Uninterrupted success, praise, or advancement is not good for any Of us. Periodic reverses, criticisms, and even failures are needed to keep us humble, teachable, and growing. Otherwise we are prone to become heady, egotistical, and superficial—thinking that, because of pressure, we can "get by" with inferior work, inadequate preparation, or mediocre effort, but this is a ruinous policy to pursue. So, in His wisdom and love, God brings, or at least allows, necessary trials to blend with our triumphs, and in mercy mingles protecting somber shadows with our sunshine. .
Rightly received, setbacks may thus become steppingstones to success. These experiences may not seem joyous at the moment, but if we will only permit them, setbacks, criticisms, failures in results—even the rejection Of a rnanuscript—I will stimulate us to growth and development and keep us on the upward way. Otherwise, most of us tend to develop a self-confidence that unwIttingly places less and less dependence upon God.
When we get by once on superficial preparation, and then a few times more, we tend to depend on our momentum to get us through in the future. We thereby cease to strive and to grow. We fail to obey the inexorable law of life that success and growth come by hard work, and not by mere brilliance, favoring circumstances, or pleasing personality. So, it is a good thing to be the recipient, periodically, of a searching criticism, rebuke, Or challenge from a fellow worker or a layman.
People know whether we are feeding them wheat or chaff. We cannot, and do not, deceive them. It is tragic to see how some workers have the temerity to go before the congregation with little or no preparation, depending upon past study, past notes, and the inspiration of the moment. God assuredly does help in emergencies. But when we make these emergencies constant and chronic, they assume the form of presumption. God never blesses presumption nor condones mental laziness. Neither will He compensate when we continually allow the pressure of routine mechanics to crowd out the thoughtful preparation imperative for feeding the people.
When a manuscript, for example, is returned from an editor, study it to see whether you did not presume a good deal in sending it. It may be that your previous articles had been accepted and perhaps recast and edited into proper shape by the accommodating editor, but that none of them came up to par. Did you send it, excusing yourself by saying, "It is just as good as some others I have seen in that paper"? Was it built around a real gem thought? Did you think it through so as to present it in the most effective phrasing? Was it of sufficient value to justify acceptance? Did you revise and polish it sufficiently to make it worthy of publication, or did you expect an indulgent editor to do what you should have done?
Remember, a periodical may not need your article, but you need the training, experience, and prestige that successful Writing will bring to you. The minister is greatly advantaged who can put his thoughts on paper in appealing, effective form. It clarifies his own thinking and strengthens his power of utterance to others. He thus enlarges his influence for good. Let your rejection slip be a challenge, therefore, to avoid that pitfall a second time. Do not become angry and resentful. That only hurts; it never helps.
Success is built on toil and a willingness to work harder than one's fellows--to be satisfied with nothing less than a superior effort or product. Nothing can take the place of downright work. When we forget this, and try the short cuts, the bumps are bound to come to jar us back to solid work. Accomplishment is the cumulative result of a long period of application and effort. Let us by God's grace make our setbacks real steppingstones to success.
L. E. F.