You can attain success (title, wealth, fame, things) but still not have a successful life. You can be in prison and know more about freedom than those outside who seem successful. I know you’ve heard it before but it is so true that the longer one lives, the better you are at recognizing successful living - life’s truly meaningful things and moments.
While it is generally true that more of certain personality types tend to settle in ruts of the past (guilt, just the way I am, it wasn’t meant to be) none of us have to wait until we are “old” to find true success and joy in life. God’s Word promises it contains “all we need in life” and these three passages can surely guide us to enjoying what we, who are “in Christ” have to empower us to live a successful life day by day.
In Christ I can:
1. Celebrate I am Free of condemnation – John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (NIV) The Message describes this person as one who “has at this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider.” Innumerable people – especially those who have had a life of abuse, loneliness, immorality, addiction or co-dependency – tend to go through life as a victim of sin – either theirs or someone else’s. Condemnation on one hand is often understood only as applying to the abuser. On the other hand, even though a person has accepted Christ’s forgiveness, because they cannot forget, might say they cannot forgive themselves and continue to live in a false state of condemnation. False, because even if you chose not to apply/accept/act upon what God has done, that doesn’t change the facts. God forgave. God forgot. The check has been cashed and is in your account. What a waste if we don’t use it and continue to live in poverty. There are two ways I have experienced the resolution to this understanding:
• examine myself and see if I have truly repented (turned the other way from) whatever is connected to my guilt. It could be a lack of forgiveness for whatever someone has done to me or a lack of faith that God will allow the circumstances or consequences to be used to lift and encourage others.
• ask myself, “Who made you over the creator? That is what I feel I am saying if I think that God made a lot of wonderful things until he came to me … or that He made a mistake in who, where or what formed my life. Why is it that I can so easily ask “Why, God?” about the tough things in life, but not so easily ask, “Why, God?” should I know Jesus’ personal love and sacrifice for me. I need to make the choice to believe and accept His Words - to let myself live in God’s freedom from judgment. The saddest life, I think, is a wasted life. One that has the truth, but has not truly “believed” it or trusted in it. That life continues to live as though the sacrifice or freedom was never attained. It doesn’t change the facts. Freedom is still there – but a wasted life never enjoys the benefits of the freedom, keeping them buried and unused.
2. Reverse negative thinking. Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. Pretty clear, isn’t it! Obviously writing works for me to make a situation more black and white. Whatever is going on – I like to write it down:
• What it is that is consuming my thoughts or making me feel sad, worried, depressed or concerned.
• Look for what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good report, any excellence, anything worthy of praise. Sometimes it is, as my friend Dino says – so simple it is stupid! For example, no matter what the situation is it is true that God is with me and that He can bring good out of anything. From that basis I can now look expectantly to see what I could do with God’s help to reveal the positive qualities of the situation.
3. Live in the present, remembering God’s deliverance. Psalm 66:5 Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf! It is so easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what we are not or what we do not have. (just watch the advertisements and see all the “enhancements” the vendors want you to have for every area of your life!) Instead try journaling and focus on what you already have and what God has done in your life. It helps me as I review each day to realize that if God conquered the issues of all my yesterdays, He will also conquer today. What a freedom to live expectantly instead of fearfully!
One way to journal is:
• write one truth about God (a verse or a character quality or a name of God)
• ask yourself what blessing you have experienced since yesterday (what God has done in or through your life, who you found you are in Christ or what truths you have been shown)
• ask God to bless someone today through you
These simple steps help me to live with joy and to recognize true success.
It’s as though I was rightfully imprisoned because I could not pay the fine for my admitted wrongs, and brought before the judge for review with no means to pay the fine – and no hope or reason that I should be pardoned. Then, amazingly, someone else offered to pay my fine and bear the fault as well. I am freed with no condemnation! Why would I stew in guilt – because I know I could never earn or deserve such love? How ungrateful and egotistical that would be. How can I not exult each day in my freedom? If God would take that ultimate step in my behalf, how can I not find reason to believe He has a purpose for each day of my life? And what could be a more successful life than one lived with the assurance that the creator-God has promised to guide every moment and to provide everything I need for this life – and for the next.
Based on what He’s already done, (what I know is true) I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do today. I’m looking forward to another successful day. How about you?
Chaplain Merritt Adams from the Racine County Jail teaches that no walls can contain true freedom.
http://www.racinecounty.com/chaplain/ Contact Merrit for more information.