I’ve been on a seek-and-find mission with God over the last few weeks and it’s been an exciting journey of introspection and discovery. I thank God for His faithfulness towards me.
I believe one of the great Christian challenges is to learn how to tune out the negative or flesh-based influences of the world. This is evident in how we define success.
Is there a difference between Christian success and worldly success, or should success be the same regardless? For Christians, does that mean settling for something less than what we really want? Can we truly be happy in this world if we don’t conform to the world’s standards? These are some of the questions I’ve been asking God this week.
If I were to be 100% honest with myself (and you guys), I have to admit that the lines are often blurred for me in defining success. And to be even more honest, I have sometimes felt like, as a Christian, I have gotten the short end of the stick.
In weight loss, is it okay as a Christian to strive for an ideal body weight? Or should we be happy with just being healthy even if we really want to look a certain way?
In business, is it okay as a Christian to want to be a great success? Or should we be happy with being who God has called us to be?
In relationships, is it okay to go after the hottest, most successful partner? Or should we be happy with the mate that God chooses for us regardless of what they look like or how much money they make?
As I ask these brazen questions to God, I’m starting to understand that He’s not mad at me for asking them, nor does it mean that I’m a bad person as I used to believe.
I sincerely want God’s best for me in all I do, but I realize that it will take a lot of ‘unlearning’ since I believe that we are so supersaturated with the world’s influence day-in-day-out.
So here’s how God ministered to me this week about my ‘success issues’.
Success Principle #1: Success Equals Obedience
Unlike the world that defines success as ‘the accomplishment of a purpose,’ the Bible defines success as ‘obedience to God.’ In 1 Kings 2:3 (CEV), King David gives this advice to his son, Solomon:
“Do what the LORD your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go.” 1 Kings 2:3 CEV
In Proverbs 3:1-3 (ESV), Solomon shares his wisdom about how to obtain success when he says:
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for the length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”
I learned from these two scriptures that success has nothing to do with trying harder; finding the perfect diet; following the right person on Facebook or doing the perfect workout. They also show me that there is no need to worry or be anxious about success because when we are obedient to God, he will meet ALL of our needs.
“If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” Isaiah 1:19
Success Principle #2: Success is defined by the progress we make each day
Success is not the sweeping, drastic lifestyle change that you must make; and it’s not about becoming a gym rat or becoming a vegetarian. It is small mundane actions that you do day in and day out. It’s things like:
- Not going back for seconds
- Drinking a glass of water instead of soda
- Getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep
- Going for a 5-minute walk
Are you taking small steps each day? Are you doing the small things that God has called you to do in your health or other areas of your life? When we show our faithfulness in the small things God asks of us, then He blesses us with more.
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:21
Baby-steps also speaks to process. We can’t bypass a process. We can’t miss the lessons that must be learned along the way. Have you heard the stories of people who were poor and suddenly won the lottery? What do you think happened to them in a short period of time? Most end up being more in debt than before they won. When you don’t undergo the proper ‘training’ to handle money or food, you end up mismanaging it.
What would your life be like right now if you were at a healthy weight? Would you become prideful? Would you start spending more money on clothes unnecessarily? Would you have learned the principles of healthy eating and exercise? Would you have healed the underlying reason why you overeat and start living for the future and not the past? Would you eat to live and not live to eat? Would you continue to cling to God? Trying to circumvent the process will only take us back to the starting point again, so we might as well be patient with the process and not try to short-circuit it.
Success Principle #3: Success is not about you
In Paul’s humble speech in Philippians 3:8, Paul says,
“… I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (NASB).
Paul understood that fixing his eyes on Christ was the most important thing. His status, credentials, and success meant nothing if he did not have Christ as Lord of his life.
The minute you and I take our eyes off Christ and start looking at our own efforts or achievements; or the minute we start charting our own course for how we’re going be successful is when we sink. Remember Peter in the boat as Jesus approached by walking on water? Peter started off well—he was actually doing it himself! Then he took his eyes off Jesus, and that’s when he sank.
I think Hebrews 12:1-2 is a perfect example of how we are to achieve success, It reads:
“… And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Success Principle #4: Success is just a choice away
Success at anything can often seem so far away. It can seem like it’s for anyone else except us. Often we don’t see that our success (or lack of it) is a direct result of the choices we make. Simply put, if you want to be successful, you have to make good decisions!
God has provided us with choices and He wants us to choose the best way. Deuteronomy 30:19 says,
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
Action/Consequences—from Adam and Eve to Revelations, God gives us the choice between right and wrong, blessings and curses. God created us with free will and would never impose His will on us. He lets us decide the choices we will make in life. Through our choices, we learn wisdom and understanding.
Though it’s not always obvious, many of the choices we make will bring blessings or curses. Choosing to sleep in, have an extra slice of cake, or skip another workout are not curses in and of themselves, but they will weaken your disciple muscle which will eventually lead to poor health.
My prayers are for God to help me make good decisions each day—to help me hear His heart and not my own desires. I also pray for the desire to do things that I don’t want to do. I pray for the desire to crave certain foods and for the desire to exercise when I don’t feel like it. Most importantly, for a heart that seeks after Him in all I do.
So based on these 4 principles, I now realize that:
God’s version of success for me far outweighs my shallow desires. God knows what’s best for me more than I can ever know. He has the entire picture and I just have a snapshot. He knows me better than I know myself and knows the greatness He has designed me for. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
God’s version for success for me is based on eternity and my temporal view would never satisfy me once the goal is met. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroy them, and where thieves break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19
God’s version of success for me brings me peace, comfort, and joy. My desire for success brings me stress and anxiety. Like Martha, the Lord reminds me that sitting at Jesus’ feet is far more important than fussing with trivial matters. … “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” Luke 10:41-42a
God’s version of success for me is possible. Without God, my version in success is improbable and impossible regardless of how many times I attempt it. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Zechariah 4:6
This week, I’ve come to understand that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my desire to be successful. In fact, it was God himself who placed that desire in all of us. Not only did he create us to be successful, he also gave us a perfect plan to achieve success. But now I understand that the answer lies in Him; by living in obedience to His will and His Word, and not in my own efforts. To God be the Glory!!!