Benjamin Franklin was the thirteenth child of a humble soap-and-candle maker. Obviously, no family fortune provided him easy success in life. Neither did a stellar performance in school that would lead to scholarships. His formal education lasted all of two years, from ages eight to ten. Yet Ben became:
- a respected publisher
- the country’s first millionaire
- a world-famous scientist
- an influential voice as the thirteen colonies fought for independence and established a nation
- a distinguished diplomat in Europe
No wonder Franklin was proclaimed a self-made man. But there are other factors, outside his control, that contributed to his success, including:
His varied accomplishments as writer, statesman, and diplomat prove his sharp intellect.
Ben was curious and skeptical–useful attributes for a scientist. His astuteness, sense of humor, and ability to communicate served him well as publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanac. And all of these traits came into play when Franklin participated in the forming of our nation.
Surely Ben was an energetic and passionate individual. He was always in pursuit of something—things like:
- Solving problems. Numerous inventions credited to Franklin grew out of need. For example, his desire to create more heat in his home led to his invention of the wood stove.
- Acquiring new knowledge. Ben attempted his well-known key-and-kite experiment because of his curiosity about lightning.
- Improving the lives of his fellow colonists. Franklin wrote, met with other delegates, sought the help of France, and more, in America’s struggle to gain independence from England. In 1789, at age 84, he was still writing and working. His cause? The abolition of slavery in America.
Franklin was often in the right place at the right time. One example: through his connections in the publishing industry of Philadelphia, Ben secured a contract to print the colony’s paper money.
Seems that Ben’s success had much to do with factors outside his control. These elements just mentioned–intelligence, character, temperament, and opportunity–came from God. In fact, for all of us, “Our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
In reality, the idea of a self-made man/woman is myth. No one is truly self-sufficient.
On the other hand, God has ordained work and effort. From beginning to end, scripture proclaims the value of industry. In Genesis 2:15 we see God placing Adam in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul says, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
So how do we balance working with our God-given abilities and depending on God?
- Pray. Thank God for the gifts he has given us. Then prayerfully seek to determine what God is doing and cooperate with him. If we are earnest in this desire, he’ll make each step clear. As seminary professor, Howard Hendricks, used to say: God does not play hide-and-seek in the trees with his will.
- Nourish. The effectiveness of our giftedness requires preparation and inspiration. Preparation includes study and practical experience. (Even a talented pianist must take lessons and practice.) Preparation includes nourishing the spirit, too, with study of scripture and practical experience of worship and service. Inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit as he works within us.
- Embrace. Embrace the teaching of wise, godly leaders. Embrace the help of others. Keep in mind that self-sufficiency is not a praiseworthy quality; it’s a form of pride. The person who thinks he knows everything and needs no input, or who is too proud to ask for help, is someone to be pitied, not celebrated.
As dependents upon God, we are meant to work. As workers, we are meant to be dependent upon God.
(“The God of heaven will give us success”–Nehemiah 2:20)
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I praise you, Father, for being my all-sufficient God, Someone I can trust completely for guidance, direction, and training. Help me find that balance between working for you and depending on you. May I not neglect preparation, but also look to you for inspiration. And may I be a humble, grateful recipient of help. Amen.