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I was a success. By almost any definition, I had it made. My wife, Diana, and I were living on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. My office in my home had direct access to the balcony. Looking over my desk through the windows or doors, I had a complete, unobstructed view of both the mountains and the ocean. A few times a month I would travel for a few days, giving talks on success strategies and positive thinking to companies in different parts of the world. Life was grand. My family life was better than ever. All in all, I had achieved the American dream. And, of course, I had accomplished it all by myself. No one helped me—least of all, God.
Then one evening as my wife and I were sitting on the deck, holding hands and watching the sunset, enjoying the peace of island living, Diana said, "Sweetie, we're so blessed. We really need to thank Jesus for all these blessings."
My response was immediate: "Thank Jesus?!? You should thank me! I'm the one who worked my heart out so we could live like this!"
Diana simply smiled, said, "Okay," and took five steps back to avoid the lightning strike.
And lightning did indeed strike.
But you need to know the beginning of the story.
I was raised, and still am, a committed Jew. I studied in yeshivas (schools of Jewish learning) both in the United States and in Israel for many years. To me, Jesus was nothing more than a Jew who had gone wrong—a false prophet, at best. There was no place in me and in my Judaism for Jesus. Diana knew this. For three years she prayed for me, as did her family, every morning and evening, that I would find a relationship with Jesus. So when Diana suggested I thank Jesus, it was not quite a suggestion to which I was open.
Then came the lightning strike. Against my better judgment, I accepted a position to take over a company in Dallas after new investors had purchased it. The promises were huge. They would take it public, and I would shortly have more money than I needed for my grandchildren to retire—and I was only thirty-three years old! I didn't perform any personal due diligence on the company or its new owners, who turned out to be much less than completely honest. After less than four months, I realized this was not a situation to be in, and I left the company. Four months—I had escaped with my integrity intact—no harm done.
Or so I thought.
Six months later the Federal Trade Commission sued me. I couldn't believe it. A five-year-old company—I was only there four months—and the new owners weren't even sued. Just the old owner, a former employee, and me. Why? It didn't make any sense to me. Of course, it turned out to be one of the greatest things that ever happened to me, but I didn't see it that way at the time.
All I saw was that a powerful branch of the United States government had just sued me personally for 85 million dollars!
My "positive thinking" hit a wall. As much as I tried, I couldn't "positively think" my way out of this lawsuit. For the first time in my life, I was utterly powerless. If there was something I did wrong—no problem, let me correct it. But I didn't. I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and there was nothing I could do about it. Days turned into weeks, which turned into months. There was no income coming in, and legal fees and other expenses were eating every dime of our savings. I had to move my family from a beautiful home on Kauai to a two-bedroom apartment in Dallas.
Depression hit, and it hit big. Still, Diana was nothing but supportive and loving. Her attitude never wavered. She was convinced that everything would be fine—that God would see us through this. Her "up" attitude drove me crazy! How could she be fine, when life was going down the drain? Looking back, I can now say that I was simply jealous of her calm. And I behaved how jealous people behave. I became angry and irrational. And went deeper into depression. I had those thoughts that many men have had at some point in their lives: I'm worth more to my family dead than alive. But my family wouldn't collect any insurance money if I committed suicide. So I had to make it look natural. For two straight weeks I couldn't sleep. I just didn't understand why this was happening to me. Finally, I came to what I now see as the greatest day of my life—a point of complete and total desperation. I had no way out—there were no positive options available to me. The prospect of one more sleepless night threw me into a fetal position on the floor, sobbing for hours.
Till this day I can't tell you why, but I got off the floor, and for the first time in my life I asked Jesus for help. Very simply, I said, "Jesus, if you're real, now is the time to show me, because there's not going to be a tomorrow. And I need help."
I can't quite articulate exactly what happened next. As best I can write it, I felt myself climb into bed, and it's as if two words were placed in my head. I didn't actually hear the words, but I felt them: Trust me. The amazing thing is, not only did I sleep through the night but I also woke up feeling at peace. It wasn't a lightning-bolt peace, but a simple, calm, life-changing peace that surpassed all my understanding. From that moment on, my life was no longer my own.
The change in me was dramatic, instant, and obvious. Everyone, from my attorney to my family and friends, asked, "What's wrong?"
I answered, "Absolutely nothing."
They replied, "But you seem so peaceful." To them, I was supposed to be a wreck. That's what I was until then, and that's the expectation I created. But I had a new not-so-secret power.
I made the commitment that I would never speak to a public audience again without giving my testimony. Yes, I would continue to speak about success principles, but I would base everything in my life, from my writing and speaking to my relationships, on the Word of God.
The United States government and the Federal Trade Commission didn't scare me anymore. I literally gave the entire situation up to my Father in heaven. After all, He was the one who could end it, not me.
At the advice of a friend, I even went so far as to change the caption on the lawsuit. It no longer read, "The Federal Trade Commission against Peter Hirsch." On my copy, the caption read, "The Federal Trade Commission against Peter Hirsch (and 10,000 angels in heaven, all of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ)." I literally wrote that in on my copy of the complaint. The visual impact was tremendous. No government in the history of the world could ever stand a chance against all that power.
I even followed Jesus' commandment and prayed for my enemies, the attorneys of the Federal Trade Commission. At first, I did it because Jesus said I should. The blessing went something like "Jesus, you say I should bless my enemies. I don't want to and don't even know if I mean it, but bless 'em. Amen." But soon the prayers became sincere, and I did pray for them to come to a closer relationship with Jesus and to know the peace and love that's available to them through that relationship. And as I prayed for them, I realized I was getting my own release. Praying for my enemies actually freed me from the bondage of my own negative thoughts. Powerful!
Diana was the first to point out that the lawsuit was a true blessing because it brought me to a relationship with Jesus. My initial reaction to that was "A vision would have been just fine." But the reality is, the lawsuit was a blessing. Issues in my life such as humility (or the lack thereof), gratitude (or the lack of it), pride, arrogance, conceit, and a host of others had to be dealt with. Plus, it was a pretty clear message that I needed to listen more to Diana. I absolutely believe that had I simply thanked Jesus that first time, when Diana asked me to, He could have dealt with me in a less dramatic way. I could just picture Father in heaven peering down over heaven's balcony, watching the scene as I refused to be thankful. With a half-smile and half-grin, He must have said, "Okay, Peter, you asked for it. You could have made it easier, but I guess you're choosing the long route. Well, here goes ..."
Yes, the lawsuit was a blessing. Never again will I doubt the awesome power of our Father in heaven and the love He has for us.
Indeed, the celebration of that love, and all the success attached to it, has become my mission in life.
That others would learn to lead a life of Success by Design—God's design—has become my passion.
For, you see, success has been given many different definitions by many different people. But God has only one definition. In God's eyes, you are a success if you acknowledge that you are His child. That is the bottom line. Our Father wants us to be successful, and He has given us the blueprint. It's called the Bible. Every secret to leading a successful, passionate life is in the Bible. I am merely drawing your attention to it. And success is not about money. It doesn't matter how much money you have, what kind of car you drive, or what kind of house you live in. It doesn't matter whether you drive a truck or fly rockets. Here's what does matter: knowing that you are a child of God; knowing that He loves you; and knowing that He wants to bless you. God, through Jesus Christ, said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10 nkjv).
For many of you, this seems silly and terribly naïve. I know. I used to think the same thing. But now I know without a doubt that true success will never come unless you first get yourself right with God through Jesus Christ. From this beginning, everything else in this book flows.
We've all heard it before: God first. It's true. If you implement any of the strategies that follow in this book without first getting right with God, you will have wasted your time as a reader and mine as a writer. So here's how it works: Get right with God, then implement the biblical secrets taught in this book. If you follow that order, I believe with all my heart success from God will begin to come your way.
Success by Design: Ten Biblical Secrets to Help You Achieve Your God Given Potentialby Dr. Peter Hirsch
Copyright © 2002, Dr. Peter Hirsch
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.