Part three of an eleven-part series on “Habits of Highly Successful People”

Habit #2 – A Successful Person Accepts God on God’s Terms

By Kevin Riggs

When I was a child I loved wearing cowboy hats, boots and guns. It’s a miracle I didn’t injure my dog as many times as I lassoed him or rode him like a horse. My favorite football team was the Dallas Cowboys, and my favorite TV show was “Gunsmoke.” I was obsessed with being a cowboy.

My obsession was so strong that after viewing a commercial about Tony the Cowboy—a new brand of dog food with a picture of a dog standing on his hind legs dressed up like a cowboy—informed my parents that my name was no longer Kevin but Tony. My parents obliged, and for a short time I was “Tony the Cowboy.”

Recently, I had a déjà vu experience. I was in the kitchen when my son came in wearing his baseball cap backwards.

I asked, “Zachary, why is your hat on backwards?” With his hands on his hips, he looked me straight in the eyes and proclaimed, “My name is not Zachary. It’s Chunky.”

If I had to choose a nickname for my son, Chunky would not be first on my list. Nevertheless, my next question was obvious, “Who is Chunky?”

In detail, Zachary informed me that Chunky was one of the monkeys from the video game Donkey Kong. Chunky wears his hat backwards and is my son’s favorite character. For the next few days, my son’s name was Chunky.

The Second Commandment

The Second Commandment reads, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . . .” Another word for “graven image” is “idol.” In the Old Testament, an idol was something that was cut or shaped into an image representing a deity. An idol was man’s attempt to create a god in his image.

As Egyptian slaves, the Israelites were exposed to idols representing the sun, moon and stars. Because of their exposure to “graven images,” God went into great detail explaining this prohibition. He said, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

The Hebrew world consisted of three parts—(1) the earth, (2) the heavens and (3) the waters. By mentioning these three elements, God was saying there was nothing in the entire universe that could take His place, nothing in the universe that could adequately represent Him. God cannot and will not be made into an image.

God’s concern was not that His people would bow down to strange gods. He was concerned that they would make idols representing Him and worship the idol. The first commandment said, “Don’t worship false gods.” The second commandment says, “Don’t worship the true God falsely.”

Modern Day Idolatry

Cutting out gods or shaping God out of wood and stone is not a huge problem in most churches. So what relevance does the second commandment have for my life? At the heart of this commandment is a warning about misrepresenting God, shaping Him into the image I want Him to be, instead of accepting Him for who He is. There are several contemporary misconceptions of God that verge on idolatry. These images are more mental than metal, but they are images none the less.

I Irrelevant Philosophy

I have met people who view the very idea of God as an irrelevant, outdated belief system. Most Americans believe in the existence of God. But they believe that after He created the world He left it alone to run by itself. These people have shaped God into the image of a watchmaker.

D – Demanding Judge

God is often viewed as a harsh judge who sits on His throne waiting for people to make a mistake so He can zap them with lightning bolts. This is more a picture of the mythological Zeus than the biblical God. A tamer reflection is seeing God as the one waiting to ruin everyone’s fun.

O Old Grandfather

Grandfathers are loving and forgiving and would never harm anyone. There have been times in my life when I did not want a heavenly Father as much as I wanted a heavenly Grandfather who would let me do as I pleased.  Putting God in the image of a grandfather makes Him not as intimidating and easier to manipulate.

L Loving Nurse

A loving nurse is there to serve me when needed and leave me alone when not needed. I must confess there have times in my life been times in my life when I have treated God the same way. When I am in trouble, and not feeling well, He is just a prayer (or a nurse’s button) away. I want a God who is there to serve me, meet my every need and remove every pain. When I don’t need God, I want Him to stay out of the way, but be available at a moment’s notice.

S – Santa Claus

Santa is a job old man who exists to grant every wish. Oh sure, he keeps a list of who’s naughty or nice, but somehow, come Christmas Eve, the list is forgotten.

If I am not careful, I will treat God like Santa Claus. I will make out a list of what I want and expect Him to deliver. When He does deliver, I might leave him cookies and milk. If He doesn’t deliver, there is always the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy to comfort me.

All these views are my attempts to shape God into the image I think He should be instead of accepting Him for who He is. Each view violates the second commandment.

Habit #2

If the second commandment says, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . .,” then the second habit states, a highly successful person accepts God on God’s terms. I must accept God unconditionally. I must understand who God is, and I must accept God for who He is. In the second commandment God gives me some clues as to who He is.

1. God is holy

To say God is holy means He is perfect. After crossing the Red Sea, Moses and his sister Miriam, sang, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness?”

As a holy God, He expects me to be holy as well. God said to Moses, “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy.”

A highly successful person accepts the fact God is holy and expects him to be holy as well. A successful person quits making excuses and quits looking for a Cod who will say, “Oh, Kevin, I know you didn’t mean to do that. No one’s perfect.  Forget about it. Compared to other people you are not so bad.”

2. God is just

As a just God, He has every right to place the “iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? It’s not meant to be. It’s just a statement of fact.

3. God is just

Through love God created humankind after His image and in His likeness.  Out of love He gave Adam and Eve a free will. Adam and Eve abused this free will and as a result sin entered the world.  Because God is holy, He could not simply turn away and ignore sin. Sin had to be punished, and the just punishment for sin was eternal separation from God.

Miraculously and mercifully, however, God demonstrated how much He loved us by sending Jesus to pay the penalty for sin. The cross represents God’s love, justice and holiness. God’s holiness is fundamental. God’s justice is sure. But His love is far greater.

He said, “And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”  God’s love forgives me of my sins, breaks any curse that is on my family and prepares the way to bless my family for centuries to come.

Conclusion

McAuley Water Street Mission was named for Jerry McAuley. His father, a counterfeiter, fled home to escape the law; his mother languished in prison, so his grandmother raised him. When she couldn’t control him, he was sent to New York where he lived under the docks, drinking, fighting and stealing from boats. In 1857 he was caught and sent to Sing Sing Prison.

One Sunday while in prison, McAuley was herded to chapel. He was moody and miserable until he glanced on the platform and recognized a well-known prizefighter, Orville Gardner. The boxer told of finding Jesus, and McAuley listened attentively. He soon began reading the Bible, page after page, day after day.

Finally one night, resolving to kneel until he found forgiveness, he prayed and prayed. He later wrote in his journal, “All at once it seemed something supernatural was in my room. I was afraid to open my eyes; the tears rolled off my face in great drops, and these words came to me, ‘My son, thy sins, which are many, are forgiven.’”

He was released in 1864 and devoted the rest of his life to rescuing other incorrigibles. Twenty years later, on September 18, 1884, the huge Broadway Tabernacle was packed for his funeral. His Water Street Mission has been a haven of hope for over 100 years.

McAuley broke the curse of his parents and lived out the promise of God. Jerry McAuley understood the meaning of success, and his success continues to this day.

What about you? Have you broken the second commandment? Have you formed an image of God based on what you think He should be? Have you accepted God for who He is? Is your life a success? Are you preparing the way for your family to be blessed for generations to come?

Article adapted from Contact magazine, March 2002.