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Misconceptions about success (2) - TUESDAY MARCH 14

‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning.’ Proverbs 1:5 NIV (2011 Edition)

Here are three more misconceptions about success:

1) We think success comes from having the right connections, so we strive to make them. People who endorse this philosophy believe they’d ‘have it made’ if only they’d been born into the right family, or met the right person. Knowing good people has its rewards, but connections alone won’t improve your life if you’re off track. ‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.’

2) We think success comes from having leverage, so we work for it. This notion is reinforced by people like industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who said, ‘Success is the power with which to acquire whatever one demands of life.’ Then we take it a step further by assuming all successful people have taken advantage of others in order to get where they are, and we look for ways to manipulate people too. We think we can ‘muscle’ our way to success, but it doesn’t work - usually it backfires on us.

3) We think success is the result of opportunity, so we wait for it. People who work hard and don’t seem to get anywhere sometimes believe the only thing they need is ‘a break’. Their motto is ‘If only’. If only my boss would cut me some slack; if only our church was in a better area of town; if only I had start-up capital; if only I’d married someone different. The door of opportunity is marked, ‘Push!’ The truth is, people who do nothing more than wait for success are neither able to see it - nor seize it - when it comes.

Misconceptions about success (1) - MONDAY MARCH 13

‘Give yourself wholly…so that everyone may see your progress.’ 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV (2011 Edition)

Here are some common misconceptions about success:

1) We think success is impossible, so we criticise it. We want to believe life should be easy, so we assume anything difficult must be impossible. Then when success eludes us we throw in the towel and say, ‘Who needs it anyway?’ And if someone we consider less deserving than ourselves is successful, we get really upset.

2) We think success is mystical, so we search for it. Author/ entrepreneur Seth Godin says: ‘We need to stop shopping for lightning bolts. You don’t win an Olympic medal with a few weeks of intensive training. There’s no such thing as an overnight opera sensation. Great companies [and great churches] don’t spring up overnight…every great thing has been built in exactly the same way: bit by bit, step by step, little by little.’ There are no shortcuts; you must be willing to pay the price.

3) We think success comes by chance, so we hope for it. We say, ‘Oh, he or she just happened to be in the right place at the right time.’ The chances of that happening are about as good as the chances of winning the lottery - 45 million to one. If you’re serious about succeeding, you’ll concur with the small-business owner who posted this sign in his store: ‘The 57 Rules of Success: Rule one: Deliver the goods. Rule two: The other 56 don’t matter!’ Paul shared his formula for success with Timothy, and it’s one that works in all areas of life: ‘Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.’

Give your love away - SUNDAY MARCH 12

‘Let us love one another, for love is of God.’ 1 John 4:7 NKJV

One evening before Mary Martin, the great Broadway musical star, was to go on stage in South Pacific, a note was handed to her. It was from Oscar Hammerstein. He had written it to her from his deathbed: ‘Dear Mary, a bell’s not a bell till you ring it. A song’s not a song until you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.’ After her performance a number of people rushed backstage, exclaiming, ‘Mary, what happened to you out there tonight? We have never heard anything like that performance! You sang with more power than you’ve ever sung!’ Blinking back tears, Mary read them the note from Hammerstein and added, ‘Tonight, I gave my love away!’ The poorest person in the world has something to give others if he or she has love in their heart. Love’s gifts take many forms - a smile, a hug, a gift, a note of thanks, a hand up, and just being there in tough times. Love is the one gift that always fits, is always appropriate, and always in season.

Jesus said, ‘By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:35 NKJV). Paul wrote, ‘May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all’ (1 Thessalonians 3:12 NKJV). John writes, ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.’ So the word for you today is: give your love away.

Be willing to pay the price - SATURDAY MARCH 11

‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.’ Nehemiah 6:3 KJV

Success usually comes at the end of struggle; if it came easily, everybody would be experiencing it. When it comes to success, there are no shortcuts, reduced prices, or ‘special deals’. The value of anything is determined by the price you’re willing to pay for it. And when you truly value something, you won’t easily jeopardise it because you remember what it cost you. What are you afraid of today? Failing? Your concern should be the opposite - regret that you didn’t try. Are you afraid of criticism? Face it, as you move upward in life certain people will resent your success; that’s true whether you’re arrogant or not.

We all want to be liked, but at some point you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘How much am I willing to forfeit in order to be liked and accepted?’ Nehemiah, the builder of Jerusalem’s walls, said, ‘I am doing a great work, so…I cannot come down.’ Any time you defer to the opinion of people instead of the will of God, you are ‘coming down’. Stay up on the wall! Keep laying bricks - or whatever God has called you to do. Advancement often brings isolation and criticism, and God may be grooming you right now for a new level of blessing by exposing you to both. Can you handle it? Not everybody can. But if you’re the kind of person who can’t sit on the sidelines and watch while others play the game - go for it! God will reward every step of faith you take and every sacrifice you make.

How to bounce back - FRIDAY MARCH 10

‘He was moved with compassion.’ Matthew 9:36 KJV

One of the best ways to bounce back from grief and loss is taking your memories and turning them into motivators, then reaching out in love to others who are hurting. ‘But I’m busy,’ you say. Jesus was never too busy to show compassion to hurting people. After Ray and Judy Williamson’s son David was killed in a fall, Ray said: ‘I used to wonder if I should go to the funeral home when somebody had a tragedy, because I always feel so awkward and don’t know what to say. But I’ll never ask again. I’ll always go. It’s not what you say, but your presence that makes the difference.’ When two teenagers died in a car accident, their parents decided to have a joint wake.

Over a thousand people attended, some waiting up to three hours to comfort the bereaved families. When one man who’d stood by himself in line finally reached the front, he said, ‘I don’t know your children and I’ve never met you. But I came here tonight because I had a son who died two years ago. I know how it feels. In the days ahead you’ll go through every emotion you can imagine. I just want you to know that I’m here for you if you ever need to talk.’ Then he pressed his card into their hand and walked away. Think about that. A stranger gave three hours of his time to people he didn’t know, because he wanted to help them through the most tragic experience of their lives. Understand this: it’s in reaching out to others that

a) we become more like Jesus;

b) we ourselves are made whole.