THE SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIAN
WRESTLING WITH THE SUCCESS QUESTION
Someone better tie success and the spiritual together.
Success salesmen aren’t carrying the day. They are well aware they reach only a small percentage of the market. And of that percentage only a few really succeed.
Christians aren’t carrying the day either. The percentage of the world population considered thrilling, well-adjusted, achieving Christians is not very large at all.
The rest of the world sits off skeptically observing. That percentage (probably more than half of the people) won’t buy success principles which fail to relate to the spiritual
side of Life, and they want nothing to do with a Christianity that can’t tell them how to be successful.
God, are you interested or not interested in my being successful? Voices are coming at me from every side. I’m coming apart at the seams. I’ve got to know!
The problem is that everybody seems to tell us something different. That makes frustration really grow. For instance, should I set goals or do I decide to take no thought for the morrow? One voice tells me I need a self-controlled life and another says I need a Christ-controlled life.
I picked up a good book that described me perfectly when it said you need confidence but doesn’t the Bible say have no confidence in the flesh? My friend encouraged me to build a self-image, yet Jesus taught that a man should deny himself.
Just as I was about to master positive thinking my mind remembered negative commandments saying thou shalt not.
Then I heard an outstanding lecturer say I should strive to be great yet dad always quoted a Bible verse, “Be content with such things as ye have.”
How can I be Number One and at the same time humble myself in the sight of God.
Frankly, I just love Psycho-Cybernetics but how would it relate to the crucified life?
Frustrating, isn’t it? Just about the time the brain gets loaded with exciting ideas, we become aware of a conflict. These concepts may seem exciting, but they just don’t seem to go together.
One Problem or Many?
Before an attempt can be made at reconciling the different ideas, one needs to decide whether he is wrestling with eight problems or one. Study the diagram on page 4 again.
Is it not possible that these are but eight facets of the same problem? For, in reality, eight ideas of the Scripture are presented in the diagram, contrasting with eight ideas generally considered to bring success and produce motivation.
One who views the diagram might readily conclude that the Bible places “thumbs down on success.” Another could assume that success books totally repudiate the Bible. Neither assumption is correct. In fact, the Bible is remarkably full of “success ideas.” And instead of the biblical ideas degrading the eight success thoughts of the diagram, there may be some remarkable proximity.
The problem is that man has never learned to reconcile success and the spiritual. There have been thousands of books dealing with the spiritual, and a great number dealing with success, but apparently no one has sensed the need for tying the two together. No one except frustrated man.
The Difficulty Observed
The human brain is somewhat like a giant smelter. Contrasting ideas can be thrown in, and some type of finished product will surely emerge. But the finished product emerging from the success-spiritual hopper is not always pleasant to behold. Lives have been torn apart simply due to a weakness in reconciliation.
For instance, one man repudiates success. Being a Bible believer, his subconscious goes through the daily ritual of “What I can’t find in the Bible, I omit.” The danger comes at the point where the Bible is brimful of a particular subject and he simply has not discovered it. It is a false assumption for him to conclude, “If I’m spiritual, then I’m not supposed to be successful.”
The next man may repudiate the Bible. He lives and works in a world so success-oriented that he considers he has no choice. Certainly he cannot drop the success ideas pounded into his brain at the office. To repudiate the ideas would be to lose his livelihood, and since the Bible doesn’t directly contribute to his “making a living,” it is far easier to negate the Bible. Not that he has studied the Bible with relation to success, because he hasn’t. But not having heard a sermon on it yet, he assumes it’s just not in there. So Mr. Businessman chalks off the Bible as relatively unimportant, thinking to himself, “If I really want to be a success, I must avoid trends toward spirituality.”
A third man may be in the saddest predicament of all. He has assumed “God is not interested in me, particularly my success.” This man has a warped idea of God; God is a God who deprives of pleasure, rather than giving it, takes away joy instead of being the cause of it. So he struggles along in his own power, most of the time defeated, with his head pointed down in dejection. “I don’t expect God to get interested in doing anything for me; he just tells me what not to do,” the reasoning goes.
Results of the Failure to Reconcile
If one cannot correctly reconcile his concepts of success and the spiritual, he faces immediate frustration. Frequently the frustration comes about four weeks after reading his first success book. The thought finally dawns, “Wait a minute, I’m not sure I understand how all that fits in with the Bible.” Result-well, just like the centipede!
The centipede was quite happy Until a frog in fun Said, “Pray, which leg goes after which?” That worked her mind to such a pitch She lay distracted in a ditch! Considering how to run.
The other result is schizophrenia. The best illustration may be the story of the farmer who had been taken by the car salesman so many times that he was geared and ready when the salesman wanted to buy a cow. The farmer priced it,” basic cow, $200; two-tone extra, $45; extra stomach, $75; produce storage compartment, $60; dispensing device, four spigots at $10 each, genuine cowhide upholstery, $125; dual horns, $15; automatic fly swatter, $35; total-$595.”
Failure to correctly reconcile ideas of success with ideas of the spiritual life will give man a centipede complex or make him feel like a segmented cow! And no wonder! One man escapes by subdividing himself into a Sunday morning personality versus a rest-of-the-week personality. Without knowing why, another will develop a business personality (where he pretends to be the picture of success) and a home Personality (where he’s a real bear!). Another becomes so schizophrenic as to have six or seven personalities he turns on-depending on where he is and who he is with.
Needless to say, when man cannot assimilate and be the one total successful and spiritual personality God intended, he is in trouble. But if he ever turns the key-if correct concepts of success, motivation, and the Scriptures are assimilated into an individual’s life, there will emerge a life filled with enthusiasm and excitement.
Concepts for Excitement
With strong conviction that God has something better for us than the centipede complex, I offer what I choose to call, six concepts for excitement.
1. God is interested in your being successful, provided your definition of success is right.
2. God should know more about success than anyone who has ever written on the subject.
3. God put man into the world to succeed, not fail.
4. God is interested in goals-interested in helping you formulate some that would benefit you tremendously.
5. God has written a book and shared within its pages some excellent principles of success.
6. God knows more about how to motivate man than any other authority in the field. Once he helps in the formulation of our goals, he then provides inner motivation for maximum achievement.
THE CRAVING FOR SUCCESS-AND THE OBSTACLES
Honey, God don’t sponsor no flops.
For then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success
-God to Joshua
How’s your success craving? It is probably safe to say that most everyone possesses an inner craving for success. Most of us accept it without a second thought, although an occasional few might consider such a craving sinful. The question is, “Is it right to want to be successful?”
Before answering that one, let’s consider a definition of success. One dictionary calls it “the satisfactory accomplishment of a goal sought for.” Later we shall seek to establish a definition perhaps even more satisfactory, but for now, let’s stick to that one. And let’s analyze our craving.
Psychology Speaks on Success
Most of us just know we would like to be successful. We are not sure why. We just know we want to be. Psychology (the study of human behavior and animal behavior) goes farther than that. Psychology says you don’t just want to be, you have to be. Your system demands it.
Writing as far back as 1929, Dr. William Burnham, in a chapter entitled “Success As a Stimulus,” suggests:
The need of success as a wholesome stimulus is universal. Children have an enormous appetite for it. They need large doses. Adults become depressed without. It is vital for the normal. The diseased are often cured by it. The modern method in the best hospitals of giving the patient as far as possible interesting work, something worth while to do, has demonstrated its value for health. It is the gravest error for physicians, social workers, and teachers not to employ this stimulus.
Achievement and accomplishment are inbred desires. There is definitely a dream of success in the human brain. Man can be analyzed, or admonished and nothing happens. He may even be
approved, appreciated, and acclaimed, and the personality remains stifled. But if man can honestly feel deep within that he has achieved, his personality comes alive.
Study the small child from the time he begins to play in the crib. He is interested in one thing-satisfactory accomplishment of a goal sought for. If he cannot accomplish his goals, however small they may be, he is miserable. He craves success, exactly as the dictionary defines it. Surely that’s no sin, but simply the following of an inbred God-given desire.
Analyzing the Obstacles
Because man has an inbred desire for success from the time he is born, then it should be easy to attain-right? Wrong.
The reason success is never easy to obtain is because there are several obstacles in the way. Too, each obstacle has to do with an attitude, and attitudes are never easy to change. However, changes come easier after honest confrontation.
The “I may not succeed, but it’s because I live in the toughest times ever” attitude. – It is probably safe to say that some have used that as their argument for do-nothingness in every generation since the days of Jesus.
Honesty would reveal that in some ways, the times we live in are the greatest ever. Other generations did not possess half the opportunities we have. There is a vast difference between great times and easy times, and while our times are not easy, they are definitely great. The days reek with outstanding accomplishment. Some have estimated that 90 percent of all the world’s knowledge since the days of Adam and Eve has been gained in our day. Whatever the statistic, the increase in knowledge while we have been alive has been astounding.
To view our times in another light, nine out of every ten scientists who have ever lived are alive right now. No, honesty forces us to admit that we are not living in the toughest times ever, but the best times ever. These are times of challenge, yes, but also the greatest times of all history.
This makes it a good time to consider, “What am I doing here? Why is it that I’m alive now, instead of having lived centuries ago?”
The alternatives are only two. Either God blundered or he knew exactly what he was doing in allowing us to live in the twentieth century. If he did not blunder, then God has matched us with this generation. He must have thought there was the potential of accomplishing exactly what needed to be accomplished in the twentieth-century world through us, or he made a mistake in not preserving some of the giants of the past for this day. Knowing God makes no mistakes, our lives should be wonderfully alive with excitement.
The “But I don’t have any motivation” attitude.
-Goal-striving man has a real problem at this point, mainly because he usually seeks motivation in the wrong place. The individual who must always be motivated from without is in trouble. When the boss is around to push him hard, he becomes an achiever. But when the boss is not around. . . .
When the raise is considered “big enough” or the order is given “loud enough,” he moves. In some cases, action comes only when he is assaulted by fear.
Of course, the best motivation is motivation from within. And who, do you suppose, knows the most about that?
The “Okay, I need it, but does God want me to have it ?” attitude.
– This last-mentioned attitude may be the biggest hang-up yet. After all, who needs to accomplish anything as long as he can blame God for his non accomplishment? The person who decides he is “lust like God made him” has, he thinks, an excellent excuse for his laziness. It has never dawned on him that Jesus (in the parable of the talents) emphasized the necessity of the individual producing increase.
I may say to myself, “There are many things more important than success” or “I haven’t achieved much, but I have a great family!” Another excuse I could use is “I just consider it more important to be something than to have something.”
Isn’t it tragic, though, when I pull a true statement out of my hat and use it to excuse myself for being Less than what God intended me to be!
God simply did not create man to come in second place.
God Has More
During my first year of college, browsing through the library one day, I chanced upon an old book entitled Service. One illustration from the book has stuck in my memory to this day. Inflation has long since ruined the price factor, but not the message of the story.
If you were to see a piece of iron in a junkyard that iron would be worth about 11/2 cent per pound. The same iron, however, could be heated and made into other objects much more valuable. If the iron was fashioned and:
made into a steam engine, its value would be 7 cents per pound.
made into a mould-board for a plow, 15 cents per pound.
made into scissors or razors, 25 cents per pound.
made into needles, $25 per pound.
made into medical instruments, $ 100 per pound.
made into a tiny watch-part, $500 per pound.
I find it incredible for some to think that God would want them lying in the junkyard with everything else that’s mediocre. We desperately need new vision to see how much more valuable our lives can become.
SUCCESS IMAGE; FAILURE IMAGE?
Someone asked George Beverly Shea how much he knew about God. He said, “Not much, but what I do know has changed my life.”
Are we to believe that the same God who engineered a successful creation, gave man a successful human body, assigned man tasks which demanded success, stamped man’s brain with a failure image?
Nineteen hundred and sixty-six was the year of the attention-getting best seller, Psycho-Cybernetics. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, brilliant plastic surgeon, became an author because he could not escape sharing some observations he made after he removed scars from his patients.
His description? “Some patients show no change in personality after surgery. In most cases a person who had a conspicuously ugly face, or some `freakish’ feature corrected by surgery, experiences an almost immediate (usually within 21 days) rise in self-esteem, self-confidence. But in some cases, the patient continued to feel inadequate and experienced feelings of inferiority. In short, these `failures’ continued to feel, act and behave just as if they still have an ugly face.” ‘ After studying patients over a period of time, Dr. Matlz concluded that some have success “instincts.” Others feel doomed to failure-possess failure instincts-and consequently, these invariably fail.
Nobody really wants to admit to possessing a failure instinct. However, most would admit having a mediocrity image. In reality, a mediocrity image is nothing more than a masked failure image. If Maltz is right in his conclusion at this point (we shall analyze other concepts of his later), you either have a success image or a failure image. You are definitely not a Mr. In-Between.
Let’s tell it like it is. If you stare into the mirror each morning, having no meaningful goals for the day, not even expecting to accomplish anything except routine things, you have a failure image! You may rise in indignation to protest that you are a Bible-believing Christian, but the truth still stands-you have a failure image. You are expecting nothing meaningful from the day, envisioning no great accomplishments, and you will get exactly what you expect.
Success and Creation
It might help at the outset to just admit that you did not get your failure image (or mediocrity image, if that term makes you feel better) from God. What God does is never mediocre-but wonderfully successful!
There is a wonderful excitement even in the oft-heard story of creation. The first chapter of Genesis exclaims: `And God saw the light, that it was good” (1:4). “And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas; and God saw that it was good” (v. 10).
Later God commanded the grass to grow and the trees to yield fruit, and it was good (v. 12). When the sun and moon appeared in the sky, thrust there by the Almighty himself, God s aw that it was good (v. 18). Creative activity continued with the cattle of the field and the beasts of the earth and again God saw that it was good (1:25).
God’s success ability is further explained by Dr. Walter Wilson. He does an excellent job of describing the greatness of creation in his little tract “Wonders of Nature.”
An unbeliever once said “I will believe only what I can understand; none of that mystery stuff for me.”
He was asked to explain this problem: How is it possible for a black cow to eat green grass which makes white milk and churns yellow butter?
Can you explain this mystery of God? Note some other mysteries creation.
Consider the remarkable transformation that takes place when a caterpillar (an upholstered worm) encases itself in its homemade casket and is changed into a beautiful butterfly. Its
hair is changed to scales-a million to the square inch; the many legs of the caterpillar become the six legs of the butterfly; the yellow becomes a beautiful red the crawling instinct becomes a
Thus will God take the life of a sinner and transform it until it glows with the beauty of the Lord and is fragrant with the graces of Heaven.
A handful of sand is deposited by the Lord in the heart of the earth. Great heat is applied from beneath and ponderous weight from above until, when it is found by man, it has been miraculously changed into a beautiful, fiery opal.
God takes a handful of black carbon, plants it deep in the bowels of the earth, treats it with heat below, presses it with rocks of the mountains above, and transforms it into a glorious diamond fit for a king’s crown.
As God performs these wonderful miracles in nature, He also can transform the souls of men and renew their hearts if they only trust fully in Christ Jesus, the Lord of life. God knows how to regulate nature. Only the One who made you can successfully direct you. Only the One who made your brain and your heart can successfully guide them to a profitable end. God’s wisdom is seen in the structure of the elephant. The four legs of this great beast bend forward in the same direction. No other quadruped is so made. God planned that this animal should have a huge body, too large to live on two legs. For this reason He gave it four fulcrums so that it could rise from the ground easily.
God’s wisdom is revealed in His arrangements of sections and segments as well as in the number of grains.
Each watermelon has an even number of stripes on the rind. Each orange has an even number of segments.
Each stalk of wheat has an even number of grains.
Another mystery as yet unsolved by man is this: God causes the trunk of a tree to grow straight out from the trunk for a distance of forty, fifty, or sixty feet, with no other anchorage than fifteen or eighteen inches of fibers which lose themselves in the trunk of the tree. No human being has discovered how to apply this principle in the construction of buildings or bridges.
God takes oxygen and hydrogen, both of them odorless, tasteless, and colorless, and combines them with carbon which is insoluble, black and tasteless. The result of this combination is
beautiful, white, sweet sugar. How does God do it? I do not understand.
I know only that God can take your life-drab, useless and fruitless- and transform it into a beautiful garden of the sweetest grace for His glory. He will do this for you if you will trust your life to Him!
Success and the First Man
The same God who pioneered success with the first five days of created activity personalized success on the sixth day.
He thrust into a shell of skin some 263 bones, and wrapped them in 500 muscles. He perfected a little heart six inches in length, and only four inches in diameter that would beat
70 times a minute
4,200 times an hour
100,800 times a day
36,792,000 times a year
and 2,575,440,000 times in 70 years.
So successful was the little heart that everytime it would beat it would pump blood at the rate of:
2 1/2 ounces per beat
175 ounces per minute
656 pounds an hour
and 7 and 3/4 tons in one day.
Small wonder that the psalmist would rejoice and say, “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Success and “God’s Image”
For man to be content to be mediocre is not pleasing to God. Though the end result of achievement is different with different individuals, no man must be content to be less than God’s best. Success is not measured by what we are. It is measured by what we are compared to what we could be.
At the outset, the first man Adam was all he could be. Before sin entered he was totally in the image of God.
What does that mean”? Dr. Walter Thomas Cormer is enlightening at this point.
“We are told in Genesis 1 :26, 27 that God made man in his own image and likeness. What does this expression mean? . . . in what respects is man like God? . . . what are some of the essential functions or powers that belong to man as a spiritual personality?”
Then Dr. Conner answers his own question:
(1) The first that should be mentioned is intelligence or the power to think-The lower animals possess this power in a very crude and elementary sense. Man has the power to know. . .
(2) The second thing is the power of rational affection-The lower animals have sensibility and instinctive affection. But man rises above the lower animals as much in his life of sensibility and affection as he does in his thought life. Rational love is the highest moral quality in God and in man. . . .
(3) The third thing is free will-Man is a free being. He has the power of self-determination. He can be influenced but not forced In this respect he is like God. God is the only perfectly free being in the universe. . . . Man’s freedom is limited but real. He has the power to form ideals and then to direct his energies toward the attainment of those ideals. . . .
(4) Another respect in which man is like God is in the possession of the moral sense-In the general use of the term, that is what is meant by conscience. Man has the innate sense of
right and wrong ”
Note that every one of the four aspects of personality is a success necessity designed to point man in an upward direction.
But there is another side to the “Image of God.” A. H. Strong suggests, “In what did the image of God consist? We reply that it consisted in (1) Natural likeness to God or personality;
(2) Moral likeness to God, or holiness.” ” Have you ever summarized the first man with the mathematical process of addition?
4 success necessities (listed above) + 1 moral likeness to God = SUCCESS
Man was so designed that the only way failure could gain entrance to his life was for him to consider some plan other than the plan of God and some other will other than the will of God.
God preceded man with success, challenged man by success, Prepared man for success, and then presented man his own image. Success was not man’s doing, but God’s!
This might be an excellent place for a multiple choice test question. In your mind’s eye, circle either the (a) or (@).
Question – God expected Adam to have
(a) A success image?
(b) A failure image?
THE BIBLICAL BEGINNING OF A FAILURE-IMAGE
U.S. Industry has a new generation of problem children-workers with the blue collar blues and the white collar blahs (Newsweek, March 26, 1973).
Of course God wants us to succeed in the task be has given us. He wants us to be mightily motivated full of confidence, excited about Life-
Now let’s talk about defects. How about a moment of honest appraisal?
“On their honeymoon, the groom took his bride by the hand and said `Now that we’re married, dear, I hope you won’t mind if I mention a few little defects that I’ve noticed about you.
‘Not at all,’ the bride replied with a deceptive sweetness. ‘It was those little defects that kept me from getting a better husband.’ ”
Those little defects-those irritating little defects-are a very real part of each of us. We try to laugh it off by emphasizing our good aspects. For instance, if I’m certain God is interested in the total me (chap. 1), if I’m thoroughly convinced I could be more success than I am (chap. 2), and if I have no problem believing God stamped the first man with a success-image (chap. 3), then it’s easy to brag on myself, “I don’t have any hang-ups at all” Except maybe a few little defects.
On close examination it is evident that something has happened to the successful person God created. For instance, each of us could ask: “Where do I get my negative ideas about success? Why do I always have to be pushed? Sometimes it seems I have no motivation at all. How is it that I can feel so successful one day and so like a failure the next ? Who is it that so many things about my life are not pleasing to God?”
Tough question-real tough. And the questions are not made any easier by the discussion about man in the image of God. If I’m in God’s image, shouldn’t I be an outstanding success? Shouldn’t I have a success image like the first man? Then why the blue-collar blues or the white-collar blahs?
Adam and Modern Man
Who said you were in God’s image? That was Adam, remember?
The mistaken idea that each of us is automatically in God’s image could have come from several sources. Perhaps when the minister’s sermon mentioned God’s image, the mind believed what it wanted to believe and an inner voice said, “That’s me! ” Or occasionally the idea has been advanced by a success author, usually the author who ignored God through the first two thirds of his book.
At any rate, the idea that modern secular man is in the image of God is only half right. In the last chapter we learned that the image of God consisted of both a natural likeness and a moral likeness.
Every man has a .500 batting average, because every man has a natural likeness to God (personality). He still has intelligence, or the power to think; power of rational affection; power to form ideals and direct energies toward attainment; innate sense of right and wrong.
Splendid! But only so far as it goes. Since man was created not only with that natural likeness but also a moral likeness to God, we suddenly discover the cause of our defects.
We can possess all aspects of the natural likeness but if there is no moral likeness we cannot truthfully say we are in God’s image. And when we are honest, we admit that in the moral
area (holiness), someone has been tampering with us. We have computer trouble. Consequently, it is not unusual for some of us to possess either an outright failure-image or a not-much-better
How the Success Image Got Tarnished
According to the Bible, there are two supernatural powers, each thoroughly capable of brain programming.
Programmer A always thrusts in excitement and thrill and purpose. This is the one who challenged man by success, created man in success, appointed man over success and prepared man for
success. Adam, after receiving that kind of input, thought, “Great!”
Not very far down the road of success Adam met Programmer B. Now remember that up to this point Adam was programmed right and motivated right. As long as he would stick with God he was bound for success. He would achieve everything God intended for him to achieve, meet every goal in God’s plan for his life, and enjoy life to the hilt.
Programmer B suggested he had a better mousetrap! “I can give you new insights, new knowledge-just come my way,” Satan suggested. So Adam received new knowledge (wrong kind), new
insights (became sin-oriented) and to top it all lost the one thing which had made him supremely happy. His fellowship with God was suddenly nil. Programmer B (Satan) had filled the mind
with wrong information and computer foul-up resulted.
From then until now, man has had difficulty in both success and motivation. While desiring to be continually motivated toward success, he knows there are weakness within.
Before God can move in and correct the weakness, it might be necessary for us to examine some of our basic concepts which influence our entire philosophy of success.