Success. It’s written on the cover of ten thousand books, claimed by superstars, and blasted at us by the radio, TV, and You Tube. Like its counterpart, prosperity, many people associate success with material abundance. However, the Bible uses both words with meanings much broader than financial plenty. The world has a way of reducing life (and the language of life) to a blander, self-centered version of what God intended. So, as citizens of the kingdom of God, what should success and prosperity mean to us?
The word success hardly occurs in the Bible. When it does, it is often connected with accomplishing an objective. Abraham’s servant succeeded in finding a wife for his master’s son, Isaac.1 David wanted Solomon to succeed in building the temple.2 Nehemiah prayed for success in his meeting with the king and expected success in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.3 In each case, the objective was part of God’s plan and everyone recognized that success depended on God, so they often prayed for the outcome.
But success is not only tied to projects; it can mark a whole life. In Egypt, it seemed that everything that Joseph put his hand to prospered, or succeeded.4 In Babylon, we’re told that
Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Daniel 6:28)
Both men were exiles in pagan lands. They could have thrown the world’s biggest pity parties; but they kept their focus on serving and obeying God faithfully. And they prospered. Did their prosperity have anything to do with money? Eventually, Joseph was promoted to a position that probably included a fat salary, but finances are not mentioned in either example. Big bank accounts can be a part of success but are not necessary to it. Success in the kingdom of God is about accomplishing God’s objectives in partnership with Him. When we focus on that, the blessings overflow to people around us, just as they did to the ungodly societies that Joseph and Daniel lived in.
So don’t take those “How to Succeed” courses too seriously. Make sure that you are clear about God’s will and devote yourself to that.
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