What does God say about striving for success?
Merriam-Webster defines strive as: “to devote serious effort or energy;
to struggle in opposition;” and to oppose as: “to place over against something so as to provide resistance, counterbalance, or contrast”and success as: “degree or measure of succeeding;a favorable or desired outcome; the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.” So, whom do we oppose when we strive for success? And, who’s definition of success are we striving to achieve?
This world’s view of success is limited to this life only, while God’s view is eternal. These two viewpoints provide two very different definitions of success. Each view opposes the other and gives us the contrast God wants us to see, when we are deciding our eternal future, Heb 11:24-25, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;” This life is but a season of the eternity God has planned for us. Understanding this fact leads us to make better decisions, like the one Moses finally made when he was finally able to see the evil being done to innocent people. Wasting this life in pursuit of the success this world offers would be tragic, Matt 16:26, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
God wants us to understand that He has given us this life so that we might find the path to Him, Jn 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He wants us to use this life to store up our treasures in the eternal future He offers, Matt 6:19-20, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:” God wants us to experience His joy, in this life and the next, Jn 15:11, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” His joy can only be experienced by following the plan He has for us, Jer 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” God’s plan provides for our joy, without the sorrows of this world, Prov 10:22, “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.”
God’s plan calls us to love Him and our fellow man, which means His definition of success is measured by love, not money, Matt 6:24-27, 31-33, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” So, striving to gain possessions are man’s pursuits, not God’s advice, Lk 12:15, “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
God has promised us the Holy Spirit to strengthen our walk with Him, Eze 11:19-20, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” A heart of flesh means we will learn to love everyone, even our enemies. Then, Jesus told the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until He brought them the Holy Spirit, Lk 24:49, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” This gift of the Holy Spirit is our deposit on the promise of an eternal life with God, Eph 1:13-14, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” It is this earnest deposit on His promise, which gives us the confidence to call Him Father, Gal 4:6, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”
When we strive for what this world calls success, we are led away from God, His Holy Spirit, and His advice, Phil 4:8, 11, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things…Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Paul reconfirms God’s advice, in that he learned to be content, no matter what worldly possessions or comforts were available to him. So, we oppose God when we value worldly possessions or comforts above His advice, Heb 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Opposing God means we do not trust His promises and we do not value His righteousness above this world’s comforts and pleasures.
Before we allow our thoughts to run away with our imaginations, God is not saying money itself is evil, 1 Tim 6:10-12, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” The love of money leads us to evil because it causes us to place material wealth above the love of God. God delights in seeing His children happy and joyful, there is nothing wrong with worldly wealth, unless we put acquiring it above the will of God, or use it for evil purposes. God wants us to seek righteousness above wealth, but He might surprise us and give us both, Matt 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” and Deut 8:18, “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” God just wants us to get our priorities straight, Matt 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Once we do we will no longer put anything before His righteousness and His Truth, Prov 16:8, “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.”
God’s Tenth Commandment tells us to avoid coveting, Ex 20:17, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.” God sees the bigger picture, which includes all of eternity. So, when He tells us not to envy, He wants us to learn that striving for our neighbor’s possessions leads us away from Him. We might become successful in the eyes of this world; however, the means we use to acquire those possessions might lead us away from God.
All lasting success comes from God and is to be used to further the coming of His kingdom, He calls us to be humble servants, even if we are wealthy, Jam 4:10, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” and Gen 39:2-3, “And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.”
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