“If you develop the habits of success, you will make success a habit.”
Today’s fortune cookie sounds like it came from a best-selling self-help book. I am a big fan of building positive habits in life, habits that benefit my well-being physically, mentally, spiritually, etc. I have seen that good habits brings rewards.
I still remember when I was in college, one of my professors wanted us to ask people the definition of success. The question surely points to what a person values in life—what matters most. The Bible tells us that if we follow God, if we take the path less traveled, that we will succeed in everything. This sounds crazy. Now hear me out—this is not prosperity gospel.
Pay attention here—you follow God, and you slowly come to realize God’s plans for your life and your perspective changes. The success is different; your definition of success changes. It no longer comes down to the car you drive and the money in the bank; you want to live for Jesus and glorify God. Through the Spirit’s leading and your local church, you begin to develop habits of a follower of Jesus. You pray, you serve, you study the Bible, you worship, you tithe, you hear the Word preached, etc. As you grow in your relationship with God, as you draw near to Him, the fruit appears. Good things do happen, just as you also deal with struggles to strengthen your faith. Success becomes more about living in the presence of God, and your purpose you live out for His glory. This is the true success, and this brings true satisfaction to the child of God.
“Fulfill your duty to the LORD your God. Obey his directions, laws, commands, rules, and written instructions as they are recorded in Moses’ Teachings. Then you’ll succeed in everything you do wherever you may go.” – 1 Kings 2:3 [GW]
Have you ever been called a “nobody”? In this world we spend many hours trying to show people that we are somebody, that we are important, that we mean something. There are books written about how to turn your life around and go from a nobody to a somebody. There are lectures and programs built around this idea of turning your life around from being nothing to being something.
God sees things differently. Yes, we all are nobodies traveling the earth, but we each have a purpose. We each are valuable. No one is more valuable than another. We are all important. We can all be somebodies. We simply need to find our way back to God and follow our purpose, God’s awesome plan. Trust me, it is an awesome plan, a plan we cannot even fathom.
Now being a somebody does not mean you will be a millionaire or a celebrity or even find great earthly success. But it is so much better. You are a child of the King. You will have eternity to enjoy. You are forgiven. You are redeemed. You are restored. These things make you a Somebody. Without Christ, we are all forever and always nobodies, no matter how hard you work and how much time and effort is put into changing your status. In Christ alone we are Somebody.
“But down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches. In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody. Everybody in Judah and everybody in Israel will be assembled as one people. They’ll choose a single leader. There’ll be no stopping them—a great day in Jezreel!” – Hosea 1:10-11 [MSG]
I will never tell you that you will be rich because you are a follower of Christ. I loathe the prosperity preaching I’ve heard time and time again. You may not be a millionaire when you accept Christ into your life. I know many Christians who live on very little income. I will still say I am rich because I refer to spiritual blessings always above monetary blessings.
I do think it is important that you understand God has always wanted you to prosper. When God created mankind, when He created the Earth and all upon it, He said, “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!” So from the very beginning, He has wanted us to prosper.
When you are having a bad day (week, month, year), there is this part of you that thinks God doesn’t want me to have these good things or God doesn’t want me to succeed. Tell those thoughts to go away. God has something better for you than those things. It might require patience. There might be a lot of waiting. But God has ALWAYS wanted you to prosper. He loves you. You are His child. A Father always wants the best for His child. Once you align your understanding of the best you can imagine with His best, you’ll realize that it is worth waiting for and you will see that He wants you to prosper. He has given it all so that you have the opportunity to prosper.
“God spoke: ‘Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.’
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
‘Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.’”
– Genesis 1:26-28 [MSG]
As a baby, we grow and learn how to do things for ourselves. We spend many years trying to learn how to be independent. From walking to talking to eating to reading to driving, we become more and more independent. We are so often taught about hard work and pushed to put forth great effort to become a “success” in life. And there is nothing wrong with these milestones and achievements.
Nonetheless, no matter how hard we work, no matter how much we learn, there is no way we can be truly independent. We rely on God, whether we believe or not. He is our Creator and our Sustainer. But sometimes because we have achieved some success in life, we begin to put our confidence in our own hands or in the hands of others. Someone might have come through for us a few times and we believe we can count on them. Or we only trust ourselves because we know we can get the job done.
No one can do it all. Everyone falls from time to time, some more than others. Humans are finite. Humans make mistakes. Humans have needs that can only be met through God. When we put our confidence in people, we will always be let down. There is only One who can keep every promise. There is only One who knows all the stars. There is only One who sees all things, knows all things, created all things. There is only One who can save us. Therefore, “we rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us.” He alone is our hope and confidence.
“For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.” – Philippians 3:3 [NLT]
In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar was told he would “eat grass like a cow” if he did not repent and do the right thing (v. 32 NLT). He had twelve months to make the choice but instead he stood on the roof of the palace and overlooked what God had given him.
As the king “looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By MY own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as MY royal residence to display MY majestic splendor.” Who gave him the position? Who gave him the city? Who gave him life? Who gave him food? Who? The king believed in his own strength. He acknowledged himself alone.
When you are overlooking your own life, is it a my, my, my world, or do you acknowledge the Lord? When you examine your own life are you pointing to Christ and boasting about the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 10), or are you claiming you are a self made success?
“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’” – Daniel 4:30 [NLT]
The approach varies when planting seeds, depending upon the seed. Some items would do best in a particular area with certain sunlight. Some seeds are best planted at a certain time of the season. Some seeds do better in soil that is different from what another seed would need to produce an amazing bloom. Isaiah mentions that a farmer plants seeds “each in its proper way, and each in its proper place.”
A farmer understands the difference between each seed and he or she handles the seeds individual characteristics to help the plant be more likely to be a success. In the same way, God understands that each of us is different. He made each of us unique. Each of our situations is different as well. God deals with each one of us and our individual characteristics and situations with great care. He knows the proper way and the proper place for us to find success.
Remember today that God understands your particular situation and he is very particular with your care, that it will be handled in the proper way, and that you will be placed in the proper place. The only way you can receive what he has for you is to follow his leading. You might not understand the plan that he has for you, but you can trust that it is a beautiful plan—the best plan.
“Does he not finally plant his seeds–black cumin, cumin, wheat, barley, and emmer wheat–each in its proper way, and each in its proper place?” – Isaiah 28:25 [NLT]
When you give someone a compliment or when a person gets a promotion, there is always a reaction—a response that gives us a glimpse of the heart. Proverbs 27 says that “a person is tested by being praised.” Tested for what? For humility.
I have noticed that people fall into different groups. There are some people who enjoy praise a little too much and they become proud. There are some people who do not accept compliments or praise well at all because they have low self confidence. Then there are those who say “thank you” and point to Christ—they say that it is because of God that this success has come their way.
How do you act when you receive praise? Do you collect it all and beam with pride? Do you deny the praise all together, not thinking that it was a great thing? Or do you recognize the great things God is doing in your life and let people know it is because God has been doing a great work in you?
“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” – Proverbs 27:21 [NLT]
I remember an old pair of scissors I owned. I loved those scissors but as time moved on they did not work like they once did because the blades were dull. When cutting a piece of meat, you want to pick a good knife. You want to be able to cut through the piece swiftly rather than sawing the thing till it looks like a mess. Most people have knife sharpeners for that reason.
Solomon mentioned the extra strength that is needed to cut with something like a dull ax. More energy is needed when a blade is dull. He made it clear –“Sharpen the blade.” He further states that wisdom helps you to succeed. So how do we sharpen our blades? How do we get this wisdom that will help us to succeed?
I try to sharpen my blade daily because each day brings us new challenges, new temptations, new situations. We need to be able to stand firm. We need our blade sharp. Read your Bible. Be intentional about it. In the morning, the first thing I do before my feet hit the floor is read my morning devotional. It is as if to say, “No thank you devil. My day is for God. I’m going to have a God day.” Then I spend my lunch with God and His Word. I sit alone and eat some fruit, and then I turn to the Word. Finally, in the evening before I turn in for the night, I grab my Bible once again. Sharpen your blade so you can stand firm.
“Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.” – Ecclesiastes 10:10 [NLT]
During Hannah’s Prayer of Thanksgiving, there is a verse that always sticks out to me—“No one will succeed by strength alone” (2:9b NLT). I think that is something we need to remind ourselves of daily because we are often quick to attempt to do things by our own strength. I know there are moments when I consider if I could do something by my own strength without even considering God. It is too easy to slip into doing things considering our own strength.
No one will succeed by strength alone. The Psalmist wrote: “The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior” (33:16 NLT). We need to remember the first part of today’s verse, “He will protect his faithful ones.” His faithful ones are those who keep their eyes on Him. No one will succeed alone, but God has promised that those who are faithful He will protect. What a great promise!
Today remember that success cannot be by strength alone. The only true success in life is found is Christ Jesus. God has promised to protect His faithful ones. There is no need to struggle by your own strength when you can instead surrender to God and see things much differently.
“He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness. No one will succeed by strength alone.” – 1 Samuel 2:9 [NLT]