Seeking Success

 A day conference for writers in  Nashville recently exposed me to a plethora of great new ideas. I met some really inspiring authors, all working toward the goal of getting published, or getting more of their work published. One of the speakers was particularly inspiring; Theresa Regan is definitely a woman who has progressed outside the traditional publishing box, achieving her own well deserved success. The group marveled as she related her journey through self publishing. We all thought, after listening to her: maybe I could do this! I have not read any of her work, but she was a personable, positive and entertaining speaker.

Writing, in many ways, is no different from any personal struggle encountered in life. We set a goal, define interventions to get there, set time limits, and then evaluate our progress. Whether that goal is weight loss, financial security, getting the housework done, or publishing a book, our goals should be written and measurable, so we can know without a doubt that we have met them. Pounds or dollars, a general sense of satisfaction because the clothes are washed and the messes are reduced in our home that occurs after a hard day at the vacuum, or a book on Amazon with a five star review with royalties coming in, are measureable parameters. Yet, how can we measure success in our obedience to the Lord?

Is it more Bible study, less nasty thoughts, kinder words, positive feedback from those around us, more faithful church attendance, or a glazed look of piety on our face? Dietrich Bonhoffer said that only those who believe obey, and that, only those who obey believe. My first exposure to his thought was found in The Cost of Discipleship. I continue to chew on his statement today. Belief and obedience are stuck together like the proverbial two sides of a coin.

The more we obey, the more we believe. The more we believe, the more we obey. It sounds easy enough, right? During the dark and hard times of life, I find that it’s not so easy. I know many of you do, too. These are the times we are holding on, by our ragged fingernails, to the hem of the garment of our Faithful One.

In this morning’s reading, (AMP) Romans 8:6 says: “Now the mind of the flesh (which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit) is death (death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter). But the mind of the (Holy) Spirit is life and (soul) peace (both now and forever).” This verse brought to my mind the faces of the people I see struggling to achieve, without the sense and reason of the Spirit, those goals in their lives that, just maybe, the Lord doesn’t want for their lives. The lack of  “life and peace” experienced in their struggle is an easy way for the devil to undermine their confidence and redirect them into a labyrinth of useless activity going nowhere, if they leave the Spirit behind, and follow the wisdom of the world or live out faith “without the sense and reason of the Holy Spirit”.

Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel are two authors who come to mind when I think of great books to give to someone stuggling with faith. But, I have a new favorite: Angela Hunt. At the SCWC in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, this year, I heard her speak several times.  Her advice to aspiring authors was not only to work hard, but to pray for God to open the right doors at the right time, and walk through. A woman of great faith, humor, and success in her writing career, I see her as one who has lived with sense and reason of the Spirit. Her book, The Novelist, is going to be my new book of choice to recommend for faith strugglers. Through fiction, she weaves a compelling presentation of the gospel, and delivers great entertainment in the process.

Even though I continue to struggle in reaching goals in my life, I have to end the day with the knowledge that to have life and peace, I need the reason of the Spirit. I will absorb, study, and implement the information I learn and receive the plans the Lord has laid for me. Success is measured by the faith I live out to obey. My confidence is not in myself or my abilities, it is in the Faithful One who never changes, has plans for my life, and has promised to be with me as I struggle along. My prayer for you, my friend, is that you know Him and live obediently in peace toward the goals He has set specifically for you, and you alone. Looking to the success of others is inspiring (thanks Theresa!), but real success in my life comes from the fruit of obedience  and faith in Him.

A five star review would be okay, though… Happy reading!

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