Proactive Living

joelI’m learning more and more that God is God and I’m not. Too often I try to force God into my box. I want HIM to fulfill my will. But He won’t and He doesn’t, especially when I have that attitude.

I’ve noticed two areas that I can easily fall into this trap: 1. book sales. 2. church growth.

I can easily find myself pleading with God to sell more of my books and to give me/us more church growth. Yet, both areas have one thing in common: I can’t make them happen. I can’t force people to buy my books, and I can’t force people to come to church.

I can make my best effort under His sovereign grace to write the best books possible and to minister to people in the most effective, diligent way I know how. But then I have to leave the results to God.

Take Wellspring, for example. God has been showing me that I need to connect success with what I do and then leave the rest to God. I have to ask:

  • Did I coach Eric well? (the lead pastor)
  • Did I pray fervently for Wellspring?
  • Am I taking people through the training?
  • Am I doing my best to make my cell work?

If I’ve done these things, I am successful! I’m learning not to allow my mind to wander down the dark alleys of success and failure beyond my control. I must believe God is sovereign and that He will give the growth. The exact same scenario plays out in book sales.

Stephen Covey says something similar when he talks about the circle of influence versus the circle of concern. He says that many people live in their circle of concern, a circle they can do nothing about. They live their lives reacting to what they can’t control instead of proactively living within those areas they can influence.

Under God’s grace and power, we need to connect success with what we do and then leave the rest to God. Does this make sense? Comments?

Joel Comiskey

17 thoughts on “Proactive Living

  • Great thoughts, Joel!
    I have had to think through this issue a lot myself. Success is so often measured (especially in our culture) by results, but I think God measures success by obedience. In fact, a friend of mine contends that we should measure spiritual maturity by the rate of obedience- how quickly do we truly adhere to Christ’s commands for our lives? If we are doing what He has asked us to do, that’s success… even if the world sees it as failure. I’m sure the enemy thought Christ was a failure when He died on the cross- but we know that He was obedient in death- even death on a cross- and that ultimately led to a far greater success!

  • Right on, Larry. I like what you said about measuring success with obedience. Some areas of life and ministry have a closer corresponding relationship between what we do and the results we see, but others are simply beyond our control, and like you said, the key is whether we’re obedient.

  • The work of a man of God can never be compared to a secular work, for a man of God lives by faith, and he must rely on God for everything, not by sight but by faith, but he is also human and wants to see the results of His work. Differently from the ordinary man, the results of his work will praise God, so His sucess will be for God’s glory not for his own glory rather his contentment. Sometimes it is very tricky to become totally sucessfull in spiritual matters lest we should give ourselves the glory, maybe God does that this very way, for us not to know what’s going on at times and be totally dependent upon Him in everything. Either you sell more books or not, either more people come to your church or not, He will take care of you and of His church, for the work is His first of all. As you do your part, don’t try to be too hard on yourself and rest upon Him for He’s in control of everything.

  • Good word, Rodopho, I hear you saying that often God allows a bit of dissatisfaction, so we will always need to come back to HIM as our sole provider and sole success. I agree with you. In my case, God has given growth and sales, but I want more. I have an important part–work hard under His Divine guidance–but as soon as I think that I produce the results, I can so easily become worried and uptight.

  • Great Comments. Best I have ever seen on this Blog.

    I was thinking about this message from Joel & came up with these questions.
    Who is our circle of influence?
    Do we have the circle of influence all the time?
    Can we do anything without the circle of influence?

    I think every major accomplishment I have had in my life, I did without the circle of influence, but with God from the 1st shot (as I know it now) including my coming to the Kingdom of God.
    For the last 12 months I have been getting closer to God & Jesus Christ, then for the previous 3 years.
    Answer to our question is on the sentence from Joel’s message that I highlighted. By the way I firmly believe that Joel did his best on all 4 questions he asked.
    As Russian believers & some non-believers say “Slava Bogu” which is “Glory to God” !!!
    I strongly believe that we can say these words with much more confidence, when we start expending the functions of the small groups & churches beyond praying, worshipping & studying the Bible into the construction of God’s Economy.
    Otherwise Church will continue to be the getaway from our everyday life problems & we will worship motivational speakers & pastors instead of worshipping God, his Son & the Holly Spirit.

  • Joel,
    You are stirring us again, thanks! On Sunday during the Celebration I found myself praying and surrendering each family of the church back to God. As I was moving along saying, “Father I give (name) back to you, they are yours”, He was reminding me of my circle of concern vs. circle of influence. I was preoccupied with those who I had not seen by the time celebrating began, fretting over their absence. It became so distracting that I could not focus on worship. The 2 circles gave me focus again on WHAT is MINE and WHO are HIS. Each life is important to God, but not necessary for my “success”. He set me free again and ministry to His Body proceeded in that freedom.

  • On this subject of ‘success’… one of the questions I am asked, mainly by other pastors, that I find my disturbing is, “How many people do you have in your church”?.

    This question irritates me for several reasons, all of which have been stated in some form within this current blog.


  • As you can tell by my many comments on this blog, I am passionate about this theme. I feel like I’m personally turning a corner and becoming more liberated in the process, so I’m very interested in your comments

  • Oops.. (I have a floating cursor on my laptop that decided to close out my last post prematurely)… I’ll now try to finish my last post…

    Firstly, it’s NOT my church; it’s His church.

    Secondly, it appears that a majority of our peers (other pastors) measure ‘success’ by ‘numbers’. Yes, I know ‘numbers’ represent ‘souls’ and I am all for reaching as many souls as possible.

    Thirdly, since God has clearly called me and my wife to reach the 30% of our USA society who live in mobile homes, of which ONLY 4% claim affiliation in a ‘church’, I believe the first question we pastors should be asking our peers is, “What segment of our society has God called your church to reach?” then followed up with something like “And so, how many people are ‘actively involved’ in the church you pastor?”

    Whenever I am asked, “How many people are in your church?”, subconciously I feel very UNsuccessful. However, when I am asked, “Who (segment of our society) is the church you pastor targeting”?, followed with, “And how many people are actively involved in the church you pastor?”, I know that the person asking the questions truly understands the difference between the world’s definition of ‘success’ and the meaning of ‘remaining obedient/faithful’ to God’s calling, direction and purpose for my life and the ministry He has called me to do.

    Incidently, in our cell-based church, only those people who actively participate in the cells of our church are identified as members of our church. Those who refuse to become actively involved in a cell are lovingly, yet firmly, asked to either ‘climb aboad’ the vision of our church OR to continue in their search for a church that fits their definition of ‘church’.

    Although we only have about 25 members in our rural church which was planted 4 years ago, I rejoice in knowing that God has allowed us to shatter the statistics stated above within the region He has given to us!

    Do I wish for more people to connect with our ministry? Of course I do! My wife and I are constantly talking to Father about this. And honestly, when wrestling with this idea of ‘sucess’, I know full well that if we would continue ‘doing’ ministry as we are an dsimply relocate, we could have/would have a much ‘bigger church’. However, I also know that I know that to relocate would mean stepping outside of God’s will for my life and the direction He has for me and my wife and the ministry He has called us to.

    Paraphrased — Staying true to God’s call on our lives and remaining under the protection of the shadow of His wing is our definition of ‘success’.

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick & Becky Diefenderfer

  • I like your commitment to being faithful to God’s will in the God-ordained areas He has directed you. And your point is very good about location and growth. That’s why it’s a very bad idea to COMPARE. And all of us long for more growth. Yet, I’m discovering that I need to do my best under God’s sovereign grace to plant, sow, etc., and then allow God to bring the fruit. . .

  • Hey Joel,

    And as for ‘success’ in the sales of your book… as you know, I also wrote a book a few years ago and even though my book contains very much of the same teaching as Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life and even though my book was published a year prior to Warren’s book, unlike the ‘success’ of Warren’s book which permitted him to repay 25 years of his salary back to the church he pastors and even though the royalties he continues to receive would permit him to buy his own island, my book hasn’t yet 😉 brought me such fortune and fame.

    And I’m-a-thinking it hasn’t because God knows such fortune and fame would probably lead to my demise — although I do try to convince Him otherwise.

    This reminds me of a true story

    I once served as an Associate Pastor with a pastor who did a terrific job preaching from the pulpit Sunday after Sunday against pursuing ‘wordly treasures’ and then… after delivering what turned out to be his last sermon one Sunday he announced to our congregation that his “generous brother won the 14-million-dollar-lottery-jackpot last night” and “that he (our pastor) has decided to ‘leave the ministry'”. Needless to say, that church disinegrated overnight.

    Again… Paraphrased — Staying true to God’s call on our lives and remaining under the protection of the shadow of His wing, I believe is the best definition of ’success’ for a Christ-Follower.

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick & Becky Diefenderfer

  • Here are two examples straight out of my diary about how I struggle with striving with God over book sales:

    November 2006: I subtly fell into this trap with regard to book sales. I found myself ordering God around once again. I found myself telling God that HE needed to sell my books. And I felt the despair when no one bought the books. YET, I MUST BELIEVE THAT GOD ACTUALLY STIRS CERTAIN ONES TO BUY MY BOOKS. I must not strive with God about sales. I must not act like I’m the one that controls this. Only God can do it.

    April 2009: I’ve been ordering God around lately. I’ve been demanding that HE sell my books via my website. I’ve been bummed out because “he hasn’t responded.” Yet, I was placing my limitations on God. And God won’t be beholden by our limitations. He’s way too big for that. God is coming through on so many fronts, but in the area of immediate selling through JCG, it’s still dry. Jesus knows. God is free to do whatever He wants on heaven and on earth. He is God and I’m not. I can trust in Him for the results.

  • Amen pastor! just the most basic thing God keeps on reminding me too. focus on God’s order not on the result and in the end, the result that will come is far more greater than the result we were hoping for… big time.

  • This reminds me of a joke we usually use in our cell leaders when things don’t go the way we want things to be.

    when a leader starts his grunts about his own cell, we come to say in chorus: “Just trow the staff!” its from a discipleship teaching of our senior pastor that came from the story of Moses where God ordered him to go to the pharaoh and get his people. Moses keeps on giving God negative possibilities telling God it cant be done. But so simple is fact that God is simply ordering Moses to just “throw the Staff” and the resulting snake is Gods problem to conjure.

  • “Just throw the staff”… I have a walking stick (staff) I made many years ago from a pecan tree my dad (passed away and dearly missed) and I cut down that was growing in my parent’s garden. It has great sentimental value and now even more value. I’m-a-thinkin it’s time to literally ‘throw the staff’ and let God deal with the snakes in our cell-based ministry.

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