Jesus’ Advice about Success and Goals (Part One)

The word “success” doesn’t actually appear in the New Testament, in any of the many translations I searched. And the Old Testament word that occasionally gets translated “succeed” or “success” seems better rendered “prosper” or “prospering”—and over and over again, it’s God who’s doing the prospering, of people and their endeavors. (“Unless the Lord builds the house…” “Unless the LORD watches over the city…”)

However, Jesus did address financial success:

  • He told a rich young ruler to give away all of his.
  • Right after He prospered that bunch of fishermen with a haul too huge to handle, He told them to relinquish the pile and leave it behind.
  • He likewise summoned Matthew the tax collector away from his tableful of funds.
  • And He told all His disciples not to worry about even what they’d eat or wear the next day, but to trust God to supply all they needed. (Thinking about all the above together as I was preparing for this post, I wondered if He did the fish miracle purposely to bring to life his teaching of “Don’t worry about money,” proving “God will supply.”)
  • He gave them a practical assignment to see this truth in action by sending them out without any provisions, and let them witness God’s supplying all they needed as they went.
  • He even pointed out that serving money and serving God were diametrically opposed, the one in utter conflict with the other, so that it was impossible actually to serve both. He even personified money as a figurative sort of false god, named Mammon.

Hm. So much for the ambition to become a multi-billionaire—or even to make “enough money” your focus.

What about recognition and fame, and people’s good opinion?

  • He taught His followers to pray their prayers and give their charitable gifts secretly, out of public view.
  • He criticized the showy givers and good-deed doers, and asked such people this biting question: “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44 NET).

What about success in other areas we think are critically important?

Like success in family life? (This one gets really ouchy…)

  • He declared He didn’t come to bring familial peace, but “a sword,” dividing family members from one another, two against three and three against two, with a person’s enemies being members of his own household (Lk 12:51-53).
  • He told someone shouting from the crowd about a family dispute (over Mammon, oh, my!) that He didn’t come to be a family arbiter either.
  • He even said that to be His follower would require choosing Him over beloved family members and household possessions like land holdings.

Wow. None of this looks like what we would call success, does it?

But I’m guessing most everybody reading this knew these teachings, or most of them. We just don’t put them together and take them life-seriously, do we?

But Jesus did. As He walked the earth, He lived out these peculiar principles Himself:

  • He left all the riches of Heaven and hauled around no mass of provisions with Him, even for the hungry crowds who would follow Him.
  • He sought neither the good opinion of human rulers, nor the applause of the crowds, but rather did what would please the Father.
  • He refused to abuse His abilities or position by turning stones into bread for Himself or taking showy risks like diving off the pinnacle of the temple or bowing down to anyone other than God to gain power over peoples in the world

We might expect this of our Savior, but the idea of us really living this way? Of even being able to do it? It’s so “upside down” in relation to our natural human desires, goals, and ambitions that someone even wrote a book about it called The Upside Down Kingdom.

Yet, here’s the thing. This upside-down-ness is what Jesus declared would bring His followers wondrous, joyous, and long-lasting success.

He also set forth clear goals to work toward. We’ll look toward some in Part Two

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For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.

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“Just a…”

Today, just a few words on this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt word:

   just             

I often start a short blog post with wording something like this:

“Just for today…

“Just this…”

That word “just” takes on a different meaning for me then. Instead of relegating something to the mediocrity pile by saying it’s “just a…” or “I’m just a…” for me it makes the word “just” imply distinctiveness, unique qualities especially appropriate and useful for the moment or the task at hand.

It may be “just” a few words, but the words are enough to merit being called a blog post.

It may be “just” a photo or collage, but in and of itself it is enough to convey important meaning so that nothing else is needed.

I’m right now considering how many things we give the quantifying label “just a…” that are really critically important, and have such large meaning and value.

A “just” minimalism.

Something to think about if you think of yourself as “just a…” whatever (fill in the blank),

or if you label that latest work of love you justdid as “It was just…”

Fact is, you might be just right for the task, more than many a person, and the simple deed you did might be just what was most needed.

Indeed, “just” is also a synonym for “right,” isn’t it?

Just a few thoughts about the word “just.”

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For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.

Quotes and Commentary: On Achievement

What I really would like to blog about today is Jesus Christ’s take on “success” and “goals,” as revealed in the things he both said and did. But to do justice to a topic like that requires a lot more time and energy, study and thought incubation, than I have handy right now. Perhaps the weekend will offer enough time and rest. I hope so. It’s most often from such wellsprings that the best products arise. So hopefully I say that in the coming final week of February (and a bit into March) such pieces may appear here.

For now, instead, I share two entries I journaled prompted by quotes in this journaling book—because they address “achievement,” which is the topic this meandering month has focused on a lot.

The first is commentary on this Theodore Roosevelt quote:

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

I immediately found myself responding thus:

“Desire it enough to aim toward it even if you don’t know whether you can.”

But then I went on addressing the second half that is needed for any accomplishment:

“Many have never achieved what they firmly believed they could, simply because they never put in the grueling effort necessary.  Many live in a fantasy world of what they believe they could achieve rather than working toward the goal. I’ve done that myself.

You must feel that the effort is worth it, whether you ever reach the desired objective or not. A thing worth doing is worth trying to do. And the belief that God can do all things, and do them well, holds the key to perseverance and success for me. I stand back afterwards, many times, astounded by what He enabled me to achieve. Truly in many cases, I still do not think I had it in myself. But God…”

The second is my response to this quote from Leonardo da Vinci:

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough: we must apply. Being willing is not enough. We must do.”

I wrote,

“Well, this man certainly was a doer—although doing, even accomplishing, is not so much a measure of one’s goodness, of whether the his doings were ethical, kind, and right in the eyes of God, etc—and old Leonardo evidently used questionable methods sometimes. He also started a lot of things he never finished. [But how dare I ever criticize anyone for that?]

“There’s another point here to analyze: the idea of the urgency of doing being more important than anything else. Driven type A people sometimes, wittingly or unwittingly, leave a trail of collateral damage behind them. A balance of love and concern for others and for how your doing, doing, doing might affect them is imperative.”

There you have some grist for your weekend thought mill, while I take my weekend break. Please feel free to leave comments with your own thoughts on these subjects.

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For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.

 

A Beautiful View of “Progress”

Just yesterday I received email notification of a fellow blogger’s post that meshes so beautifully with where we are in this “Meandering” journey that I want to turn the “podium” over to her. What she has to say is short, sweet, wise and poetic. So please click on this link to Christina Moore’s “Crumbs from His Table” for a beautiful view of “Progress.”

You can leave a comment there or here, and let me know what you think!

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Beyond that,  I want to add a little further commentary on yesterday’s quote about beauty on the pathway we’re traveling.

If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.”

-Anatole France

It never occurred to me till I read the comments on that post that the quote could be interpreted as encouraging us to follow any path that looks attractive. I see how it could. And that would be foolish indeed.

I was thinking, however, of us earnestly trying to follow the right path, the best path, but getting bogged down in the struggles and doubts and striving after goals, fearing and trying to second-guess the future. Then we need to slow down, trust God, and enjoy the beauties of the journey, with confidence in His presence, leading, help, and protection.

And that’s the basic idea of the poem linked above, isn’t it? Lovely!

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For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.

Let’s Not Let Goals Blind Us!

On my way meandering around town today–in a more or less orderly fashion–I passed a chakboard propped outside one of the shops, with this quote on it,

If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.”

-Anatole France

My path happened to be beautiful. Sorry, no camera with me then, but I was glad I’d taken my little notebook so I could jot down words like these.  So  I did, and as I sat in the book store later, I pondered what I’d copied…

Really, we do make a bit too much of those goals and strategies for success sometimes, don’t we?

Always looking and longing ahead into the fog of uncertainty, we can miss so much beauty and joy that lies right around us now.

So, for now, let’s pay attention. Beauty can be lurking in a lot of places where we’ll miss it if we don’t!

May you have a beauty-full day today!

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For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.