Posted by: Terry | August 6, 2009

Success and those who tried

“By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.” (Isaiah 10.13 NIV)

Napoleon Hill, the author of “Think and Grow Rich”, wrote that “whatever the mind of man can conceive of and believe in can be accomplished.” Did he know that this would become the foundational concept for the self-help movement? Did he ever conceive that this would give a new dimension to our understanding of the “American Dream?” Did he ever think that Christians would add the phrase, “with God’s help” so as to give it a sort of Biblical sound?

Did he realize the similarity between what he wrote and what Isaiah wrote, “By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.”

I have lived much of my life in the self-help, motivational speaking world; a world that has taken the concept of Napoleon Hill and preached it in a myriad of styles and packages. The essence of their message being that success is the result of never giving up and believing in yourself.

The stories of those who have started with nothing and ended up with much are thrilling, and designed to encourage. Yet they veil the struggles of the multitudes that gave it all they had and still came up short. The prognosis of the self help gurus is that they simply did not believe enough, do enough and they gave up.

What does God say? “He (the Lord) will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. For he says: “‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.'”

Sadly we still embrace the thinking of Job’s three friends who were convinced that blessing and prosperity were connected to right living and faith. It is easy to criticize those who have failed, to blame them for not trying hard enough. We tell them how we made it through our own strength, wisdom and understanding, and then admonish them to do the same. Does this not hint of the pride that God was judging in Assyria?

Do we realize how many people are guilt ridden because they have not reached some erroneous measure of success? Do we comprehend how our message belittles them instead of offering strength?

The message in the Bible is clear that there will be more who struggle every day than there will be who become leaders and rich. The Bible is full of warnings for the rich and instruction to help those in need. We are to remove injustice, to instruct and to encourage, providing tangible help when appropriate.

Sometimes the most valuable gift we can offer is simple understanding with compassion and acceptance, keeping in mind that God speaks highly of the faith of the struggling while condemning the self-confident.

 

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