There are so many books around these days that talk about success and how to achieve it. Book stores are full of these types of books, with the store owners lining their shelves with what are to be sure-fire sellers.
Large companies also get in on the act by sending their employees on numerous courses. The theory is that you should come out of these courses not only as a better employee but also as a better human being.
The courses and self help books are given names that seem to ensure before you even start that you are destined to become one of the greats of society.
There are courses with such names as "The seven habits of highly effective people". The students doing this course will find out in a matter of a few days what the steps are they must take to be a success in life. And if the course isn't enough to convince them that they are a success, then they can follow the course up with the "Seven habits of highly effective people" book, and then the study notes, followed by the Compact Disc audio series, and then the video series, which is followed closely by the pocket organiser diary and lastly the "Seven habits of highly effective people" monthly newsletters!!!
This got me thinking - these people going on these courses could have saved themselves or their companies a lot of money by replacing these vast multi media libraries of books with just one book. One of the highest selling books in the world - The Bible.
Examples of success in the world we live in
We have seen many times in the media or in history books, that people are judged how successful they are by what they have accomplished in life. The greater the number of things you have accomplished the more you are admired by your fellow man.
Just think about President Kennedy. He is probably one of the most admired men in recent times because he accomplished a lot of worthwhile things in his time in office. He stopped the Cuban missile crisis which almost threatened to start a full scale nuclear war. He introduced radical civil rights legislation. He initiated the space program. Because he accomplished a lot in his term of office he was admired as being one of the great United States presidents.
The Norwegian Captain Amundsen is admired by his fellow Norwegians and a lot of other people around the world because he was the first man to reach the South Pole in 1911. Because he accomplished what many regard as being a great feat he is seen as being successful.
There is a young skier who is now admired by many of his fellow skiers and many other people around the world because he broke the world record a few years ago for the fastest down hill skier. He reached 241 kilometres per hour whilst in a competition in France. He is a much admired man because of his success in that sport.
And even the people who got their names in the Guinness Book of Records for making the world’s longest sausage are seen by many as being successful because they accomplished something! The sausage was 46.3 kilometres long!
Indeed the Bible seems to support this view that the more things you have accomplished then the more you are admired by those around you. To prove this just look at how God viewed his own accomplishments.
When you read Genesis chapter one you read of God creating the earth. He worked at it for six days and created everything from plants and trees through to animals. In chapter one you can read the following words:
And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 1
God saw that his work was good, and he was pleased. He was happy with the work he had done up to that stage.
Okay, so God was happy with his own accomplishments, does this mean that we can be pleased with our work and accomplishments? The answer is "yes", provided that the work we do would please God as well. Just think about it for a moment....what work are you doing that pleases both yourself and God? What accomplishments have you achieved that are something that God would be happy with as well.
We can gauge how much pleasure our accomplishments would give God, by looking at how we feel about our accomplishments. We need to ask ourselves do our accomplishments mean something to us or do they seem meaningless to us. If they seem meaningless to us then there is a good chance they wouldn't give God any pleasure either.
There was an expert in the area of judging whether things were meaningful or not. For this particular person was always saying how meaningless things were. His name was King Solomon.
This is what King Solomon said:
"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless". 2
Why did Solomon write so sceptically and pessimistically? Is it because he had a bad day at the palace?! Or did he write pessimistically because he had a purpose behind it?
Well the answer is that near the end of his life he looked back over everything he had done, and most of it, quite frankly, just seemed futile. It was a common belief amongst people back then that only good people prospered and not only that, but it was also believed that only the wicked suffered, but this rule hadn't proven true in Solomon's experience.
Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes after he had tried almost everything there was to try in life and had achieved much. Yet he found despite all of this success that nothing apart from God made him truly happy. He felt that he hadn't really prospered at all in a meaningful sense. Solomon was so depressed about this that he wanted the people to see that success and prosperity can disappear like a vapour of breath on a cold day.
The lesson to us is that all human accomplishments will one day disappear, and we must keep this in mind in order to live wisely. If we don't – then we can become either proud or self-sufficient when we succeed or we may become sorely disappointed when we fail. Solomon shows us that pursuing earthly possessions and accomplishments is in the end….a waste of time.
The success of President Kennedy is slowly being forgotten - only to be read about in history books found in the depths of some library. Captain Amundsen success of conquering the South Pole is only heard about very rarely. The downhill skiers speed record will be bound to be broken sometime in the future and then his name will be forgotten. And someone will be sure to make an even longer sausage than 46 kilometres!!
Only the pursuit of God brings real satisfaction. We should honour him in all we say, think, and do.
So, if our earthly accomplishments are not a good basis for giving us that feeling of security in life then what is? What is the thing that should make us feel better about ourselves? We know we feel pretty good about ourselves when we accomplish something in our life, so what thing could make us feel even better about ourselves. What is this thing which I am sure the majority of the "How to be a success" books and courses would not even mention and yet would be the best advise they could possibly give. Well the answer can be found in the book of Luke. These words are describing the time where Jesus sent out the seventy disciples in the hope that they would convert many to the ways of the Lord. This is what Luke wrote:
Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name". And [Jesus] said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in Heaven"3.
From the last sentence we are given the message that God's acceptance is more important than any accomplishment. The disciples had seen tremendous results as they taught in Jesus name and with his authority. They were extremely happy with the victories they had witnessed and Jesus of course shared their enthusiasm. However, despite all of this he brought them down to earth, by reminding them of their most important victory. That victory is that their names were registered in heaven. This honour was more important than any of their accomplishments.
All of these other things certainly may make you feel good because you have accomplished something but in the end the only important thing is whether your name is registered in heaven. If we choose in our life to see God's wonders at work in us and through us, we should not lose sight of the greatest wonder of all - our citizenship in that kingdom soon to be set up on this earth.
We all have a sense of our own self-worth. If we have an inflated ego then we may believe our self-worth is very high. However, if we have little faith in ourselves, then our self-worth may be very low. So how do we end up with either a generous proportion of self worth or seemingly no self worth at all? The answer to this is that people often view their own self worth on their accomplishments. What these people forget however is that our relationship with Christ is far more important than our job, our success, our wealth, or our knowledge. We have the opportunity to be chosen by God as his very own, and if we take up that opportunity then we will be called to represent him to others.
Your value comes from being one of God's children, not from what you can achieve. You have worth because of what God does, not because of what you do. You may be very good at your job and are regularly praised by your fellow workers, you may have worked hard and as a result bought a beautiful house, you may be good at a number of recreational activities, but at the end of the day all of these accomplishments mean nothing if your name is not written into the book of life. That is the only accomplishment worth having. All other accomplishments pale into insignificance. If we cannot accomplish the privilege of entering into God's kingdom then we have failed in the reason why we were put onto this earth in the first place.
Remember what King Solomon says: "Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!".
Being accepted by Jesus into that Kingdom is the only accomplishment that we should be endeavouring to achieve.
Paul’s examination of his own success
The well-known apostle Paul wrote a letter to the believers living in Philippi. In part of this letter he wrote these words:
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh, though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:
Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. 4
At first glance at this excerpt from Paul’s letter, it seems that Paul is boasting about his achievements. But he is actually doing the opposite, showing that human achievements, no matter how impressive, cannot earn a person salvation and eternal life with God. Paul had impressive credentials. He had the upbringing, nationality, family background, inheritance, involvements and morality to qualify him for great respect in the Jewish community. But when he was converted to faith in Christ, it wasn't based upon his credentials but rather upon the grace of Christ. Paul did not depend on his credentials to please God because even the most impressive credentials fall short of God's Holy standards.
In part 2 of this article we will conclude our look at success by looking at what God and Jesus see as real success.
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Last Updated: Sunday, 08 March 2015