I live in a country where the pursuit of happiness is a part of our creed. Actually, it is documented as our “inalienable rights” in our Declaration of Independence.
We are told:
Be all that you can be.
Go for your dreams.
If you believe it, you can achieve it.
All of these sayings are meant to inspire us to go after what we think will make us happy, prosperous, successful. So many books have been written on how to get there. I remember when I was a Mary Kay consultant, I purchased and read one of Zig Ziglar’s books, believing, that I too would, could be a top sales person. I would achieve success.
I later had to admit to myself, that that just wasn’t me; not that I could not, but I did not like having to be “on” all the time. So, I settled on just working my way up in state government doing what I did like, love.
I’ve grown up hearing God wants us to be successful. He wants us to be prosperous. After all, isn’t being successful an evidence of God’s blessing upon you? The Bible is used to support this; specifically, Joshua 1:8 has been the motto for success. I used to believe it to some extent, but I also knew people of faith who had struggles. I also noticed that it was only the latter part of the verse that was being mphasized.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Joshua 1:8 KJV
In the verse above, God was speaking directly to Joshua who was being called to be the next leader of the children of Israel to the Promised Land, after Moses died. God was letting him know that the same promises given unto Moses, apply to him.
However, his success was contingent upon him obeying the law of God, upon meditating upon his Word. What had God shown Moses? In my reading of the travels of Moses, I never read that Moses led a carefree life; in fact, Moses experienced much grief leading the children of Israel. However, Moses had something greater. He had a relationship with God. He had a God who walked him through every situation.
I don’t believe that every believer is guaranteed prosperity, health and a life of ease. Actually, Jesus promised his disciples:
In the world ye shat have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33b KJV
In another place, after Jesus had ascended back to heaven and the apostles were establishing churches and making disciples they let the new disciples know that:
…we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22c KJV
The apostles and disciples did not have the easy life that is being promoted today. In fact, the Apostle Paul boasts:
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes, save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. II Corinthians 11:23-27 KJV
By today’s standards, the Apostle Paul would not be one we would look to as an example of success. The favor of God was certainly not upon him.
However, his response to his Christian experience is recorded in Philippians:
Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, in this to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Philippians 4:11-12 KJV
I know that it doesn’t sound much like success, but success is more than having all the money you desire, or your dream job. How many people have we learned had all the things money could buy, yet were still miserable, lonely?
I believe true success is being at a place where you are content; much like the Apostle Paul. We may have sickness, poverty, and suffer persecution, but followers of Christ weren’t promised a life of ease. God uses tribulations to conform us to the character found in his Son, Jesus Christ. It is our pursuit of him, our obedience to his way, that will bring us contentment and a peace that money can’t buy.
And that, my friend, is success.