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Luck and Success

by Stu Johnson

Posted: April 4, 2018

How would you descrbe your life journey?…

No. 14 in the Thursday Morning Guy’s group series (see list)

It’s been a month since my last post from the Guys group  A lot has happened to me in the meantime, which deserves a short explanation.  At the Guys group session on March 8, I began to experience hazy vision in my right eye.  A diagnosis the next day pointed to three small tears and a detached retina, something that affects about 1% of the population. Surgery to repair the tears and reattach the retina (using a gas bubble to hold it in place) followed.  It will take a while for vision to stabilize—it’s still hazy now—but I thank the Lord to live at a time when such problems can be addressed with a high rate of success. In addition, we live in an area with abundant high quality medical care, so it was possible to address the situation quickly.  


Once again, I report from the Thursday Morning Guys group I’ve been attending at a local church. Each week one of the guys suggests a topic for discussion. The blogs that result are not minutes from the session, but an attempt to glean useful themes, to which I may add my own insights. The topic at the March 29 session focused on the subject of luck and success.

THE DISCUSSION STARTER

Topic suggested by one of the guys, shared in an email the night before

I know that the right answer is usually Jesus, but let's think about this topic as a reflection of our daily lives.
 
What is luck? And what is success?

How can we measure them? Do we measure them by a well-paid job, the kind of cloths we wear, a good bank account, a good marriage, etc. What are your determinants of the two?  

How can we distinguish the two?  

Are they interrelated or separate things? 

Please briefly share your luck or success story?

THE CONVERSATION

It was obvious from the start that the idea of “luck” has no place in the life of the Christ-follower.  As we face circumstances of life, whether we experience success or not, is much more a matter of God’s providence and our relationship with him.  It is easy, however, to use the term luck, so we need better ways to express that concept when talking with others, whether believers in Christ or not, using words of encouragement and blessing.

Success, suggested one of the guys, is the accumulation of a lot of little things over time. Family plays a big part in providing a platform for success in life.

Though talking about success, a good deal of time was spent on “wilderness” periods in our lives. This was sparked by one of the guys relating the story of a pastor who was going through a very difficult time in his ministry. Others chimed in with their own stories of the good and hard times, which will be used to describe the principles that we can draw from the discussion.

What personal experiences or observations can you add?

PRINCIPLES PROPOSED

I will suggest three. You may have others you would add.

Adopt a personal mission statement

It is easy to associate success with our own resume of accomplishments—jobs, titles, awards, money, possessions, travel, charity, etc. What guides you? What are your goals?  For the believer, it should be to follow God’s will in order to please him and hear the words “well done, good and faithful servant,” when we face Jesus at the end of our earthly life.

Don’t get me wrong. Such an orientation does not confine us to a monastic lifestyle. God has given different gifts to each of us that should be enjoyed and exploited, done to glorify God more than elevate ourselves. If you teach do so with excellence and the desire to see your students succeed. If you are a manager, do so with integrity and concern for those you oversee. If you are engaged in the arts or crafts, do so with the joy of knowing that your talents come as gifts from God, the master Creator.  If you are retired, volunteer in places that can benefit from your experience and abilities.

Everything we do can be guided by the words of Micah, which can serve as a personal mission statement:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Different translations use somewhat different words that can help expand the understanding of this verse.

  • Acting justly – “do justly (NKJV),” “do what is right (NLT),” “do justice (ESV),” “do what is just (GNT),” “Do what is fair and just to your neighbor (MSG),”
  • Love mercy – “to love kindness (ESV),” “to show constant love (GNT),”   “love faithfulness (HCSB),” “be compassionate and loyal in your love (MSG),”
  • Walk humbly – “to live in humble fellowship with our God (GNT),” “don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously (MSG”

Translations:  NKJV: New King James Version, NLT: New living Translation, ESV: English Standard Version, GNT: Good News Translation, HCSB: Holcomb Christian Study Bible, MSG: The Message.

One of the guys suggested, “do not contradict Scripture” and you will find success. When we live our lives with this perspective and are guided by a personal mission statement such as Micah 6:8, it does not matter whether we are wildly successful by human standards or a seeming failure—if God is at the center and we are guided by God’s Word (which can be the Bible as well as wisdom from others), we will achieve success by God’s eternal standards. 

Responding to circumstances

When bad things happen, or we find our path to success blocked or diverted, consider the thoughts of several of the guys:

  • We’re not responsible for the event, but for our response.
  • God is not obliged to do anything, but he is in control.  Keep on truckin’!
  • God is not obliged to rescue a fool. Seek wisdom and good advice.
  • Circumstances differ, so we cannot set a simple “rule” to meet all situations.
  • When a road is filled with potholes, you’re bound to hit one or two of them.
  • A big event may have a major impact on you, but it was not aimed at you alone.  One of the guys had located to a job in Saudi Arabia, which was going quite well, until the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein changed everything and sent him back to the U.S.  While it had a direct, personal impact, the event had far wider implications for many people—and God redirected his path.

Learn the lessons of the wilderness

Sometimes, our life journeys seem to wander off into an extended time of uncertainty (bad luck, some would say).  Why did God allow this happen? Why does it not end?  Keep in mind a few more observations:

  • We are in a battle of good versus evil—God and the powers of Satan.  We need to be steeped in God’s Word, prayer and fellowship with other believers to defend against the attacks of Satan and to counter the fear that God has abandoned us.
  • We don’t often know what God is doing (or allowing), but we can be assured that he is in control.
  • God will rescue or deliver us from these wilderness times, but there is no guarantee it will be done quickly or before we take corrective action to return to the center of his will (which is known chiefly by reading the Bible and prayer).
  • When we “wait on the Lord,” we often approach him like a rich uncle who will provide for our needs or a wizard who magically rescues us.  But, often during these times, it is the Lord who is waiting on us to get right with him. The Israelites were on a journey that should have taken a few months, but they wandered in the wilderness for forty years because of sin (the failure to believe that God could help them conquer the Promised Land). Yet, God was with them all the way—providing food, preventing shoes from wearing out, and guiding them with pillars of cloud during the day and fire by night.  

What principles can you add from what you have learned, observed, and applied to your life?

GUIDANCE FROM SCRIPTURE (God’s written Word, the Holy Bible)

Listed here are a few Bible passages related to luck and success.  You may also find good references in two earlier blogs from the Thursday Guys group: “Bloom Where You’re Planted” (February 8, 2018) and “Decisions, Decisions” (February 22, 2018)

  • The only reference in the New Living Translation that uses “luck” or “lucky”:
    A bribe is like a lucky charm; whoever gives one will prosper! (Proverbs 17:8 NLT)
    Because that may seem like an encouragement to give a bribe, other translations put it in a different light. For example, the NIV casts it as false hope of success:
    A bribe is seen as a charm by the one who gives it; they think success will come at every turn. (Proverbs 17:8 NIV)
  • Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. (Joshua 1:7)
  • Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go. (1 Kings 2:3)
  • For you will be successful if you carefully obey the decrees and regulations that the Lord gave to Israel through Moses. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart! (1 Chronicles 22:13)
  • In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful. (2 Chronicles 31:21)
  • Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. (Proverbs 15:22)
  • Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
  • “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’” (Luke 14:28-30)

 

About the Scripture references: unless indicated otherwise, these are taken from the New Living Translation (NLT).  Links connect to BibleGateway.com, where you can see other translations, view the broader context, listen to an audio version and find other Bible resources.  Also check the resources available in the Enrich/Faith section of this site.


Stu Johnson is principal of Stuart Johnson & Associates, a communications consultancy in Wheaton, Illinois. He is publisher and editor of SeniorLifestyle, writes the InfoMatters blog on his own website and contributes articles for SeniorLifestyle.

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Posted: April 4, 2018

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