Today, as we gather here in this sanctuary, our lives have intersected, our path’s have crossed, somewhere between the lines of Ecc. 3:2 , where there is a time to give birth and a time to die. The intersection is life’s journey, the journey we all take, the roads we travel, the mountains we climb, the valley’s we visit. It is the journey of hopes and dreams, the desire for success. How well are you doing in your journey?
Over the next several weeks I am going to talk about the journey, and most importantly how you can realize success in your travels, I think that is what we all want, isn’t it?
I want to open talking about a journey another man took in Genesis 24. It is the account of Abraham, advanced in age, blessed by God the Scripture says in every way, who now wants for his son Isaac a wife, so he calls one of his servants to travel back to Abraham’s homeland to arrange a marriage for Isaac, the custom of that day. The first ten verses give account of Abraham’s instructions and the servants departure. In vs. 12, the servant prays, O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today and show kindness to my Master Abraham. The account goes on to tell how Rebekah came to the well where he prayed, he found out she was the daughter of Abraham’s brother, how the servant praised God for answering his prayer and he was invited to her home to make the necessary arrangements for Rebekah to return with him. When the family asked him to stay 5 days more, the servant replied in verse 56, Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey." We know the rest of the story, Rebekah returned and married Isaac, and the lineage of Abraham continued, and continues to this day. The servant indeed had a successful journey and is responsible because of his obedience, for this great heritage of peoples around the world.
So lets talk about your journey and my journey. Throughout the Scripture God has granted his children success as they travel from cradle to grave, its available to each one of us. How we read between the lines of our lives and grade whether we have been, or are successful could be different.
What would most people call a successful person?
Someone with the wealth of Bill Gates
The physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Cindy Crawford
The intelligence of Albert Einstein
The athletic ability of Michael Jordan
The business prowess of Donald Trump
The social grace and poise of Jackie Kennedy
The imagination of Walt Disney
The heart of Mother Teresa
When we try to describe what success is, we tend to look at other people, but in truth, we cannot be someone other than who God has created us to be, each with our own individual gifts and talents, when used properly will bring us into the realm of success. That is what will allow us to reach our potential.
God designed you for success but along the way, between the lines, we have drawn upon wrong pictures of what success is. The most misunderstood concept of success is found in the accumulation of wealth. Consider John D. Rockefeller. In his lifetime he gave away over $350 million dollars. He was asked how much money it would take to satisfy him and he replied, "Just a little bit more." Solomon said in Ecc. 5:10 he who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.
Wealth is fleeting. Remember the example I used two years ago about a group of the world’s wealthiest men who gathered in 1923 at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago? The who’s who of wealth and fame, they controlled more money than the total amount contained in the United States Treasury, listen about their life and decide how successful they were with their wealth.
Charles Schwab--president of the largest independent steel company -- died broke
Arthur Cutten--greatest of the wheat speculators -- died abroad, insolvent
Richard Whitneypresident of the NY Stock Exchange--died just after being released from Sing
Albert Fall--member of the U.S. President’s cabinet--was pardoned from prison so he could die
Jess Livermore--greatest "bear" on Wall Street -- committed suicide
Leon Fraser--president of the Bank of International Settlements -- committed suicide
Ivar Kreuger--head of the world’s greatest monopoly--committed suicide
Another misconception people have is when they have attained success they will feel successful or happy. It is this continual search for feelings that is the cause of so many people feeling miserable. Happiness is a continual roller coaster ride, its the ups and downs of continual mood changes. Life is uncertain and emotion’s are not stable so it cannot be a gauge of success.
Some think success is a specific and worthwhile possession. But what do our possessions do for us? My stereo system is wearing out, my computer is obsolete, our Plymouth Sundance was totaled, and I need to lose some weight or my suit’s may be too. So if I measured success on possessions, I am not doing very well. Possessions, at the very best are only a temporary fix in our journey.
Another misconception is that success if found in power, but power is really a test of a person’s character, for by itself, power is neither positive or negative, it only takes on the attributes and character of the person who wields it.
So how do I know I have arrived, some people have wrongly looked at achievement as being the gauge of success, be it a position, accomplishing a goal, or having a relationship with the right person.
Look at Michael Jordan. Remember when he retired from basketball because he had accomplished all the goals he wanted to and then played minor league baseball. He could not stay away from the game and returned to basketball because he discovered success is not a list of goals to be checked off success is something else.
Do I still have your interest enough to explore what is the right picture we need to draw of success? It is a journey which requires 2 things: the right picture and the right principles.
The picture is not the same for every person because we are uniquely and wonderfully made, each with different talents and abilities, but the process is the same.
knowing your purpose in life
growing to reach your maximum potential
sowing seeds that benefit others.
No matter how long you live or what you decide to do in life, you will never exhaust your capacity to grow toward your potential or run out of opportunities to help others. Lets look at each of these three statements I have made about success.
The first thing we need to know is our purpose, for I believe that God created everyone for a purpose. Psychologist Viktor Frankl said, "Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life. Everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, not can his life be repeated. Thus everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it." Church, each one of us has a purpose for which we were created, and our responsibility is to identify it.
Let me give you some questions to ask to help identify your purpose:
For what am I searching? All of us have strong desires in our hearts, something that speaks to our deepest thoughts and feelings, something that sets our soul on fire. Some people find it as children, others take half a lifetime, no matter how much time it takes, it’s there, you need only to find it. Next week I am going to speak on our dreams.
Why was I created? Each of us are different, no one has the same gifts, talents, background, or future. That is why it is a serious mistake to be someone other than yourself. Thin about your abilities, resources available to you, your personal history, and the opportunities that surround you. If you objectively identify these factors and discover the desire of your heart, you will have done a lot in discovering the purpose of your life.
Do you believe in your potential? You cannot act in a manner inconsistent than the way you see yourself. If you don’t believe you have potential, then you will never try to reach yours.
Where do I start? Some people sadly live their lives from day to day allowing others to dictate what they do and how they do it, never trying to discover their true purpose for living. There are others who know their purpose and never act upon it, waiting for inspiration or permission to get started, and if they wait much longer they will never get started. Today is the day, now is the time to get started.
Success is also growing to your potential.
Our potential is God’s gift to us, and what we do with it is our gift back to him. In truth, our potential is probably our greatest untapped resource. Henry Ford said, "There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can do." We have nearly limitless potential, yet too few ever try to reach it. Many people let everyone around them decide their agenda in life and as a result they never really dedicate themselves to their purpose in life. They become a jack of all trades, master of none--rather than a jack of few trades, focused on one.
Let me give you some principles on growing toward your potential
1. Concentrate on one main goal. Reaching your potential requires focus that’s why it is important to discover your purpose. Once you decide where to focus your attention, you must decide what you are willing to give up to be successful, for there can be no success without sacrifice. If you want to accomplish little, sacrifice little, but if you want to accomplish great things, be willing to sacrifice much.
2. Concentrate on continual improvement. This is the key to reaching your potential, each day you work to be a little better than you were the day before, it puts you one step closer to your potential.
3. Forget the past. Jack Hayford said, "The past is a dead issue, and we can’t gain any momentum moving toward tomorrow if we are dragging the past behind us." Maybe you made a lot of mistakes in your life, or you’ve had an especially difficult past, work your way through it and move on, don’t let it stop you from reaching your potential.
Think of people like Booker T. Washington who was born into slavery, denied access to the resources available to white society, but did not let that prevent him from pursuing his potential. He founded the Tuskegee Institute and the National Black Business League. He said, "I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which one has overcome while trying to succeed."
Think of Helen Keller who lost her sight and hearing at nineteen months old. She overcame her severe disabilities, went on to graduate from Radcliffe College and became an author, lecturer and champion for people who are blind.
Think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1921, at the age of 39 he had a severe case of polio which life him disabled and in severe pain. He never walked again without assistance. But that did not stop him from pursuing his potential. Eight years later he became governor of New York and in 1932, he was elected President of the United States.
I know there are others you can think of who have overcome past tragedies or mistakes and pursued their potential. Let them inspire you to do the same because God has placed within you the potential to become an overcomer.
4. Focus on the future. Your potential lies ahead of you, no matter what your age. You can become better tomorrow than you are today.
Finally, success is sowing seeds that benefit others. It has been said that we make a living by what we get, and we make a life by what we give.
Columnist Whit Hobbs wrote: Success is waking up in the morning, whoever you are, wherever you are, however old or young, and bounding out of bed because there’s something out there that you love to do, and that you believe in, that you’re good at--something that’s bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it again today."
I want to be a success at what I put my hands to do, I want you to be a success in what you put your hands to accomplish, and together I want us to be a success as we journey between the lines of Ecc. 3:2.