By Cortni Marrazzo, Crosswalk.com
Success is a subjective term that can vary in definition for different people, but there is a general meaning and definition of the word that tends to be widely adopted by the current culture around us and that is very different from the biblical meaning of the same word.
One of the world’s main definitions of the word successful is “the attainment of wealth, position, honors or the like.” It’s interesting to note that each of the things listed in that definition are temporary--and chasing after temporary things is like chasing the wind. It’s futile and it can never actually be caught.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25
Jesus addressed the temporal nature of the things that we typically run after in our pursuit of success, two big ones being the ability to satisfy our flesh and the appearance of wealth and status. Thankfully He also points us toward what true and lasting success really is: pursuing Him.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
With the world’s barometer of success being based on very specific things like wealth, position, and fame, the biblical view of success can feel vague or cloudy, especially when we are in a season of obscurity. In order to see what God’s view of success is, let’s explore four important aspects of biblical success.
1. Success Is Found Within
The world’s barometer of success comes from things on the outside, but God’s view of success is found within.
Outward success isn’t a bad thing, but your top priority shouldn’t be there. God’s type of success comes from your heart, your attitude, your motivations, and how you treat and love people and God. The Bible admonishes us to avoid preoccupation with our outward appearance as a measure of our success, and instead focus on achieving our success from within.
Your adornment must not be merely external—with interweaving and elaborate knotting of the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or [being superficially preoccupied with] dressing in expensive clothes; but let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4 AMP
2. Success Is Rooted in Obeying God Where You Are
God’s view of success is all about doing what He has asked you to do in the season you are in and in the circumstances surrounding you. Whether that means you are a CEO of a large company, or you are taking care of your family at home, success is found in embracing what God is asking you to do right now.
When I left the workforce to be a stay-at-home mom after the birth of my first child, I struggled with being “just a mom”, along with the daily grind of diapers, feeding, cleaning, and all the other duties I consistently had to do and redo multiple times each day.
Though I was thankful for the opportunity to stay home with my baby, part of me secretly longed to go back to work so I could feel some sense of accomplishment in what I was doing. Then God started showing me what biblically focused success really means and I was encouraged when I started to see all the ways I was actually succeeding with my family, as well as in my character as I spent more time in prayer asking God to help me through each day.
Jesus’ mother Mary was also “just a mom” for a season in her life, but she mothered the son of God! While you may not be raising THE son of God, if you have children, you have been commissioned to raise up and nurture God’s son or daughter, and your impact there will last for generations.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
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3. Success Is a Daily Discipline
In the world’s temporal view of success, you can be successful one day and lose it all the next day, but God’s view of success is about what you do day after day that produces a harvest that will last for eternity.
In multiple Bible translations, David is described as being “successful wherever Saul sent him” (1 Samuel 18:5). The original Hebrew word that was translated into the word success in this verse is sâkal, which means ‘to be prudent, circumspect and to wisely understand,’ showing that true success lies in making wise decisions that compound over time.
David’s example shows that success isn’t about being perfect or always getting it right (because we know he certainly didn’t), but rather it's about following God each day and aiming to be more and more like Him.
Therefore see that you walk carefully [living life with honor, purpose, and courage; shunning those who tolerate and enable evil], not as the unwise, but as wise [sensible, intelligent, discerning people], making the very most of your time [on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence], because the days are [filled with] evil. Ephesians 5:15-16 AMP
4. Success Requires Both You and God
No matter how hard you work, success isn’t something you can earn purely by your own efforts, but you do have a role to play. True biblical success is a result of God’s favor on your life and His blessings on your efforts. We see this in Joseph’s story in the book of Genesis. Joseph experienced success multiple times because the Lord was with Him.
The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. Gen 39:2-4
This doesn’t mean that Joseph just sat around and enjoyed God’s favor without having to do anything. On the contrary, Joseph worked hard and was faithful in all he did, whether he was in Pharaoh's house or in prison. In every circumstance he found himself in, his godly character was revealed in his hard work, his commitment to honor God, and his kindness towards others. God’s favor on Joseph’s efforts gave him the success that ultimately saved his family and the nation of Israel.
True biblical success in your life may never look like the world’s kind of success, but it will produce a peace, fulfillment, and eternal impact that money, position, or fame will never bring. Choosing to love God and follow His lead in your life is the most fulfilling you can do and it will bring the true and lasting success that your heart is longing for.
Commit your works to the Lord [submit and trust them to Him], And your plans will succeed [if you respond to His will and guidance]. Proverbs 16:3 AMP
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Cortni Marrazzo lives in Spokane, WA with her husband Jason and their two elementary-age sons, one of which has special needs. She has a Degree in Biblical Discipleship and has a passion for encouraging and inspiring people toward God’s Word through writing and speaking. You can find more of her writing and contact her at www.Cortni.Marrazzo.com, on Instagram, or on Facebook.