Figuring out success

God’s challenged me this week not to make success an idol.

I’ve been getting a little stressed lately, just over the thought of possibilities in my writing future. Stuff like the edits will be endless, no publisher will like my book, and once I get published my career will tank within a couple of books.

All of those thoughts really been pounding through my head. That’s not from God. And that’s faithless. I need to hand that over to Him.

I write for two reasons: enjoyment, and obedience to God.

So where does stress factor into either of those two things?

Think about it: why would God want me to write? It’s not like He can’t think up His own words. No, God doesn’t need me to write at all. But He wants to take the journey with Him. And He wants me to learn to trust Him.

And what do I define success as, anyway? A relationship of love, trust and obedience with God. That may include a great writing career, a mediocre one or none at all.

My job is to simply do my best, and walk with God through it all.

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A challenge to trust, remember the dance floor

the-sea-in-december

Mum challenged me with a question when I was worried about something over the weekend:

“How can you tell others to trust God when you can’t trust him in this circumstance?”

Snap!

She said it very nicely, but hit the nail right on the head.

It reminded me of this part of the Bible:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:25-33 NIV

 

I have to admit, I start sinking all the time, so Mum’s reminder is a good one. If I’m telling others to trust, it’s nothing less than hypocritical to not trust God myself. Understandable, in some circumstances, but still hypocritical.

So, how do I trust?

For me, it always helps to listen to the song ‘Oceans’, by Hillsong United. This is the song that got that critical draft of my book done in just 10 weeks before the writing conference last year. Every time I freaked out (happened on average every 3 hours), I listened to it. And it reminds me that God is bigger than whatever problem I’m focusing on.

I also have some go-to Bible verses, (Is 40, Phil 4:6-7, Ps 139 and Ps 55 are favourites) and I remember what I learned from Daisy: whatever’s happening, God can and will use it for His glory.

And prayer makes a difference. On Sunday I remembered this post from 2014, and how I used to spend time with God on the dance floor. That post really defined my prayer life for at least six months, but in the two years since I slowly forgot about it.

I’m glad God reminded me. 🙂 It was a really special thing, still is.

What about you? What do you do when your trust is challenged?

Share in the comments below!

 

What Does God Think About Fun?

 

Catching some rays at Bondi.
Catching some rays at Bondi.

Did you know that enjoying life can be part of being a good witness for God?

I sure didn’t. If anything, I thought the opposite; that enjoying yourself too much meant you weren’t spending your time and money on more worthy causes.

I was also overly aware of how things in life can go wrong. Even while having regular fun with my family or friends, I would clench up inside and think, “Remember, life won’t always be this good. I will get old, people will die, and things will get tough. Don’t get so used to the good things that you can’t handle the bad.”

Boy, I sound like a bundle of laughs, don’t I?

But I had a lightbulb moment in December as I sat with a friend, discussing whether I should go on a overseas holiday or not.

I expressed a concern that it was a lot of money just to spend on fun. He (a non-Christian) went on to tell me about a family member of his; a religious and very-obligation-driven person. He said he watched the way his family member lived and believed that her ‘religion’ sucked all the joy from her life.

I don’t want to be like that. That is not a good witness.

Since then, I’ve seen and heard little things during my day-to-day life that has reinforced this ‘revolutionary’ thought:

Joyfully embracing God’s gifts on earth brings him glory. Having fun can be part of being a good example of a God-follower. And being a grinch glorifies no-one.

So my one and44020957958040__405x720-ARGB_8888-1545801598 only New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is to live a more joyful life.

I got off to a good start, enjoying a family Christmas at the beach before I travelled to Sydney to spend New Year’s with one of my brothers and some friends. We watched the famous fireworks at Sydney Harbour, tanned on Bondi Beach and ate at Darling Harbour’s Hard Rock Cafe.

Now I’m back at work, enjoying getting back into routine. However, my new routine is going to include a lot less pressure on myself and a little more downtime.

As part of that, I have decided to blog once a fortnight instead of every week. I will still post at the regular time, but it will be every second week starting from today.

I look forward to another year full of growth as we continue our journeys with God.

 

What about you? What did you learn over the holiday period? Share below!

How do I Reconcile God, Suffering and ‘Taken’?

This is a movie that always rattles my faith in God. But when you watch it, you just can’t look away.

taken-film

‘Taken’, starring Liam Neeson, tells the story of an ex-spy (Neeson) whose daughter, Kim, has been kidnapped by a European sex trafficking ring.

It’s a fast-paced, well-crafted, gritty story, and it shows all too clearly that the illegal sex trade is not just a third world problem.

In the movie, Neeson basically shoots his way through the continent to rescue Kim. Along the way, he witnesses some of the brothels where they take the kidnapped girls. Suffice to say, it’s horrific.

Thankfully Neeson rescues his daughter in the nick of time. But as you watch, you see so many girls who don’t get rescued. And while the story is fiction, the issue is not.

The movie is a strong reminder that not everyone’s life is as protected as mine. And it makes me question God.

How can the God who says ‘trust Me’ when I stress about little things like work, also be the God who watches over those girls?

What does He say to them? Does He love them?

At the moment I’m writing the end of my second novel, Hating Jeremy Walters. Two of my characters are also struggling with the question of God’s love, but in very different ways. One lives as through she has to earn it. One believes she can never earn it. Both attitudes are wrong. And the lesson that I’m teaching my characters, I often must repeat to myself.

At the end of the day, we have to view everything through the lens of the cross. (I’m pretty sure I stole that line from Experiencing God,  so full kudos to Henry Blackaby).

The truth is, God loved us enough to watch His Son die for our sakes. It seems impossible to imagine suffering worse than what those trafficked girls endure, or what Syria and Iraq are enduring right now. But God Himself, through Jesus, experienced worse. It wasn’t just in the physical pain of the cross, but in being separated from God the Father and taking the full weight of our sin.

I struggle to understand how God can witness such suffering, like what we see on the news or in movies like ‘Taken’. I wish He’d just fix it.

But then I remember, it’s mankind doing those things, not Him. And while He could stop it, He must have reasons for waiting.

It’s tempting to doubt whether God loves people, if he allows such terrible things to happen for them. But God endured even worse things for those same people.

This is a case where I don’t understand, but I do know. I don’t understand how He can bear to watch, but I know that God loves us all. I know He cries alongside us. I know His motives are perfect and pure. He proved it 2000 years ago.

I’m just going to have to trust that.

How Prayer Works

Sourced from CreationSwap.com, by Joel Joseph.
Sourced from CreationSwap.com, by Joel Joseph.

How much good do my prayers really accomplish?

It’s a question I’ve been thinking about ever since our Project X meeting on Monday night. Project X is a youth outreach that I’m a part of, and in addition to running our yearly event, we also meet every week to pray together. In fact, Project X is pretty much built entirely on prayer. Some awesome stuff has happened; stuff I’ve rarely seen anywhere else.

While I was there, someone quoted a verse from the Bible:

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:16 NIV

A thought jumped instantly into my mind.

I mustn’t be a righteous person, because my prayers aren’t powerful or effective.

The thought left, but I pondered it. Were my prayers weak and ineffective? When had one of my prayers really, unmistakably, worked? I couldn’t think of a single instance. My ‘prayer resume’ certainly couldn’t compare to Project X’s. Wherever that group goes, awesome stuff seems to happen. But not so with me individually.

I kept trying to think of answered prayers during the week. I still couldn’t come up with anything. But I while I contemplated the issue, I held back on feeling guilty, frustrated or sad. I hit the pause button. Because I’d seen this trick before.

I’ve often blogged about my frustrations that my good works seem ineffective, and sometimes it feels like God doesn’t use me. God’s been changing me in that regard all year. This prayer thing was just a variation of that same old lie.  I didn’t want to get sucked into that trap again.

But still, the question remained in my mind. That is, until I started planning this blog post. This is, word-for-word, what I wrote in my red polka dot  notebook.

notebook skitch

 

“Be on guard. Holy Spirit for all. No favourites. Duh.”

I looked at what I’d written, and the penny dropped. God doesn’t play favourites. 

It’s a simple truth that I know in my head, but my heart looked at other people whose prayers got answered all the time, and wondered, ‘What’s wrong with me?’

The answer? Nothing.

If God has told us that He hears our prayers, and I pray, then my prayer is just as effective as anybody else’s. Sometimes it might not look that way. But what do I trust more? The way things look, or what God says?

That’s part one of God’s answer to my query. Yesterday morning, part two happened.

It was about 5.50am, and I was sitting in bed, yawning, doing my morning devotions. I prayed for various people and my writing and causes like Project X. Well, not so much praying as begging. “Please, please God, help us with this event. Please, please, please touch my reader’s hearts with what I write today. Don’t let it all go to waste. Please don’t let me miss an opportunity.” I was imploring Him to act, like I had to talk Him into it.

Then remembered that the Lord’s Prayer does not start with a shopping list. So I backtracked and figured I’d honor God by thanking him for some stuff.

“Thanks God, that You’re this big, amazing, powerful God who knows everything and sees everything and knows what He wants to happen and has the power to do it —” then I stopped. God knows what He wants to happen and has the power to do it. So I don’t have to talk him into it.

This doesn’t take away from that fact that I should obey God by doing good stuff. It doesn’t take away from the fact that God tells me to pray. Obeying and praying aligns my heart with His, which is  a great thing. We should pray with passion, even urgency.

But I’ve been thinking that His work won’t get done unless I badger him into it. I have to convince him. And I can never be confident that I said things the right way and He’s convinced. I feel like Project X has cracked a secret to prayer that I’m yet to discover.

But God is God. He knows what He wants to happen and when He wants to do it. I’ll be obedient in taking action, and obedient in prayer, but I can also be confident in His intentions.

 

 

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