What is the biggest enemy of growth?
And I’m talking about growth in all areas of life. It could be personal growth, spiritual growth, relational growth, or financial growth. It could be the growth of a company. It could be the growth of a church (A topic I am most interested in these days!). It could be the growth of physical exercise goals. It could be the growth of something as big as a nation or as small as reading list.
The point of this blog isn’t to define what area of growth you may be focused on, it’s to define what the biggest threat to growth exists. Is there a universal enemy of growth that can at best slow down progress and at worst reverse it all together? If such an enemy does exist, what is it and how can it be identified?
Because if it can be identified, then it can be avoided, meaning growth can still continue.
So what is the biggest enemy of growth?
Is it external factors? Maybe conflict with people? Perhaps the biggest enemy of growth is the failure to anticipate problems before they arise? How about a lack of talent, ability, or education? What about background and upbringing? Or maybe the biggest threat to growth is the consequences of past mistakes?
While I have to admit that all those things are absolutely a threat to growth, I’m not sure they are the biggest threat to growth that exists.
I believe that there is a bigger threat out there that tends to stop all growth and momentum in its tracks and can cause the downfall of people, companies, organizations, and even nations.
Before I tell you what it is, let me walk you through the process God brought me through recently to see it.
Over the past couple of weeks, my personal bible study time has had me going through the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles. For those not familiar with the content of these books of the bible, they record the life and times of the Kings of Israel and Judah during the days before Jesus Christ and the Roman Empire. These books have always been my favorite to read as they contain heroes, villains, high moments of tension, raw emotions, and complicated plots.
As I read the books again over the last couple of weeks I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated. Even though I was reading about the characters, settings, nations, and people for the umpteenth time for some reason this time felt different. I grew more and more frustrated at each of the kings written about in these books as I saw a pattern in them that was pretty consistent. What frustrated me was a character arc that saw them start out with dreams and visions about what they are going to do and going to accomplish for their nations then see all of those dreams come tumbling down in some way or another. Some started out looking to God for help and support. Others, such as almost every king from the northern nation of Israel, didn’t look to God but instead relied on their own human strength or other gods they had created to worship
But no matter what source they looked to, there was still a pattern in their character arc that I noticed. The pattern I noticed was that some of their most crushing defeats came after some of their most monumental victories. For those who had success, at some point they seemed to just blow it and make incredibly poor choices that at best caused them minor inconvenience and at worst caused them to lose their throne, their families, and their lives.
The list is pretty exhaustive as to who followed this pattern. Starting with King David, who at the height of his power threw it all down the drain when he slept with another man’s wife and then had the man killed to cover it up, eventually causing him to go on the run from his own son later in his life. I then looked at his son Solomon, who built a massive and beautiful temple for God but then somehow threw it all away and at the end of his life, in the book of Ecclesiastes, called his exploits meaningless. This pattern went on and on from Jehu of Israel, to Hezekiah of Judah, to others. It seemed that those who won the biggest battles were the ones who had the biggest falls.
As I began to look at the patterns of these kings set out in these books of the bible, I began to really study them to find out what it was that stunted their growth. Why did it seem that as soon as they won a big battle, or finished a big project, or secured their throne that sooner rather than later they were suffering some sort of defeat.
If these kings knew success, then what stopped their growth? What caused them to stop striving and seeing more success? What factor caused them to at best slow down the growth of themselves and the nation and at worst undo all the good they had done?
After studying each life of each king, I found one primary factor that stunted their growth.
That factor is still the biggest enemy of growth today.
Wanna know what it is?
That’s right! The very thing that we all strive to have in our lives, success, is also the biggest threat to our growth. It was for the kings of Israel and Judah and it is for us today.
Why is success the #1 threat you might ask?
Looking back at the kings of those great nations, the factor that caused their undoing was their attitude toward success. Start with King David. At the height of his power, when he had it all, there is telling passage about him in 2nd Samuel chapter 11 that states “In the spring of the year, when kings go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelites out to fight.” Because he wasn’t out fighting, he noticed a young married woman named Bathsheba and made the choice to have an affair with her.
Why didn’t he go out to war like he had done so many times? The scriptures don’t say specifically but I have my theory. Success had made him satisfied. Success had made him feel like he had arrived. Success lured him into a false sense of security and pride. Success whispered in his ear, “You’ve already accomplished so much, why don’t you take it easy for a season.”
The same pattern happens to other kings that followed him as well. If you look at it closely, the one common factor that seemed to run through some of the biggest failures of some of the biggest names is that once they got a taste of success they let their guard down, opening up the door to some of their biggest failures.
Success can do the same thing to you and I as well if we let it.
Isn’t it crazy that the one thing we seek in life, success, can turn into the biggest threat to take us down? So is it bad to want success? No. Is it wrong to be successful and to see growth in the areas we set our heart to? Again, no. Is success inherently bad? I still believe that the answer is no. If success were so bad, in and of itself, then why were we wired to want to strive for growth and accomplishment in our lives? It is God himself who gives us purpose, and purpose fulfilled equals success.
It’s not success that is bad. It’s the byproducts of success, if we allow it, that can cause some of the biggest failures in our lives.
The byproducts of success are feelings of accomplishment, pride in the work that has been done, and a sense of purpose fulfilled. The problem arises when those feelings are carried to an extreme and instead of cultivating the necessary disciplines that lead to continued success we begin to believe that our success was derived by other means, causing our focus to slip.
Instead of working hard, we begin to hardly work.
Instead of believing in in a vision, we begin to believe our own press clippings.
Instead of using what our critics say as fuel and opportunities for growth, we began to use what our critics say as ammunition to criticize them back.
Instead of looking ahead to an unknown future ripe with potential, we look more into the security of the past.
Instead of creative problem solving, we delve into typical finger pointing.
Instead of making solutions we make excuses.
“Can Do” turns into “Can’t do.”
Slowly but surely, if left unchecked, this pattern can stunt our growth and cause performance to lag.
Again, success is not bad! I want success in the areas I put my focus on and I’m sure you do too.
But how many times have you and I allowed the byproducts of success to stunt our growth? How many times have we had success in an area, only to slowly allow the negative byproducts of success erode the momentum and gains we’ve made? If I’m honest, there’s been plenty of times I’ve allowed this to happen in all areas of my life.
But God is teaching me the secret to continual growth. It’s in a phrase that is becoming one of those foundational pieces for me to live by.
“Humble and Hungry”
I’m in a season where after every success I might have, in any area, I feel the whisper of God speak to me the phrase “Humble and Hungry.” It’s as if He is reminding me, every day of my life, that if I will stay humble and stay hungry that He will bring continued success and growth in my life.
And I’m realizing that staying humble and hungry is something God will not do for me. He asks me to cultivate these qualities myself. I’m learning that if every day, in all moments, I will stay humble and hungry that I will see sustained and monumental growth.
How can I reach my fitness goals? Staying humble and hungry.
How can I reach my financial goals? Staying humble and hungry.
How can I reach my relational goals? Staying humble and hungry.
“How can I see Radiant church grow and reach this city for Jesus Christ? You guessed it, staying humble and hungry. “
This past Saturday we had our first Radiant Launch Meet. It was a night to cast vision, make new friends, and see long time friends commit to joining the journey with us as we launch a church in Middle Georgia. It was a wonderful night full of God’s presence and just plain ol’ fun! I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better.
I would absolutely call the night a success.
So how did I feel the next morning when I woke up? Did I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride at to what God had done? You bet I did! But I also, deep down, felt the whisper of God in my ear that asked me to stay humble and hungry. To keep fighting for the lost in this community. To not stop casting vision. To never let up on building, step by step, the church He has placed in my heart to plant.
Did I take a moment and celebrate the success that occurred Saturday evening. Sure did! But I didn’t let that success take away from the vision God placed on my heart. I didn’t let the success weigh me down from a future that He has asked me to build. I didn’t let our “win” derail me from waking up Monday morning with my work hat on ready to continue building a culture and a church that will shout the fame of Jesus.
Humble and Hungry. Every day, all day.
So what about you? What are the areas you need to humble yourself in? How can you stay hungry to accomplish your goals even when they get hard? How will you take your successes and turn them into fuel to create future successes? What are the areas where you look more to the comfort of the past as opposed to the opportunity of the future?
Where have you replaced “Can do” for “Can’t do?”
Do you view the words of your critics as growth opportunities or fight opportunities? Do you spend your time problem solving or finger pointing? How many excuses do you currently use for your areas of growth? Do you believe your own hype?
Has growth slowed down or stopped in your life? If so, why?
These questions are hard ones to answer and I am in no position to answer them for your life. You have to be the one to answer them but I promise if you are honest with yourself, you have just started back on the path to growth.
Growth is never easy and is rarely comfortable, but it’s always worth it. I don’t know about you, but I’m not here on this earth to stay stagnant, comfortable, and stale. I long for growth in my life and there’s only one way to do it: Stay humble and stay hungry
Wherever you are today, my prayer for you is that you would grow and reach the God given potential He has laid out in front of you. Don’t let success weigh you down. Throw yourself into the middle of His story for your life and you will look back at the end of it and see a life that was worth living.
You can do it.
Stay humble, stay hungry.