How does your Christian faith help you thrive in the secular world? What are the lessons to learn from the book of Daniel about how strengthening your faith can lead to being influential for God as you’ve never imagined?
Bible Gateway interviewed DeVon Franklin (@DeVonFranklin) about his book, The Hollywood Commandments: A Spiritual Guide to Secular Success (HarperOne, 2017).
You refer to the biblical story of Peter getting out of the boat as an inspiration to you. How so?
DeVon Franklin: In the book of Matthew in the New Testament, there’s a famous story that has always inspired me. It’s the story of Peter getting out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus. The disciples saw Jesus walking on water, and it scared them so much that they thought he was a ghost. Jesus said (Matthew 14:27-29), “Don’t be afraid…take courage. I am here.” But Peter was the only disciple to speak up and challenge this claim, saying, “Lord if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on water.” Jesus said, “Yes, come.” In that moment, Peter got out of the boat and did the impossible: he stepped onto the water and walked toward Jesus.
This story was the perfect metaphor for what I was feeling during a crucial time in my career. I was constantly praying, “Lord, do you have more for me? Is the dream you gave me ever going to happen?” In this moment, it was as if Jesus was saying, “Come.” But it also stopped me in my tracks. I realized that my studio executive job was the boat, and Jesus was my dream. In order for me to reach my dream, I was going to have to step completely out of my job. I was going to risk everything.
That’s the scariest thing about the story of Peter walking on water: he had no guarantee that the water would hold him. He risked drowning. Peter had to have faith that if Jesus was calling him to do this, somehow the water would transform underneath his feet into a firm surface he could walk on and not drown. But he wouldn’t know until he stepped out of the boat onto it. Peter had to make a leap of faith. In the same way, I wouldn’t know if I would fail or succeed until I had the faith to step out of my own boat and quit my job. In the end, it proved to be one of the best decision I’ve made in my career.
From your experience, how do you respond to people who say biblical principles work against secular success?
DeVon Franklin: I would tell those who say biblical principles work against secular success to look at the story of the Hebrew boys, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were given internships in the kingdom of Babylon. As foreigners, they felt confident they could do the job at hand, yet they had no idea if Babylon’s rules could be adapted to fit their faith. Rather than recuse themselves from doing the job, they asked if they could do it differently. Daniel and the Hebrew boys asked their supervisor if they could eat their own diet that reflected their beliefs. And in the end, it was that very diet that helped them excel and even be better at their jobs than all their peers. They learned in Babylon how to be successful in a secular environment by applying their spirituality in a way that enhanced their success.
This story inspired me because it helped me find the courage to pursue a career in Hollywood while adhering to my Christian beliefs. It was biblical principles that helped me maintain my values that only enriched my experiences in the secular world.
What lessons of success do you draw from the book of Daniel?
DeVon Franklin: In Daniel, God never condemns the fact that his people are working in Babylon. He uses Babylon as a tool to demonstrate how great he is—how universal and effective the ideas that come from his teachings are. When you live by your spiritual principles and enjoy secular success, you’re actually doing a service to the God you claim to worship. God never meant for his people to hermetically seal themselves within the church. The principles the Hebrew boys in the book of Daniel applied to their success came out of their desire to be successful spiritually. If they had stuck to what they had learned in the synagogue, they would never have achieved true success. God wants us to ground ourselves in profound spirituality and faith, and then venture boldly into our careers.
What is your definition of success?
DeVon Franklin: I define success as a deep sense of peace, and we find the most peace when we live out our true calling and fulfill the purpose we were created for. History is filled with examples of people who had an abundance of material possessions but no peace because no matter how much stuff you have, there’s not enough money in the world to fill the hole in your soul.
Explain what you mean when you say, “Your prayers alone aren’t enough.”
DeVon Franklin: Prayer is important. It’s the cornerstone of our relationship with God, our private time with the creator. In addition to that, preparing and taking action is as important as praying. Preparation is for our benefit and edification. Preparation is also bold faith in action. You pray because you believe God is going to do what you’ve prayed for. But we have to put in the work and prepare so that when the harvest comes, we’re ready!
How does a person “carry a crown before wearing one”?
DeVon Franklin: God has an extraordinary destiny in mind for you, as he does for all of us. God will never bring you an opportunity before you’re ready to make the most of it, and the career world demands that you prove yourself. So, before you can lead, you have to serve. Service often has a negative connotation. We want to be the one at the top, calling the shots, making the decisions, and getting the glory. But it’s useful to step back and look at examples of people who took the service mentality to heart. The greatest example of this is Jesus, who said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). His whole life was an example of someone who could have sought glory and power but instead sought to serve everyone. In time, you’ll wear the crown, but first, you must carry one for someone else.
How difficult is it to be a Christian executive in Hollywood? And how do you keep your Christian priorities straight?
DeVon Franklin: Being a Christian executive in Hollywood has proven not to be difficult, but instead, it has contributed to me fulfilling my destiny. Hollywood respects the maverick, the person who’s unique and has the confidence to defy the system and everyone who tells them they’re wrong in order to follow their vision. It’s been me embracing by Christianity that has made me different, unique, and of value in my industry.
Maintaining who I am and who God wants me to be throughout my career is what keeps me on the path to having the career I desire. I know what I value, and I never deviate from that no matter what. For example, I do not work on the Sabbath, and I put God first, always.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
DeVon Franklin: My favorite Scripture is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” God is our strength; his love, demonstrated through us, can move mountains and change hearts. Being a Christian is actually a competitive edge; provided that you place your faith first above even your professional aspirations. Even if in the past you’ve compromised and slid partway down that slippery slope, it’s still possible to find your way back. If I’ve learned anything, it’s this: to get where you want to go, you first have to become the person God wants you to be.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
DeVon Franklin: Bible Gateway has created a way to make the Word of God accessible and reflective of the technological world we live in. Bible Gateway has proven that embracing innovation can bring people closer to God. I’ve used unconventional ways to bridge the gap between the secular and the spiritual worlds in my own career, so I admire Bible Gateway’s bold, brilliant, and effective way of contributing to the spiritual journeys of many people around the world.
Bio: In addition to being a successful Hollywood producer, DeVon Franklin also helps people experience spiritual, business, and relational success through his bestselling books. He and his wife, Meagan Good, co-authored The New York Times bestseller, The Wait and The Wait Devotional, which reveals the benefits of waiting and delayed gratification to build a true love that lasts. DeVon’s first book, Produced By Faith, was also a bestseller, featured on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and explains how to build a thriving career without compromising your faith. His new book, The Hollywood Commandments, was recently released in September 2017 and draws on DeVon’s 20+ years of experience in entertainment to help readers achieve an amazing life and a thriving career that glorifies God.
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