Tuesday, February 2, 2010
It’s so easy to forget the way of things. Months ago I began to ask God to “enlarge my territory.” It’s the prayer of Jabez, which many will recognize as the title of a best selling book. I haven’t read the book, but of course I read the Bible quite a bit and there it says...
Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request. (1 Chronicles 4:10) NIV
This, it seems to me, is an excellent prayer, and the fact that God answered with a "Yes" seems to indicate he thinks so, too. As Jesus said just before giving us his famous Golden Rule, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?”
So “Lord, enlarge my territory” has been on my lips for months, and I have been confident that God would answer. But forgetting the way of things, I made a big mistake.
I’ve mentioned here before that there was a terrible error made in the launch of my latest novel. In the publishing business, the usual path to success lies in building anticipation for a book before it hits the stores, but in this case no advance copies were sent to critics or to bloggers, so for the first time in my career a novel received no print reviews whatsoever. Most of my fellow bloggers didn’t even have a chance to read the novel and review it until it had already been published. When added to the fact that 2009 was perhaps the worst sales year on record for the entire publishing industry, this meant the novel was pretty much dead on arrival. Not the direction you hope your career will take after seven books in print.
It seemed prayer was the only marketing plan that could possibly yield results. Remembering Jabez, I began to ask God for more territory. And here is where I made my big mistake: what I really meant was, “Let me sell more books.”
Over the months as I prayed, I began to ask myself if I was ready. A sad story hit the headlines of a man with the wonderful name of Abraham Shakespeare, whose life was ruined and then lost when he won $31 million dollars. It’s common for lottery winners say the money ruined their life. I began to wonder what would happen to me if God worked a miracle and this latest novel sold a million copies. Could I handle it? Could I withstand the temptation to take the credit? Or would my territory become too large? Would my pride get me lost in all that extra space?
In asking these questions, I remembered why I started writing in the first place. “Write what you know,” as the common wisdom goes, and when you get down to the heart of life, I know nothing that really matters except “Christ, and him crucified.” So I write about the Lord, for the Lord, in the hope that people who don’t know how beautiful he is might be moved a step closer to falling in love with him as I have, and people who do know him as I do might be moved to love him even more. And suddenly one day I realized I had been praying for the wrong “territory”.
I could have asked God to let me spread his love far and wide. I could have asked him to let me share eternal life with people who are lost and dying. I could have asked for those wonderful, amazing things and left the details up to him, but there I was, praying to sell books. Such a petty little prayer!
“Man plans; God laughs” as the old Yiddish saying goes. It’s so easy to forget the way of things, so easy to ask God to bless my plan, instead of asking him to reveal the blessings he has planned.
When I quit praying with book sales in mind and started simply asking the Lord to enlarge my territory any way he wished, some interesting “coincidences” began to happen. A pastor at my church told me the elders want me to start preaching there soon. I was asked to teach a series based on The Gospel according to Moses, thinking maybe ten or fifteen people would come, but when the series was announced, twenty percent of the entire congregation signed up. My latest novel may be D.O.A. (or maybe not...who knows?) but now that I’ve remembered the true way of things, my territory seems to grow a little every day.
How about you? Are you asking God to bless your puny plans, or are you asking for the kind of miracle only God could plan?
Posted byAthol Dickson at 7:41 AM
Labels: The Jesus Way