Lately, I’ve been a overwhelmed with pressure. I’ve been working on a few projects, and haven’t seen the results I wanted or expected (have you ever had that experience before?). As a result, I’ve felt like I’m letting people down. I’ve felt perpetually behind. I continue to feel more, and more pressure to create success, and that pressure has led me to both frustration and discouragement. Ironically, there’s a chapter in the new book—one of the final chapters—that challenges the reader (ahem, me) to define success, not with numbers, but as faithfulness. I learned this from my buddy Dan.

Dan had moved to Rwanda with his family, and they expected their missionary endeavors to lead to definable success. He wanted to send reports to his supporters of the gazillion converts that have seen the truth of the Gospel because of his endeavors (he never said gazillion, I’m putting those words in his mouth, but I think he would have liked at least 100). He wanted to prove to everyone back home that he was using their money for the Kingdom and having an impact.

Unfortunately, Dan–like me–experienced slow growth. Really slow. Like watching-an-oak-tree-grow, slow. He was frustrated, and ready to give up.

But then the Holy Spirit stepped in, and confirmed Dan’s calling to Rwanda. More than that, God began to show Dan, “success is not defined in numbers, but in faithfulness to do whatever God has for us to do today.” That quote is from Dan, not me. It’s really god, isn’t it?! It’s also really tough to live by in an American culture where we are taught that we create our own success.

Here’s how this works in real life: the real question for a Christian is not how many people buy “x” or subscribe to “y” or decide “z.” The real question is, “Lord, have I obeyed you, when you’ve told me to do “x” or “y” or “z?” It’s okay to plan our way—to think of creative marketing strategies and run with them—but our hope is in the Lord’s direction (Prov.16:9).

Yesterday, the Lord gave me a word picture to help me understand. We–you and I–are like the farmer who went out to sow seeds (Mark 4). Remember how many different seeds fell on bad soils? A lot! The majority! We are like the sower. We are spreading seeds, and we can’t control the quality of the soil. Yes, we should do our best to look for good soil (that’s called stewardship), but we won’t always be able to tell if a decision is the right decision–whether in business, relationships or school. We won’t always know if we are planting seeds in good soil. Providentially, that’s where the Lord intervenes and directs our steps. Our job is to faithfully plant seeds wherever God says to plant them.

Finally, our desire for immediate success, is like planting a seed and expecting it to immediately sprout into a gigantic tree with mature fruit. Growth doesn’t work that way! It takes time. May the Lord give me, and us, the patience to plant faithfully, and trust that he is behind the scenes producing growth. In other words, it may be another year before we can look back and see what soil was good, and that’s okay (even if it doesn’t feel okay sometimes).

Is there an area of your life where you wish you could see more growth? Click here to comment on Facebook and continue the conversation…

Want to order a copy of Intentional Christian and read more about defining success as faithfulness? Click here.

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