Nothing gets most people going more than the promise of getting to the next level. More power. More influence. Bigger and better stuff. Slimmer and trimmer body. I’m not so different either. I’ve been working, praying and pushing for the “next level.” After all, being successful is a valuable commodity. Think about it. Some people become successful by teaching us to be successful. Supposedly, we have arrived if we’re a success in the eyes of the world, but what if striving for that success puts us at odds with real success?
Too often, we devise plans, invest money, time and talent so that we will be successful and then stick a post-it note on everything we’re doing that reads: Bless this, Lord. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” We can plan all that we want to, but God is the one who will determine if it will happen or the ultimate godly success of a thing. Bottom line: our plans should always fulfill His purpose for us.
Most of us are familiar with Matthew 6:33, which instructs us to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” In other words, when we put God first, we won’t have to worry about what we’re going to eat, drink, or wear. God knows what we need, and when we have faith in Him to supply our needs, He will supply. Sometimes, we like to gloss over the seeking Him first part. However, it’s critical to our success. Seeking Him first means that we look to please Him in obedience and humble submission in all of our actions, thoughts and intentions. God’s Word is our instruction manual, and we shouldn’t do anything without His guidance, direction, and blessing.
Psalm 112:1-5 gives us a description of success:
Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.
Those who fear the Lord, obey His Word. In order to obey it, we must saturate ourselves in it every day. We have to know it by spending time reading it and by hearing the Word in a local assembly of believers.
Worldly success can happen by hard work ethic, knowing the “right” people, and a host of other ways. However, this type of success is fleeting. Just as easily as it comes, it can be swept away. We can’t take this type of success with us. When we leave, the wealth, power, privilege, and status are gone. The most that people with worldly success can hope to leave is an inheritance, and while this can be a blessing, it can be a curse if things aren’t done the Lord’s way.
Wealth is always attached to God’s believers. We have an abundance of God’s resources at our disposal. While believers’ wealth may not always be in material things, it is in peace, love, joy and the fruits of the spirit. For those believers who are blessed with material wealth, they are able to help sustain and bless the body of Christ. They also tend to have a special kind of influence to draw others to Christ. Selflessness is a trademark of a true believer, regardless of what kind of wealth he or she possesses.
While reaching for the next level, we need to make sure that our foundation is sure. We should be obedient, disciplined, and humble in the things of God. First things come first. We should strive to seek Him in every decision, every single day, trusting that He will light our path. We can’t skip over things that we feel are too difficult. For example, we can’t dismiss the importance of attending church, giving in tithes and offerings, and witnessing to others because we’re too busy, too tired, or too financially strapped. We can no longer neglect church because the people in the church aren’t perfect. Nobody is perfect. Just as grace is extended to us, we should extend it to others, both in and out of the church. We have to put Him first.
The next level is the one where we digest the meat. No longer can we become offended by the little foxes that strive to destroy our growth. We should see things with our spiritual eyes. We have to see what God is saying to us about our present situation. We might not understand all of the difficulty, all of the pain and sacrifice, but we have to trust that He knows what’s best.
He wants to fulfill His purpose in us. When He does this, we don’t have to be concerned about success because we are a good success! Our legacy will be generations of blessed people, serving, loving and obeying a God who never fails!