In her session, “Success From the Inside Out,” Nona Jones is upbeat and inspiring. She provokes serious, soul-searching ideas from her book, also titled “Success from the Inside Out.” Being bi-vocational, she shares these concepts through a dual lens as they apply both in the marketplace and in ministry. She asks powerful questions that caused me to reach deep inside and observe what is fueling my inner fire to succeed.
She said in part, her passion to write her book and to share the message of success from a biblical worldview is driven by the fact that the suicide rates are on the rise in the most prosperous countries. To me, this suggests that success as the world defines it is killing us, literally. In fact, you don’t have to look very far to find an article talking about the rise in mental health issues, anxiety and depression, especially in young adults and adolescents. I can only imagine that the definition of success portrayed on social media is a major influence on this front.
She starts by sharing a passage from the book of Joshua Chapter 1, what she calls “A divine parenthesis” between the death of Moses and the provision of the promised land. As she read the passage out loud it occurred to me that God defined both the boundaries of success and the path towards it as he described the boundaries of the promised land and description of how it would be obtained. In verse 8, she focuses on the last part that says, “you will have good success.”
"8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." Joshua 1:8 ESV
She suggests that if there is such a thing as “good” success does that mean there is a possibility that “bad” success exists as well? She poses the following questions in exploration:
“Have you ever found yourself outwardly successful while also feeling inwardly depleted? “
“Have you ever hustled your way to success and only found frustration, fatigue, and exhaustion?“
When we define success by the world’s standards (degrees, titles, status, fame, money, possessions, etc.) we run the risk of “succeeding” outwardly, in the world’s eye, and at the same time becoming emptied internally. I do not believe we are protected from this in the world of ministry – we have just as many titles and measurements by which we discern success. When church leaders are gathered, it doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn to congregation size amongst other measurements we use to determine growth and success.
In a recent TV binge, my husband and I watched a reality show about individuals who live a simple, yet rugged life in the wilderness. I was struck by one of the stories in which a man was traveling across snow covered mountain ranges. He shared that although he was surrounded by water in the form of snow, he could easily die of dehydration. To most of us, we would see water as water and yet, snow is not the same as liquid water and it does not have the ability to quench our thirst. Rather, a snow-covered terrain is much the same as a sand-filled desert – we will find ourselves parched, with a thirst that cannot be quenched by the world around us.
This is what Nona Jones is pointing to, a world that offers us a version of success that can never quench our thirst because in order to be filled, to be satisfied, we need the living water that only Jesus can deliver. Only Jesus can give us a definition of success for our life, and we can find the evidence of this success when we experience fulfillment and see the fruit of the Spirit ripening in our lives.
Nona’s Key Takeaways are these:
1. God Meets Your Faith At Your Level Of Obedience
2. We Must Learn To Tame Our Hunger By Training Out Thirst
She digs in a little deeper to the soft spots of our soul when she suggests, “some of us are hungry for opportunity because we are thirsty for attention.”
Growing up, I was a teacher’s pet. I fed off the attention and applause of the authority figures in my life to define my self-worth. I think this is a common thing in childhood, but when it transfers into our adult life it can be dangerous indeed. I have humbly learned over many years of self-evaluation to “check” my intentions. My Achilles heel is for people to think that I am smart. So, when I catch myself ready to say something to impress others, I humbly bite my tongue, because I know my pursuit of the attention of others does not impress my Heavenly Father.
So, how do we find the kind of success that fills us? She suggests the following as a framework for defining our own success.
God Created You On Purpose, With Purpose.
1. To fail is NOT to be a failure.
2. God has a purpose for your life.
3. God loves you
As leaders in our industry, our ministry and our community, we have the responsibility of influence. If we can get this thing right, to seek God’s righteousness, to pursue a relationship with Jesus as the “prize” we are working towards, what kind of world will we leave in our wake?
Can we define success for the next generation in a way that allows them to pursue God and trust Him with their resume? Can we leave them with the knowledge that it is their relationship with God that will define the boundaries of their success and that He will deliver what he promised – an abundant life? Can we convince them that God’s favor can take them to places that hustle never can? Can we make them believe, “You are sufficient, just as you are today.”?
As leaders, we set goals, evaluate benchmarks, and review measures of performance, but to what end? What is the goal we have set and is it a goal defined as worthy by the world or by the creative director of our soul?
I was so inspired by this session, and I hope that you are, too! If you are interested in reading Nona’s book, “Success From the Inside Out,” you can find it on Amazon.