The modern secular world puts pressure on us to leave our faith at the office door lest we offend someone or appear to be forcing our beliefs on others. Yet we should seriously consider that our work is a vocation, a calling from God to serve others regardless of what career field we have chosen. Putting our life’s work in God’s hands and living our faith at the office gives new purpose to the daily grind and allows our Creator to use us as instruments in His Divine Plan.
This is the theme of an excellent book by DeVon Franklin called Produced by Faith. Mr. Franklin is a Hollywood executive and producer (and part-time preacher!) whose resume includes the successful remake of The Karate Kid and the upcoming film Jumping the Broom (in theaters on May 6, 2011). Franklin truly lives his Christian faith in an environment that glorifies fame, fortune and worldly possessions. He achieved success at a very young age by allowing God to direct his career and by refusing to compromise his Christian values. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his new book and how his faith has shaped his successful career.
Peggy Bowes: You had many obstacles to overcome during childhood— your dad died, and you were raised by single mother who was on welfare at one point. How can other young people rise above their circumstances to achieve success in life?
DeVon Franklin: Never get down on yourself because of circumstances you face. A lot of things happen in life that you can’t control. I couldn’t control my father passing. I could control how I responded to it. When you go through difficult times or tragedy, prayerfully ask God to bring you through it. Also, learn things in the tragedy that He wants you to use to get you into your purpose. Even through the most difficult circumstances, God has a plan for us. As difficult as it was to lose my father at a young age, going to church and being exposed to the Word really helped me to understand that even though I didn’t have a physical father, I did have a heavenly Father. He was there for me and had a plan for me, and I found a lot of hope in that.
Peggy: You use a lot of Scripture in your book; that really brings it all together. Those ancient words still speak to us today.
DeVon: Yes! I was very mindful of not only writing a book that touches on the experiences I had but also a book that ties into the Word because to me that validates all the things I talk about and experiences that God has blessed to have in this business. I did want to make a direct connection between my experience and what God has already said.
Peggy: I loved the story about how you quit a dead-end job at a Hollywood studio in a leap of faith, but I was really impressed when you started fasting. True penitential fasting is the root of many faiths but is rarely practiced today. How can fasting help us reach our goals and achieve success?
DeVon: I think with fasting, part of what God requires is sacrifice. In Romans, Paul speaks about the idea of presenting your body as a living sacrifice. There’s no question that fasting is a sacrifice, whether it’s fasting from food or fasting from television or electronics, whatever it might be. For me, fasting was a signal to me and a sign to God about how serious I am about pursuing His purpose in my life. If it required me to go without food, I was willing to do it because I don’t want to have any barrier between what God plans for me and what I’m pursuing.
We like to be comfortable! Sometimes there’s a resistance to fasting because we don’t like the discomfort that it brings. I would encourage anyone to think about where they want to go in life. If you are committed to where you want to go, then there are things that are in your control and that you can affect when you fast. Why wouldn’t you fast? Why wouldn’t you show God that you’re serious about your calling and your plan? The Word tells us there’s certain types of power that will come only through prayer and fasting. For me, it was a very valuable tool.
Peggy: I liked how you tied your theme to the movie-making process, but your advice can apply to people of any profession. The quote you use in the book by Martin Luther King, Jr. is especially applicable: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
DeVon: The reason why I love that quote is that it’s all about service. On my computer, I have a little tag that says “Be of service.” Sometimes in our career pursuits we think about “What am I going to get out of it?” I think we should change that point of view. When we’re following God and we’re committed to Christ and we’re pursuing our career, it shouldn’t be about “What I can get out of it?” but “Who can I help? Who can I serve?”
Sometimes we look down upon those menial tasks. When I was an intern and an assistant, it required a lot of photocopying, a lot of filing, a lot of scheduling, a lot of answering the phone, and there can be a tendency to get frustrated with those small things. But I looked at those things as if I was I was an executive doing it. I would file with purpose. I would make copies with purpose. When you approach even the smallest task with a purpose, ultimately it’s not about serving your boss but serving God. God has put you in that job and provided an opportunity for you to make a living so why would you look down upon the small things?
Jesus said in the Parable of the Master and the Talents, “You’ve been faithful over a few things. Now I’m going to make you ruler over many. Come and join your master’s happiness.” We have a tendency to look down upon the things that are “insignificant,” but those are the things that are incredibly significant. That Martin Luther King, Jr. quote ties directly into that. We shouldn’t look at anything as small because being faithful over the small, seemingly insignificant things are ultimately the things that will help us get what we desire in business.
Peggy: A lot of people are facing unemployment and a tough job search in these troubled times. You talk about that in your book.
DeVon: Yes, that’s one of the larger points of the book. There have been times in my career that I have struggled. I’ve had dreams, I’ve had hope, I’ve had beliefs, and a situation that I was in did not give me any evidence that my dreams were going to come to fruition. If you’re unemployed or your job has been downsized, what has given me tremendous hope is remembering how God looks at my life and how God looks at our lives. We’re just in one scene in the story that God is trying to tell us. It’s just one scene. Don’t write God’s name out of your script because you’re in one scene. Any great hero goes through some tough times, but they always prevail. I promise you that God has a plan to set you up at the right company, at the right time, in the right position. Just don’t give up on Him and continue to stay committed to the process of success no matter how long it takes. It’s going to happen. It will absolutely happen. When you look at your life as a movie, you say “Okay, it’s just one scene. Lord, give me enough faith to make it through this scene.” I promise you He’ll do it.
Peggy: I interviewed another Christian producer who said he enjoyed being open about his faith in Hollywood because there are so many people who are “living the life” but still aren’t happy. They want to know his secret to happiness. Do you find the same thing happens to you?
DeVon: I do find that there are a lot of people who aren’t entirely happy. Part of it, I think, is because there’s a lack of contentment or a feeling you can’t be open and honest about who you are. For me, the key to happiness and contentment is reminding myself that it’s not so much about the destination. One of the quotes in the book is, “To get where you want to go, you first have to become the person God wants you to be.” There’s an easy tendency when you’re ambitious to focus on “Where am I going? When am I going to get there?” Part of being content and happy is to flip it and say, “Who am I becoming? God, who do you want me to be?” If I focus on those things, and I become the right person, and I allow my character to be perfected, and I allow God’s work in my life, then the destination is just that. It’s just a destination, but it’s all about enjoying who I am and the journey that I’m on. I always try to remind myself of that perspective because it’s really easy to lose it. When you focus on “Oh, I gotta get here and I gotta get there,” then you become upset, and you become frustrated, and you become angry because any little thing can change that. When we focus on who we are and who God wants us to be, I believe that’s a real key to fundamentally having joy and being content.