Is Success Once Success?

One day, a little boy decided he wanted to learn to ride a bike.  He found his dad and asked him all about how bicycles worked.  His dad told him all about the history of bicycles, the parts that make up a bicycle, and the technique required to ride one.

Victory!  Or Is It?

The boy and his dad began working diligently on learning to ride the bike.  As the boy practiced, he gradually improved, until one afternoon, his dad released his grip on the back of the seat and the boy rode under his own power for a full block.  Happy and proud, both man and son returned home and parked the bike in the garage.  The bike stayed in it’s spot in the garage all night.  The next day, the bike also stayed in its place.  So too the third day, fourth day, and fifth day.  In fact, the bike stayed put for weeks, followed by months, and then years.  The boy never again took the bike out for a ride, though he walked past it nearly every day.  Now the question: did this boy learn to ride a bike?


Technically, the boy learned all about the bike.  And once, he did manage to ride it a ways.  But did he benefit?  Did anyone benefit?

Assimilate It

You see, you and I are often like that foolish boy.  We undertake a worthy venture, like eating healthier, beginning a fitness regimen, or connecting with God in Scripture and prayer, but we fail to continue and create a permanent habit.  In so doing, we miss out on the benefit of the venture, just as the boy missed out on the joys and benefits of bicycling around his neighborhood.

Today’s the Day!

Can you think of something you know you should be doing, something perhaps that you’ve even successfully done on occasion, but that you’ve never gotten consistent with?  What benefits would you enjoy if you made this behavior a permanent habit in your life?  It could be that the only thing separating you from the greater level of success or achievement that you desire is the simple consistent application of something you already know how to do!  Will you take the steps today to make a new habit for your own success?  Make a commitment, let someone know about it, and enjoy your journey to the top!

Learning Something New

Are you growing?  Not in height, but in your capabilities, your character, your walk with God?  Here’s one way to check:  how often lately have you been frustrated, overwhelmed, and uncomfortable?


Yes Benefits, No Discomfort

It’s a little funny sometimes how we always want to have the capability, the strength, the skill, but we avoid the exact things it takes to develop those parts into us.  I’ve heard it said that the place where success resides is outside your comfort zone.  I think that describes it pretty well.  Have you been there lately?

I’ve been learning what some may think is an odd skill lately, and even though it might not be the most important capability in the world, the experience has been very enlightening.  You probably can’t tell, but this article is being written with a different keyboard than usual.  It’s called the Dvorak keyboard layout, and I encourage you to Google it and learn more about what makes it worth learning.

But keyboards aren’t what we’re talking about:  we’re talking about learning.  And it’s what I learned about learning that can encourage and propel you to success in what’s important to you.  What I learned is this:

Embrace the Stages

Learning involves progressing through four distinct stages.  Only if you persist through the hard times, the times that make you want to quit, will you get to experience the benefits on the other side.  If there’s only one thing you hear from this entire article, let it be this:  you must persist.  When all seems most hopeless, you must hang on—you are so close to a breakthrough!

The four stages of learning are these:  enthusiastic beginner, frustrated learner, capable but lacking confidence, and master.  When I first learned of the Dvorak keyboard layout, I got really excited!  I jumped into an online lesson and flew through it happily.  This enthusiasm lasted a few days…

By the next week I had a few of the letters down, but by no means enough to type at a decent pace.  I used the backspace key like nobody’s business, and it seemed typing three sentences would take me all day.  It was at this point that the thought of giving up entered my mind.  To make matters worse, I told a few friends about what I was doing and how it could benefit them.  Rather than getting excited like I did, they told me that this was a waste of time and not worth the effort.  This was the low point of my Dvorak experience, and only my commitment to learning and growing helped me hold on.

Don’t Give Up!

I’m happy to report that as I persisted, I began to improve and the new style of typing became more and more fun.  Better than that, I began to see some of the lessons I’m describing for you here, and that made me even happier that I stuck with it!  I still have some room to grow before I become a master Dvorak typist, but I’m at a strong pace and am moving forward—taking the lessons I’ve learned and applying them to growth in the areas that matter most.  Will you get out of your comfort zone this week and start learning something new?  Let us know what it is by registering (which is free of course) and posting a comment below!  Thanks for including us on your path to a thriving life!

The Debt is No More

Would your friends describe you as an appreciative person?  Are you grateful for the many blessings you enjoy?  Or, are you prone to take the benefits you daily enjoy for granted?  Do you occupy yourself more with giving thanks for the good things or keeping count of the bad things? Today we’ll learn from the master, as the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to have hearts of gratefulness.

no more debt

Luke 7

41″A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42″When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45″You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46″You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47″For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49Those who were reclining [at the table] with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this [man] who even forgives sins?” 50And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

A Huge Debt Forgiven

As was so often His habit, Jesus used a simple and relatable story to communicate a deep and powerful spiritual lesson.  In the parable, we meet two men who are both in debt to a wealthy man.  One owes him 50 days wages (say $10,000 or so) and the other owes him ten times that amount.  Although the wealthy man has every right to demand his due payment, he does not. Because he is gracious, he completely forgives both debts.  The two are of course grateful—but not exactly the same.  Imagine being forgiven a debt of $100,000!  How much weight would you feel lifted off your shoulders!!

The Lord then goes on to explain the spiritual truth underlying the story.  Like the men in debt, you and I owe a monstrous sum.  But it’s not money we owe—it’s a debt of sin.  Because God is a just God, and we all fall short of obeying His perfect Law, we must pay for our unrighteous actions.  The penalty for sin is death, and not just death, but eternal separation from our Creator.  But, like the gracious rich man in the story, our heavenly Father has paid our debt.  He did this through Christ’s atoning death on the cross.  Our Savior paid the penalty we owe by dying the death we deserved—He Himself being without sin.  If we will turn from our sin and accept Christ as Savior and Lord, He will wash us clean and forgive our debt.

Do Your Actions Show You Grateful?

Now, whether we have been forgiven for a collection of small or lesser sins, or if we’re forgiven from a lifetime of rebellion and grotesque sins, we will be overjoyed and thankful to our gracious Father.  But the one who is saved from the mountain of heinous sin will tend to have a greater appreciation for the gift he has been given.  Like the woman in the story who was saved and forgiven from her life of adultery, we should recognize and give thanks to God for blotting out our transgressions.

If you’ve been forgiven much, take the time to recount and remember what God has saved you from.  Pray and give thanks that Jesus has paid your debt and God has forgotten your iniquities.  Conversely, do you think yourself forgiven relatively little?  It can be easy to downplay our own sinfulness, to view our godless words and actions as “minor slipups,” or “small infractions.”  But God is holy, and a sinner cannot enter His presence.  Instead of looking on others, whom we deem as “worse sinners” than us, let’s take the lesson of this passage and fall at our Savior’s feet in overwhelming gratefulness for His grace and love toward us poor, undeserving sinners.

Leading Takes Listening

I used to think that leaders were the ones with all the answers—the smartest ones in the room.  While it takes intelligence to lead a team, I’m learning that great leaders do something you might not expect, and they do it exceptionally well.


You may think that you’re the smartest person in the room—and you might even be right.  But if you’re unwilling to listen to the people around you, you will dramatically hamper your effectiveness as a leader.  Leaders listen, both for ideas and in order to influence those they lead.

Listen for Ideas

Even if you are a genius, you don’t have a monopoly on good ideas.  The beauty of this world God made is that things work best when people work together.  Jesus used the example of the body to describe His bride, the church.  An eye has a different function and role than an ear, just as a foot can be used more effectively accomplish some things than can an eyelash. Here’s the takeaway—you may be an excellent hand, but no matter how great a hand you are, there’s no way you can hear a noise—only ears can do that.  Recognize your strengths but be willing to seek feedback and ideas from the people around you.

Listen for Influence

Do you look others in the eyes when they speak?  Do you really listen to what they’re saying?  If you do these things, you’ve certainly noticed how few other people do this.  When you do little things like make eye contact, adopt a welcoming posture (no arms crossed, no hands in pockets), ask questions, and use the name of the person you’re talking to often, you will be amazed how people will open up to you.  In doing this, they demonstrate their trust in you.  And to be trusted means to have influence.  Make the effort to truly listen and care about the person you’re talking to, and you’ll be amazed how they will want to hear from you.  Humility, respect, and trustworthiness—things that we know belong to good leaders, but the question is, will you exemplify them today?

What Are You Doing Tomorrow?

We’re always making plans for tomorrow—whom we’ll see, what we’ll do, and where we’ll go.  Whether it’s fun activities like attending a party or playing a game of basketball, or mundane tasks like cleaning the garage, we assume that our plans will happen and we’ll have the time to accomplish what we set out to do.  But is this assumption secure?

mt shavano

One in A Million?

Historically, how many people have never died?  Not too many?  Were any of these people less than (gasp) 40 years old when they died?  Of course, we all recognize that death comes to all men, and to many, the end is not at 75, but much much sooner.  While we lament this verity, many of us (and myself definitely included) seem to ignore the obvious fact that these statistics are applicable to us.

James 4:

13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are [just] a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15Instead, [you ought] to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

A Sobering Reminder

Most all of us can think of people in our life, people we may have been very close to, who have passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  It is a shocking and surreal experience to lose someone whom you thought you’d have many more years with.  When people we love go through this valley, it is our charge to comfort and pray for them, and hold them tightly as they walk through the pain.

But it is also our responsibility to take these moments as reminders that life is fleeting.  And not just life in general, but your life, my life!  I may not have tomorrow, and therefore must use today to do that which truly matters.  Only God’s Kingdom is eternal—am I seeking it first, or letting it get crowded out by many other fleeting things?

How We Spend Our Time

Am I using my gifts and talents to pursue that with is God-glorifying and beneficial to my family and those whom I love?  Or am I settling for mediocrity, more of the same, and the lack of excellence that is common among the time-wasters and complainers?

I hope you’ll join me on the journey toward personal growth and the pursuit of your grand calling.  God has seen fit to give me breath for today, and He has a purpose in mind for this life of mine.  May God bless us both as we grow in grace and knowledge of Him.

The Standard of Wisdom

We live in an information age.  Every day, we are overwhelmed with news, media, advertisements, and opinions of friends, family, and associates.  How can we sort out the claims steeped in wisdom from those dripping with folly?  How can we discern truth from error and the wise path from the highway of fools?  We must have a reliable standard by which we can test all claims, holding fast to that which is good.  That standard is our Creator God and the Word He has given us.  Today we’ll delve into an excerpt from Proverbs 12 and discover how the principles contained in it can guide us into truth and right living.

colorado forest

22Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,

But those who deal faithfully are His delight.

23A prudent man conceals knowledge,

But the heart of fools proclaims folly.

24The hand of the diligent will rule,

But the slack hand will be put to forced labor.

Easy to Read, Tough to Do

I love the clarity of the Proverbs!  Sometimes they require deep reflection and some digging, but often they are so clear and practical that there is little difficulty understanding them, only difficulty in living them.

In Accord with Reality

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.  God hates deceitfulness and it is against His character to affirm that which is false.  Conversely, when we deal faithfully with our friends and neighbors, this pleases and delights our Father.  How truthful has your tongue been this week?  Do your words and actions accord with reality, or can you think of times recently when you’ve sought to create an appearance that is false?  Have you blamed another for a mistake that was yours?  Or have you withheld information from someone in order to lead them into an inaccurate conclusion?

Not All Sharing is Good

In the second stanza, we see a common device used in proverbs:  pairs of opposites used together.  Notice the contrast in verse 23:  a prudent man versus a fool, concealing versus proclaiming, and knowledge versus folly.  As is often the case in proverbs, the truth can at first appear puzzling to us.  Why should a wise person keep knowledge from people?  Wouldn’t he want to share his insight with everyone within earshot?  Conversely, wouldn’t a fool want to hide his foolishness by remaining silent?

As usual, the wisdom of the proverb is proven right upon careful consideration.  Much like the New Testament concept of not casting pearls before swine, a wise person understands that sharing wisdom with those who are not willing to receive it will only bring sorrow to all involved.  Instead, we ought to share knowledge and council in stages, allowing a student to hear and understand the simple and general things, and later share the deeper and more magnificent pearls.  Let us be careful not to spew forth speech as a fool, painting those around us with a fire hose.  Instead, let us seek out those who wish to behold a beautiful painting, and paint it for them in small and careful strokes.

Choose to Prosper

Finally, we learn a lesson on diligence.  Decide now to apply yourself and work hard for the rewards you desire.  Stick with your efforts even during the tough times and your hard work will be rewarded with honor and authority.  Do not be as the fool, who has the opportunity to work today but chooses instead to sit idly by.  That man will find himself without honor, doing work he despises against his will.  Today you have the choice to find your passion and pursue it with excellence.  Do it, and develop a habit of diligence, that the seeds you plant today my harvest future bounty for the good of your family and country, to the glory of God.

Check Your Heart

We often discuss the habits and principles for becoming wealthy here at TotalThriver.  But if we pursue financial gain with the wrong heart, we are setting ourselves up for disaster.  Today we’ll examine the Master’s teachings on wealth, and learn from him the proper attitudes and perspective.

In Luke 12, we read:

13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The Man’s Heart

I love how Jesus always sees us for what we are.  The man in this story asks what might seem to us to be a legitimate question.  He wants Jesus to instruct his brother to give him half of his father’s estate.  Notice how Jesus goes straight to the heart of this issue:  “be on your guard against covetousness.”

The man’s request had little to do estate planning or arbitration and everything to do with his jealousy toward the possessions of his brother.  Not only is this a violation of the tenth commandment, but the man has the audacity to imply wrongdoing on the part of his brother.  No doubt this did not foster a good relationship between the man and his brother.

Looking out for Number One

Jesus explains the foolishness of pursing wealth with the wrong heart in His usual way: through a parable.  The man in the parable had an abundance of wealth, but instead of being thankful to God and praising Him, using the resources to glorify God and help others, the man is solely concerned with his personal comfort.  He plans how he will use his resources to bless himself, and unlike wealthy and righteous Job, does not use his riches for the glory and worship of God.

Too late, the man in the parable realizes how temporal worldly riches are.  He had the opportunity to use his money to expand the kingdom of God, thereby storing up treasure in heaven.  But instead, he sought wealth only for himself and his own security and comfort.

What About You?

Are you like either of these men?  Does your heart hold jealousy toward others who have greater riches than you?  Do you desire that some of their money be taken from them and given to you?  Or, are you like the man in the parable, focused on what you can get for yourself, and indifferent about the kingdom of God and the ways that your money can be used for His glory?

Father God, help us to resist the lies that the world teaches on the value and use of money.  Let us seek financial gain honestly, and use it for your purposes and your purposes alone.  By your grace, may it be so in my heart and each one who reads these words.

Worthy of Praise

Life can get pretty hectic in our fast-paced world! If you’re like me, you rush through breakfast and your morning routine to get to work on time, spend the day on various projects, get a workout in, cook dinner, kids to bed, chores, snack, and crash into bed. Just writing it all out makes me tired!

Add to all that the pursuit of a thriving life and you’ve got a full plate! But if we’re not careful, this “pedal to the metal” living can wear on us, even working against us in the pursuit of a successful life.

The best medicine for a life starting to spin out of control is a time of quiet reverence in the presence of God. While it can be easy to neglect spiritual matters when life gets busy, it’s vital that we take time to commune with our heavenly Father, as we will find in Him the peace and satisfaction that can be found nowhere else.

Psalm 145 is a great passage to bring praise to God and foster a time of meditation and prayer:

1I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
3Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.
5They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.b
6They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
8The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.

The Psalmist begins in reverence of His creator–exalting him as King. God’s name is lifted high in praise. When we approach God, recognizing his authority and glory, we find our hearts softened and open to His life-giving Word.

In verse 3, we read that no one can fathom the greatmess of God. Though we see the splendor of God in His Word, creation, and in our lives personally, we can never fully comprehend his greatness. The highest thoughts we can imagine fall terribly short of his true glory, power, and greatness.

We do well to speak to one another of the great works that God has accomplished throughout history. From the awesome display of his power in creation, his wrath against rebellious men at the flood and the Red Sea, to his infinite mercy in sending a Savior to redeem us from death, the Lord has displayed His greatness to us. We do well to consider his works, call them to mind regularly, and speak them to each other all throughout the day.

How thankful we are that verse 8 speaks the truth! God is slow to anger–allowing us time to recognize the insanity of sin, turn from it and to him, where he waits with open arms to freely forgive. Praise God that Jesus has made a way for our forgiveness through His atoning death on the cross!

The Lord is good to all, according to verse 9, and He has compassion on all He has made. Even those who hate him enjoy the blessings of rain, sunshine, laughter, and love. God is rich in mercy and allows us sinners chance after chance to spurn our rebellious ways, give up our lives to Him, and place our faith and hope in Him alone.

If you’ve never trusted Christ as your Savior, thank God for his grace and mercy, and turn to Him today. Though you now stand guilty before the all-powerful just judge, you can yet be saved from the punishment you deserve. Because Jesus lived a perfect life, His torture and death has paid the debt that you owe. Trust in Him alone for salvation, give your heart to Him, and He will wash you white as snow.