(Note: This article is a repost from the Center for Faith and Work at LeTourneau University.)
The accident occurred at 11:04 a.m. according to the police report.
A deafening crash and shower of glass and shrapnel had jolted me awake. I slammed on the brakes as a gooseneck trailer peeled away a good portion of the driver’s side of my car, barely missing me. My face stung and body ached when I climbed out of the wreckage. Thankfully, the driver of the pickup pulling the trailer was not hurt.
That day God used a few inches to keep me from becoming a real-time illustration of the expression, “He’s working himself to death.”
You see, I was mission-driven to change the way people think about work—something that still invigorates me every morning. But 30 years ago I was pursuing my calling at breakneck speed. I allowed my work to consume my heart and cloud my judgment. Falling asleep at the wheel was a frightening lesson on how a crammed schedule and minimal sleep can pave the way for disaster.
Jesus certainly didn’t pursue His work like that. We never see Him in a hurry, even when He was dealing with life-and-death situations. Although He was busy, He always took time to stop and interact with people. Yet He never let people’s nonstop needs crowd out time for personal rest and solitude.
In his blog at The Gospel Coalition, Joel Lindsey writes …
[Jesus] didn’t try to be in three places at once or cram 30 hours’ worth of activity into 12 hours of daylight. Consider that Jesus didn’t start his ministry till he was 30, and he didn’t kick it into high gear even when a little girl and a good friend would have avoided death had he picked up the pace a bit (Luke 8:40–56; John 11). Even when he used a form of transportation other than his feet, Jesus chose a colt not a thoroughbred (Mark 11:7).
Here are three things we can learn from Jesus about curtailing the kind of busyness that destroys our priorities and steals our joy.
Jesus accepted his limitations as a human being.
This meant that He couldn’t speak to every person, address every crisis, and heal every disease. And at the end of his life He told the Father,
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4)
God doesn’t expect or want us to take on every need and opportunity that comes our way. Paul tells us to …
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Jesus kept His mission front of mind.
Everything Jesus did pertained to His mission, which was based on what He knew the Father had sent Him to earth to do. Jesus gave them this answer:
I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)
God wants us to discover His purpose for us and let it guide how we spend our time, energy and resources.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
When we know our purpose, we can say yes with conviction and no without guilt.
As Jesus did His work, He trusted the Father to be at work too.
Everything Jesus did—from crafting a table to healing the sick—He did so knowing that the Father was at work in Him, through Him, and around Him.
Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17).
Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:10)
Paul reminds us that God joins us in every aspect of our work, as well.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)
We’re never alone in our work. Know that God is at work in us, and alongside us, pursuing His purpose through us, frees us live our life and do our work at a sustainable, meaningful pace.
We all have periods when we need to move fast and work longer hours to meet deadlines. But these times need to be balanced with times when we slow down and rest—mindful that our welfare and success are always in God’s hands, not ours.
Be Still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
Bill Peel is the Founding Executive Director of The Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University created to help Christians understand their work’s importance to God and experience Christ’s transforming presence and power in every workplace in every nation. For more than 25 years, Bill has coached thousands of men and women to discover their calling, grasp their significance to God’s kingdom, and become a spiritual influence in their workplace.
With the implosion of the Soviet Union, the ideologies of communism and socialism essentially disintegrated. Or at least, we saw the disintegration of the idea that a single ideology could command the attention of whole nations or large enough mobs to destabilize society. The victory of capitalism seemed to end the matter of economic systems altogether, or did it?
While communism and socialism disintegrated, the reality is they also fragmented, which means that parts of the ideology remain scattered throughout society and public discourse. These fragments are about gender, secularity, minority rights, poverty, environmentalism and other causes that were always part of the discourse of the modern left. They have also become to a large extent mainstreamed, and the genuine moral principle in these areas has become encrusted with populist left discourse.
This is the first of an occasional series of articles where I will deconstruct these fragments of the left, and offer some brief insights into their popularity focused on the economic impact and interests involved. This first article tackles environmentalism. In a final article later in the year, I will bring all these fragments back together into one analysis again. So, if you are reading these articles please do comment, and I can answer your points in my concluding article. In the meantime, let us look at “environmentalism.”
At present, the environmental question is crudely split into two camps: those “who care” and the “deniers.” This is a very crude, and simplistic division, and I suggest there are other more meaningful categories, apart form the obvious alternative that many don’t really care at all, which makes that group meaningful as well.
First thing to say is there is legitimacy in the view that we need to take care of the planet, as those “who care” say, but there are equally legitimate concerns from the “deniers.” This is because those “who care” are often ideologically driven and blinkered. The projections about climate change they make are based on models, and models are based on assumptions. Depending on your point of view the assumptions when modeled will be exaggerated in the outcomes and results.
The environmental lobby is also well funded. Given the demands of funding universities, the science community has to follow the money. Paying attention to the environment, rooted in a moral concern, seems to be a double whammy: science and morality in one go. This is not to accuse the scientific community of a crime, because indeed there is a great deal of genuine and important research taking place in the universities and elsewhere. However, it does raise suspicion in some minds about what principles are guiding their research.
Business has also bought into environmental concerns. It is, after all, big business. You don’t need to care or be right to make a profit. Companies market that they sell environmentally-friendly products and have “corporate responsibility” departments, environmental officers, sustainability reports, impact studies and a host of other measures to demonstrate their concern for the environment and the role they are playing in saving the planet.
I don’t deny the role of business in solving these concerns, and indeed believe firmly that the solutions to our environmental challenges will only be solved with the technological innovation and discipline of business, with some regulatory pressure necessary. What I do doubt, just as I do with the scientists, is that businesses are offering superficial solutions and herein lies the moral rub. People believe they are helping the environment whereas all they have is the emotional feelgood factor that somehow they are taking care of the planet. They are not. We have a wasteful, consumerist and selfish society, and for every moral indulgence certificate we buy in the form of “environmentally-friendly” products we are encouraging behaviors and products that harm the planet.
There is a tremendous importance in the environmental concerns we face, but I do worry how it is politicalized and monetized. I was brought up in England in the 1960s and 1970s, and what my generation was taught was to care for what we called “the countryside” and for animals. The word we used back then was “conservation.” The British philosopher Roger Scruton has written in a nuanced and in-depth way about the meaning of conservation and the type of policy concerns people both left and right should consider. Roger and I shared lunch in Washington DC when his book How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism was launched, and discussed how we both belong to generations that were raised with the idea of conservation and the respect we need to show for the world.
In future articles I will return to environmental questions, and explore more deeply the politicization of conservation. At this point, however, I conclude by highlighting that conservation is not a left/right issue, it is a survival issue. Tying this to certain economic interests is perhaps not the best idea, and we need to be cautious in how we think about the economics of the environment. On the left we have an economic materialist view of conservation, and on the right we have an economic market view of conservation. The actual task of caring and conserving gets lost in the middle of this tug-of-war, where in reality both sides are pulling on the same end of the rope and seem oblivious to the fact there is nothing at the other end.
Dr. David Cowan is Visiting Scholar at the Boisi Center, Boston College, and author of Economic Parables: The Monetary Teachings of Jesus Christ (IVP, Downers Grove IL, 2009, 2nd edition) and a book on communications Strategic Internal Communications: How to Build Employee Engagement and Performance (Kogan Page, London & Philadelphia, 2014). His book, Frank H Knight: Prophet of Freedom (Palgrave Macmillan), part of the Great Economic Thinkers series, is published March 23rd 2016.
(Note: This article is a repost from the Center for Faith and Work at LeTourneau University.)
Do you ever ask yourself, Am I wasting time on temporal pursuits? Should I spend more time on what really matters to God?
In Genesis 1, God gave mankind a commission that has come to be known as the Cultural Mandate.
Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. —Genesis 1:28
The Hebrew term translated “fill the earth” in Genesis 1:28 means “bring to full flower,” to develop the potential of earth’s resources to the fullest.
As Creator, God could have placed Adam and Eve in the midst of a highly developed world with roads, bridges, buildings, technology, and everything needed for modern life as we know it. Instead, He gave us the earth and all its resources, and appointed us stewards, developers, and co-creators with Himself.
When we work to meet legitimate human needs, we are working for God and God is working through us, whether we realize it or not. We have a God-given purpose to steward His creation and contribute to human flourishing. Think of it like this:
An administrative assistant is not simply a schedule manager and meeting arranger. This individual is a reflector of God’s orderly character and contributor to the smooth functioning of business.
A loan processor is not simply a paper pusher. This person is a shelter provider and dream fulfiller, creating places where families can blossom.
A sanitation worker is not simply a trash collector. This person is a vital contributor to the community’s physical welfare and ability to flourish.
The apostle Paul reminded Christians in Colossae that all work is God’s work: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Col. 3:23, italics added).
Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science, he is, in whatsoever it may be,constantly standing before the face of his God, he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God. —Abraham Kuyper
Whatever includes an expansive spectrum of activities. To help us understand, Martin Luther suggested we consider just how many types of workers God uses to provide the breakfast we thank Him for each morning.
In the twenty-first century, we have to include a host of workers: farmers, farm workers, truck drivers, bakers, dairy workers, supermarket owners, stockers, shoppers, and cooks. However, we must not forget the engineers and construction workers who built the roads, and the bankers who provided capital to the farmers, bakers, and truckers. Also, what about the attorneys, politicians, and public servants who protect our ability to do business and make it possible for us cooperate with each other?
When we meet legitimate human needs, we are working for God as much as a pastor, missionary, or evangelist.
Bill Peel is the Founding Executive Director of The Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University created to help Christians understand their work’s importance to God and experience Christ’s transforming presence and power in every workplace in every nation. For more than 25 years, Bill has coached thousands of men and women to discover their calling, grasp their significance to God’s kingdom, and become a spiritual influence in their workplace.
In today’s business world, loyalty and faithfulness appear to be on the “Endangered Species List.” Unbridled greed and desire for power have led many executives to lie to the Board of Directors, falsify financial statements, and betray both employees and investors as they pursued their own selfish desires. Once prestigious and reputable banks, accounting, and law firms have compromised their ethics and betrayed their constituencies by conspiring to “cook the books” and assist their clients in their attempts to satisfy the demands of Wall Street. Leaders wrestle with issues of talent management and struggle to identify, harness and retain star talent who see through the facade of the corporate slogan, “Employees are our greatest asset.” Managers and supervisors face basic communications and performance management issues as they try to relate to the conflicting expectations and demands of four generations walking in the door each day.
The game of business has changed. The old rules don’t apply any more. What challenges and opportunities are you facing in this new era? When employees fail or fall short of achieving their goals does your commitment to their success wane or do you continue to support them? Do you find yourself making decisions that will benefit you but hurt the organization? In the face of so many challenges, where can you find answers? Start by setting your eyes on Jesus Christ and the unchanging, incomparable, eternal truth of God’s Word. Make it the final authority. The Lord has insightful things to say about loyalty and faithfulness. Begin to meditate on some of the Scriptures below. Apply them to your daily work life and watch as it begins to change the world around you.
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more. (Hebrews 8:12)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. (Psalm 33:4)
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
A faithful man will abound with blessings, But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 28:20)
The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)
The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip. (Psalm 37:30-31)
We encourage you to meditate on God’s Word concerning loyalty and faithfulness. God’s faithfulness to us was exhibited by the sacrificial giving of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus exemplified loyalty and faithfulness both to God and to man, even to the point of death on the cross. Jesus should be a Christian’s only mentor. He is the one we should strive to imitate. It is His life of servant leadership that we must study and adopt. Commit today to imitate Jesus in all you do.
Gary L. Selman is an accomplished author, executive coach and motivational speaker. He has spent over thirty five years pursuing his calling, encouraging, mentoring and equipping others to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God and to become compassionate, faithful and disciplined servant leaders. Gary and his wife Karen are founders of the First Call Advisory Group, which ministers to business owners, corporate executives and entrepreneurs. Gary holds a Master's Degree in Clinical & Community Psychology from Stephen F. Austin University.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the winter of 2014 I met Jonathan Sandys, the great-grandson of Sir Winston Churchill. Jonathan had moved to America to make speeches about his great-grandfather. Jonathan had been far from God, but as he studied Churchill’s life he concluded that the only explanation for Winston Churchill was God, and this led Jonathan back to faith.
Jonathan said he wanted to write a book about Churchill and God. I had the privilege of being the co-author of the book, God and Churchill—the first spiritual biography of the great man.
In that research I discovered the story of our times as well.
Someone—perhaps Mark Twain—said that history may not repeat itself exactly, but it does rhyme. Those who view time through the biblical worldview speak of “providential history”—time and events driven by the will of God. To my great surprise, I discovered this was Winston Churchill’s view. He believed that “Providence”—one of his favorite words, was guiding his every step to save “Christian Civilization,” as he put it several times.
And so one evening in 1891 16-year old Winston Churchill suddenly told his friend, Murland de Grasse Evans, “I can see vast changes coming over a now peaceful world; great upheavals, terrible struggles; wars such as one cannot imagine; and I tell you London will be in danger – London will be attacked and I shall be very prominent in the defence of London…”
A half century later, Churchill became Prime Minister barely a month before the Battle of Britain. “I felt as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial,” he wrote later.
There is no doubt that God intervened in the desperate situation of the world seven decades ago through Winston Churchill. History in our age is rhyming amazingly with the history of Churchill’s day. The great question before us now: Does God have “Churchills” who will be His instruments in our moment?
As we view history through the lens of the Bible one of the major motifs is that of the Destroyer-Deliverer—culminating in the Apollyon-Beast and the Great Deliverer at the teleological climax of history, the Lord Jesus Christ. Until then, the theme maintains its rhyme across history.
The destroyers try to exploit historical circumstances for their own evil purposes. This is because history is the arena for the outworking and advance of God’s Kingdom in the world. (Matthew 24:14) Ultimately, the whole world, as seen from God’s perspective, will have an opportunity to know about the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
That is the meaning of providential history, which Churchill sensed intuitively. He saw it working throughout his life, from his very childhood.
Churchill’s parents were immoral and neglectful. They sent young Winston and his brother, Jack, to boarding schools. This meant that the primary shaper of Churchill’s life was his nanny, Elizabeth Everest—a deeply committed Christian. She infused young Winston with the Bible and its worldview. Her impact was so powerful that he still had her photo in his bedroom when he died at 90.
Jonathan and I have not tried to make Churchill look like a pious man because he was not. He said he might not be a pillar of the church, but he was a “flying buttress.” However, he confessed to Field Marshal Montgomery that Jesus Christ was “unsurpassed” in his capacity to save sinners.
And Churchill loved the Bible. He wrote “that the most scientific view, the most up-to-date view and rationalistic conception, will find its fullest satisfaction in taking the Bible story literally.”
That faith stabilized Churchill during his times when it seemed the world was coming apart. And that brings us back to the reality of rhyming time.
Consider just a few things Churchill faced in his day and the similarities with our time:
Antichrist’s great aim is to impose his kingdom in the place of Christ’s Kingdom. In Churchill’s day the rival kingdom was Hitler’s Third Reich. In our day it is the Global Caliphate.
Internal forces that were antinomian and anti-civilizational
The Bloomsbury-Cambridge elites encouraged rejection of the very foundations of law and civilization on which British society rested. Today their counterparts are the Entertainment Establishment, Information Establishment, Academic Establishment, and Political Establishment.
A public consensus that was uninformed and naïve about the threats
Churchill found more understanding about the dangers of Hitler in Franklin Roosevelt than his own people. Many Americans and their institutions—including some churches—are blissfully unaware of the dangers to our Judeo-Christian civilization and constitutional order.
A complacent public that had forgotten the importance of its founding values
In 1933 as Hitler came to power, young scholars at Oxford University declared they would not go to war for king and country because there was nothing in their society worth dying for. Historian David McCullough spoke of our times when he said there is a “creeping disease eating away at the national memory,” resulting in our “losing our story, forgetting who we are and what it’s taken to come this far.”
It should not surprise us that Hitler’s biography, Mein Kampf, is enjoying new popularity in Europe, or that, in the words of Victor Davis Hanson, our leaders “are repeating the mistakes of their 1930s predecessors.
Jonathan and I seek to show how Churchill in his day offers guidance and even hope for ours.
Churchill told his people both the hard truth, and also comforted them with hope based on his view of providential history and God’s intervention. He energized the British people and their Allies with strong imagery and words, like these which apply to our times as much as they did his:
Arm yourselves, and be ye men (and women) of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar. As the Will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be.
Wallace Henley, senior associate pastor of Houston’s Second Baptist Church, is author of Globequake (Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins) and co-author with Jonathan Sandys of God and Churchill (Tyndale House Momentum in the US and SPCK in the UK, October 2015).
With age, I strive to become more real. I want to shed whatever remnants of my personality reflect behaviors based on fear and not love. Physical growth and intellectual growth assist us in reaching authenticity, but for me, spiritual growth is the most important.
Presenting my real self means letting go of my fears, plates of armor that keep people away and limit my own self-disclosure. Being vulnerable, not being liked or loved, making a mistake, being criticized, feeling worthless, being unproductive, losing control, disappointing others, the unknown, becoming old, failing, death, injuring myself, and being wrong—all these fears shape my behavior and the way I deal with life. I become a human mirage, an appearance of what people want to see. When the mirage disappears, only desert remains.
I worry I won’t be liked. That translates to my agreeing as much as I can, even if it means not expressing my true opinion. When I hear an opinion counter to my own I think, is the issue important enough to voice my disagreement, am I totally convicted of my point of view, or is there merit to the other opinion? Usually it’s not worth a disagreement that might damage a relationship.
I worry about failing. That translates to my avoidance of risks, overworking projects, and overthinking issues. I avoided starting my own company or joining any but the strongest companies because I didn’t want to be any part of failure.
I worry I’ll be on the wrong side of an issue. That translates to arguing and sometimes anger, and anger is almost always based on fear. Something as simple as disagreeing with my wife on driving directions can cause an argument. Often she is in the right and my agitation with her comes from the fear that I might be wrong and lose control.
Although less introverted than I once was, when I was in eighth grade I was even more so, and didn’t reveal much about myself, worried I would disappoint my friends. When it came time for the eighth grade dance, I was excited to be attending what would have been my very first dance, although I already knew a little dancing because the music teacher Ada Reynolds had taught us square dancing in her class. (That’s the kind of dancing we did in Arizona.) I never made it. When I told my family I planned to go, they teased and teased. “But you don’t know how to dance. Do you have a girlfriend? I’ll bet you will be too shy to ask a girl to dance.” I secretly did like Judy Wingfield, but I let my parents’ kindhearted teasing keep me home.
I should have gone to the dance. My sensitivity didn’t stop then. When I went to work in the corporate world, I thought it wrong to take or make personal calls unless it was an emergency so I instructed my wife not to call me at work. On the few occasions when I did receive a personal call and someone stuck their head in my office, I would drop my voice an octave and assume the tone of a serious businessman. Was I afraid of my own voice?
It wasn’t until I began writing my book, Leadership for Life, that I decided I must change how I live my life. Writing about leadership and teaching it, as I began to do for the Houston Baptist University MBA program, requires a strong point of view about what makes great leaders.
I believe that love, forgiveness, and gratitude have the most profound impact on a leader’s effectiveness. And I believe that, as a leader for life, you must uncover the real you, love and accept what you discover, forgive yourself for past mistakes, and be grateful for your relationships and your life. I’m good at intellectualizing issues but often not so good at changing my behaviors. I hope I can adopt this philosophy into my “real” life.
Accepting these insights as true, I look at myself and places I can show more love, forgiveness, and gratitude. I work at trading my fears for love, I forgive more, and I express more gratitude for everything in my life. I give my opinion, wear what I want, and let go of many worries about what other people think. Naturally I want to be loved, but I have discovered that the more I love the more I receive it.
When I meet a new person, I expect to find something to love about them and so I look for his or her unique gifts talents and wisdom. When I meet a new class of students, I believe they are all special. I look into their faces and see the face of God. It changes the way I teach.
On April 7, I will start teaching again. One of the goals I strive for is that each student will discard personal insecurities (fears) and realize he or she is special. I want each person to become real. Authenticity will make them better leaders.
On the first evening of class, after introducing this goal, I ask the students to stand up and turn around. Then I say, “One more time…… Well, I don’t see any imperfections!” What a person looks like has no relevance to their value or worth. We all wear masks. I try to see beyond the masks and armor and get a glimpse into each person’s soul. Just like them, I am just another person hoping to be worthy of love.
The famous quote from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams captures the spirit of becoming real. It’s about loving and being loved.
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
Living in fear creates suffering. If love fully replaces fear in my life, I will become real. I think I’m getting closer to becoming real, although I’m not sure I fully understand how the change happens. I do know that fear is the ultimate prison and love is empowering and limitless.
Douglas Gehrman teaches transformational leadership at Houston Baptist University. He had a 40-year corporate career in energy and financial services. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Recently, Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle has pled guilty to offenses against minors punishable with jail time. Fogle, who was once extremely obese, came to fame by losing significant weight while only eating Subway for a period of time. Years and years as spokesperson lead to millions of dollars and international fame but in the end, it looks like the success he has experienced led to his failure. This pattern is not unique to Fogle.
The Christian Church has been rocked many times by “star” pastors experiencing significant falling. For example, former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll stepped down and the church sold due to issues like abusiveness, plagiarism, and using money to make his book a best seller. What Fogle and Driscoll represent is something universal to humankind: Success can lead to demise.
Most people desire success and most entities we are associated with have avenues to achieve it. Promotions, raises, awards, and incentives are all things used to entice success.
But success has a cost and can lead ones heart away from what is important. I have seen very godly men and women who have achieved great success and later lost their spiritual fervor. Success can stunt the soul.
Many of us are struggling to establish ourselves, others are already established and unambitious for promotion, but most of us desire to grow in our influence, which means that we must achieve success in our personal endeavors.
God knows the human heart and also knows that success and prosperity can fuel pride, which can cause the individual to walk the path of forgetfulness. Sometimes the desire to succeed can also exhaust our soul, causing us to forget what is vital.
Whether you are a student, just starting out in your career, well established, preparing to retire, or a retiree, there are never times in this life where one is not vulnerable to the seduction of success.
Success has many dangers but the three that arise from the Bible are pride, forgetfulness, and comfort, all three war against a heart for God.
What does success look like? Deuteronomy 8 defines it as prosperity from the Lord. Right away, Moses encourages the nation of Israel to be obedient: “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.”
The essence of loving God is obedience. This is clear throughout the Bible. No writer is clearer than Moses. John picks up this theme in a strong way:
This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 1 John 5:3
"If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:5
But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 1 John 2:5
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them." John 14:21
Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14:23
Number two, Moses reminded Israel not to forget God’s faithfulness to them in the past: 8:2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
We have all experienced the wilderness; these are times that must be bookmarked in our hearts. God will not let us wander the wilderness forever and when He leads into a personal promised land, we must be ready to remember his faithfulness, not trying to take credit for it.
God uses the wilderness to purge us and test our hearts to see if we love him. In the wilderness, there are only two options: die or grow. Most of Israel did not see the Promised Land, even Moses saw from Mount Nebo. Those of us in our own wildernesses could be experiencing a circumstance that is unfavorable: we are working at a job we do not like; we are at a low or entry-level position; we are unemployed; we are qualified but unable to find a suitable position. The wilderness takes different forms but eventually leads to purification.
But God does not allow us to be in the wilderness forever, and when we exit and experience success, it is easy to forget God and try to take recognition for ourselves.
Success can destroy us as much as the wilderness only success’s destruction is more stealth because it is often couched in comfort while the wilderness is couched in suffering. When God prospers us out of the wilderness, it is important more than ever to remember his goodness and worship him with our lives. Not to forget who the author of our success is and whose name we should be glorifying.
The comfort of success is what fuels pride and forgetfulness, Deuteronomy 8:10-18 reads:
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
God does say that to obey means blessing. Whether it is material or spiritual, the danger of experiencing prosperity can lead the heart down a path of unfaithfulness. One must always remember God the author and giver of our blessing. Success creates comfort which fuels pride and forgetfulness while crushing courageous faith. Instead of being on the offensive, striving to do bold and daring things for God, the heart can become defensive, not wanting to give up the comfortable position. Deuteronomy 8 is a blueprint on how we can survive success. Israel will enter a land of plenty and God warns them not to forget him. If we are entering a prosperous time, we must also remember and obey God, giving him the glory.
Michael Chung currently teaches Bible and Theology at Houston Baptist University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Doug Gehrman
There existed “thin places,” the early Celtic people believed, where one could experience closer access to God and the divine. You’ve maybe been to such a place, where the veil between our human existence and heaven seemed so “thin” as to be translucent. The Grand Canyon, Michelangelo’s David, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Spiritual clarity reaches a higher level and the sacred becomes visible.
In the Celtic belief, God was everywhere and there was little separating the secular from the divine; you just had to look for it and experience it. The light at dusk behind a cloud, sun through rain, a moment shared, a hand offered. It could be anything or found anywhere.
Some of my “thin” places are the births of our three children, the birth of my sister, my marriage to my wife, certain beauties within nature, the kindness strangers have extended me, the power of the love of my mother, and so many parts of living.
Thin places continue to appear in my life. During a trip to India in December 2011, I had the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal. My father had been to the Taj in 1931, and I wanted to relive his experience. I had seen pictures of the Taj Mahal so I thought I’d be ready for what I was about to see. I was in for an awakening.
Before the Taj was revealed, I entered a courtyard, traveled up several steps, and walked through a short gallery for my first viewing. As I got ready, I thought to myself that I was just crossing something off my list. I wasn’t expecting anything special to happen. But when I stepped through the gate, my breath caught. I was humbled at the beauty of the building and gardens. I wondered what the picture had missed. What it couldn’t capture. The size of the Taj, the smell of the gardens, the perfect blue sky, the detailed inlay of precious stones, and the realization that I was in the presence of something special. The grandeur and symbolism of the Taj Mahal cannot be communicated in a still photograph.
Construction of the Taj began in 1632 and took over twenty years to complete. The work of over twenty thousand laborers, artisans, architects, and engineers, combined with a thousand elephants, created the mausoleum. It was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and built with great sacrifice, motivated by the passionate love Shah Jahan had for his wife. Love is powerful.
The building rests on a marble foundation about twenty feet high, which lifts the perspective of the building off the ground. The Taj was framed by a clear blue sky that day. Because of the elevation provided by the foundation, the building appeared to be floating on its way to heaven.
I wondered how man could create something so magnificent, and at the same time regretted that I would never create such beauty. It seemed strange to cry at the sight of it, but the image was so intense, I couldn’t contain my feelings. I was looking at the most beautiful and inspiring manmade structure I had ever seen.
I encountered another “thin place” in the fall of 2013. My wife and I were traveling down the Rhine River, and one of our stops was Passau, Germany. In Passau, we visited the town cathedral for an organ concert. The spectacular cathedral boasted an organ that I believe is the largest in the world—the organ contained a total of seventeen thousand pipes divided in five different sanctuary locations.
In that sacred place the concert began. On the commencement of the first few organ notes, I became moved. The beauty was overwhelming: a combination of the music, the skill, and passion of the organist, and the regal aesthetics of the church setting. I wanted the moment to last for hours, but of course it didn’t.
“Thin places” are inspirational, emotional, and transcending. For me, “thin places” are created out of love. It was the love of the Shah for his wife, the love and passion of the music composers, the love of the organist to bring the music to life, and the love of those who built the beautiful cathedral that spoke to me.
In my lifetime, I have missed many “thin places.” My focus was always on the goal. To see India. To see as much as possible along the Rhine and Danube. To get the degree, secure the job and promotion, finish the book, get fit, lose weight.
For years, I drove to the office, five days a week. If you asked me to name the cross streets on my route or businesses I passed, I couldn’t. I focused completely on my life’s goals, and as a result, I must have missed many “thin places” on my way to achieve them. Experiencing “thin places” requires a discipline and sensitivity to the world around us, and I wish to experience as many as possible.
Upon reflection, I need to stay in the moment, be observant, and approach life with an attitude of love. If I do, I will likely experience the “thin” places that are part of the everyday. And if my love and compassion are strong enough, I can create “thin” places in those desolate and empty places I encounter. This means I must try to see the divine in every person and connect with each person’s desire for belonging, respect, connection; in other words, I must love them.
Doug Gehrman teaches transformational leadership at Houston Baptist University. He had a 40-year corporate career in energy and financial services. He can be reached at email@example.com.
As business professionals we bring our talents to the marketplace every working day. We exercise influence, get things done, and move our enterprises forward. Our professional tool kits are full of the latest and greatest in new ideas and strategies—we are leaders, managers, and individual producers.
Underneath these worthwhile endeavors are our core values that fuel the process. These values are the foundational principles that shape our motives and impact our decisions. The products and services we deliver will change from time to time, but our core values remain the same.
God Owns Everything
Businesses and their people can possess any number of noble core values, but what sets Christians apart from the rest of the world is the fact that we recognize God as the owner of our businesses and careers. For this reason our first and most important core value is the principle of biblical stewardship which is: God owns everything and he gives some of it to us to use and manage on his behalf.
Psalms 24:1 speaks to this principle when it declares, “The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
A steward is someone who manages the property of another person. In the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), it is the steward who calls and pays the laborers at the end of the work day and not the vineyard owner. Matthew 20:8 reads, “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and give them their wages.’” “Steward” used here in the NKJV is translated “manager” in the AMP. When it comes to our profession lives we are the stewards-managers and Jesus Christ is the owner. Jesus is the principal and we are his fiduciaries.
Colossians 3:23–24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men … It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” The fact is God calls each of us to make good use of the resources (i.e., the people and the things) he gives us and we do this in ways that reflect his character.
Anne Bradley is Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE) which is a non-profit Christian research organization based in McLean, VA, and she says the following about our work lives and the stewardship of God’s gifts:
“Work is what we do and stewardship is how we do it. Stewardship refers to all of our decision-making: how we choose to use our time, our talents, and our energies. It’s where we draw the boundaries on our commitments. It is reflected in all of our choices, from the mundane to the monumental. This is whole-life stewardship, and it requires a paradigm shift. Stewardship is not just about whether we tithe, or how we manage our personal finances or how we preserve fossil fuels. These are important aspects of stewardship, but whole-life stewardship is so much more. It concerns every decision that a person makes, and it requires intentionality and effectiveness.” [i]
Anne describes our stewardship of God’s resources as both a call and a mandate—we don’t have the luxury of misappropriating God’s resources. As Christians we are called to be intentional and prudent when using all the things we hold dear. It is our duty to see the value of the things God gives us and to put them to work in their highest and best uses according to God’s standards.
Mark Canlis is the co-owner of Canlis, a Seattle-based restaurant and one of the top 20 restaurants in America as rated by Gourmet Magazine. He is a marketplace Christian who understands biblical stewardship as a core business value and actively applies it to his own enterprise.
In addition to his restaurant, Mark leads a non-profit entity called Centered that equips others to serve God in their everyday work. In his role at Centered Mark says the following:
“Stewardship first and foremost begins with ourselves. It means living fully into who we were created to be. If we don’t begin with this understanding of taking care of all the gifts and resources that we ourselves have been blessed with, how could we ever hope to take care of anyone else’s time or money?” [ii]
Also, Mark says this about the challenges of following Jesus in his work:
“I don’t think my work has kept me from following Jesus. If anything, it gives me focus and purpose and insight into how to follow Him–or what that even means. The reality is I don’t have 6 hours in the morning to read scripture. That’s awesome, but that’s not me. Me is three kids, breakfast, school, and then 95 employees to care for. Work isn’t a distraction from becoming who I want to become, it’s a vehicle for it … As followers of Jesus, we have one life to answer the singular call to know, love, and serve God … There is only Jesus—at the center of any and everything we do—who we live through and for in our churches, our homes, and even our work.”
Mark is an example of someone who sees his professional life is a vehicle through which he lives out his divine purpose. Mark’s business life is not a spiritual distraction but a calling through which he serves Christ and others.
The first and most basic core value for marketplace Christians is to apply the principle of biblical stewardship to our businesses and careers. This core value begins by recognizing God as the ultimate owner of all the talents, resources, and opportunities we use on a daily basis. God calls us to use and manage the things he gives us and to do this in ways that honor him. This principle of biblical stewardship shapes our motives and influences our decisions—it sets us apart from the rest of the world in ways that glorify our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Patrick Layhee is the founder and president of GANE Technology, Inc., a Houston-based professional recruiting firm. He is the founder of GodsCareerGuide.com and author of God’s Career Guide: Practical Insights for the Workplace Christian where he combines his workplace expertise and intimate knowledge of the Bible to improve and enrich the work-lives of other Christians. Patrick can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although our country was founded on Christian principles, many Christians have been convinced by government, special interest groups, lawyers and corporate America that prayer, reading the Bible and applying their faith in the workplace is grossly misplaced and that it should come no closer to their office than the parking garage. So what is a Christian who trusts in God supposed to do when faced with daily workplace challenges, tests, and trials? Who should they turn to for wisdom and insight on recruiting, hiring, training and retaining key employees and leaders? How can they empower their workforce to higher levels of productivity and quality? How can they lead like Jesus, with love and compassion in a worldly environment geared toward power, selfishness, and greed?
In the face of these challenges do you turn to man or God? How do you distinguish yourself from the rest of the workforce who don’t believe in God or His Word? Are you functioning the same way that the unbeliever functions, simply going with the flow and doing the best you can? Are you getting God-sized results because you are willing to apply your faith in God and His Word to your work life or failing because you think and act like the world, with an independent mindset that edges God out of your daily decision making and work habits?
As Christians in the workplace, how do we get back on track? How do we change the way we think so that our thinking, behavior and character are pleasing to God? Colossians 3:23 says that whatever we do, do it heartily as to the Lord, not to man. Proverbs 20:25 says that the fear of man brings a snare but whoever puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe. Since each one of us is personally responsible for honoring God and applying the Word to our everyday lives, we must commit to renewing our minds daily through the reading and hearing of God’s Word (Romans 12:1-2) followed by a corresponding action to support our belief in Jesus Christ. (James 1:22-25). This sets the stage for implementing our faith in the workplace.
What is faith and how can we effectively appropriate it in our work life? Faith is our confidence and trust in Jesus, His love for us, and our acknowledgement that His death on the cross cleansed us of all sins, past, present and future. It is our belief in God’s Word.
Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see. That is what the people of long ago were praised for. We have faith. So we understand that everything was made when God commanded it. That’s why we believe that what we see was not made out of what could be seen. (Hebrews 11:1-3)
We apply our faith in the workplace by developing a daily habit of praying to God in the name of Jesus and seeking direction from the Holy Spirit in every situation and in every detail of our daily work activities and tasks. This is the essence of faith in action.
Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the “Faith Hall of Fame.” The word “faith” is used 31 times in this chapter. Paul recounts the role that faith played in the lives of many of the major figures in the Bible: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Rahab. All of them faced impossible challenges that were resolved by the fulfillment of promises made by God. In the last two verses, Paul reminds us that although they did not live to see the promises of God, they never stopped believing in the One who made the promises.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40, NIV)
Are you facing what appear to be insurmountable problems in your work life? Have you put your faith to work and called on the Almighty God for help?
Faith in Action
When reading our Bible, Gary and I often do a word substitution, replacing the word “faith” with “belief.” For us, this reinforces that faith for the born-again believer means complete surrender and submission of our needs, thoughts, and concerns to God, trusting and relying on Him through His Son Jesus Christ, and the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. It reinforces our belief in God’s Word and that we can have what the Bible says we can have, if only we will believe, knowing that it is impossible for God to lie. (Hebrews 6:18).
As stated earlier, in conjunction with believing, we must have a corresponding action to support what we believe. In James 2:26, Jesus’ brother James states, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” It is fitting that the entire chapter of Hebrews is dedicated to the lives of the “heroes and heroines” of the Bible who supported their belief in God and His promises with a corresponding action of faith. This is faith at work or faith in action. Hebrews 11 exemplifies faith and shows us that faith is:
1. A THING or STATE OF BEING. Faith is the natural state, anchor or foundation for a believer. • Confirmation or Title Deed (Heb 11:1) • Proof of what cannot be seen (Heb 11:1) • Conviction or belief (Heb 11:1) • Trust in God (See Heb 11:1, 19, 32-37)
2. A MINDSET. Faith is the normal or natural way of thinking for the believer. • Point of view, state or condition, way of thinking (Heb 11:1) • Perception or way of looking at the world (See Heb 11:2-3, 20)
3. A MEANS OF GETTING SOMETHING ACCOMPLISHED. Faith equips, enables or empowers a believer to succeed and prosper in every area of their life. • By faith (Heb 11:2-3, 11, 17, 28)
4. A NECESSARY ELEMENT, STATE OR CONDITION OF RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. Faith is a necessary requirement to have a relationship with God. • Believing in God (Heb 11:6) • Pleasing to God (See Heb 11:6) • Becoming satisfactory in God’s eyes (Heb 11:6)
5. A SOURCE OF MOTIVATION OR ENERGIZER. Faith motivates, incites, inspires and drives the actions of Christians; it serves as the justification or reason for action. • Believers are actuated (put into action) by faith (See Heb 11:4, 22) • Believers are aroused by faith (See Heb 11:24) • Believers take action because of faith (See Heb 11:5, 11, 30). • Believers are helped by faith (Heb 11:33) • Believers are motivated by faith (Heb 11:27) • Believers are prompted by faith (See Heb 11:4, 7, 9, 21, 23, 31) • Believers are urged on and encouraged by faith (See Heb 11:8, 29) • Believers are controlled by and sustained by faith (Heb 11:13)
For the successful Christian in the workplace, faith in God is a way of life. It shapes our thinking, emotions and actions. It is a necessary ingredient in our relationship with God. In faith, we choose to believe in, trust in, and lean on a God that we cannot see. In faith, we believe that nothing is impossible for us because He lives within us. In faith, we confront the enemy. In faith, we speak to the mountains, problems and challenges in our life and expect them to move. In faith, we endure and press on. In faith, we are justified and made righteous. In faith, we persevere. In faith, we win and have victory. In faith, we will meet our Lord face to face. We encourage you to commit today to live a life of faith in both your professional and personal lives. Fight the fight of faith so that you too will be known by God and all the saints and angels in heaven as a “hero or heroine” of faith.
Gary L. Selman is an accomplished author, executive coach and motivational speaker. He has spent over thirty five years pursuing his calling, encouraging, mentoring and equipping others to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God and to become compassionate, faithful and disciplined servant leaders. Gary and his wife Karen are founders of the First Call Advisory Group, which ministers to business owners, corporate executives and entrepreneurs. Gary holds a Master's Degree in Clinical & Community Psychology from Stephen F. Austin University. He can be reached at email@example.com