How to Move out of “Survive” and into “Thrive”
The Turning Point
My wife and I were sitting on our couch, talking. I was wrestling with something I heard John Maxwell say.
Maxwell said there are three stages in any life: survival, success, and significance. Up to that point in our lives, we had lived in survival mode.
We longed for significance — to live for others in a way that improved their lives.
Helping others is why we wanted to do ministry in the first place. It’s why we had given up an established ministry position and a national ministry opportunity to pioneer something in a new city.
From my place of struggle, I tried to pray my way to significance. I tried to sacrifice my way to significance. But on that couch, with my wife, I realized God was calling us to success first.
And it’s not until you’re in a place of success (more on what that slippery word means later) that you can live out “significance” in other people’s lives.
Then and there, my wife and I decided we wanted to thrive—to figure out how to thrive so we would be able to help others do the same. We’re still on that journey, but all these years later, we’ve come a long way.
It was out of that season the idea of “Theology of Success” was born.
What Success Is Not
When it comes to any thought or teaching, there is often danger at the extremes. One extreme is to say all a person has to do is “believe” if you want to “receive.” But, in this way of thinking, the burden is on having the “right kind of faith.”
I can’t quite get behind that.
But the opposite extreme doesn’t work for me, either, where “spiritual” = “unsuccessful.” A poverty mindset kicks in and convinces those in this extreme the reason anyone else has any significant opportunity is because they have compromised in their faith.
In either case the idea of personal responsibility and acting in partnership with faith to achieve good things for others seems to vanish.
I believe there is a middle ground. True success comes from self-sacrificial giving. It’s in creating something that serves others.
It starts with believing God for big things and immediately moves to building habits and actions with principals that work — that’s what a Theology of Success is.
You Get to Define “Success”
I’ve set my phone to send me a reminder each time I pull in my driveway what success means to me. Whatever happened in my professional life that day, whether I’ve had a good day or a bad day, doesn’t determine how “successful” I am.
I get a reminder right before I walk into my home how I’ve chosen to define that word: “Success is family.”
I love the autonomy of humanity. Each of us can decide what “success” means to us. My encouragement is to do so. Pick. Decide. Don’t let me, or anyone, tell you what you should view as successful.
What a healthy Theology Of Success can do is equip you with encouragement, inspiration, and the resource to help you achieve your goals. Whatever you aspire to, the principles of progress are often the same. We exist to inspire one another.
A Genesis 1 View of Success
“In the beginning God spoke let there be light and there was light.” (Genesis 1:1)
All proper theology starts with God. He is a creating God. He is a speaking God. He made light, everything it shines upon, and everything in between. He made me. He made you.
Humans – yo. Welcome to the planet!
While this creation has been subjected to futility and the curse, it’s against God’s will. It was created by Him and for Him, and we humans were created in His image to reflect Him.
None of that has disappeared. In every person and in every culture there is something that needs to be redeemed. There is something that needs to be remade. Something that needs saved and healed because we are all broken.
But, there is also something divine. Something supernatural. Something good.
Yes, Genesis 3 occurred, and humanity fell. And it’s true that it wasn’t just Adam and Eve. I’m guilty. I’ve chosen to play the game of sin. I willingly sat down at the table and said, “deal me in.”
A lot of theology focuses on Genesis 3 and the fall of humanity, for good reason. I’m just here to say, Genesis 3 does not forever eclipse Genesis 1. There is still something good in this crazy creation. There is still something good in me, in you, and in everyone we meet. Something broken and something beautiful in every single one of us.
I believe God created the planet. The fact that God made this place tells me a few things about it.
Part of God’s Creation
God infused all of creation with His design, His handiwork. It’s a code written on the tiniest building blocks of DNA and hardwired into the natural seasons at work. His creation works, and it works well.
We have an atmosphere where we can breathe and live. Not just a blank atmosphere but a beautiful one with landscapes and extremes and wildlife—enough to fill encyclopedias and libraries with descriptions!
This place is awesome, and it’s hardwired with God’s wisdom. Proverbs 8 says the pillars and foundation of the planet were set by God’s Wisdom, and His wisdom cries out from the streets, saying, “Come learn from me!”
Guess what? Some have. Some have heard the wisdom of the planet.
People who don’t know God have succeeded because they have tapped into His wisdom even if they haven’t met Him personally. It’s true.
God’s principles work, and He’s in control. I’ve seen Him bless high-performing people in the business world that I would never have expected.
A theology of success says that everyone—even me, even you—can thrive. It says that, with God’s help, we can move from struggle to significance. The path forward is in Him. Realizing that, even though Genesis 3 exists, we can still have the Genesis 1 life.