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Our Successes are for the Glory of God
The passages below are taken from Max Lucado’s book “It’s not about me,” published in 2004 by Integrity Publishers.
How well do you know the following people and organizations?
Jack Tinker and Partners
Doyle Dane Bernbach
Foote, Cone and Belding
J. Walter Thompson
How did you do? Not too good? If not, then the ones on the list are pleased. Advertising agencies don’t exist to make a name for themselves. They exist to make a name for others. While you may not be acquainted with the companies, aren’t you familiar with their work?
“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.” The work of Jack Tinker and Partners for Alka-Seltzer in 1976.
“We try harder." Doyle Dane Bernbach created the slogan for Avis Rent A Car in 1962.
“M’m! M’m! Good! M’m! M’m! Good!” Credit BBDO with the catch-phrase Campbell’s Soup has used since 1935.
While you’ve never heard of Foote, Cone and Belding, have you ever heard this motto: “When you care enough to send the very best”? Hallmark began using the line in 1934.
You don’t hum the name of J.Walter Thompson, but have you hummed the jingle his agency wrote for Kellogg’s “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” Rice Krispies?1
We could learn a lesson from these companies. What they do for clients, we exist to do for Christ. To live “reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18 JB).
As heaven’s advertising agency, we promote God in every area of life, including success.
That’s right---even your success is intended to reflect God. Listen to the reminder Moses gave the children of Israel:
“Always remember that it is the L0RD your God who gives you power to become rich, and he does it to fulfill the covenant he made with your ancestors” (Deuteronomy 8:18 NLT).
From where does success come? God. “It is the Lord your God who gives you power to become rich.”
And why does he give it? For his reputation. “To fulfill the covenant he made with your ancestors.”
God blessed Israel in order to billboard his faithfulness. When foreigners saw the fruitful farms of the Promised Land, God did not want them to think about the farmer but the farmer’s Maker. Their success advertised God.
Nothing has changed. God lets you excel so you can make him known. And you can be sure of one thing: God will make you good at something. This is his principle: “True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life” (Proverbs 22:4 NLT).
Would we expect any less? A godly life often results in success. Consider a construction worker, for example. Imagine a trouble-making, hard-drinking fellow. Before he knows Christ, he’s not much of an employee. Frequent hangovers, padded expense accounts. Sneaks out early on Friday afternoons . . . He does it all. And he pays the price---overdue bills, bail-bond debts, a resumé that reads like a rap sheet.
But then Christ finds him. Not only does God save his soul, he straightens out the man’s work habits. The guy shows up on time. He does his job. He stops complaining and starts volunteering. Everything improves---attitude, productivity cooperation.
And guess who notices? His boss. And guess what happens? Promotions. Pay increases. The company truck and credit card. Success. But with the success comes a problem.
Just ask Nadab, Elah, and Omri. Or interview Ahab, Ahaziah, or Jehoram. Ask these men to describe the problem of success. I would, you might be thinking, if I knew who they were. My point exactly. These are men we should know. They were kings of Israel. They ascended to the throne . . but something about the throne brought them down. Their legacies are stained with blood spilling and idol worship. They failed at success. They forgot both the source and purpose of their success. King Nadab symbolized them all: “He did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father and in his sin which he made Israel sin” (1 Kings 15:26 NASB).
You won’t be offered a throne, but you might be offered a corner office, a scholarship, an award, a new contract, a pay raise. You won’t be given a kingdom to oversee, but you might be given a home or employees or students or money or resources. You will, to one degree or another, succeed.
And when you do, you might be tempted to forget who helped you do so. Success sabotages the memories of the successful. Kings of the mountain forget who carried them up the trail.
The flea did. An old fable tells of an elephant lumbering across a wooden bridge suspended over a ravine. As the big animal crossed over the worn—out structure, it creaked and groaned under the elephant’s weight. When he reached the other side, a flea that had nestled itself in the elephant’s ear proclaimed, “Boy, did we shake that bridge!”2
The flea had done nothing! The elephant had done all the work.
What a fleabrained declaration! But don’t we do the same? The man who begged for help in medical school ten years ago is too busy to worship today. Back when the family struggled to make ends meet, they leaned on God for daily bread. Now that there is an extra car in the garage and a jingle in the pocket, they haven’t spoken to him in a while. In the early days of the church, the founding members spent hours in prayer. Today the church is large, well attended, well funded. Who needs to pray?
Success begets amnesia. Doesn’t have to, however. God offers spiritual ginseng to help your memory. His prescription is simply “Know the purpose of success.” Why did God help you succeed? So you can make him known.
David Robinson knows this. Speaking of someone who God made good, this seven-foot-tall basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs was good. For fourteen seasons he dominated the league: MVP, All-Star, two championship rings, two Olympic gold medals. But it was his character that caught the attention of the public. These words appeared in the Washington Times the day after Robinson’s departing championship victory.
Robinson showed that a player did not have to be cheap or dirty to be effective. He did not have to clutter his body with tattoos or litter the NBA cities with illegitimate children. Robinson never felt a need to bring attention to himself, to shimmy after a good play or point to the crowd, as if to say, “Look at me. Aren’t I something special?”
The good guys won. Robinson won. Decency won. We all won.3
Minutes after hoisting the trophy overhead, David was interviewed by a national network. “People in San Antonio know what I’m going to say,” he told the reporter. And we did. We did because we had heard him say it and seen him live it for so long. “All the glory goes to God,” he announced.
Three thousand years ago another David declared the same truth. “Riches and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and it is at your discretion that people are made great and given strength” (1 Chronicles 29:12 NLT).
“They did not conquer the land with their swords; it was not their own strength that gave them victory. It was by your mighty power that they succeeded; it was because you favored them and smiled on them” (Psalm 44:3 NLT).
I know a frog who needed those verses. He had a real problem. His home pond was drying up. If he didn’t find water soon, he would do the same. Word reached him of a vibrant stream over the adjacent hill. If only he could live there. But how could he? The short legs of a frog were not made for long journeys.
But then he had an idea. Convincing two birds to carry either end of a stick, he bit the center and held on as they flew. As they winged toward the new water, his jaws clamped tightly. It was quite a sight! Two birds, one stick, and a frog in the middle. Down below, a cow in a pasture saw them passing overhead. Impressed, he wondered aloud, “Now who came up with that idea?”
The frog overheard his question and couldn’t resist a reply.
“I diiiiiiiii. . .”
Don’t make the same mistake. “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 NLT). Why are you good at what you do? For your comfort? For your retirement? For your self—esteem? No. Deem these as bonuses, not as the reason. Why are you good at what you do? For God's sake. Your success is not about what you do. It’s all about him---his present and future glory. (131-138)
1. Ad Slogans Unlimited, http://www.adslogans.co.uk/hof/hofindxl.html.
2. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations (New York: Doubleday, 1988), 99.
3. Torn Knott, “Admiral Deserves a Salute from All,” Washington Times, 17 June 2003
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