When I made the move from writing romances for the general mass market (ABA) to writing women’s fiction for the Christian market (CBA), I soon found I needed a new understanding of the meaning of success.
In the ABA, a writer’s success is judged by how high up on the bestseller charts one goes. For instance, in Romance Writers of America, their Honor Roll of bestselling authors is based upon those who reach the top 15 of the New York Times list, the top 15 of the Publishers Weekly list, or the top 50 of the USA Today list. (BTW, none of those lists even count sales made in CBA bookstores; if they did, we would see more Christian fiction on them.) In the ABA, money is also a measuring stick. If you make a lot of money, you are seen as a success.
I knew in my heart that neither of those things could be how I viewed my writing once I made the move from the ABA to the CBA. For my writing was no longer merely a career (although it was still how I supported myself) but a ministry (and yes, the worker is worthy of his hire). I needed a reality check. I needed to know God’s reality, God’s definition.
So I went to Him in prayer: What does success mean? How do I know if I’m successful? Show me, Lord.
I did a rather lengthy search of the Scriptures, and in the end, for me it all came down to Joshua 1:8-9. [God said to Joshua,] "Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. I command you — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (NLT)
My success is found in my love for Him and my love for His word, in my desire to know the word and meditate on it and study it and live it. It has nothing to do with bestseller lists or the amount of money I make each year or any other commonly used measuring stick. Success in the Kingdom of God — and that includes His Kingdom on this earth — is vastly different from what the world thinks of as successful.
That’s what I discovered early in my CBA ministry. This morning I read this wonderful excerpt from the writings of A. W. Tozer that echoed my discovery. Even the title mirrored what I was searching to know back when I did my search of the Scriptures: Success and the Christian.
Some young preacher will study until he has to get thick glasses to take care of his failing eyesight because he has an idea he wants to become a famous preacher. He wants to use Jesus Christ to make him a famous preacher. He’s just a huckster buying and selling and getting gain. They will ordain him and he will be known as Reverend and if he writes a book, they will make him a doctor. And he will be known as Doctor; but he’s still a huckster buying and selling and getting gain. And when the Lord comes back, He will drive him out of the temple along with the other cattle.
We can use the Lord for anything — or try to use Him. But what I’m preaching and what Paul taught and what was brought down through the years and what gave breath to the modern missionary movement that you and I know about and belong to was just the opposite: "O, God, we don’t want anything You have, we want You." That’s the cry of a soul on its way up.
Philippians 3:13-16 in the Message paraphrase says this: Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision — you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.
Lord, I don’t want anything You have. I want You. All of You. More of You. Fill my cup, Lord. Fill it with You.
In the grip of His grace,