Fear of Success

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. –Proverbs 3:5-6

This year has started out awesome for me. We had some vehicle challenges that I thought would be really expensive that cost less than a 10th of my expectations. I’ve had a ton of work with no signs of stopping. We are less stressed than we’ve ever been. Church is good. Family drama is low. The kids are doing great in school. While we still have a long way to go, life feels like it could be on a good trajectory.

God has always provided for us in every circumstance, but I feel that especially right now. However, I have this nagging little fear in the back of my head. It’s a fear of success. More accurately, a fear that a good moment in life means another crash at the end. It’s refreshing to not be as worried about tomorrow, but now I’m worried about six months from now, or a year from now.

The last time I had an awesome year, I thought it would go on forever and I thought it was because of how awesome I was. I started trusting myself, made some mistakes, and took some hits.

In the big picture, I think a healthy fear of success is a good thing. This nagging little fear is helping me to remember to continue to trust God, not myself, and for that I’m thankful. I’ve learned in the past that nothing I can do on my own can make my life better; I hope I can remember that and keep leaning on His wisdom, not my own, through whatever circumstances this year will bring.

I’d love to be more like the apostle Paul:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:11-13

Our Daily Bread

I’ve been thinking about the Lord’s Prayer a lot lately. It’s been a running audio track in my head that’s been begging for more in-depth study.

I see the Lord’s Prayer, not as an example of what we should do with our lips — not just to memorize and recite — but as a measuring stick by which we can ask ourselves, “Do I live in a way that my attitude towards life matches Christ’s attitude?”

One line jumps out this morning: Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

The wisdom of asking God for our daily bread didn’t start with Jesus’ example to the disciples of how to pray — all the way back in Proverbs, we can find this mention of our daily bread.

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. Proverbs 30:7-9

How often have we yearned for wealth and prosperity, and despised the blessing of daily bread God has already provided for us? I’ll raise my hand to that – I’m instantly guilty, every day.

I love this question from Marty Schoenleber at Trinity Church, because it’s been the question I’ve been repeatedly forced to answer since becoming self-employed, and has made the Lord’s Prayer, or at least one line from it, starkly real in my own life.

In what do you trust? If you can’t trust God with your daily bread, are you really trusting in him for everything else in your life?

Poverty vs. Wealth?

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. (Proverbs 15:16 ESV)

This verse, more than any other verse in the Bible, has caused me a lot of confusion in my business pursuits.

It’s easy to read this verse and associate being a Christian or fearing the Lord with poverty. It’s also easy to assume that it’s wrong to be wealthy, and that wealthy people have strife and don’t fear the Lord.

These ideas can attack and discourage a desire to be in business for personal profit, and can introduce a feeling of guilt when the cash comes in.

What I’ve missed is that this was written to the son of Solomon, the wealthiest heir in the ancient world. Solomon is warning his son against abusing his position and power, and pleading with him to worship God first, not money.

It’s not saying money is bad. It’s saying that wisdom/fear of the Lord is much more valuable than wealth alone.

Here’s the take-away for me: Wealth in the hands of a man who fears the Lord is a very good thing. It’s something we should not be jealous of or strive against, and it’s a good thing to aspire to. But the most important thing is the fear of the Lord, not wealth, in whatever life circumstance we find ourselves.

Plenty of Bread

Ever since I took the grand leap into full-time self employment my life has felt completely out of control.

More than one person has said I’m ‘living the dream’. Some days that’s true. But I’ve also been through some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced.

Recently I discovered joy in reading through the book of Proverbs with a keen eye for business-applicable wisdom to help me approach my daily challenges with fresh eyes.

One mistake I made early in our move to Watseka was to put time and money into new ideas when we needed to be investing and improving in our core areas of business. I still struggle with this.

One of the Proverbs I found has helped me to be able to filter my pursuits a bit better. Check this out:

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 28:19, 20 ESV)

It’s so easy to think that a new idea is going to be the golden ticket or silver bullet that solves all my problems. I’ve found though that our best times happen when I’m focused and working steadily rather than chasing rabbits in every direction.

The Proverbs 31 Husband

Recently I did a study in which I read through the entire book of Proverbs looking for every little scrap of wisdom I could find that could possibly apply to running a small business. I paraphrased and categorized each verse I found and made a list on my phone so I could easily refer back to it. I learned a lot.

And then I stumbled on something I’ve never noticed before that has nothing to do with business, and everything to do with being a good husband, and I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now.

I’ve seen a lot of devotionals, authors, etc. talk about the ‘Proverbs 31 wife’ – if you haven’t heard about this, read Proverbs 31:11-31. It’s basically a description of a ‘virtuous’ (perfect) woman. She’s smart in business, great with the kids, works her hands to the bone all hours of the day, and makes her husband look great in the local community.

I’ve never heard about the Proverbs 31 husband. That is, until I read the very last two verses recently, which read, “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” The paraphrase that I keep thinking of is “Give her the reward she deserves!”

How often do we as men get so caught up in our own desire for stuff, or our endless search for self-worth, that we ignore or put down our wives in the process? I know I’ve done that on many occasions.

I’m not sure that Proverbs 31 was written as a guide to women on how to be perfect, as much as it was written to men to say hey, your wife is giving you everything she’s got here, give her what she deserves!

I hope I can live up to that.