God’s Ways Of Success
True success happens to the extent we glorify God and enjoy Him forever as we are faithful to God’s purposes for our life. Because of disobedience and distrusting God’s sufficiency, man got separated from God, was doomed to hell, lost complete intimacy and joy with God, and became failure-prone. However, the purpose of Christ gave mankind another chance at experiencing freedom, and we can have it daily and be used by God to help others do the same if our brokenness chooses God’s will over the world’s success system.
“Failure is the unforgivable sin. It must be avoided at all costs” – this is the belief that seemingly everyone has had, as it fuels motivation and insecurities toward a defined goal to succeed. Everyone has their own definitions of success, and now I am going to share you some versions.
Success trainer, Doug Firebaugh, defines success as “an ongoing realization and obtainment of worthy desired results, concerning actions, life, business, wealth, or a worthy ideal.” Success happens when someone “strings together a series of accomplishments that lead to a more significant life achievement.” So, according to Firebaugh, what fuels success and not failure is a “need for an ongoing accomplishment of ‘worthy desired results’”.
Analyzing those descriptions of success by Firebaugh, author Steven C. Roy, of What God Thinks When We Fail, gives us four questions we must ask ourselves when we evaluate what constitutes success in our life:
1) What is a worthy goal?
2) Who defines such a goal?
3) Who evaluates my accomplishment and success?
4) In whose eyes must I be a success in order to think of myself as successful?
In life, why is it that some individuals perceive themselves very successful when the majority may view them as failures, while other people feel like a strong failure when society views them successful? According to Tony Campolo, “we consider ourselves to be successful if the most significant people in our lives deem us successful.”
Everyone has a “significant other”: someone we admire and spend enormous energies trying to live a successful life, hoping they will accept and view us competent. In essence, it is the person we try to impress and please the most – it is our number one evaluator of our success. For example, children can become approval addicts to win the acceptance of their parents, teenagers fall in to peer pressure with their peers, the opposite sex longs for those they are attracted to, students spend countless hours studying trying to win their teacher’s approval, employers try to impress customers and bosses, spouses try to make their mate satisfied and happy, and parents derive significance from being parents of successful children from other parents. It is not inherently wrong to have these people be our evaluators of success, unless for at least two reasons. First, we must not let negative perceptions of others rigidly define our self-worth, while disregarding God’s truth that “we are a special creation in God’s eyes”. Secondly, it’s okay to have secondary significant others as long as God is the primary person to please.
Many times we wrongly base our self-worth on human opinions and on our performance. If we succeed, we are elated, but since we are failure prone, we often take the threat of failing too seriously as we feel rejected, depressed, and defeated afterwards. Instead of embracing the fact that the God of the Universe loves His creation so much, proven on the cross, in spite of man’s flaws, we feel inclined to constantly prove our worth again and again through performance. Rejection from man can be crippling, so we become approval and performance addicts, trying feverishly to be perfect to avoid emotional defeats and “you are a failure” labelings from people.
Today’s world measures success by wealth, prestige, power, being beautiful and young, sports success, competition (if you win, you are successful, if you lose, you are no good), and relationships and family (if you don’t have a mate or perhaps a family, you may be frowned upon). If we are victors in these areas, you are successful, if not, you are not as good. Thankfully, God doesn’t judge man like that. He does evaluate performance when evaluating what heavenly rewards to give for service, but doesn’t correlate performance with self-worth. If you are a child of God for accepting Christ as your Savior, you will always be considered good in God’s eyes because of grace, all because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. (Those who don’t accept that free gift of salvation are not a child of God and will go to hell. Please click on Plan of Salvation to read about how to become a Christian.)
The remainder of this article talks about God’s success system and what man has to do to become a success in God’s eyes.
II. Introduce God’s success system. “The purpose of life is a life of purpose” (Robert Byrne).
God’s success system is based upon the fact that the Creator designed every human with a purpose to achieve, and that success can be defined as the “effectiveness that created object meets the needs and achieves the goals defined by that purpose”.
Success involves being a child of God and realizing that God loves you unconditionally, regardless of performance, because of God’s grace proven on the cross. It involves having a rich relationship with God and glorifying God and enjoying Him forever as you are faithful to your life purpose. According to Westminister Shorter Catechism, “man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever”. See also 1 Corinthians 10:31.
God’s glory, according to Matt Heard, Life With A Capital L, is “God’s enoughness for all creation and for you and me.”
God seeks to enjoy His creation forever. Starting with Adam, the Perfect Provider has always been completely enough for mankind in all ways. Unfortunately, man doesn’t always realize that and thus becomes discontent or fearful, often leading to sin which produces unstable conditions for us to live in. God’s enoughness is still there, but our choices don’t always take advantage of it. For example, God had every need met in the garden of Eden and were able to enjoy God forever until our first parents listened to the lies of the serpent.
Sin became a barrier man created to hinder experiencing God’s provision fully and to enjoy God forever: “Ground is cursed. Hell became punishment. Separation from God and man. No intimacy with God. No dominion over earth. Hate and selfishness destroyed human relationships. Shame and insecurity from the threat of making a mistake. Depression, suffering, hell on earth. Man habitually since struggles to obey God’s commands, secret to living a successful life.” God’s enoughness didn’t fail to remain perfect, but Love requires giving man free will, and man’s choices separated man from God, creating a sinful world whose consequences creates failure, suffering, and insecurities.
However, Love wanted to give His creation another chance so He purposed the life of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind (to those who choose to accept Christ as their Savior). He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, so believers can be reunited with God and experience God’s glory (enoughness) in their lives again. The cross gives Christians, God’s promises of never forsaking them, even amidst adversity (Deut 31:6,9), and in spite of sins (“Nothing can separate me from God’s Love” – Romans 8:38). To the extent man obeys God’s commands and abides in Christ, does man experience God’s overflowing joy (John 15:9-11). Freedom from hell and protection from life struggles and the opportunity to experience peace, love, and joy of intimacy in abiding communion with the Father are other benefits of the cross to believers. In addition, a chance to be a success as God rewards impartially and fairly with heavenly rewards for being faithful in service to God’s purpose for your life (which is to “engage daily with His purpose of restoring all things to reflect His glory”) can also happen if you become a Christian.
Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”. Imagine a world where an entire population become Christians and abide habitually in the spirit: an once ruthless, dying, insecure world full of people who behaved problematically now acts with the spirit of the Holy Spirit in them. Agape love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control controlling the actions and behaviors of society people, where there would be no wars and no hate among brethren, and peace, love, self-control, goodness, and kindness would be dominating behaviors of mankind. This happens when people get saved (Holy Spirit doesn’t reside in soul of nonbeliever) and then makes sound decisions, guided by the Spirit, including abiding in the spirit. At the extent man surrenders to God is the extent man fully experiences God’s perfect glory.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ offers the only antidote to the ills that plague our society” (Bill Bright and John Damoose). The Christian job is to make God know through our life purpose so the world can see and find God – so they will be saved. So man can enjoy God forever, which is the greatest joy.
Francis Chan said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things that don’t really matter.” World has many pleasures, but all are temporary, passing, and not eternal. But what really matters is eternity. Remember this: “Your choices on earth have direct consequences on your life in eternity” (Bruce Wilkinson).
Mark 8:36-37 says: “What does it profit if you gain the entire world but forfeit your soul? And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” If you are not a Christian, going to hell is far more important than storing up temporary riches that will be gone when you leave this world. And for the believer, what you store up on this temporary earth is nothing compared to the far greater amount of riches you can obtain and enjoy forever in heaven. Be faithfulness to God’s purpose every day.
III. Being Faithful Daily to God’s Purpose
‘The secret to success is constancy of purpose.’ Benjamin Disraeli
God wants to hire and compensate you for your services to your purpose. In a job setting, employee must be dependable if employer can rely upon employee to get the job done. The worker’s faithfulness to the job and employer is often evaluated by the boss to evaluate the employee’s performance.
“Faithfulness is the foundation for usefulness in God’s kingdom” (Rick Renner). A “faithful” person by definition is “dedicated, dependable, accurate, true, conscientious, dutiful, careful, scrupulous, thorough, loyalty, full of faith or trust, unwavering, firmness, constancy in relations of God and man, unchangeable, to be reliable, steadfast.” God is perfect faithfulness to man, and man struggles to be faithful to God, to the extent his brokenness surrenders to God.
Charles Stanley once stated, “Brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness.” According to Nancy Leigh Demoss, “Brokenness is the shattering of my self-will – the absolute surrender of my will to the will of God. It is saying ‘Yes, Lord!’ – no resistance, no chaffing, no stubbornness – simply submitting to His direction and will in my life.” Without brokenness, man cannot be faithful or fruitful to God.
Here are two quotes to ponder:
“God will not accept a divided heart. He must be absolute monarch.” D.L. Moody
“He’s either in full control or He’s not on the throne at all.” Michael Youssef
Follow Elisabeth Elliott’s advice as we should say the following daily to God: “Work your whole will in my life at any cost.” According to 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully, will also reap bountifully.” You must decide how faithful you want to be, for when you neglect your duties, you risk losing a reward which could be yours. So “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
“Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” (Galatians 6:8)
God evaluates our success when the Lord comes. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, apostle Paul says: “Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide. So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time – before the Lord returns. For He will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.”
Success or failure in our lives is not final until the Lord comes, the final end of the ball game. Until we die or when the Lord comes, the score of our game of success is not final. This means that “successful beginnings of being faithful” can be reversed, or “bad beginnings of being unfaithful” can be changed, during the remainder of our life on this planet. In a baseball analogy, the score may be 6-3 in the sixth inning, and you are losing, and you’ve struck out three times so far. However, there is still at least three innings to play, and you can be successful, by driving in the winning home run in the ninth inning, and all your previous failures will be forgotten by everyone. Success or failure isn’t final until your game of life ends.
Here are two more quotes:
“Don’t presume to direct your own life on your own terms. Discovering the will of your creator and Savior – and walking in that will may not be the most “secure” way to live, according to the world’s standards. But I assure you of this: it will be the most fulfilling thing that could ever happen to you.” (Jack Hayford).
“The most important thing is not the work I can do for God. The most important thing is to make God the most important thing.” Phil Vischerth
Types of Brokenness Decisions
There are at least two subset categories of brokenness decisions we must make daily. They include:
1) Choosing to rely upon God’s power to do the work
2) Choosing to be obedient, having faith, and being perseverant as you rely upon God ‘s power
1. Choosing to rely upon God’s power to do the work
Simi Mary Chacko once said: “It’s not your intelligence or your hard work that will lead you through – it is God’s faithfulness.”
Psalm 89:8 says, “Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O Lord? You are entirely faithful.” God is perfect in all ways. He can do all things. He makes no mistakes. All of His plans ultimately work true. He is never failing, always available, never giving us an assignment that we cannot do absent from His power.
We as humans are limited in our knowledge, abilities, powers, strength, perseverance, faith, etc., in comparison to the Almighty God. God didn’t make a mistake planning that. For when we are weak, we should rely upon those who are stronger and wiser than us – that is, God. If God is in charge, He will never fail. If we are in charge, we often tend to make a mess of things. So God is there, waiting and ready to make things right when we mess up. Sometimes when we think we fail, His plans are still in perfect motion, He just plan it that way for a greater purpose. Remember, we are incapable of understanding and knowing things like God does. When we don’t understand, doesn’t mean God’s plans are messed up. God has everything under perfect control.
Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength”. In another words, “I can do everything when I rely upon God’s strength, and not on my own power, abilities, wisdom, and strength.”
Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. We must stay connected to the Vine, by constantly abiding in the spirit, which includes repeatedly affirming it is God’s power and not mine that does the work best. The power source of the branch is staying connected to the Vine, because the branch receives energy and strength from the Vine. When we disconnect ourselves by not being obedient and brokenness, we often find ourselves weak, especially during trials.
2. Choosing to be obedient, having faith, being perseverant as you rely upon God’s power
Faithfulness requires choosing to say “yes” to God’s callings. This is again brokenness, which in essence is obedience. To obedient when our Heavenly Employer has an assignment for us, often requires being obedient during times of duress, especially when God’s glory is revealed to the world most visibly during hard times. Miracles happen more often when there are times that require great faith on our part, so we often need to exhibit both perseverance and great faith while God does great work in our lives.” Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
“Faith proves itself by its obedience to the Lord” (Jane Jarrell). If you don’t trust the Boss with faith, it is much harder to be obedient, especially during trials. God takes obedience on our part very seriously. See Numbers 20:12 for reference.
An employer expects employee to follow directions and do what they are told, because if the employee doesn’t, it makes it harder for mission strategy to be implemented. God can do anything, but He wants to use His people for His glory. And when His people aren’t faithful, they cannot be used and that person won’t get rewarded for the work He has in store for them. God can, if He wanted, to speak things in motion, but He doesn’t always do that; He prefers to use His people for His glory. And in His eyes, that person wouldn’t be considered a success because their brokenness and obedience chose not to follow directions in pursuit of completing their purpose through the power of God. God will still love that person just as much as before, but He would be unwilling to compensate that person for their efforts. That is just practical, fair business principles.
Perseverance is needed by man to be obedient and be filled with faith during hard times, especially when temptations to give up on the mission become the greatest. Perseverance, faith, and obedience is not easy, but that it why God wants to rewards us heavily for our work in the afterlife. We need to draw support from God’s Word daily and encouraging Christians during hard times, when fears that hinder success become strong. “Fear disrupts faith and becomes the biggest obstacle to trusting and obeying God” (John Ortberg).
Here are some more quotes to ponder:
“Fear can be conquered only by faith, and faith thrives on truth”. Brendan O’Rourke and DeEtte Sauer
“Faith is the simple belief that God will keep His promises”. Steve Campbell
“Confidence in God’s presence is our basic weapon against fear”. Mary Southerland
“All we can truly rely on is faith in a God who is in control”. Jane Jarrell
“God’s trustworthy character is the key to the Christian life of faith, nothing else”. James Odens
“Our circumstances should never be deeper than our faith” (Jeff Huff). Here are some promises of God that can help you in your journey toward thwarting fear:
1. Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.
2. 2 Corinthians 4:17 : “For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”
Our faith is anchored in God’s perfect faithfulness (trustworthiness). When God says He will do something – He will always do it. All of His plans are for good, and He won’t make us endure trials or temptations greater than what we can endure through Him. Our heavenly rewards will also vastly outweigh them and last forever. God is incapable of lying. When He says He will do something, or that something is true, it is and will always be! God wouldn’t be entirely faithful if He failed or was wrong even once! We just need the courage and faith to believe it.
“God accomplishes extraordinary things through ordinary people who believe God can and will use them – imperfections and all” (Donna Partow). The work isn’t based upon our abilities, but faith in God’s perfect faithfulness. We just need strong sufficient brokenness to abide in the spirit, no matter the circumstances. When we consistently abide in the spirit, the Holy Spirit will grow the fruit of faithfulness in our lives over time. The greater the fruit, the more godly and faithful we become. See Galatians 5:22-23.
“No matter who you are, if you will yield your life to God, you can become a vessel God can use” (Donna Partrowna).
IV. Enjoying God In the Meantime
“More than anything we can give for God, be for God, do for God, He simply wants our heart” (Donna Partrow).
“God enjoys His creation.” (A.W. Tozer). He loves every one of His children with a relentless love. He loves and cherishes to be with all of His children, all of the time, regardless of performance and what sins they committed. Perfect God knew every sin that every human would commit in their lifetime, and still chose innocent Christ to die to pay the penalty for every sin. God purposed Christ to die to give every human on the history of this planet – present, past, and future – an opportunity to become a child of God.
Once a Christian, the new believer would experience all the benefit of being a child of God – including, to experience God’s enoughness to its fullest, and to journey with God in trying to complete his or her individual purpose of life. But most of all, God wants to enjoy you and me now on Earth and forever in heaven. That is because God is perfect Love.
It grieves God that not every human would choose to become a child of God. He doesn’t want to send anyone to hell at all. But man broke the rule, and someone has to pay the punishment or God would not be considered Holy and Just. If God wasn’t holy and just, He would not be perfect or entirely faithful. His enoughness couldn’t be trusted, and He would not be God. So He purposed Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, and purposed every Christian follow with a mission to reveal God’s glory, so that unbelievers in their life’s sphere of influence can hopefully see their need for Christ, can become aware of Truth of the Good News, and have the faith and brokenness to choose Christ. God pursues every unbeliever with a relentless love, but because of Love permitting free will in human lives, He cannot force an unsaved person to become a Christian. He can manipulate life changes to heavily persuade them to choose Him, but He cannot force His will on man. And despite how much incentive God wants to give the Christian to follow Him, He always cannot force their wills, either. Free will has tyrannized mankind in its history because of disobedience and lack of faith, but God’s glory cannot force mankind to make sound decisions, which making sound decisions Is the secret of success. If you want to be successful, never forget this: “Your choices on earth have direct consequences on your life in eternity” (Bruce Wilkinson).
Man will always be failure-prone. There will be countless times when we will fail to be faithful to God. Just before Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples deserted Christ when Jesus needed them the most. In fact, Peter denied Jesus three times. The disciples felt like failures and unworthy of Jesus’s love after reminiscing over Christ’s death and their mistakes. However, when Jesus appeared, the first thing Jesus said to them: “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19-22). Because of Christ’s purpose on the cross, grace overcame sin as Jesus still had peace with all the disciples in spite of all their failures in service to God’s calling. Because of the cross, God will still say “Peace be with you” after every time you fail Him. Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins on the cross. Justification declares “we are not guilty” and thus, “peace be with you” every time we sin.
God judges our performance to evaluate our success in doing our service work, but never judges our self-worth. He sees Jesus and the cross every time we sin, and thus, our relationship remains unchanged and always full of peace and grace. We must forgive ourselves like that when we fail and others likewise when they fail us.
“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust”. Psalm 103:13-14