EVERYONE talks about it, but few seem to find it!
Is success and victory in life really possible?
According to recent statistics, the so-called self-help phenomenon has blossomed into a 12-billion-dollar industry each year, with more than 45,000 books in circulation.1 The desire to “do better” and to “feel better” about ourselves is common to the human experience and not limited to those who are unbelievers. The book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential (2004), written by Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, ranked #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List for over two years and has sold more than 4 million copies.2 Christians and non-Christians alike are searching for a “formula” or “recipe” for experiencing genuine success and victory in their everyday lives. Is victory in life a mere illusion, or can people find the key that unlocks and unleashes the power in their lives?
While there are many perspectives today about how to discover a sense of joy, peace, and contentment in life, perhaps the problem itself lies with misplaced values and mistaken perceptions about the purpose and meaning of life itself.
For those whose lives are conditioned to separate from faith or belief in God, the expectation is that since life is short, and a return to the “dust of the ground” (Gen. 3:19) inevitable, having it all in the “here and now” is a race against time. Having a family, a career, houses, boats, and expensive cars often become the central focus of their time and attention. Wealth and power are seen as the pinnacle of what constitutes “success” and perhaps the key to finding purpose and meaning in their lives. The pursuit of pleasure and sensuality, sometimes drugs, alcohol, or other “feel good” diversions often become part of the equation. The young are driven by the desire to make it to the “top” and thus this goal-oriented reality becomes their all-consuming quest. While some people value family and relationships over material possessions, the realization is that “nothing lasts forever” and thus there is always the hunger to find and acquire something “new” something “more” or something “better” than what they already have as their daily routine and life experience. Sooner or later, time runs out and their hopes, dreams, and desires remain unfulfilled.
For people of faith, the unfortunate misconception is that joy, peace, and happiness are never to be experienced during this life, but rather lie elsewhere–in heaven. Often this concept of “hope deferred” (Prov. 13:12) leads Christians to settle for a meager lifestyle with the expectation that pain, suffering, and difficulty are all that is to be expected while on earth. To have anything in the “here and now” is often discouraged for fear that such things may lead them away from their “treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20). The human desire to have a good and prosperous life now is often pictured as evil, thus producing an inherent dissatisfaction with everyday life. The picture of “success” with God is seen as a tension of the spiritual against the physical, and the concept that many have is that having less is more. Christians with this mentality often find themselves living in fear and in believing that if they can just do enough to survive here, they will eventually be blessed there for their faithfulness. Whatever hopes and dreams, goals and plans they may have for the present, what happens in the afterlife is supposed to be worth it.
Thus, people of no faith experience fear and frustration for not having any measure of success in life, while people of faith experience fear, frustration and guilt for any measure of success in life they do experience. Perhaps there is a better option for one to consider…
THE “BOTH” LIFE
God wants people to walk in His presence and to enjoy both what He has given to us in the “here and now” and also in having the assurance that abundant life never comes to an end (John 10:10).
The Bible reveals God to be both the Creator of the “heavens and earth” (Gen. 1:1), and of the “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4). The natural was designed to point forward toward the spiritual (I Cor. 15:46). With each act of creation, God declared His own handiwork to be “good” (Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25). As the crowning achievement, God created man “in His own image” and “according to His likeness” (Gen. 1:26, 27). Following the end of the sixth creative day, at the culmination of everything that was created, God declared it to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
The purpose of God in having created human beings was to reproduce Himself in kind and to give them His very own life and to delegate His authority to them (Gen. 1:26-28). The inspired psalmist David wrote concerning the majesty of God’s glorious purpose for man at the time of his creation: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him? For You have made him a little lower than God, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:4-6). It was the intention of God that human beings, created “in His own image” and “according to His likeness” would live and enjoy the fullness and riches that had been given to them while on earth. The Divine mandate was that people would become living, breathing expressions of God’s own life and nature, exercising authority and dominion over all that was created. What was “seen” with the eyes was meant to be a manifestation of that which could not be “seen” with the eyes as the sovereignty of God and of His kingdom would spread through the lives of people who had an unbroken connection of relationship with their Creator.
There was never a hint or intimation that God’s purpose for earthly existence was intended to be simply a momentary journey of being here to get to there. It was to be a “both life”–meaning that every moment was to be experienced, never wasted. A life of joy, peace, victory and success was based upon knowing the goodness and majesty of God, and in the growth and development of being the very best person God intended for each of us to be. Awaking each new day, knowing that God cares and that He loves us is the force that motivates us and moves us forward in our daily experience. Victory has never been about self-help, but rather self-surrender and full dependence upon God as the One who provides all things for the enjoyment of those who love Him and honor Him.
FUTURE ARTICLES ON FULFILLMENT WITH MEANING
In other articles, we will discuss the entrance of “sin and death” (Rom. 8:2) through Adam and Eve (Rom. 5:12) and the purpose of God in allowing it. It was wholly necessary for people to experience failure in order to realize the success God intended. It is from within the depths of sorrow, produced by our worst mistakes that emerge God’s transforming power and the manifestation of His goodness in our lives. The choice was between God’s possibility and human possibility and remains so until this day. It took 40 years of Israel wandering through the desert in order for them to realize what they could have had all along. The wilderness was their choice, not that of God. The wilderness of defeat in the lives of people today remains their choice, not that of God. He has something far greater in mind, something that does not require storms of devastation in the desert to produce. When we come to realize the restoration of all things has already taken place, we can face each day with a renewed sense of confidence (Acts 3:19-21). The “seasons of refreshing” now flows into our lives and empower each of us to live a life of joy and victory.
Here are seven steps to having a life of victory with God today.
- Realize that God’s power is the Source of true victory in life. Even though God had demonstrated His power in delivering Israel from bondage in Egypt, the people did not fully or completely trust His Word or His promises to them. God had rescued them, and God sustained them with everything they needed. The short distance from Egypt to a “good and large land” a “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exod. 3:8, 17) should have only taken days, not decades to arrive. There generation of people who left the land of Egypt died in the desert because of their doubt and unbelief (Heb. 3:1-19) and for no other reason. All defeat in life is rooted in the disobedience that arises from a failure to trust God as the Source from whom all good things come. The fear of past failures and difficulties perpetuates the process. When Christians decide to renew their minds to what God says about them, trusting in His power each day, then victory becomes their manifested reality.
- Stop complaining about the problem, look to God for the solution. The life of defeat is one consumed with self-pity and a “woe is me” spirit. Daily life brings with it a variety of challenges, problems, and difficulties. Israel faced adversity and difficulty and chose to complain rather than look to God for their provision. When people pray about the problem rather than thankfulness for the solution, it sets the stage for more of the same. Whatever in life becomes the central focus of our time and attention also becomes the reality. What we think and what we say plants the “seeds” for what the substance of our lives become–either for good or for bad. The life of success for believers begins on the inside with thoughts and words that become actions. When we take our eyes off of self, we begin to see God’s possibility instead of our own limited perspectives.
- Embrace a ‘Fulfilled’ perspective of life and living. Fulfilled Dynamics is a ministry devoted to the message that God is faithful. He has kept all of His promises and fulfilled all of His Word. The realization that, through the Cross, God opened the way of life and opportunity for people to experience the very presence of God. The consummation of all that occurred at the “ends of the ages” (I Cor. 10:11; Heb. 9:26), including the coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the day of judgment and the establishment of His everlasting Kingdom are proof-positive that God’s possibility produces the best possible outcomes in our daily lives (II Tim. 4:1; John 10:10). Fulfillment means stepping into the very life that God intended from the very beginning. Fulfillment means the restoration of the relationship that was lost “in Adam” and the authority to exercise dominion in our daily lives. Fulfillment means the recognition that “eternal life” was never intended to separate what a person experiences now, from what happens later. Fulfillment means awakening each morning with a renewed sense of confidence that God’s possibility for our lives is greater than anything we ever could have imagined for ourselves.
- Accepting the identity that God has given to us. The world around us measures itself on the basis of performance and the attainment of wealth, power and material things. Fame and fortune are glorified as the ideal and the goal for every person. God’s identity for His people rests in who He is and not who we are, or what we have. The nation of Israel was chosen by God and blessed by God because of the “promises God made to the fathers” (Rom. 15:8; Gen. 12:1-3). It was their willingness to walk with God, in His possibility, which determined the extent to which His blessings were manifested to them (Deut. 28:1-14). It was fear, doubt, and unbelief, resulting in disobedience that resulted in failure, lack and destruction (Deut. 28:15-68). Had they only accepted their identity as the people of God, they could have experienced all that God had in store for them. Christians who accept and trust in what God says about who they are, then are empowered to walk accordingly as His children. God blesses His people both physically and spiritually when they choose to have thoughts, words, and actions that are consistent with what is found in His Word. From within the spiritual realm, the Kingdom of God is manifested in the visible realm. As we walk daily in His presence, His presence becomes visible to everyone and in every area of our lives.
- Decide that we will settle for nothing less than God’s very best. Once we realize that the message of the entire Bible is all about the covenant faithfulness of God in fulfilling all of His promises, our whole perspective on daily life is transformed. No longer are believers waiting to cross the Jordan River into the promised “land” because since the “end of the age” (Matt. 24:3; 28:20) has already taken place, we now live in a spiritual paradise that is the restoration of the relationship with God that was lost in the Garden of Eden. The Kingdom of God is everywhere present, and God has given to us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3) the principles found in God’s Word that have the power to remove whatever obstacles might come our way. We are “partakers of the Divine Nature” (II Pet. 1:4) who now experience “all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19) and “all the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Therefore, settling for less than what is God’s very best for our lives is no longer an option. The determination is in the willingness to allow God to lead and to direct all of our steps each and every day (Psa. 37:23). This is a fulfilled perspective that releases the power of God into our lives as the living reality of being living, breathing expressions of His nature.
- Have an awareness of God’s presence. As we awaken each morning to the refreshing joy of the gift of life God has given to us, it is the awareness of His presence that opens the doors to success in life. We listen carefully as the voice of God whispers in our ears in the pages of His Word (Josh 1:8, 9; Psa. 1:2, 3). The guilt and fear are replaced with a sensitive consciousness of His “righteousness” that now dwells in the “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4). Those thoughts, words, and actions that were once self-defeating are now transformed into what God says in His Word. No longer are we held captive to those things which once held our attention and focus, but rather now we experience the majesty of all it means to be a child of Almighty God.
- Take action to do what is necessary. Genuine success and victory in life are more than wishful thinking or just chanting the correct formula. Once a person knows what it is that God wants them to do, then they arise and do those things that are necessary to make it happen! In the case of Joshua, God had prepared him to take His covenant people out of the desert and into the land that had been promised to Israel. Joshua had God’s assurance that His presence would be with him every step of the way. It is this kind of determination and boldness that steps out in faith that God honors as He opens doors that seemed impossible before.
There are literally hundreds of principles from God’s Word that speak to us today, in our very own situation. The difference is in looking at life from the perspective of God’s possibility rather than the limitations we place on ourselves. The recognition that the “end of all things” (I Pet. 4:7) was related to what happened during the first century means that our zest for life and involvement in walking with a sense of confidence in the dominion that belongs to Him is refreshing and will take our lives in new and exciting directions–greater than anything we may ever before have imagined.
The opportunity for happiness and success is not about self-help, but rather about self-surrendering to what God has revealed in the pages of Scripture. Developing a genuine attitude of gratitude for all that God has done will make all the difference in how we think, say, do, and accomplish.
Are you ready for the “both” life? A life that is God-determined and God-directed is the key that will unlock the door to success and victory over every challenge, situation and circumstance. Follow these steps today and then share the message of fulfillment with others. It makes all the difference! — LARRY SIEGLE
1 Laura Vanderkam, “The Paperback Quest for Joy: America’s Unique Love Affair with Self-Help Books” in City Journal (2012) (New York: Manhattan Institute for Policy Research)
2 Joel Osteen, “About Joel” (http://www.joelosteen.com/Pages/AboutJoel.aspx).