“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” That quote from author Francis Chan points out the false view we can possess as we consider what success is all about. Is it found in what we own, what we’ve accomplished, or in our status? Is that really how we know that we’re winning in life? What if we’re playing the wrong game?
Augustine’s Confessions traces his journey through misspent youth, false religion, and finally to Jesus. As a man with much to confess, Augustine was sometimes tempted to be defensive. A translation of one of his prayers says: “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.”
Looking back, some of the most stretching moments in my life came when I was asked to do something new—something I had never done before. Perhaps you can relate to being asked to do something way out of your comfort zone!
I had been doing well in my university classes and assumed that my upcoming logic exam was no big deal. A lukewarm sense of complacency settled over me. You might sum up my attitude as “I got this!”
A friend and I once did an 8-day walk in the north of England. Much of our second day’s walk was done in view of Dunstanburgh Castle, a giant 14th-century fort now in ruins. The castle was built by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, with a purpose: to declare Thomas’ wealth and glory. In many ways he succeeded. Seven centuries later, the castle keeps Thomas’ name alive. But in the most important sense he failed. A sign in front of the castle remembers Thomas as an “arrogant and unpopular” man.
Andrew Leisewitz is a loving husband, father, and elder in our church. He’s also an internationally respected veterinary professor. But even professors have to pay tolls on some roads in South Africa. One day Andrew left his wallet at home, so he had to go from car to car asking for money at the toll booth. The booth clerks and most of the drivers were unsympathetic to his dilemma. In that moment, it didn’t matter that Andrew is a well-respected professor; he had to humble himself and ask for help.
Recently I had the privilege of speaking at a summer camp for boys, aged 9 to 12. During that week, the Holy Spirit moved and twelve campers received Jesus as their Savior. On the last night, one 9-year-old boy—who had received salvation during the camp—approached me and said, “You changed my life!” I smiled and replied, “I’m so happy, but God is the One who truly changed your life!” I knew it was God who had done the work in the precious boy’s heart.
Alfred Nobel invented the detonator in 1863 and the blasting cap 2 years later. Then, in 1867 he invented dynamite—something he hoped would revolutionize the mining and construction industries. It certainly did that, but dynamite also became the basis of munitions for a century, with variations of it used in wars even today. Nobel would likely be saddened to know that something he intended for good has been used to cause great destruction.
Recently, after I had a terse interaction with my oldest son, my wife brought me aside and said, “I think you were a little hard on him. You really swelled up and charged into the situation with a lot of force.” It wasn’t that my son didn’t need to be corrected (he did), but the way I dealt with him didn’t express the gentleness my son needed.
My friend Stephanie opened a resale shop in a small town. She planned to funnel the proceeds to a ministry for unwed teenage mothers. Soon another secondhand store opened nearby. The owners of that store began buying Stephanie’s items and reselling them at higher prices. Stephanie knew it was underhanded, but she found that it allowed her to get to know them and tell them about Jesus. And God has prospered her business despite the actions of those who could be considered enemies.
Five years ago, in a burst of renovating energy, my husband and I decided to install tile flooring in our kitchen. Cold to the feet on winter mornings, hard on the joints year round, but easy to clean, tile was our choice again when we moved a year ago. Enduring the heavy traffic through our house, its strength has proven unyielding—even to the point of being ruthless when anything breakable happens to fall on it.
A Chinese aristocrat by the name of Kung Yu, who lived several hundred years before Jesus was born, was known for his intelligence and diligence in his studies. Yet, he was humble and unafraid to ask questions of people who were not as well-educated. After his death, the Duke of Wei awarded him the honorable title of Wen (which means “refined” and “literary” in Chinese). So he became known as Kung Wen Zi.
The pastor of a megachurch quit providing content through social media—declaring his return to his original calling of pastoring his local church. He felt that the distraction of his popular online communications were detracting from His primary calling. Pastors and all of us struggle at times with our priorities.
Bible scholars disagree on the exact number, but most believe that Jesus has fulfilled some 350 Old Testament prophecies—stretching from Genesis to Malachi. And hundreds more will be fulfilled in the future. In his book Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell shared a study that shows that the probability of a person fulfilling just one prophecy is 1 in 300,000; and for 8 fulfilled prophecies, the odds are an astronomical 1 in 1017 or 100,000,000,000,000,000!
After helping his team win American pro football’s 2014 Super Bowl, a cornerback declared in a post-game interview that he was the best player at his position, and opposing teams should send only their best players against him. His comments sparked a national discussion on the role of courtesy in sports. Although his remarks offended some people, you can’t deny that he’s supremely confident in his abilities.