Tree on a mountain at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Success is like fire, whether you see it that way or not

Success and failure both affect the way we look at our lives. If you have never had to struggle with the dream you’re trying to achieve, you won’t understand the people who have. And if you have constantly had to struggle to achieve your dream, some small part of you will be tempted to resent the people who meet success with little difficulty. But either way, success or failure will color your perspective on life.

Tree on a mountain at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Tree on a mountain at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Proverbs 27:21.

Fire tests the purity of silver and gold,
    but a person is tested by being praised.

I don’t think I could work as a refiner. I’m not sure how the process has changed with modern technology, but I assume the concept is still the same. You have to heat the silver and the gold to extraordinary temperatures until all the bad material (dross, if I remember the term right) rises to the top and can be scraped off. And you have to do it over and over and over again.

I wouldn’t have the patience for it. Funny how I wouldn’t have the patience for it as a career, but the concept is part of life.

It’s part of everyone’s life. We all go through trials and tests. We go through the proverbial fire to allow the bad material in our lives to burn off so God can scrape it away. Granted, that can only happen if we let Him, but that’s the point of going through trials and troubles.

But the distinction today’s verse draws is interesting to me. Fire is what is used to test the purity of precious metals; praise is the test for a person. Another word that could be used is flattery.

This is how the Message puts it:

The purity of silver and gold is tested 
   by putting them in the fire;
The purity of human hearts is tested
   by giving them a little fame.

Fame. Success. Victory. Achieving your dreams. That’s how you can test the purity of a person’s heart.

One of my greatest fears is that I will allow my successes to affect my perspective on life. I’ve seen it happen so many times. Someone can start out strong, on the right foot, with the right view of what’s important; but after he achieves success, after money isn’t an issue anymore and people all know his name, he forgets how he got there. And before you know it, he’s rich and famous, yes; but any moral standing he had is gone.

How does that happen?

Fame will test your motivation. But you have to let it be a test. Troubles and trials won’t teach you anything if you refuse to learn from them. But if you can view success as a trial, you’ll be stronger because of it.

Part of the American Dream is achieving success and taking it easy for the rest of your life. That’s what it’s all about, really. Dream big. Work hard. Get what you want. Then kick back and relax. Maybe that’s okay, but if you achieve success, that doesn’t mean you can let down your guard. If anything, success means you have to be more vigilant than you were before.

If we achieve our dreams, if we succeed in business or whatever it is we’re pursuing, the moment we start thinking it happened because of us, we will eventually fall. Any success, any good thing, we have in our lives is given to us by God.

Maybe you worked to achieve it; good for you, but God gave you the strength to work. Maybe you dreamed it up to begin with; also good for you, but God gave you the gift of creativity. Maybe you made all your contacts; wonderful, but God provided you with opportunities. Yes, you had to seize them, but what good is trying to seize an opportunity before God provides it?

I chose the photograph for today because it reminds me of how deceptive perspective can be. That fir tree is sits at the top of a mountain on the grounds of Glen Eyrie. I took that photo with a zoom lens. From the ground, it looks no bigger than the nail on my pinky finger, but I’m pretty sure it’s taller than I am. It just depends on how close you’re standing to it.

So just remember. It doesn’t matter who you are or what goal you’re striving to reach, we need to keep our perspective. Success is a wonderful thing, but we shouldn’t ever forget how dangerous it is. Success should be treated like fire. When handled properly, it can provide light and warmth for everyone around it. When left untended, it can burn everything down.

The only thing that matters

It’s so easy to get caught up in the craziness of life that oftentimes I forget the things that really matter. The pesky little problems in life are small and insignificant but they can seem to big and so troublesome that they’re all I can focus on.

I don’t think I say this enough, but I love the Bible. If you haven’t read it, you really should. And I don’t mean from cover to cover. Just pick a book. Read Philippians. It’s short and full of joy. Read the Gospels and learn about Jesus. Read Ruth. It’s a beautiful love story that is a symbol of God’s love for us. And if you’re sad or depressed or have forgotten what’s really important in life? Read Psalms.

Psalms is uplifting and encouraging. Whenever I read the Psalms, I always find something that encourages me.

I know recently that I have been really stressed out. More stressed out than I have ever been in my life. The issue mostly revolves around work and me not knowing how to deal with the amount of work I have. But let’s be honest here. It’s just a job, and I don’t want to view my job as my purpose for living. It’s not, and it shouldn’t be. Not ever. Because there are more important things. I have never wanted wealth or recognition or fame (although having enough money to buy groceries now is nice), but Psalm 73:25-26 reminded me of something this morning:

 25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
      I desire you more than anything on earth.
 26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
      but God remains the strength of my heart;
      he is mine forever.

God is all that matters. He’s the most important person in my life. Our relationship is the priority in my life — or it should be. I need to want closeness with Him more than anything else, more than finances, more than comfort, more than my family . . . . more than publication. More than the realization of my dreams. More than anything means more than anything. And I know I haven’t been there.

In every step of my life, God has never left me. No matter where I was physically or spiritually or emotionally, no matter how many times I failed Him, He has never failed me, and He has promised to keep strengthening me and to always be with me.

Everything else in my life pales in comparison to Him. There’s no one like Him. My best friend. My ally. My eternal supporter who knew my gifts and dreams before He gave them to me. And at the end of everything, when it’s just Him and me, I want Him to tell me that I did a good job. That I kept my perspective right. That I lived the way I was supposed to.

That’s more important than anything else. So maybe I need to start living like it.