Success through your own strength is limited

I like being productive. It’s the double-edged sword of a performance-driven perfectionist. I like getting things done, being able to check the boxes off, scratching the tasks off my to-do list. I’ve even been known to make a to-do list filled with tasks I’ve already completed just so I can tick them off and feel better about myself. I’m sure it’s some kind of psychosis.

Don’t get me wrong. Getting things done is good. Everyone should have goals, and we should all be working to accomplish and achieve something with our lives. But the trouble comes when we try to accomplish lasting goals in our own strength. There’s only so much of your own strength you can invest in a project or in someone else’s life before your strength runs out. And what happens when your strength fails you? All those project you’re juggling will drop like leaves in autumn. If you have no more strength to pour into them, they’ll fall away. That’s just the way it works.

But what if you could do more? What if you could accomplish great, lasting things? It is possible. It’s just not possible for you.

J8LSZELS1RToday’s verses are John 15:4-5.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

I don’t think anything I’ve done in my own strength or power will last beyond my lifetime. I could be wrong, but from what I know about myself, my own accomplishments pale in comparison to what God has been able to do through me. Because of God, I’ve been able to do things I never would have dreamed, help people I never would have met, go places I never imagined possible.

Maybe I can write a little devotional every morning for four years, but God’s the one who gives me the words to write. He’s the one who takes those words and uses them to speak to someone else. That’s not me. Gosh, guys, I mean it’s miraculous enough that I can even crank out anything coherent at this time in the morning.

My problem is that I try to do too much in my own strength. I tend to leap before I look. I rush into a situation before I ask God if it’s what He wants me to do. That’s not the life a Christ-follower should have.

A Christ-follower should live plugged in to Jesus. He’s where we get our strength. He’s where we get our wisdom, our peace, our love for others. And it’s His strength and power that allows us to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Hands down. No discussion. I love the colors and the temperatures and the flavors. I love sweaters and socks and hats. And pumpkin everything. But the next time you see a tree losing its leaves, take a moment to remember God’s strength. While that tree is alive and awake, it’s pumping life into those leaves. But when it goes to sleep, the leaves don’t have the strength to hold on to the branch anymore.

I’m like a leaf. I am fully dependent on God’s strength to get me through my life. Sure, if I cut myself off from Him, I can make it. I can exist. I can let the wind blow me around listlessly and aimlessly. But what kind of life is that? That’s not the life God has in mind for me.

So don’t cut yourself off from God. Stop trying to live life without His strength. Stop trying to make a difference without His power. You can’t do it. If you want to productive, if you want to be effective, if you want to be successful, get plugged in to Jesus. His eternal, everlasting strength is ours for the asking. And with Jesus, you can do everything.

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How can you achieve success in God’s eyes?

Success is an ironic means of measuring your self-worth, mainly because success looks different to each individual. Most of the time, you have to define success for yourself because it doesn’t mean the same thing to different people. Maybe this is a bad example, but I considered myself a successful writer long before my first book was published. I had defined success for myself very early in life, judging that I would be successful when I could say for certain that someone had accepted Christ because of something I wrote. That happened in 2006 or so. Every other success I’ve had in writing since then has been gravy.

Yet even though the definition of success changes from person to person, we’d all pretty much agree that we’d love to hear God say we were successful. Right? Wouldn’t God’s definition of success trump everyone else’s? It does in my book. So what does a person have to do to achieve success in God’s eyes?

landscape-mountains-nature-man_1555x1037Today’s verse is 2 Chronicles 31:21.

In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.

Hezekiah was the king of Judah during the period of history when the nation of Israel was divided. He ruled over the southern kingdom for 29 years and took the throne when he was only 25 years old. And the Bible says he was a good king because he obeyed God. If you read his story, you’ll find that it’s true. He reopened the temple and rededicated it. He re-instituted the celebration of Passover, and he led his kingdom to destroy all their false gods and idols. He was the king whose life God extended.

I love this particular verse because it’s very simple. Much of the Bible is. Hezekiah did everything with his whole heart focused on God, and because his focus was in the right place, God made him successful.

Keep reading his life story and eventually you’ll find that he takes his eyes off God and becomes proud. It’s then that things start falling apart. But as long as he remained dedicated to the Lord, God took care of everything else.

It’s easy to be afraid when God tells you to do something, especially if it’s something you’ve never done before, or if it’s something you’re uncomfortable doing. We’re usually afraid of the unknown, even if we say we aren’t. But God has never wanted our lives to be dominated by fear.

Don’t get me wrong. Some fear is good for us. Fear can tell us that we’re about to make a really stupid decision. It can warn us that what we’re doing needs to stop. But sometimes we take fear too far and we let it control us, and that’s not what God ever intended. The fear that paralyzes us in the face of God’s plan doesn’t come from Him; it comes from our enemy.

If you’re seeking God with your whole heart, you shouldn’t have room for that kind of fear. That’s a difficult place to reach, though. I’m not there yet. I still feel fear at the most inopportune moments.

God’s plan often will push us far outside our comfort zones, but those are the times when we need to fight through the fear and keep moving forward. God’s plans are never bad, and they’re always for our good, even if we don’t understand them all the time. And when we experience irrational fear while we know we’re doing what God has called us to do, we need to ask for the strength to persevere. Focus on seeking God with all your heart. Don’t give the fear that comes from the enemy a foothold in your heart.

That’s what it takes to be successful. That doesn’t mean you won’t experience fear. No, you’ll probably encounter more fear than the average Joe on the street if you’re dedicated to doing what God has called you to do, but God will give you the courage to face it and win. You won’t face it alone either.