Be careful what you ask for.
We all know the punch line, right? “Because you might get it.”
But what if that’s not the real punch line?
What if the real answer is “Because you might not know what you are asking for?”
We know God wants success for us. The tension resides in the fact that we don’t always define success the same way God does.
We might think success is a big church in the burbs. God might think success is a small church in the country. Or what if God doesn’t connect success to numbers at all? What if God’s definition is more about character, trust, obedience, loving people, lifting His name and teaching the gospel?
God did promise new territory to Joshua. (Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.) That does sound like “numbers.”
But God also focused on the relationship Joshua had with Him.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:7-8
How you define success matters.
Do you have a definition?
Does your definition of success remain consistent, or does it change according to your circumstances?
What does your heart long for?
Let’s be honest, anyone who leads wants success. I’ll bet you’ve never awakened in the morning to a thought like: “I sure hope I fail today.”
And probably similar to me, you’ve experienced both the successes and failures that life has a way of delivering.
The following are a few things I’ve learned over the years about success. I hope they are helpful to you.
1) Allow success to be something God gives you, not something you take.
You can’t force success no matter how hard you try. You can work hard, and that makes a big difference, (God wants you to do your part), but God’s timing doesn’t always match our desires. However, His timing is right.
It’s not uncommon for leaders to try to “take” success from God. Meaning, it’s something we expect, or feel entitled to, in our way, in our timing. Of course, that never works well.
You may be in charge, but you are not in control.
When you take success into your own hands, it’s incredibly heavy, often short-lived and usually exhausting.
When God gives success, you still work hard and get tired, but the fruit tastes so sweet. The load is lighter, and there is more than enough joy and meaning to replenish your weariness and refresh your soul.
2) If you are blessed with success, never forget where it came from.
One of my mistakes as a leader is when I pray less in a season of success. I continue to learn that it’s during times of success, that I need to pray most.
It’s easy to subtly slide from the truth that ultimately God makes it all happen, to “I made it happen.” I really don’t ever believe that, but I can begin to live and behave as if I think that way. That’s a subtle and dangerous difference.
God is gracious and kind to provide His favor.
Whatever small or large success I may be blessed with, I acknowledge and thank God for it daily.
3) Don’t sell your soul for continued success.
Success to the soul is like sugar to the palate; you just want more.
When I have a chocolate chip cookie, my first thought is never, “well I’m good now.” I think, “just one more,” and that thought never ends. There’s nothing wrong with a chocolate chip cookie, but I can sell out my health if I keep eating them.
Most leaders are highly driven and dedicated to the mission. And when you get a “taste” of success, you may be tempted to pay any price for continued success.
Where do you draw the line? Do you protect and put your family first? How about your physical health? And your spiritual life, ironically, can be at high risk even when your time is dedicated to God’s work. How would you describe your prayer life, is it all that you want it to be? These are good questions for a personal check up.
4) Failure is a springboard to future success.
Some leaders are more successful than others, but no one experiences continued success throughout their life.
Failure is inevitable, but it’s not final.
Failure can knock you down, and sometimes it can feel like it knocked you out. But you can get back up.
What you and I learn from our failures makes us better leaders. How we apply what we learn makes all the difference.
Sometimes we need a more experienced and wiser friend to help us navigate the difficult seasons. Sometimes we need a fresh start. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a good night’s sleep and start again in the morning.
Whatever the case might be for you as a leader, embrace failures as part of life, learn all you can, and keep pressing on.