10 Easy Ways to Shipwreck Your Destiny

Shipwreck II

10 EASY WAYS TO SHIPWRECK YOUR DESTINY

   Sometimes we spend vast amounts of energy trying to rocket-launch our dreams and fulfill our destinies. We drive hard, burn the midnight oil (especially as writers), and follow the experts, trying to do everything they say. Now I’m not knocking the experts; they’re experts for a reason. But sometimes in spite of the sacrifice of time, the worry, and the fervent prayers, things just don’t happen like they’re supposed to. And the frustrating part is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why. Right?

   But there may be a reason. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to pursue the “shoulds” that we don’t recognize when we’re doing the “should nots”. In other words, there are some Biblical principles which, when violated, will shipwreck any good thing we’re trying to do.

   Thing #1: Put God first.  In other words, we cannot put our dreams, visions or destinies before God. Jesus says, ‘”Your heavenly Father already knows all of your needs… Seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well…’” (Matt. 6:33). Our “needs” are not just categorized as physical needs; we need all kinds of intervention for all kinds of things. No matter—same principle applies: the big “if-then”—if we put God first, then he supplies whatever we might need. Period.

   Thing #2: Misusing Authority. I Peter 3:7 admonishes husbands to treat their wives with understanding and respect “as the weaker partner… so that nothing will hinder your prayers”. Now forget the debate over whether wives are the “weaker partner”—not the point here. The point is a larger one: A “weaker” person is defined as anyone who is under the authority of another person. Furthermore, everyone in authority is held accountable for how they treat the “weaker” people under their authority. Whether it be a child, student, employee, or congregation member, the warning is real: If we abuse or treat poorly people under our authority, we can’t then wonder why our prayers concerning our dreams and destiny are having no effect.

   Thing #3: Disobedience. We’ve all heard the term “brass heaven” meaning, essentially, that our prayers are “bouncing off the ceiling” or blocked. A “brass heaven” is referred to in Deuteronomy when God gives several “if—then” consequences to his people for both blessings and curses. In short, obedience = blessing and disobedience = curses, and one of those curses is hindered prayer. “’And your heaven that is over your head shall be brass, and the earth that is under you shall be iron.’” (vs. 23-28). While in context this curse for disobedience refers to a lack of rain, Matthew Henry makes the point that the curse impacts all things affecting the person, not just rain. Disobedience causes God’s deafness for everything from pleas for relief from curses to petitions for blessings.

     Thing #4: Lack of Love. Lack of love, particularly in a practical sense, hinders prayer. God has always had a soft spot for underdogs whom he vows to protect and vindicate. In Isaiah 58:6-12, the Lord clearly indicates that our actions impact our consequences. The “’fast [sacrifice] that God has chosen [is to] loose the cords/chains of injustice… untie the cords of the yoke… set the oppressed free… share food with the hungry… shelter the wanderers [homeless]… clothe the naked…’” The Living Bible expands upon this principle: “’Stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn.’” And the result? Then you will have revelation, healing, righteousness, protection and “’Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here I am’” (vs. 8-9). The lesson? We reap what we sow and if we sow mercy, then God answers our prayers. For example, a Roman centurion asked Jesus to come and heal his servant and the Jewish elders “earnestly implored Him [Jesus], saying, ‘He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue’” (Luke 7:1-5). As a result of the centurion’s love-in-action, Jesus listened to the man’s petition and went to his house.

   Thing #5: Unconfessed sin.  The prophet Habakkuk says to God, “’Your eyes are too pure [even] to look upon evil; you cannot tolerate sin’” (1:13). “Tolerate” is a little mild for the translation. The KJ version says, “’You cannot [even] look upon sin’”. And the word “cannot” in all translations means “cannot”. It doesn’t mean “might not” or “can-if-He-wants-to-but-just-doesn’t-want-to”. God is not able even to look at sin, much less have fellowship with someone in it (thus the reason Christ died—but that’s another post entirely).

Therefore, since prayer is interaction with God (and God cannot interact with sin), then unconfessed sin results in unanswered prayers.

   However, confession of sin restores fellowship with God. For example, King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, lied about it, and then killed her husband, Uriah, to cover it up. Now if anyone should have had their prayers tuned out by God, it would be someone who’d done all that. But David repented of his sin, pleading, “’Don’t keep looking at my sin. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God, Renew a right spirit in me…’” (Ps. 51:9-10, LB). After David confessed his sin, God was able to interact with him again.

Thing #6: Unforgiveness. In Matt. 18, we’re told the parable of the servant who was forgiven by his master but who wouldn’t forgive his fellow servant. The master finds out and says to him, “‘Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?'” He goes on to tell the servant that because he would not forgive another, he would not be forgiven. Therefore, if we refuse to forgive and so are not forgiven ourselves, we  carry sin, and this renders God unable to answer our prayers. (Reference #5 above.)

   Thing #7: “Evil speech.”  Our words can be another hindrance to prayer. Gossip, slander, accusation, arguing, lying, complaining—all of these can impede our prayers. Now, thank God for his mercy because who hasn’t, at the very least, complained? But for those who continue in these things without repentance, their prayers won’t accomplish much. Isaiah admonishes, “’If you do away with the pointing finger [accusation] and malicious talk… then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday [revelation]. The Lord will guide you always [direction]; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land [provision] and will strengthen your frame [healing]…’” (58:9-11, interpretations mine). Peter says, “’If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies’” (3:9).

   Thing #8: Pride.  This is another no-no if we’d like our prayers answered. We all know pride is bad—no surprise there. For example, Naaman implored the prophet Elisha to pray for his healing from leprosy, but when Elisha told Naaman to go and dip in the Jordan River seven times, Naaman thought that ridiculous and refused. His pride got in the way. Consequently, he didn’t have his petition for healing granted until he decided to humble himself and take a dip. Then his prayer was answered. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5-6).

    Thing #9: Wrong response to authority.  We see this principle in Paul’s warning to children to submit to and obey their parents and they’ll be blessed. Why? Because their parents are the authority over children. But that warning about authority applies to all of us, not simply children.

And why does God feel so strongly about submission that He ties conditions to responses to authority? Because anarchy ensues and societies are destroyed when people rebel against authorities.

   (Watched the news lately?) So God has built into His principles the condition that if we submit to authority, then we will be blessed. And answered prayer results in blessing.

   Thing #10: Have faith in God, not in faith itself. “Having faith” is not about how much faith we have, it’s about whether or not we trust God. Period. The problem is that sometimes we treat faith like heaven’s money; if we just get enough of it, we can cash it in for whatever we want. But it doesn’t work that way. That’s because the essence of faith is the question “Do I trust God—whether or not He answers my prayers the way I want Him to?” That’s vastly different than “Okay, God, here’s how much faith I have so here’s how I want You to answer my prayer.” Faith is not cash, and God is not a vending machine. If we think so, I think I can predict that our prayers won’t be very effective.

   Bottom line: We are not saved by works—not disputing that—and the idea here is not to bring fear or condemnation but freedom and success. But the success of the works that we are called to do on this earth (our destinies) certainly depends upon whether or not we obey the principles affecting answers to prayer.

   If you’re feeling like your prayers are bouncing off of that “brass ceiling,” then how do you undo the hindrances to prayer that you might have unknowingly activated? It’s simple: a sincere and heartfelt, “Lord, I’m sorry for…” will open the heavens to you. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (I Peter 3:12).

   That’s a promise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

The Big, Bad Competition—And Other Scary Stuff

Wolf

THE BIG, BAD COMPETITION—AND OTHER SCARY STUFF 

   I’ve always wanted to go into business for myself (although this applies to any dream). I’ve worked a couple of businesses through the years helping others and I’ve learned the business-end ropes, so to speak, but now I want to do my own thing. However, while I’m exploring my options in the direction I want to head, I’m finding one thing consistently: the competition is fierce. And honestly, that’s a little intimidating. Can I succeed in a market with businesses already up and established in my industry? How do I break in? Do I have enough money? What if I invest but can’t penetrate the market?

   What if I fail?

    Now I can cite the standard “not trying is failing” philosophy and there’s some wisdom in that. Nevertheless, it doesn’t quench the fear we often have of the competition which, in a nutshell, boils down to one thing: What if I’m not good enough? The logic goes like this: If I were “good enough,” then certainly I would succeed. However, as I’m finding, “good enough” or not, there are other factors besides talent in the mix.

   Thing #1: Do I have the stamina to succeed? Breaking into anything—business, writing and publishing, the music industry, even climbing the ladder at work to attain that desired position—all of that takes really long-term persistence. Do I have that? For instance, I also write fiction and the struggle to reach agents and publishers can be disheartening, to say the least. To offset that, there have been times when I’ve had to work hard to restore vision by reminding myself that even the most famous authors, at one time, faced demoralizing obstacles. (The business, by the way, is intended to fund the writing dream.) So, knowing that the way to success is often fraught with discouragement, downturns and disappointments, will I have the endurance to be successful in business?

   Thing #2: Do I want to do this thing long-term? That’s a question I’m seriously contemplating. Even if I do manage to achieve some level of success in the business venture I’m considering, will I someday grow bored with it? To be perfectly honest, I get tired of the same old thing, year after year, so one thing I’m researching is whether this business has the potential for change, for evolution, for creative expansion. Since it’s a creative-type venture, I’m pretty certain it will but I have to ask the question. If the answer is “no,” the next question would be whether or not I could sell the business and make a reasonable profit. The bottom line is that the last thing I want to do is to create a potential grind or to lose my initial investment of time and money by simply closing up shop.

   Thing #3: What type of economy am I located in? This is a question which cannot be overlooked because it explores the economic conditions of a potential business market. For example, are a majority of potential customers economically struggling, just making ends meet or prosperous? And is the product or service for sale a necessity or a luxury? Will there be repeat business or is the product/service a one-time expenditure? If the product/service is a necessity and especially if it’s a consumable necessity, then it should work in any kind of economy. People need the product or service and they need it on a repeat basis. However, if it’s a luxury item or service, then perhaps the best place to set up shop would be in a prosperous market. Otherwise, it may not succeed. In terms of what I want to do (involving the wedding industry), I need to consider these questions. Are weddings big business? Yes, but even within the industry, some products and services—like wedding cakes and DJs—are standard across the board. Others, like high-end, expensive venues or event-planning services, might perhaps only be successful in more prosperous locations. We need to know the economic landscape of our potential market.

   Thing #4: How much competition will the market bear? Every industry has its competitors, whether one is selling a product or service, opening a restaurant, or trying to get a recording or publishing deal—whatever. Competition is just a fact of life. However, it’s something I need to consider in terms of where I set up shop: How much competition in my target business market is too much? If my competition is too prevalent and the market is already saturated with the type of business I’m considering, will the market bear another business just like it? In other words, will there be the customer base to support what I want to do?

   Many years ago, I invested in a pyramid-type business with what I considered high-quality products—vitamins, nutritional supplements and the like. And while I had never quite trusted that type of business structure, I knew that the products were good and that, being consumable items, repeat business could be expected. What I didn’t realize was that the awesome money that the people above me were making was not because of the great product; it was because they had convinced so many people to sign on beneath them. Consequently, I found out—the hard way—that the market in my area was already so saturated with people selling this product that there was no more room in the market for that business. And since I’m not comfortable trying to make money off of the sales of other people, I had no interest in trying to sign people on beneath me. So, I learned that lesson, cut my losses, and moved on.

   Still, there is some good news in terms of competition: There is always going to be a need for a new generation of up-and-coming people and businesses to replace those leaving the market.

   Whether you’re trying to break into a business industry or the arts, don’t be discouraged by the competition trying to make it the same fields. Writers, bands, artists, actors—they all eventually (how do I say this delicately?) exit the market, most through retirement, some because of health problems, and a new generation is needed to take their places. The same is true of businesses; each has its run, and the market needs to replace those which move or go out of business.

   So what do you do in the meantime? While you’re waiting to “break in” to your field, VOLUNTEER!!! Go out and find that person or company already doing what you want to do, explain that you just want to learn the business, and ask if you can help. You might have to knock on a few doors but someone will take you up on free labor. That way you’ll gain some experience, find out what you didn’t know that you don’t know, and maybe even find a mentor who’s willing to help you to catch that dream. In other words, go out and find your own internship. (Hint: It doesn’t matter what age you are, either—from a corporate-business perspective, free labor is free labor!) And then, when an opportunity happens, guess who’s right there and ready? Volunteering in your industry is a great way to find out whether what you’ve been dreaming about doing is really your dream come true.

   So—once you do a little research, evaluate your location and market, and tuck a little experience under your belt, that big, bad competition won’t seem so scary anymore.

   Who knows—maybe one day soon, you’ll be the competition!

 

  

Fear of Pride?

Bass Player Edit - FREEFEAR OF PRIDE

   Have you ever held back from doing something you know you’re gifted and called to do because of a fear of pride?

   Is that really a thing?

   It is if what you do puts you out in front of people where you’re likely to get attention and/or compliments—speaking, preaching, singing, acting, politics, any kind of leadership. And if you do get attention, how should you respond? Would simply saying “thank you” suffice or would it look bad that you’re not acknowledging others for your talent? So should you explain that it’s really not you who should get the credit but your parents or your teachers or the person who gave you the opportunity or even God? Or, on the other hand, would that sound like false modesty?

   Believe it or not, many people whose dreams put them in any kind of spotlight do struggle with these questions. Tragically, some of them come to the conclusion that maybe the answer is simply not to take the chance—they just won’t do that thing that brings attention. Especially if they’ve been told by anyone else that even to worry what other people think is a form of pride in itself.

   It’s not. Those questions are often just part of the “getting used to the limelight” process that many people have to work through.

   Another fear people struggle with is this question: “What if I’m not prideful now but if I get attention for my acting (or singing or writing or business accomplishments or promotions or…)—what if it all goes to my head? Then will I become prideful? What if I turn into a diva??  What then??

   Can I just tell you—if you’re worried about becoming prideful, you’re not prideful.

   Nevertheless, here’s something you might be concerned with: not doing what you’re called to do because someone else might have a problem with it.

The truth is that no one else has to stand before God and give an account for what they did with your talent except you.

   It’s rumored that God never has given anyone a pass for quitting because they were afraid. In the parable about the talents, the master (God) was not happy with the man who buried his talent rather than use it because he was afraid of something or somebody.

   “But,” you protest, “it’s wrong to be prideful!” Right. But how do you know that’s even going to be a problem if you quit before you begin? Smarter people than I am have made the observation that “you can’t please all the people all the time.” And may I add that when deciding whether or not to pursue that dream, we shouldn’t worry about pleasing people at all (unless, of course, it’s someone directly involved in the pursuit).

   But what does pleasing people have to do with pride, anyway? Plenty. Let’s face it, the more success your destiny brings and the more visible you become, the more likely it is that someone, somewhere, is going to be envious of you and would be very pleased if you just benched yourself instead of getting out there and playing ball. Remember the Apostle Paul’s words to young Timothy: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Tim. 4:12). Paul knew that people would be jealous of Timothy for his ability to teach and preach at a young age, and he indicated that that jealousy might even be vicious; “despise” is a very strong word. The unfortunate fact is that people might even hate you for doing what you do, but you can’t allow that to stop you. The Pharisees hated Jesus because he healed the sick, raised the dead, and preached salvation—and they couldn’t. But the real reason they hated him was because their followers began following him. And that made them very, very angry.

   Ever seen the TV show Nashville? While it’s fiction, it’s probably quite realistic in its portrayal of the jealousy, slander and backstabbing that go on behind the scenes in Music City. And as intriguing as that might be to watch, the eye-opening paradox is that the famous people who do manage to remain humble are not exempt from falling victim to jealous and mean-spirited villains. In fact, the most down-to-earth often end up with the biggest targets on their reputations. After all, there’s nothing an envious person despises more than a talented, successful person who has not let it all go to their heads.

   Still, one of the best things we can take from Nashville is the recognition that you can pursue your dreams, get really good at what you do, achieve all kinds of success and recognition—and still remain a good, humble person.   

   Tim McGraw speaks to up-and-comers regarding the temptation to stray from your grounded roots in his song “Humble and Kind”:

   “When those dreams you’re dreaming come to you…When the work you put in is realized… Let yourself feel the pride… But always stay humble and kind…. When you get where you’re going, don’t forget to turn back around… And help the next one in line…. Always stay humble and kind.”

   So go ahead, accept that pat on the back for what you’ve done—or even the applause, if it comes to that; just say a simple “thank you” and don’t worry about those who think you should’ve said more. Or go ahead and give credit to mom, dad, God and the whole cast and crew making your success possible—and don’t worry about whether someone thinks you’re full of false humility. (Someone will.) Just do what you feel is right. Do that thing you’re good at, that thing you long to do, that thing the world really needs. And don’t worry—you’ll be fine.

   Really.