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In Theory: Does all worldly success come directly from God?

March 01, 2011

Q. Many successful sports, showbiz and business people credit faith in God for their success. But a recent article in the Wall Street Journal discusses winners at this year’s Grammy awards and their belief that it’s not just faith that’s driven them to the top of their profession — God actually chose them to be successful over other musicians. As Christina Aguilera’s mother says, “We thought there must be some divine intervention. Early on, I realized…God has plans for her.”

The article’s author, Neil Strauss, calls this “competitive theism” and says, “As I compiled and analyzed these interviews for my new book, I reached a surprising conclusion: Believing that God wants you to be famous actually improves your chances of being famous.” Interestingly, he also concludes that an individual believes this regardless of his or her own personal morality, thus justifying a faith in God from artists whose lyrics and behavior may seem very un-Christian.

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Do you think a strong religious faith can help people succeed in highly competitive fields such as sports and pop music? And is a multi-millionaire pop singer any more deserving of special attention from God than someone striving to find the cure for cancer, or anyone else for that matter?

As always, there are at least two truths going on here; and as always, it is arrogance and folly to judge which one is happening in someone else’s soul.

On the one hand, there is, indeed, such a thing as giftedness; people of faith believe that these gifts are of God. When you’re “in the zone” of the best thing you do, when you’re soaring high on the uplifting currents of everything that’s possible in human excellence — if you’re a person of faith, you feel God with you in that. You feel, in your very marrow, God’s delighting in you then.

And caught up in that ecstasy of God’s delight, the natural and appropriate response is an expression of gratitude and humility. It is perfectly right for those who have felt God singing in their blood and surging through their gifts to say, “It is not I who am responsible for all this excellence. I must admit, this is from God, and I am merely a vessel of grace for this great thing.”

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