Beyond Success Literature

A generation ago there were a lot of door-to-door salesmen who represented great companies and manufacturers (back when America was still a manufacturing nation). They peddled products from house to house and office of office, but sometimes it was discouraging work, especially starting out before a customer base developed.

In sales, you might have a hundred cold calls and only get one order. You’d make a visit, present your spiel, leave your literature, and get in your car or walk down the street to the next place. Time after time after time you’d be disappointed. And how would you keep up your morale during this process? How did you persevere to become a great salesman?

You read or listened to motivational speakers. You’d put on a tape and listen to Earl Nightingale, Norman Vincent Peale, Dale Carnegie, or Zig Ziglar. You kept pumping yourself full of self-help and motivational literature.

Even as a young minister going door-to-door in my East Tennessee community, I listened to these tapes and to these men. I found some encouragement there. I’ll admit there’s something I like about success literature. I like someone telling me to keep dreaming, to keep going, to persevere, to work hard, to never give up.

But after awhile, it all begins to sound the same and it begins to wear you out. It’s based on materialism. It’s based on personality. It’s based on aspiration. It’s based on a world-centered view of success.

But there’s one motivational Speaker that’s different and one success Book that’s above all the others—as high as the heavens are above the earth. I’ve always found that’s the best place of be refueled. That’s the best place to be recharged. When I get tired and discouraged, I go to the Word of God. I remind myself that God is at work (Galatians 2:8). I claim the promises of God. I remember 1 Corinthians 15:58, that our labor in the Lord is not in vain. I remind myself of Galatians 6, that we will reap a harvest if we do not faith.

Jesus said, “My Father is at work and I am at work” (John 5:17, my paraphrase). The Lord is at work when I can’t see Him. He’s at work when I can’t see the results. He’s at work when I don’t see the success for which I have prayed. He’s at work when I’m tired, for His strength never flags.

God is at work! He was at work when Christ died on the cross and when they laid His body in the tomb. He was at work in Paul’s ministry and in Peter’s preaching, despite the outer conflicts and external pressures they bore. And Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Our job is to be faithful, to persevere, to keep our eyes on Him, and to work in the power and energy He provides, trusting Him for the results He ordains in His timing.

–Adapted from my sermon “When God is at Work” from Galatians 2, for Sunday, January 22, 2012, posted under the sermon tab at