Cultivating Success in Your Life
Many people have the wrong definition of a successful life, one based upon the world's measurements: piles of money, fame, power, beauty, possessions, and the like. I want to suggest that Jesus gave us a very different definition of success. In Matthew 22:37-39, he said the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In two short sentences Jesus tells us that success in life is filling our lives with loving relationships. Scientists have done studies of the places where people live the longest and seem to have the most joy. These are called blue zones. In every one of these places, people put the focus on relationships not possessions. Yes, they eat healthy, but their happiness is based on the strength and depth of relationships. Relationships are very important to them.
I have had the unique privilege of coaching and mentoring lots of different kinds of people: pastors, businessmen and women, married couples, entrepreneurs, writers, teenagers, etc. One of the first things I want people to understand is this biblical understanding of success. If life is not going the way they want it to go, then I have them look at the various relationships of their life to see if they have put all their time, energy, or money into a few relationships at the expense of the other ones. I have people memorize the two great commandments and repeat them as they go to bed at night for a week. It is always amazing how God speaks to people who pay attention to His word.
I like to describe life as a collection of nine gardens that God has put us in charge of. Our job is to cultivate crops of love in each of the gardens. The amount of joy we experience in life is based on the fruit that we have worked with God to grow in these gardens. The nine relational gardens are:
Jesus and the Holy Spirit want to help us grow the fruits of love in each one of these gardens. The Bible calls them the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22,23 -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. In other words, the ultimate goal of life is to enjoy a wonderful harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, and so on, from each of the relationships of life. Success is measured according to how rich and full each one is. Each relationship can be a tropical rainforest of delights and wonders to enjoy if you will allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit to grow these fruit in that area of your life. In each of the various relationships in life, you either enjoy a wonderful crop of love and the other qualities, or you move into a desert or a manure pile. You and I are the gardeners of our own life. God has given us opportunities, resources, and even direct wisdom, but we must increase the love, joy, peace, and other qualities with the people in our lives, or else our life will become barren of good things.
If I were to mentor you, I would ask you to do three things:
Rate each of your gardens on a scale of 1-10 in terms of how much love and the other fruits of the Spirit exists in each relationship.
Mentally stand in each of the gardens of your life and ask God what He wants to grow through them in that relationship that day: love or joy, peace or patience, kindness or goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, or self-control. He will whisper to you what He knows is needed. Do the gardening work needed and in time there will be a rich wonderful relationship in that part of your life. There will be a time for harvesting after you have allowed the Holy Spirit to plant, water, grow, and nurture these wonderful qualities into that relational garden.
Memorize the Fruit of the Spirit passage and say it as you fall a sleep for a week. Let God's word drip into your soul and prepare you for the next day's gardening.
It is always enlightening for people to stand in each of their relational gardens and really look at what has been growing there, what type of effort, energy, and resources that they have put into that relationship. It is not uncommon for people to realize that they don't know how to grow a relationship of love with their spouse, colleagues, God, children, etc. This is a wonderful realization, too. Just know that the answers about how to do that are available.
So many people want to walk into the various relationships of their life and just take good things from the relationship without putting in the effort to grow good things in that relationship. It takes consistent time, energy, and resources to grow good relationships in each of these gardens. The main relationships take more time, but there is enough time in each week, month, and year to grow a joyful life. God outlines in the Bible how each particular relational garden can produce more love.
I want to say one thing about what happens if you and I have been takers or destroyers in one of the gardens. That relationship becomes not only barren but it becomes an "enemy" relationship. This is where that person or group is opposing you or rooting for you to fail for what you did to them or failed to do for them. Looking at the grid above, think about if there are gardens where an enemy relationship exists. Is your spouse an enemy? Are there members of your community that are enemies? What about colleagues? Children? The good news is that with God's help, the fruits of the Spirit can be cultivated in those areas making it possible to turn those enemies into good relationships.
You are a relational gardener and Jesus wants to partner with you to have a delightful life full of true success. Listen for the whispers of His Spirit to add some more love, joy, peace, patience, etc. into a particular relationship. Which garden does God want you to add love to today? Which one needs you to add patience to? Which one needs your self-control?
I look forward to interacting with you during your spiritual journey. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how God is working in and through your life. Your greatest life is just ahead.
In His service,
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PTLB is proud to participate with other non-profit, local charities on #GivingTuesday! This November 29, we are asking you to partner with us to expand our reach to hundreds, or even thousands, more people, churches, pastors, and couples who are trying to restore marriages, battle against sexual temptation, build relational health, and fight spiritual warfare. (We can't wait to tell you more about our plans! Stay tuned for special video from Gil Stieglitz, coming soon!)