to God’s Word (1 John 2:4, 10). A true Christian is indeed a child of God, a part of God’s true family, and one who has been given new life in Jesus Christ. (Quote source here.)
We need to trust in the Lord, and not in the dictates of our culture; and that is true no matter what we may be going through. God knows all the “behind the scenes” stuff going on in our lives, and we need to leave it with Him. It’s so hard to let go of our own understanding, but here’s the reality of that situation (found in Prov. 3:5-6), “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and . . .
Lean not on your own understanding . . .
In all your ways acknowledge Him . . .
And He shall direct your paths . . . .
YouTube Video: “Let God Be God” by Phillips, Craig & Dean: