Success Trap

Without a healthy dose of humility in our lives, earthly success can become a trap to almost anyone. Because without humility, any form of human success is often measured by what we’ve done or accomplished even though it is actually God who gives us the ability and the means to succeed. Deuteronomy 8:17-18 says this:

"You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 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 forefathers, as it is today."

In this portion of scripture Moses is warning the Israelites not to forget that it is the Lord who gives them the ability to produce wealth. Likewise, when the Lord blesses us with earthly success, we need to remember that it came from his hands, not exclusively from our own abilities. He wants to bless us, but he doesn’t want our blessings to cause pride to well up in us, or to lessen how much we believe we need him. Blessings and success can be good as long as we remember that it is a gift from God, not produced on our own. I believe that God gives us skills and abilities, but he is the one who sparks inspiration, ideas, and opens the doors to success. If we remember that, there is less of a chance for our ego to get clouded with pride by the misguided notion that we’ve succeeded on our own.

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It is not by our own power that we produce wealth or success, but it is God who gives us the ability. If you look at those who we consider successful in our world, only a small portion of that success was within their control to obtain. I’m sure you’ve heard of “being in the right place at the right time”, or that it matters more who you know that what you know. Can’t you believe that God orchestrates these connections for your benefit? You can be highly skilled and super talented, but if God doesn’t open the door for you, your career will go nowhere. And besides that, it is God who gives us the skills and talent to begin with. So, I encourage you, if God blesses you, don’t fall into the trap of believing that you accomplished your success on your own. Because if you do, pride can well up and you can end up falsely believing that you don’t need God.

Motives Matter

Have you ever done the right thing for the wrong reason? Maybe you visited someone in the hospital just to impress the girl you’re interested in. Or maybe you’ve joined a bible study because the guy you like is leading it. Or maybe you’ve helped someone out financially just so that you can have something to hold over their head if they don’t behave the way you want them to. Proverbs reminds us that it isn’t just what we do that gets the attention of our Lord, but that our motives matter. In chapter 16 verse 2 it says:

"All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord."

It is good to do good, but we should also think about why we’re doing what we’re doing. Is there a hidden motive? Even if we can hide them from those around us, or even if we try to convince ourselves that what we’re doing is for the right reason, God knows our motives and he weighs them even if we’ve convinced ourselves that our motives are innocent. I encourage you to reach out to others without the thought of getting anything in return. When we’re able to do that, we’ll know that our motives are in line.

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It is great when we have opportunities to help others or do what seems pleasing to our God, but we need to keep our motives in check. We need to remember that when we model the attributes of Jesus, because of our faith and belief in him, we are representing him. We’re often reminded that we reflect Jesus’ hands and feet on this earth, so shouldn’t we reflect his heart as well? And the motives behind our actions will tell us whether our hearts are right or wrong, even when on the surface they seem innocent.

Karma

“Karma” isn’t a term that is widely circulated in Christian circles. Though it may have Buddhist and Hindu origins, it has become a common term referring to the principle of “what goes around comes around”. In other words, what you sew will eventually come back to haunt or bless you. If you’re kind, kindness will come back to you, but if you’re mean, you will eventually reap that as well. Proverbs supports this principle in chapter 11 verse 24 when it says:

"One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty."

This just proves that often times we really do reap what we sew. Knowing this, we should sew what the bible encourages us to sew – things like love, forgiveness, and mercy. Because if we do, these things may be revisited back on us as well – yes from God, but also from our fellow man.

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Proverbs supports the concept that we may reap what we sew. The example used refers to our giving nature – or lack thereof. “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” The bible is truth and I’ve seen this proverb play out in my life and in the lives of those I know. So, I believe that we, as believers, should really take it to heart.

Blameless Ways

I often look at the Christian walk as a two-pronged effort: There’s doing what’s right and there’s abstaining from doing what’s wrong. First, the “right” things; things we do that please God such as proactively loving others, working on our relationship with God like fasting, bible reading and prayer. Then there is the abstaining from doing what is wrong, which basically boils down to turning away from anything that is sinful - be it in our heart, mind or actions. Proverbs reminds us that we are to strive to be blameless in his sight. In chapter 11 verse 20 it says:

"The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless."

I believe being “blameless” is keeping sin, that we willingly commit, out of our lives. Some people struggle more with sin, and others struggle more with being proactive in their faith. Both are things that we need to keep in check. The bible reminds us that God prefers obedience over sacrifice – referring to when the Israelites had to sacrifice animals for forgiveness. But I think this principle may also apply here; that God wants us to avoid doing what is wrong, or being blameless, over doing what is right, which is proactive right living. There is no question that both are important, but Proverbs 11:20 focuses on being blameless.

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Proverbs reminds us that God detests a perverse heart – which is a heart that loves sin. But he delights in those whose ways are blameless. Blamelessness comes with a huge dose of self-control fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit. God can change our perverse heart so that we are blameless before him. The more and more we abstain from doing what is wrong, and keep ourselves away from things that tempt us in those areas, the easier it is sure to get over time.

Feet Washing

Some people are blessed to have an innate caring and loving nature. Others of us have to work at it. Regardless of whether it comes naturally to you or not, Jesus modeled the love of a servant’s heart, that we are to follow, when he washed the disciple’s feet. In John 13:14-17 it says:

"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

Think about the attributes of a willing servant: One who puts the needs of others before their own, one who looks for ways to help others, one who is not ashamed to lower themselves while at the same time lifting up another. The list can get quite long, but it all comes down to love and selflessness. Jesus modeled it for us as he reminded us that no servant is greater than his master. So, if he, our Master, would do this for us, shouldn’t we serve others as well?

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Jesus is our master, our God and our savior. Yet, he washed the feet of the disciples. He did this as an example of what we are to model. I encourage you to look for ways you can serve others – even if it comes at your expense. That is what Jesus did for us, and that is what he is calling us to do for others.