Lately God has brought the topic of success before me in many ways. An email from a reader here. An article from someone I admire over there. A success story of weight loss. (You go!) A product launch turned full-time income. And it’s easy to compare ourselves to the success notes of others. Their highs to our lows. But I’m not going to spend time on the comparison trap right now.
Last week, a friend asked me a question about personal success. She said “Why do I think I’m not successful because her success looks so much different than mine?”
Today I wanted to share what I’ve been studying about success. Because it’s easy to get wrapped up in what we think success should be. Owning the latest and greatest gadgets. Piling up money in the bank. The ability to spend however we’d like. Fame and fortune have long been labelled as success. And honestly, sometimes they are indicators of success in some way. In the Bible, God gave us a few examples of people he blessed with notoriety and wealth. Job, Joseph, David, and Solomon, to name a few. But the path to their wealth wasn’t limited to a mere drive to be wealthy or even successful. I started asking myself a few questions about success because I wanted to make sure that I’m driven to hold the right priorities, set the proper goals, and define the success of those goals according to truth. For me, truth is God’s Word. Take a look at these 4 questions to measure personal success that I’ve been asking myself lately.
1. Where does success come from?
The ancient king of Israel, David, was known for his success BEFORE he was ever king. In fact, he was so successful that King Saul was afraid of David. There’s a depth to this story that I won’t dive into right now, but take a look at these few verses:
Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul. And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. I Samuel 8:12,14-15
This verse explains that ability to obtain success comes only from God. In Good to Great, the author interviewed and measured all types of successful businessmen. One factor intrigued him significantly. The most successful men were humble, everyday guys who appreciated their teams above all else. All abilities to succeed come from God and when we can remember this, we will be prompted to rely on him for everything, including success.
Action point: Stay as close to the Lord as possible; my ability to succeed comes from him.
2. How does God define success?
Success is so simple in God’s Book. Success is obedience to him and his word. We are the ones who complicate it. We add numbers of all kinds. We create complex accounting systems and strategic spreadsheets. Our formulas begin as addition problems and work up to full algebraic equations. Yet success is straightforward obedience. Back to question 1, he is the one providing ability. Our job is to obey. On his deathbed, David pointed to this primary truth of success:
…keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, I Kings 2:3
Action point: Know God’s Word and follow through on what I understand.
3. Do I have a plan to achieve success?
Success never results from random behavior. Plan your work and work your plan! If I want to know God more, I have to have a plan to do so. If I want to know God’s Word and be obedient to it, then I have to deliberately choose to read God’s Word. If I want to have affirmation of details to God’s plan, then I need to spend time listening to the Holy Spirit speak to my heart in wisdom and guidance. If I want to be successful, then I must outline what action is needed on my part.
Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3
Action point: Listen to what the Spirit is emphasizing to me and write out an action plan.
4. How will I know if I’m achieving or have achieved success?
We are guilty of fashioning the definition of success by what we can see. We need sunglasses to mask the glare of a shiny new car. We see the bestsellers at the top of the charts. We can visualize the corporate ladder climb through paycheck raises and title changes. But true success is not always something we can see, so we have to be careful not to rate our success on visuals.
Roots or Fruits
Last fall our family took a trip to the apple orchard. We saw bushels and bushels of beautiful fruit. Red, yellow, green, shiny, tart, and sweet, the fruit and our trip to the apple farm was quite the success. But before we could enjoy touring the farm and picking apples, we had to get in the van and drive to the farm. And before a tree can yield beautiful fruit, the tree must grow a root system. No one can see the roots; they are deep underground and making their way to the best places of nourishment. Once established, they will provide all the tree needs to successfully bare fruit. But they never stop growing. As long as the tree is alive, the roots will build deeper and deeper.
Success can be best measured by the build of the roots, not the yield of the fruit.
So when someone like my friend mentioned above asks me about her success, I ask her the questions:
- Did you do what you believe God wanted you to do?
- Was your work and effort in alignment with his word?
- Were you giving your full energy to follow through with his will?
- Did you listen to his whispers of wisdom and guidance to your heart?
Then YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL! Now keep going. Build deeper roots. Cause, Girl, you are going to need those when that tree starts bearing fruit.
By his grace,
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