Three Pieces of Common Advice You Should Never Follow as a Christian Business OwnerNov 12, 2023
“Happiness is just around the corner.”
“You can do anything you set your mind to.”
These were the pithy sayings scribbled inside of every greeting card I opened. Standing inside my local coffee shop, waiting for my drink, I perused the small selection of gifts and artisan cards. And every one of them held the same greeting.
Have you ever thought about the typical sayings we toss around and read on social media memes and dollar store mugs? Words that are meant to cheer us on and make us smile.
But are they true? Are they actually helpful?
If you’re a go-getter or a self-starter and you’re a Christian trying to serve other people in this online business world, then there are some pieces of advice you should never buy into.
Today let’s talk about three.
- Believe in yourself.
On the surface that sounds like encouragement, right? Just believe in yourself, in your abilities, in your potential.
And on the surface there’s value in that statement. We do need to recognize our potential. We need to believe we’re capable of achieving our goals.
But first we need to recognize why. What is the real source of our abilities?
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
If there’s anything capable in us, it’s God.
He has the power. We are the conduit.
We’ve got to keep the order straight. God fuels us with talents so we can use those talents to serve others. We don’t generate the talents ourselves. That’s exhausting, and it’s not even possible. We have to stay plugged into the source.
In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
When, in our minds, success or failure becomes all about us… all about me me me, my capabilities, my passion, my determination… then we’ve completely missed the point. We will struggle to persevere or weather storms or keep any sort of consistency in our victories because we’re thinking that whether we rise or fall is all up to us, the human. And our flesh, our intelligence, our abilities have limits.
But when we acknowledge God as the source of those abilities, our potential is unimaginable.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20)
- Follow your heart.
Actually, please don’t. We hear this well-intentioned advice all the time, and on the one hand, I get it. What it’s saying is to do what brings you joy, what you believe is best for your life. But the Bible tells us:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Our hearts will lie to us. We were made to be emotional beings, yes, and emotions are designed by God, they’re a good thing—but like everything else in our flesh post-fall, our emotions are tainted. So we have to filter them through the truth of Scripture.
And here’s what Scripture says about getting what we want.
“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
That’s not a pinky-swear promise from God that if you love Him, He’ll give you whatever you ask for. It means if you take delight in Him—the more you seek Him, follow Him, spend time with Him—the better you’ll know Him, and the more closely your desires for yourself will align with His will for your life. You’ll want what God wants for you.
Here’s what that looks like in my work.
I’m an ideas person; you, too? I have a lot of ideas for projects or products I want to add to my business, or opportunities for partnering with people or trying new strategies… but just because I can pursue it or want to pursue it doesn’t mean it’s what God wants for me. So I take a moment to remember who’s Boss (with a capital B), to submit my desires for my business beneath God’s plan for my business, and I pray for God to make it clear whether or not I should follow through on that idea.
I don’t move ahead and do it and ask Him to bless it later. That’s still me putting myself in the driver’s seat.
I acknowledge God’s rightful place in the lead and ask Him to help me determine if this desire of mine is something He actually wants me to move toward. Because if it’s not? Then I don’t want to do it. Even if I think it’s the most brilliant idea I’ve ever come up with, my heart is deceitful. I have to check my desires, my ideas, my plans against God’s plan for me.
If He’s not opening the door, the worst thing I can do is try to shove it open anyway. If you’ve read the Bible, then you know ignoring God’s lead (a.k.a. disobedience) never ends well.
Sometimes God just slams doors shut and makes it really obvious what He does NOT want me to pursue.
And sometimes He opens doors that surprise and delight me. Doors I didn’t even know I was looking for.
So… should we follow our hearts? Only if they’re submitted to God’s heart. And that’s a daily commitment to putting Him first.
- The definition of instantly is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Maybe that one’s valid if what you’re doing is truly ineffective or harmful or stupid.
But stupid is in the eye of the beholder.
I want to tell you a little story to suggest maybe there’s a different way to look at this common adage.
There’s a scene in the gospel of Luke where Jesus is sitting in Simon Peter’s boat speaking to a crowd along a lakeshore. When he finishes preaching, he tells Simon to put the boat out into deep water and let the nets down for a catch.
“Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets,’” (Luke 5:5).
Can’t you just picture Simon rolling his eyes? Oh, come ON, Jesus, we already spent the entire night on this useless boat and I’m telling you, the fish aren’t biting. Been there, done that, ain’t gonna happen.
Again and again, Simon and his fishing buddies had tossed out their smelly old net with no results. Eventually they decided the fish had won this round, rowed back to shore—probably exhausted—and washed out their fishing gear. Time to go home and eat breakfast, right? So why does Simon drag his net back out anyway?
Because Jesus said so.
And look what happens.
“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” (Luke 5:6–7)
Wow. Jesus didn’t only give Simon what he hoped for—a net full of fish—but two boats filled with fish. So many fish, the darn boats couldn’t handle the load!
Peter could’ve chosen to tell Jesus no—there’s no point in rowing out again. We’ve been doing it over and over all night long to no avail. Doing it again and expecting different results… that’s crazy!
But Peter didn’t say that. He trusted Jesus even when the circumstances appeared fruitless. So Jesus rewarded Simon for his faith by giving him immeasurably more than he could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
What are you asking God for right now?
Where in your life are you tossing out your net time after time with no results?
For my fellow writers who are submitting article after article to that magazine or that publishing house and getting rejection letters every time.
Or the business owners who keep running those ads or sending those emails and you’re just waiting for the sales to crack open.
Or those of us who are praying—every—single—day—for that thing we so desperately desire. Day after day, you start doubting… will this never change.
But you keep praying anyway.
That’s not insanity.
Because at any moment, God could decide—today is the day. I’m going to fill your nets so full, your boat won’t be big enough to carry all my blessings.
“For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37).
Do you want to know the most interesting part of this story? In the end, after Simon had caught the biggest haul of his life—a catch that probably could’ve earned him a month’s or even a year’s worth of wages—he chose to walk away from it all.
“Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:10b–11)
In our businesses, we think we’re waiting for the big haul of fish— the 5-figure launch, the thousand-dollar-a-day ad spend profit, the huge partnership that’s going to bring in thousands of leads. We imagine that’s the goal, the answer to so many hard-fought prayers.
But Jesus says, not so. He has something more important in mind.
A chance to follow Him.
Maybe the purpose of your “insanity” is to draw you closer to our Savior. To discover how he fills your needs and knows everything you don’t know. Whatever your challenge is, even as you get up again tomorrow and face it all over again, will you trust him? Will you believe that one day he’s going to fill your net beyond capacity? Then maybe, just maybe, when that gift is in your hands, you’ll realize it’s nothing, really—compared to knowing the Giver.
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