Reflections on Success: Part 8 – Stewarding the Success You Didn’t Want, A Personal Example

By Mark D. Roberts

August 1, 2018

But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.

Genesis 39:21-23


Today, we wrap up our short series of reflections on success, based on the story of Joseph in Genesis 39. As you may recall, yesterday, we focused on Joseph’s success as a manager in prison, considering how we might deal with success that we never sought or wanted. In this devotion, I want to share a personal example with you of how I have tried to be a faithful steward of unwanted success.

Hands on a typewriter.As I shared earlier in this series, I used to dream about being a successful writer of books. As one academically trained, I considered writing articles for prestigious journals very important; publishing books was even better. As my professional life moved from the academy to the church, book publishing continued to be evidence of success. Not only did the most influential pastors write books; their books were bought and read by the multitudes of people.

Between 2002 and 2005, I authored four books that were published by excellent publishers. My sales figures weren’t terrible, but they weren’t impressive, either. My four books probably sold around 5,000 copies each. This was as discouraging to me as it was to my publishers. For whatever reasons, my books just weren’t selling in great numbers. As of today, I’d estimate that my six print books have sold around 40,000 copies, total. Not terrible, but nothing to brag about in the book publishing world.

Meanwhile, in 2003 I started blogging. I didn’t have any grand vision for my blogging effort. I just tried to write things that were helpful to readers. In time, my blog traffic began to grow. It kept on growing over the years, much to my surprise, even when I stopped blogging regularly. My biggest traffic day so far was Good Friday of 2015, during which my blog received over 43,495 visitors. This means that on one day I had more readers of my blog than the total of all readers of all of my books. That’s a kind of success, to be sure, but success I never sought nor particularly wanted. (My blog, by the way, can be found here.)

Then, in 2008, I found myself writing something altogether new and different in my work with the H.E. Butt Family Foundation (Laity Lodge). My colleague Dan of The High Calling invited me to write “just a few devotional reflections” for their subscription list of around 4,000 people. I had never aspired to be a writer of devotions, but I figured I’d help Dan out by writing a few. When the response from readers was positive, I wrote a few more. Pretty soon, I found myself as the principal writer of The Daily Reflections. By the time I completed my work at the Foundation, I had written over 1,500 devotions and they were being sent out to more than 25,000 people each day. This was encouraging, to be sure, but, once again, nothing I had ever wanted to achieve.

Honestly, I still think of myself as a wannabe writer of books. But, for God’s own reasons, he has chosen to bless my writing in other genres, specifically in blogging and daily devotions. How have I responded to this unexpected success? I have sought to be faithful. I have tried to be a good steward of the gifts and opportunities God has entrusted to me. I have also worked on not envying the book publishing success of others. Rather, I seek each day to do well what God has given me to do, leaving to God the matter of my success (or lack thereof).

Moreover, I am learning to be grateful for opportunities God has given me in my work. Though I never aspired to be a writer of daily devotions, I am deeply thankful for the amazing opportunity to share with you and with so many others the truths of Scripture and how they matter for our lives and leadership. It’s a genuine privilege to be able to help you know God and his Word better and to lead you in prayer each day. For this wonderful opportunity, thanks be to God!

Something to Think About:

Have you experienced in your life something like I have portrayed in this devotion?

As you look at your life and work, has God entrusted you with opportunities and responsibilities you never sought? How have you received these?

If you set your heart today on giving to God all that you are through your work, what might you do differently? How might this commitment affect your thoughts, feelings, and actions?


Gracious God, it is certainly true that your ways are not our ways. As I think of my life, I’m amazed by how you have blessed me, and by how many of your blessings have been unexpected or even unwanted. Thank you for your wisdom and grace in my life.

Help me, Lord, to be a faithful steward of all you entrust to me. May I receive your gifts with gratitude. May I be well used in your service, even today. May I do everything for your sake, leaving the issue of success in your hands. Amen.


This post was originally published on January 25, 2016.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project:
Joseph, the Accidental Executive: Interview with Al Erisman

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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