- What does it take to make a great man or woman?
- How much of a person’s success is based on their work ethic, management, and skill?
- When does self confidence begin to become an attribute that dishonors God?
All of these questions have been whirling around in my head lately.
As the New Year approaches, I’ve been forcing myself to review the status of my online business. I honestly don’t track my business finances very well, so I can’t really tell you how much I’ve made this year. Last week, my wife asked me how much I think I’ve made online this year, and I told her “I think it’s between X and Y,” with a huge number spread.
(Yuck. That will make tax time annoying).
I do know one thing without a doubt.
What I make is more than I deserve.
When I read about successful people, I read about everything they’ve done to become successful. They point to things like long hours, hard work, obsession for perfection, passion, and persistence.
Hard work does bring results. The Bible even reminds us to be like the ant that works hard.
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. 9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. Proverbs 6:6–11.
I can affirm the fact that I’ve worked hard on my online business. Two and a half years of waking up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. every morning attests to that.
Still, no matter how hard the ant works, if the Lord does not choose to bless him, it will be in vain.
Timothy Keller challenges our traditional approach to success when he writes:
We are the product of three things – genetics, environment, and our personal choices – but two of these three factors we have no power over. We are not nearly as responsible for our success as our popular views of God and reality lead us to think. Quoted in Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller Kindle. Kindle Location 1392.
Let me share one of the most fascinating and perhaps insightful personal experiences I had this year.
Back in January of this year, I sent an email to my supporting church telling them that my business was going well, and as of January 2012, they wouldn’t need to support me any more. I was going to be a tent making missionary.
However, at the end of February, my site suffered a serious setback with the Google Panda changes.
That setback caused me to reflect and re-evaluate the direction of this blog.
I concluded that I was an unfaithful servant because I didn’t use my resources (of experience and knowledge) for God’s glory with this blog.
I personally repented of this and even told my readers that I was switching gears and would focus on helping people transform their finances.
My wife and I talked long and hard about this, and we prayed about it together and concluded this was the right thing to do – even if my blog was not going to be profitable.
It was not pretty. I even had to call our supporting church and tell them we’d need to change the plans of my becoming a tent making missionary because I didn’t see how I was going to make enough online.
It was a time of loss and mourning for me because I felt like I was giving up a dream (to have a business that would support me wherever I did ministry).
During that time, I felt like my dream died. I reoriented myself once again to the call of Christ and decided to seek first the kingdom of God.
Then the most fascinating thing happened.
Another income stream opened up. A dormant blog became massively successful (in terms of profit).
For me, that was a clear indicator.
I am where I am – my business is what it is – because of the grace of God.
We talk about grace in our lives when we think of the sacrifice of Christ and the salvation he offers. Yet, grace is broader. Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.
Grace is the unexpected, unmerited, and unnatural Kindness of God.
I don’t care what others say. Success is God’s gift to us. Perhaps we can block it by our laziness or greed or inability to do what is right. But, we don’t create success. We receive it.
Why does it matter?
It matters because we’ll act differently based on where we think our success comes from.
- If it comes from our degree from the best university in the world, then it will lead to pride.
- If it comes from the fact that we worked harder than anyone else we know, then it will lead to boasting.
- If it comes from us, then we will get the credit.
I think far too often we turn success into something that promotes ourselves instead of God. As such, success becomes dangerously close to becoming our idol.
But it doesn’t come from us.
- If it comes from God, we will live our lives in thanksgiving.
- If it comes from God, we’ll generously share what we have received.
- If it comes from God, our daily worship is genuine.
More of your success is based on what God chooses to do for you and give to you than it is based on your own ability.
If you can work hard, it is because God gives you the endurance. If you can get a good education, it is because God allowed you the resources to pay for it. If you can make smart business decisions, it’s because God has given you the wisdom.
To God be all glory, and honor, and praise.
Who gets credit for your successes? How do we balance between personal responsibility and a gift from God?