Want Success? Work Wisely

Joseph succeeded in all he did. Why? Because the Lord was with him. When Joseph went to work, his bosses looked at him favorably. I also think his fellow workers appreciated him and enjoyed his company, because he encouraged them. And when Joseph did something, it produced good results.

All of this happened because he relied on God’s wisdom.

You can do the same! Right now, today, you can say to God, “Help me make a decision that will allow things to prosper in my place of work.” Allow God to talk to you and guide you. Allow Him to show you what you need to do for your employers and employees to succeed. Then you will prosper.

This is how I focus my efforts. When I was pitching, I listened to God. I wanted to be successful, but I needed His wisdom to do it. If I went to the field every day and worked really hard on being a side-armed pitcher, I would not have found success, because that’s not what I was asked to do. Or I could have said,“I’m going to learn to throw a knuckleball.” I could have worked really hard on it. But that’s not what God led me to do. Without God’s wisdom, I wouldn’t have found the success I wanted, no matter how hard I worked!

Of course there are very successful nonbelievers. A nonbeliever works really hard in the areas that he knows brings success. He goes to work and says, “I know what works, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to work really hard at it and do it well.” And he does, because he knows that success comes from hard work.

Joseph also worked hard. The difference is that Joseph worked wisely. He followed the wisdom that God gave him. Joseph didn’t do what he thought was right. He did what God said is right. God showed him what to do, and that’s where Joseph worked hard. That’s why he gained favor. That’s how he succeeded. That’s how I succeeded!

So think about this. What if that hardworking, successful nonbeliever finds Jesus? Then he will begin asking God for wisdom. He still does his work. He still works hard. But now, he does the Lord’s work too. He helps bring the Kingdom.

When he does that, he discovers a joy that he couldn’t have known in any other way. It’s the joy that cannot be matched, because it comes from God.

Now that is success!

See you Monday.

Rest in God

And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:
“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
“Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
“Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
“Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
“The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
“The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 28:2-8

If you live in legalism, then you eliminate God. “But Jeremy,” you say, “I’m righteous.” And maybe you are! For example, maybe you don’t tell lies. That is consistent with a righteous life. But what if the only reason you don’t lie is because the Bible tells you not to do it?  Then you aren’t depending on God. You’re depending on rules. And what happens when you depend on rules? Things fall apart.

What if you were able to just rest in God and understand that His grace will show you the way? What if you could believe that God gives you His favor, even though you didn’t earn it? As the scripture says, in obedience to God, whatever you say, whatever you do, wherever you walk, and wherever you go, you will be blessed. Your basket will be full. Everything your hand touches will prosper. To put it as simply as possible: in grace, you will find success.

Now, success may not happen exactly the way you want it to happen. In fact, you may be surprised by the form success takes in your life. I sure was! And that’s okay. It’s better, in fact! Let God decide what your success will be. Let God show you what to do. He will show you exactly what to do so that your family will thrive. He will show you what to do so that everyone you meet will thrive. You’re on a journey, you know. You’ve just got to believe that your journey will be one of success.

What happens when you walk and talk with the people you meet? If you let Jesus guide your steps and tell you what to say, then the people you meet will feel really good. You don’t have to be super spiritual and legalistic. You don’t have to quote Bible verses at them. Resting in God is not about soapbox Christianity. It’s not about telling people to accept Christ or else rot in hell. It’s not about telling people that they’re bad. You are here to love. That is your purpose. So ask God to tell you how to love people. He will! He’s our faithful God!

What do you suppose happens when you do that? Man, the people you meet on your journey will love on you! They’ll be inspired to live a righteous life because of you! So listen to Jesus. He will help you tell people exactly what they need to hear. And when you do that, they’ll want to be around you! Maybe they don’t believe in God. Maybe they don’t do all the same things that Christians do. But you’re the one they’ll hang out with, because you won’t judge them. You’ll live with them, in grace.

Allow Jesus to guide your steps. Allow the Spirit to give you wisdom. Do this, and you will find so much love and joy. And guess what? That will be your success.

See you Thursday.

Run to God!

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to GOD! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life! Proverbs 3:5-8

As I mentioned last time, there’s a difference between going to work with a grace-based mentality, and going to work with a legalistic mentality. A person living in grace will say, “God will show me how to work to become successful.” But legalism says, “I will work hard, so that God will see how hard I work and make me successful.”

At work, you probably have all kinds of tasks to complete, and you’re probably evaluated on how well you complete them. Someone who approaches their work with a legalistic mentality might say, “Okay, I’m going to get to work on time every day. And I’m going to do A plus B equals C so that I’ll be successful.” You want to show God how hard you work so that you’ll be successful.

But what if A plus B doesn’t equal C that day? You won’t succeed! Then you’ll feel like you did something wrong. You’ll feel like God is mad at you, or that God has abandoned you. That is a horrible way to feel.

I think grace is the opposite of that. When you live in grace, you allow God to guide you. That’s what Joseph did. When people told him their dreams, God told Joseph what he should see. And Joseph said, “Don’t interpretations belong to God?”

So God might tell you, “Alright. In order to make you successful, this is what I want you to see.” And you might see something that no one else sees, because God showed you where to look. You’ll succeed, because God will show you where to focus and how to do the job.

I read this quote the other day: “If God wants to be glorified then make Him do all the work.” That’s true! If He wants all the glory, then let Him do the work!

When you get to work, sit down at your desk and say, “You know what God? Since you want to be glorified, I’ll tell you what. Here I am. I’m not going to sit here and be lazy. I’m going to be disciplined. I’m going to get here on time, and I’m going to apply myself. But I’m going to be in tune with you. Here I am, now show me. Show me what I’m supposed to do.”

You won’t just sit there and assume it’s going to all work out. If He shows you what to do, you’ll do it. Remember John Chapter 21? In that story, the disciples fished all night, and didn’t catch anything. Then Jesus told them where to cast their nets, and they caught so much fish that their nets nearly broke! Jesus showed them what to do and they were really successful.  They had breakfast on the beach with Jesus!

I think you rest in God. The Bible says you will find your success when you rest in Him. Rest in Him and say, “Show me where to work.” Be present and ready to work, and be available to hear His wisdom. He’ll show you what to do, and He’ll show you where to do it. And the next thing you know? You’ll succeed in everything you do.

Legalism vs. Rules

Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation. And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, “Why do you look so sad today?”

And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.”

So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.” Genesis 40:5-8

When we are learning about grace, the story of Joseph has so much to teach us. It is such an apt illustration of what life can be like if we live by the Spirit. If we live by the Spirit, our deeds will reflect that. If we live in grace, then we will live a righteous life. We don’t need the law to tell us what to do. In the Spirit-led life, we know what to do.

But how can I say we don’t need the law, after spending so much time as a professional athlete? After all, if we didn’t have any rules in baseball, the game would be total chaos, not to mention boring. We need rules. Rules help us in all kinds of areas of life. Without the rules of the road, it would be too dangerous to drive anywhere. A lot of us couldn’t go to work! There are good rules everywhere for good reason, and we expect each other to play fair.

But there’s a difference between having rules and living a legalistic life. Our jobs, and the rules they entail, are a completely different issue than how we relate to people. Our relationships and our jobs are two different things. There are rules at work, and grace in relationships. I look at it this way. A person living in grace, as Joseph did, will say, “God will show me how to work to become successful.” Meanwhile, this is what legalism says. Legalism says, “I will work hard, so that God will see how hard I work and make me successful.”

Let that sink in for a moment. Which one are you?

For me, living in grace is to say, “Show me, God. Give me wisdom and show me where to work hard so that I can be successful.” And God says, “Well, okay. Here’s how you do it. Your job starts at nine. So the first little bit of wisdom? Be on time! That will create favor among your bosses.”

If your employer has told you to be at work at nine, then you have to be at work at nine. That’s all there is to it! The Bible says Potiphar loved Joseph and put him in charge of household operations. Why do you suppose he did that? He probably saw that Joseph was responsible and could be trusted with the household. As I wrote last time, Joseph lived in a time of grace, before God gave the law. How could Joseph understand responsibility, if God hadn’t yet given the law? How did he know to show up on time? Joseph knew what to do because he lived by the Spirit, and his deeds reflected that.

I have a little more to say about this next time. See you Thursday.

Prison to Palace

I’ve been writing a lot about grace in family life, but God gives us grace in our work too. Make yourself available to hear His wisdom, and He’ll show you where to focus your efforts. The next thing you know, you’ll succeed in everything you do.

Just look at what the story of Joseph can teach us. What a good story! But it’s more than that. There is so much wisdom in it. There is so much to Joseph.

The story goes like this: Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, so they sold him to some traders who took him to Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph was sold to the household of Potiphar, who managed the Pharaoh’s household.

Potiphar was impressed with Joseph and put him in charge, and even grew very fond of him. But Potiphar’s wife wanted to seduce him. When Joseph refused her advances, she framed him for attempted rape, and Potiphar threw him in prison.

Like Abraham, Joseph lived in grace. It was before God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. It was before God gave us the law against adultery. Nevertheless, when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, Joseph said no. Potiphar’s wife said to him, “Sleep with me.” And Joseph said, “My master has been so good to me, and you’re his wife! How could I violate his trust and sin against God?”

Joseph didn’t need a commandment that would tell him what to do. He already knew right from wrong! He called adultery a “sin against God” long before we had a commandment that said, “Don’t do that.”

When the Bible talks about Joseph, it says, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man.” (See for example Genesis 39:2.) The Lord wasn’t with Joseph because of Joseph’s legalism. We didn’t have the law yet! Joseph did not do anything to merit God’s favor, but God was with him nonetheless. That’s why Joseph succeeded in everything he did. When Potiphar put him to work in his home, not only did Joseph succeed, but the whole house of Potiphar was blessed because Joseph was there.

Now you might object and say, “Sure, Jeremy, the Bible says Joseph was successful, but he was sold into slavery and then got thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit! You see goodness in this story?”

Well, just look at God’s plan! Joseph resisted Potiphar’s wife and was thrown in prison, but he had to be in that exact prison for God’s plan for him to unfold. The warden liked him so much that he put Joseph in charge of the whole operation. Joseph went right on succeeding! And in that exact prison, Joseph met Pharaoh’s head baker, and Pharaoh’s cupbearer. His successful interpretation of their dreams led Joseph to Pharaoh. And when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he was put in control of the kingdom! So you see, when the Lord is with you, even the bad things are part of His good redemption story. A good journey is unfolding. God is good, and good things are happening. Trust Him!

When the Bible talks about Joseph, it says, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man.” Now the Bible talks about us, and it says, “Because of grace, Jesus is in you and with you and through you.” In other words, just as the Lord was with Joseph, now He is with you. You have His free and unmerited favor. You don’t have to do anything to earn it in advance. Just live in it. Let God bless you and work through you, and you will be successful in your journey!

I have more to say on this next time, so see you Monday.

New Wine in New Wineskins

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins. Mark 2:21-22

I think Christian families are mired in legalism. I think churches are too. They want to be in control. Legalism might not actually result in control, but at least it can give the appearance of it. I think control is what lies behind the pervasiveness of legalism.

The crazy thing is, we hear them teach grace within legalism! Essentially this is saying, “Okay, if you stay within my rules, you will have grace. You will have freedom. But when you get outside of my rules, I will get angry. I’ll use that anger to pull you back in and control you. I will drop the law on you.”

This is pouring the new wine of grace into the old wineskins of legalism. It creates conflict. I’ve been exposed to it, and I’ll bet you have too.

There was a time when I learned to love on my teammates instead of judging them. I wanted them to see Jesus, so I would say, “They are only human, so of course they’re going to mess up. The important thing is to give them grace.” This was something I had to learn. The problem was, I didn’t learn the same lesson about my family. My wife had to wake me up to it. One day she said, “Jeremy, at work you give ballplayers grace, but at home, you give your family law. We’re your family, and you judge us!”

I heard that, and it crushed me. It absolutely crushed me. My wife was right! I was mixing grace and legalism in my life. And do you know what? My life was in conflict! I was frustrated and stressed at home, but I would get to the ballpark and feel no stress at all. At the ballpark, I was so relaxed. I felt free. I didn’t feel bound up. I didn’t feel frustrated or angry. It was so confusing. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so stressed at home and so relaxed at work.

Then my wife helped me see it. I was living in contradiction. I was creating conflict for myself and my family by living in legalism at home. Legalism is a mentality that I oppose, and I didn’t even know that I was living in it!

It was such a blessing when my wife pointed it out. When she did, God took me on a journey from legalism to grace. Once I learned to give my family grace instead of law, I became so happy at home. I’m so happy to be a family man. My kids are happy and we play. My wife is happy and confident. I’m watching my family thrive!

Grace is the new wine. If you try to pour it into the old skins of legalism, your family or your church might be ruined. Put the new wine into new wineskins. Make it a skin of grace. Then see what happens. Your life will not only be saved by grace, it will be based in grace! It’s awesome!

See you Monday.

Happy in Grace

Freedom in grace is freedom from anger.

How often do you feel angry when someone reacts to you in a way that you don’t like? Maybe they speak sharply to you, or do something mean. It’s natural to feel angry when that happens, but it’s not necessary. There could be something troubling them and they need to talk about it.

This is so important to me as a dad. We want to let our kids have emotions, right? But we tend to prefer the emotions that feel good to us. We don’t get mad at our kids for being happy. We don’t get mad at them for laughing. We don’t get mad at them for being joyful. We don’t even get mad at them when they’re sad and crying. That makes us feel tender.

But when they get angry, we get mad at them! How much sense does that make? They get angry, and what do they see? They see us get angry! We’re telling our kids, “I’m going to get angry at you for being angry!”

That does not help them learn. Instead it’s a vicious cycle.

Getting angry at their anger comes from trying to control them. We try to control our children’s anger so that we can control our own. This is typical of legalism in the home.

Why not simply accept them and be with them? Grace says, “I can see that you’re having a bad day. How can I help you? How can I love on you? How can I make you feel better?” When you do that for your child, then all of a sudden, a bad day can become a good day. Now, in their bad day, you’re not just someone else continuing to pound on them. You’re especially not a legalistic father who wants to drop a Bible verse on them when they’re not doing right! Instead, you’ve made yourself a loving help to them.

I’m far from perfect, but I try not to get angry at my sons for getting angry at me. I let them be angry. And we talk about it.

We have a lot of issues today in Christian homes. Christian families experience the same divorce rate as non-Christian families. I suspect legalism is the problem. If you’re living the life of legalism, then you’re not living in grace. If your family is not living in grace, then the mentality in your home isn’t any different than the mentality in a home that isn’t founded in God. That means you’re going to get the same issues.

When you live in a home founded in grace, your kids are truly happy. So is your husband or wife! Everybody is growing and thriving, and they live righteous and loving lives.

People will look at your family and say, “Man! What are you doing? What rule did you make? What law did you give them, that they live so well?” That’s not the right question, of course. When people don’t understand grace, they think about dropping a Bible verse and making a rule with it. The point is that my family loves and laughs and thrives because I didn’t give them a rule. I didn’t give them a law to live by. I gave my family freedom. My wife and I brought grace into our home. In grace, we are happy.

See you Thursday.