The Danger of Success

“We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past..” Ellen White, 1902

I’ve had many ups and downs in my life. As I began work as a freelance web developer in early 2007, I was slowly but surely making my way back up, along a new path, from the most serious “down” I’d yet experienced.

During my stay as a volunteer in the Dominican Republic in early 2007, as I had been blessed with time, I began learning more and more about the world of professional web development. Through personal projects and helping friends, I began to put into practice the things I’d learned and putting my many years of earlier experience to good use.

My efforts were not in vain. God greatly blessed me and with each new project I would learn new things and strengthen still further the knowledge and experience I had. Soon there was nothing within my areas of expertise that I wasn’t able to tackle. As I had practiced a careful balance of my time, asking God each and every day for His guidance and direction, and as I was blessed with patient friends who were willing to help me and teach me new things and through a God-given desire for mastery of my field, I pressed forward.

Suddenly my financial situation, though still daunting, was beginning to look a whole lot brighter. I was blessed to meet and make some awesome new friends. I had a steady stream of new requests for work and a just as steady stream of happy clients (I was also very blessed with patient clients during my work overloads). Everything seemed to be going great.

But something wasn’t quite right..

In the midst of all this success, a slow and subtle change had begun to take place in my life. As the demands of the business grew, I found less and less time for personal Bible study and prayer.

I rationalized that all these demands on my time were a blessing from God and decided that He’d understand if I didn’t have as much time to spend with Him anymore. I reasoned that He would bless me and strengthen me nonetheless. Thus, satisfied with own explanation, I plunged my energy into work still further, rarely paying heed as the time flew by.

Then, it began to happen. Slowly but surely, as I spent less and less time with God, a change began to take place in the way I would act and think. Little by little, almost imperceptibly, I began ascribing some of the credit for my success to myself, to my hard work and my ability to learn.

That’s where I went wrong..

In those moments, subconscious as they may have been (I wasn’t yet at a point where I’d have taken credit “outloud”), I failed to realize that it is too God alone that honor and glory is due for the talents and abilities He has blessed me with.

I failed to realize that my success had been directly proportionate to the time I’d spent each day with God. There had been days in my past when, after choosing to start the day with God through prayer and study, no matter what the cost, the hours would go by and sometimes leave me with as little as a single hour in which to work. But what an hour it would be! I have never had a day where, when deciding to spend that extra time with God, that I have suffered any loss. Quite to the contrary, those days have been the most productive days as my mind has been quickened and my ability to grasp and understand the technical challenges presented me has been deepened.

In the recent weeks of “busyness”, I had forgotten that God is a God who knows no failure and when you work with Him, there need never be a mistake made. I took the weight of responsibility upon my own shoulders and began looking to myself to solve the problems that would perplex me.

And then Sabbath morning, July 21st, a video that my little brother was watching caught my interest and I went to my room, opened my Bible, and began to read the story of King Solomon.

He started out very humbly. His ascension to the throne after his father’s death and the turmoil that came with it, combined to help him realize the great weight of responsibility that now rested upon his shoulders. With an entire nation waiting to see what he would do next, he recognized his helpless and presented his case to God in prayer. He asked for wisdom to discern between right and wrong and God wondrously granted him his request. God blessed Solomon far above and beyond what the young king had ever asked or dreamed of. His kingdom grew strong and became one of the wealthiest kingdoms that ever existed. All seemed well.

Then, a change began to take place. Slowly but surely as he grew older and his wealth and fame increased, he began to depart from God. His success, which in the beginning he had recognized as being completely from God, he began to ascribe, bit by bit, to himself. The praise of other men began to get to his head and before he knew what had happened, he was living in idolatry, in sharp disobedience to God’s law.

But, God never gave up on him and though it took many years and there were severe consequences to follow, Solomon turned back to God and his life was changed from being a curse in his idolatry to a blessing in his repentance and his desire to warn future generations.

One of the many great blessings of the Bible is that we can see the results of choices made by character after character and, by God’s grace, we can learn from them.

My situation was nothing compared to what Solomon went through. I’m not “famous”, I’m certainly not “wealthy” in the things of this world, and my tiny virtual empire isn’t even a drop in the bucket to what Solomon had. Yet there is still a lot I can learn from his experience.

In order to be truly successful, I must put God first and last and best in everything, each and every day. God has blessed me so much.. I can trace His help back to my days of learning CSS and the desire that He gave me for mastery. I can recall challenges that would come up that had no seeming solution which would then lead me to ask God for help. He never failed me. Sometimes the answer would come within moments through a flash of inspiration, other times I would be blessed with the answer through a friend. In every case, no matter how challenging the problem, God always blessed me with a solution.

I don’t know what the next few weeks and months will bring, but I am beginning to realize now, more fully than ever, that I dare not go forward without God. I wouldn’t be where I am today without His help and if He’s brought me safely thus far, I know that He can lead me on.

May your day be richly blessed,

-Jonathan Wold

P.S. I’ll be attending HostingCon 2007 up in Chicago this week. If any of you are planning to be there, drop me an email or a comment. I’d love to meet you :).