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.

The view from Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Staying focused in the midst of the storm

I didn’t get to do some of the things I’d planned to do last night. I had every intention of getting some laundry done, and I wanted to do my dishes (seriously, I promise). But doing dishes would require me to stand by the window in the kitchen, and last night when I had planned to do my dishes, another massive storm swept through here. The sun is still coming up, so I haven’t been outside to check the damage, but three miles south of me reported tennis-ball sized hail. And I’m pretty sure I heard some that big when they were hitting the house. And when you have tennis ball size hail and 75 mile per hour wind, standing in front of a window isn’t a good idea.

So I sat in the basement, watching the weather reports so I would know how to prepare for what was coming. It was more than one storm cell with lots of pink, red, and yellow. But as I was sitting there, I got to thinking about all the things I could have been doing. Even as the hail started coming down, I thought about the things I would have been able to accomplish if the storm hadn’t interrupted me.

And then I kicked myself. Not literally because that would have taken dexterity I’m not capable of. But mentally because I had some things I could do remotely, using my netbook. Technology is a wonderful thing. So as the storm raged outside, I worked on drama team planning and some of the other writing projects I’d put off because I didn’t have time for them.

No, I didn’t get the dishes done. And my laundry is still dirty. But I did get quite a few things done in spite of the storm.

The view from Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

The view from Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verse is Ephesians 5:16.

Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

Storms are going to come in our lives. Some are worse than others. Some leave us feeling beaten and battered, and others are more of an annoyance than anything else. But kind of like living in Kansas, if you don’t expect the storms, they’ll blow you off your feet. And if you don’t have a good foundation, you won’t be able to stand up.

You have to expect the storms. They’re part of life. You have to be ready for them, and you have to be able to keep functioning when they hit.

I think that’s part of the Christian life, honestly, is learning how to keep focused and keep doing what God has called you to do even when the storm is raging around you. It’s not easy, but God calls Himself a shelter and a safe place for a reason.

If there’s a storm blowing outside or even if you’re waiting for a storm to get to you because you can see it coming, you have a choice on how to handle it. You can hide from it or you can embrace it. And when I say embrace I don’t mean run outside and take photographs, although that’s perfectly fine. I’ve done my fair share of that.

But don’t use the storm as an excuse to hunker down and stop what you’re doing. Don’t use the storm as a sword to cut yourself off from people or from what God has called you to do. Yes, storms are scary, but weathering them alone is scarier.

You don’t have to stop working just because a storm rises up around you. Do what you need to do to survive it and push forward. Your other choice is to cower in fear of it and do nothing.

Maybe you’re okay with that. I’m not. There’s too much to do. There’s too much wrong in the world. There’s too much at stake. And I personally let too many opportunities pass me by.

So if you’re facing a storm today, don’t be afraid of it. God lets storms into our lives for a reason, and He never leaves us to face them alone. Ask someone for help. Tell someone what you’re feeling. And whatever you do, don’t focus on the storm. Focusing on the storm is what got Peter in trouble when he walked on water with Jesus. Instead, focus on Jesus. Focus on what He’s doing. Focus on what He’s called you to do.

You’ll be amazed at how the size and scope of the storm fades when you do that. And what’s more, you’ll be shocked at how quickly the storm passes.