Success! Everybody wants it, yet few obtain it. At least as the world views success.
What is success, anyway? Many define it as having a large bank account or many possessions. Others view success as having power or influence. Still others equate it with fame. In reality, however, success simply means accomplishing what we set out to do or achieving a goal. The poor man who accomplishes his desire to raise polite and respectful children is at least as successful as the millionaire who acquires a company he desired to own. The unknown housewife who accomplishes her goal of maintaining a clean and welcoming home for her husband is as least as successful as the movie star who achieves fame.
When things don’t go as we think they should, we like to fix the blame on someone. We want to hold someone responsible for what went wrong. Assuming we are not merely trying to blame someone else for our own shortcomings, this desire is tied up with our sense of justice. Those who do wrong should pay – especially those who cause injury or harm.
Our society and culture put a tremendous emphasis on education. We send children to school at earlier and earlier ages. We pressure our young people to enter college. We place great value on degrees, certificates and academic credentials.
There is no question that learning and training are good things. The more we know the easier it is to make good decisions; the easier it is to navigate life. A solid grasp of mathematics, the language arts, history and philosophy can be very beneficial. But, as with anything else, giving too high a priority to education can be harmful.
The universe in which we live, particularly the earth upon which we live, is a beautiful place. When we gaze upon the creation we see unending variety, a profusion of shapes, colors, tastes sounds and sensations. No matter how closely we look with our microscopes or how far we probe with our telescopes we uncover yet more awe-inspiring mystery.
One of the great blessings God has given to us humans is the ability to imagine. Because we can imagine we can visualize things that do not yet exist. Our imagination also allows us to think about how things would be different if we changed this or that. Imagining what might happen helps us to avoid harm, or encourages us to try something different in order improve our situation. It is our imagination which allows mankind to make progress. Without the ability to see beyond what currently exists, there would be no invention, no striving to try something new.
Many people have the idea that it doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. Since God is loving, He would never rebuke or punish anyone for holding an honest opinion, would He?!
Those who think like this may be basing their assertion on several assumptions which are not necessarily correct. One such assumption is that all philosophies and religions are basically the same – there is no moral difference between them – they are just different paths to God. However, even a little thought shows that this cannot be so. Two philosophies or religions which contradict each other – particularly about the nature of God – cannot both be right.
It is not always easy to get ahead. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, it seems like our financial situation just continues to get worse. There are always unexpected expenses which drain our resources. Opportunities which looked like a “sure thing” fade away like the mist. We work hard; we try to be wise in the use of money; we do not waste what we have, yet we cannot make any progress.
This situation is not unique to us or to our time. Thousands of years ago God made this observation concerning the Israelites, “You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (Haggai 1:6 NIV)
We like to think of ourselves as good and righteous. We may be willing to concede that we are not entirely perfect, but we still contend that we are better than most other people. After all, we haven’t done the horrible things they do!
At one point in their history, the ancient Israelites faced a tremendous problem. As a result of their unfaithfulness, God sent the Babylonians to invade them. The Babylonians captured many of the people and exiled them to Babylonia. Though they were captives, the exiles were relatively free to live their lives how they liked in Babylonia. What should they do? Should they put down roots in their new environment, or should they do the minimum to survive while they waited for the opportunity to move back to their homeland? In addition, what should their attitude be toward the people who had captured and exiled them? Should they oppose and do their best to subvert the Babylonians, or should they cooperate and get along with them?
We learn by doing. No matter how many facts we cram into our heads we will not really understand a subject until we put our knowledge into practice. For example, memorizing a textbook on bookkeeping is a very different thing from handling the accounts of a real business. Unless someone has actually kept the accounts and posted to the ledgers he cannot truly claim to understand to know bookkeeping.