Do you hope for tried and true steps to lasting success?
Which work for every worthy venture on planet earth?
You want it to be clear and easy to understand?
“What’s it going to cost me,” you ask?
Here’s the entire cost up front: A little of your time & attention, and a lot of effort. That’s all it costs.
If you are reading further, I suppose you’ve decided to invest a little time and attention. So let’s move on to our efforts.
- TRUST IN GOD
- Be Willing to Change
- Be Determined & Persevere
Step one: Defining Success.
I have a certain friend who loved to flaunt what he felt was his success. He had more money than most anyone else in our circle of acquaintances. He had more material possessions, and he had a great deal of influence in the world. He also had lots of associates who held him in high esteem. The sad part, however, is that he was not/is not happy; in fact he suffers great depression. Recently, the Lord allowed his entire life to come unraveled. His wife left him, his dog actually died, and his business was in the toilet. God was vying for this man’s attentions, and trying to teach him what real success is all about.
“When our ideas of success are contingent upon bank balances, popularity, influence over others, titles, or any other worldly endeavor, it is extremely temporary! Our success will be as fictional as Marvel’s superhero character, The Flash. Those temporal things can end in a blink of The Flash’s eye.”
Just as with my sad friend, most people today believe the definition of success that the world programs us to believe. We’ve heard it ever since we were toddling around in diapers. “You can do anything you want to do in life.” We are told “Just believe in yourself and try hard enough.” Here in America it is often billed as “The American Dream”. We’ve been taught things such as: “You can even be the President of the United States.” Or, “You can be the best.”
Right out of the starting gate we are programmed to think from an egocentric perspective: It’s all about me. But these notions are diametrically opposed to God’s outline of success for every individual on earth.
When our ideas of success are contingent upon bank balances, popularity, influence over others, titles or any other worldly endeavor, it is extremely temporary! Our success will be as fictional as Marvel’s superhero character, The Flash. Those temporal things can end in a blink of The Flash’s eye.
For Christians, even our identity is bound up in who and what Christ is. Our lives are centered on and around God (theocentric). Instead of struggling to be the best, where our efforts are zeroed in on ourselves, it’s all about Jesus. Our efforts are to serve Him, and to exalt Him in the best way we are able. We make Him the best instead of striving to make ourselves the best. Accordingly, when we do so, God elevates us to the best that we can be. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1st Peter 5:6
When we discipline ourselves to conform to God’s way of doing and thinking, He rewards us with success. But exactly what is God’s idea of success?
We will be offering God’s definition of success in increments, because success involves many things. It affects every area of our lives, including our finances, our station in life, our popularity, and more. We’ll discuss each of these in turn. But first let’s look at the most prominent characteristics of biblical success.
Success is taking the talents, skills and gifts that God has blessed us with, and putting them to work in a way that does the following.
- Trusts God
- Brings Glory to God
- Increases (Returns a Harvest)
- Keeps us Busy
This is not being the “Master of your own Destiny,” as we are taught by the world. Our destiny is in God’s hands, and we must trust Him enough to do things His way. In the Parable of the Talents (Mathew 25:14-30) Jesus indicates the criteria by which our lives as Christians will be measured.
In this teaching Jesus shows 3 servants, representing 3 children of God. There are three for a reason. The first two receive exactly the same rewards (verses 21 & 23). But they were given different amounts to work with. One had been given 5 talents to work with, and the next servant was given 2 talents to work with. The third servant received 1 talent to work with. The first man went to work with what his master had given him, five talents. He increased what he’d been given to double the amount. The second also put his 2 talents to work and doubled them. The one who produced 5 more talents received the exact same reward as the one who produced 2 more talents.
The third servant did nothing with his talent. He hid it in the ground until it was time for the Master to call upon all three of them to give an account of their labors. This is what each one of us must face: A day of reckoning, when we will be assessed for how well we used what God gave us to work with. It’s not the amount that is important. What we do with what we are given and how we use what we are given is what will be gauged. Jesus could have employed only two servants in his illustration, but he didn’t. He used three servants to show that just because one servant has more money, more talent, more skill or greater gifts, it makes no difference on the Lord’s measure of success. God’s expectation is the same for all of His servants and children. We are to use what we are given to the best of our ability for His glory and not our own.
Paul gives a good talk against the world’s egotistic and egocentric idea of success in 1st Corinthians 4. Look at verse 7: For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
How can we boast about having something that somebody gave to us? That’s like the kid at school whose parents are rich. And he or she think they are better than the other kids because they have more money, better clothes and an expensive car that daddy bought for them.
Let’s not think for a moment we are throwing out the good advice of being a hard worker. This is essential if we hope for success. But God is the one who gave you your brain, and your ability to think. Do you have a good head for business? That’s great, but God is the one who gave it to you. Do you work hard? Excellent! But God is the one who gives you the strength to do so. Besides, working hard is simply doing your duty. God gave Adam work in the Garden of Eden as a blessing, to give him extra purpose, and responsibility, without which no one can be happy.
Success is also being happy and satisfied as we accomplish what God has assigned for each of us as individuals to do. While at the same time, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control. Now that, my friend, is step one for SUCCESS!
To be continued…