Success Turns Sour
ago, a client of mine became president of his
company. It all came about through a fluke (he
was a mid-level manager), good luck, and a
couple coincidences. He was very humble about
his promotion, “It was just God’s grace. I
hadn’t wanted it, I didn’t deserve it, and I
never tried for it. God just dropped it on my
Within a couple years he began to attribute
his advancement to his own hard work and
brilliant insights. He said that his promotion
had been delayed too long by people who didn’t
appreciate him. He fired people who disagreed
with his opinions.
He felt his genius was needed everywhere, and
he was glad to offer it:
He convinced the high
school athletic committee to change coaches
because he knew a better way—though he had
never played an organized sport in his life.
He became head elder at his
church and bullied them into adopting a
“better” Bible translation—though he had never
studied Greek or Hebrew (not even Pig-Latin).
He once scowled in anger when a friend told
him his zipper was unzipped (true story), and
he sent his dental hygienist home in tears
when she suggested he begin flossing (another
true story). The slightest correction was met
by him with red-faced fury.
Success turned a wonderful human being into an
uncorrectable, insufferable know-it-all.
We Fail the Easiest Test
Several years ago I was a novice blogger when
I wrote a blog about Sunday school problems
that went mini-viral (for me) with over
People began to ask for my writing advice, and
I liked it. I enjoyed the spotlight. I began
to wonder if my opinions might possibly save
the world. Frankly, I was surprised—and a bit
disappointed—that NASA hadn’t called me for
advice about their solid-fuel rockets.
I had, after all, written a pretty successful
blog about Sunday school.
We usually hide our pride, but we secretly
applaud our brilliance when:
Our kids behave better than
our neighbor’s kids;
We don’t worry about the
future like our other friends who constantly
We advance further and
faster than our college classmates;
Our bodies are thinner and
more fit than our colleagues.
Of the two tests of God—adversity and
achievement, or failure and success—we handle
difficulties better than victories. Hardships
drive us to God whereas accomplishments drive
us to self-congratulations.
The Sinai Desert and the Land
of Milk and Honey
When the Israelites were about to enter the
Promised Land, after forty years of adversity,
Moses offered them his final advice:
Remember how the Lord has led you through the
wilderness for these forty years, humbling and
training you; because the Lord is bringing you
to a good land, filled with olive oil and
honey. You’ll eat plenty and lack nothing.
But be careful, or you will forget the Lord
your God. Otherwise, when you have built
beautiful houses, and your cattle and oxen
multiply, and your silver and gold increase,
then you will become arrogant.
You may say to yourselves, ‘I have become
wealthy by my own strength and by my own
ability.’ But remember the Lord your God,
because he is the one who gives you your
abilities (Deut. 8:2-18, selected verses).
In our poverty we ask for mercy, and in our
riches we ask for praise.
P. S. I may be slow to respond to comments
today. I’m expecting a call from NASA.
© Copyright 2016, Beliefs
the Heart, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Williamson grew up in Detroit, Michigan,
USA. He is the son of a Presbyterian pastor
and grandson of
missionaries to China. He moved to Ann
Arbor, Michigan in 1975. He worked in London
England from 1979 to 1982, helping to
a member community of the Sword of the
Spirit. After about twenty-five years as an
executive at a software company in Ann Arbor
he sensed God call him to something new. He
left the software company in 2008 and now
speaks at men’s retreats, churches, and
campus outreaches. His is married to Carla
Williamson and they have four grown children
and a grandson. He has a blog site, www.beliefsoftheheart.com,
and can be reached at