Everyone in his or her own individual life wants to be successful
In Rob's blog on this topic (click here), we looked at pushing the boat out and leaving your comfort zone in a world where there is a subtle pressure to conform to stability and comfort. In this blog I want to look at the pressure to be successful in life. When we look at other people, Christian and not, we see such diversity of lifestyles, which might confuse us as to what success actually is, thus posing the question, what do I need to be doing to be successful?
Everyone in his or her own individual life wants to be successful in one-way or another. Some may want to be successful in their own achievements, completing as many things as possible and pushing themselves constantly. Some may want wealth and a lavish lifestyle. If you’re the competitive type you may be constantly trying to be more successful than someone else one way or another. Or perhaps success is simply raising a family, having a good time and just trying to make sure that you do you good to other people. Whatever way you look at it everyone desires success, it’s a very broad topic and equally links to many biblical themes. I am not going to try to attempt to look at every different possible angle but it is clear to me that there are some key ideas which shape our own spiritual lives and wellbeing.
I want to be led by the Holy Spirit, but I get bogged down
I constantly battle with this question of success. I know deep down that my life is in God's hands and that my aim is to follow God's will for my life. I want to be led by the Holy Spirit, but I get bogged down with what I would call ‘worldly success’. If we want to understand success from God’s point of view we need to go back to our fundamentals:
The truth of the matter is our only real success is God. The Gospel, as the pinpoint of our lives, is the only genuine success we have, and we didn’t do anything to get it. Christ suffered, died and rose again for us. Only through Grace could we come into a relationship with our creator and actually carry out what God has designed us to do. Grace has made us successful in being able to live a life following God’s will and seeking him first in everything we do from start to finish. But after we have made that essential decision to surrender our lives to God, how can we continue being successful? Can worldly success and God’s success cross over? By this I mean seeking God’s heart and where he wants to be successful, against successful lifestyles for example careers, wealth, and inward-pointing areas in our life, which are driven for our own satisfaction.
King David is a great example of someone who is deemed to be successful. He became a king, became very wealthy, won many battles and wasn’t short of women to choose if he had wanted. Both 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel in the Bible detail David’s extraordinary success. But if we look at his character, and indeed some of the events which came to pass, it’s quite clear that David did not do this on his own. David didn’t beat Goliath with his own strength but God's. David didn’t save himself on several occasions from death. David’s army didn’t kill tens of thousands of people through David’s qualities alone but through God.
‘In everything he did he had great success because the Lord was with him.’
1 Samuel 18:14
Saul had not recognized that the source of this success was through God alone
This was just in his early days as a Shepard. But a man named Saul becomes jealous and misguided. He compared himself to David, rather than considering himself before God. David’s army killed many more people than his own but Saul had not recognized that the source of this success was through God alone. But David shows great humility in his reaction towards Saul (1 Samuel 18-23). He recognizes that he is just originally a poor Shepard and does not crave the love that the King at that time has for him. Through his Journey of becoming king, David recognises that this success comes from the Lord and inquires with the Lord on the decisions that he makes (1 Samuel 30). Are you that Saul character who is competitive with success from other people? It’s important to recognize what sort of this Success this is- God given or for selfish ambition. Indeed David was anointed with the Spirit and was directly led by God but this doesn’t mean he was perfect. We all know the lustful man he was with certain women. But let’s take encouragement from this. We all have our own struggles, despite wanting to be successful. But it is God who raises us up because of the grace poured out to us, thus allowing us to be tools for His success.
If our motives to be successful are not of God or for God then it can only be a pride issue that blocks us. Pride is essentially looking towards yourself and your success as opposed to other people or God. Whether we are Christian or not, we choose through our conscience what we want to get up and live for on a daily basis. Jesus says in Matthew 16:26 "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" As Christians we are not of this world. Jesus makes this clear in John chapter 17. To be seeking only worldly pleasures and goodies really is very shortsighted. Our purpose as Christians is to be ready available to carry out God’s success in his mission by Him using us as tools. If Christ gave his life for us, then we shall devote ours to him. James 4:10 says ‘Humble yourself and the Lord will exalt you’. This is what David does and this is what we need to being striving to do, if we are looking for real Godly success, not worldly success.
what are our top main priorities in life? God and other people.
Earlier on in this blog I questioned whether worldly success and Godly success could be interlinked. To me the answer is yes. David appears to be successful in many ways, yet God is the Source throughout. Some Christians in the world get rich, famous etc. because the world functions in a certain type of way. Fair to say often led by human desires often selfish and greedy nevertheless, but if we compare our own materialistic worldly success with other people we will never be content. This is because we are not opening our eyes to the heart of God’s success. The first two commandments are this: To love God above everything and to love our neighbor as our self. So what are our top main priorities in life? God and other people, not us. The idea of being successful through honoring God and putting others before us sounds ridiculous. But that is striving for success far beyond what the world teachers us and far more powerful. Whether we are successful in the eyes of the world or not, it shouldn’t matter. The source of our contentment and satisfaction cannot be based on worldly achievements.
It’s really hard to disregard worldly success in other people and equally to not fall in the trap of desiring that for ourselves. The truth of the matter is, we will never fully know why God chooses to bless people in different ways, or why God uses certain people for certain things, nor should we feel guilty for the things God blesses us with, but we must trust in his sovereignty. If we could change our mindset so that we looked deeply for Godly success in our lives and others, rather than materialistic, there would be no jealously, because we would see that God wants to be successful in all of his people uniquely. My prayer is that we ask continually for Holy Spirit to anoint us and to bear fruit through us. That is where the real success is.
The source of success comes from God, and the end result of success is God’s glory. Amen.