The Lord wants you to have a successful summer and to be a success—according to HIS definition! This morning, before beginning this month’s letter, I went to my once-a-week water aerobics class at our condominium pool. From time to time, the very secular, albeit excellent, instructor gives a mini-sermon during our exercises. Today was one of those days. He gave us his definition of a successful life: “You only live once.” “It’s all about YOU.” “It’s all about YOUR happiness.” “If you don’t like something, don’t do it.” As I jogged in place, I said to myself, “Not true. Not true. Not true.” That is not the Bible’s definition of success.
Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, triumph. God wants us to triumph. “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ (Messiah)…” (2 Cor. 2:14). IN MESSIAH. “Through God we will do valiantly…” (Ps. 60:12). THROUGH GOD. For the believer, success always includes GOD. HE is at the center, not us. He sets our goals and defines our purpose.
The English verbs “succeed” and “prosper” are often interchangeable in the Holy Scriptures. For example, King Jehoshaphat said to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, “Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be upheld; believe in His prophets, and you will succeed” (2 Chr. 20:20, Berean Study Bible). The word “succeed” in the Berean Study Bible is “prosper” in the New King James Version of the Bible. This prosperity has nothing to do with money, although the word is usually related to financial blessings in our 21st-century minds.
The Hebrew word for prosper (succeed) in the Bible is צלח tza-LACH, a primary root. When the kings of Israel, like Jehoshaphat, sought the LORD and did what was right in His sight, they prospered and had success. It is said of Uzziah, for example, “And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD…and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper” (2 Chr. 26:5). King Asa also did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD. He and the people of Judah sought the LORD, and Asa said to His people, “…we have sought Him, and He has given us rest on every side. So they built and prospered” (2 Chr. 14:7).
A biblical principle is clear: believing God, seeking Him, and doing what is right in His eyes brings success. This reminds us of a New Covenant promise, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Success results from doing something. It is a consequence of our actions, as well as the result of following biblical principles. The Lord made this clear to His servant Joshua when he became the successor of Moses. “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper (תשכיל ,tas–KEEL) wherever you go” (Jos. 1:7).
Success and the Word of God
The Lord continued instructing Joshua, making a very strong connection between success/ prosperity and the Word of God:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you This letter was written just before two “successful” American celebrities committed suicide. Outward swagger, but inward pain (Proverbs 14:12). shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For
then you will make your way prosperous (tatz-LEE-ach תצליח ,(and then you will have good success (tas-KEEL תשכיל) “(Jos. 1:8). Meditate on, digest, and obey God’s Word. Success will follow. (See also 2 Corinthians 9:6 and Luke 6:38.)
In his final address to the Children of Israel, Moses reminded them, “Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper (tas-key-LOO) in all that you do” (Deut. 29:9). Success and delight in God’s Word are paired in Psalm 1. The one who loves God’s Law is fruitful “…and whatever he does shall prosper (yatz-LEE-ach)” (vs. 2-3).
Success and Our Founding Fathers
July 4 always reminds me of my days of serving tea to the ladies of the DAR. I grew up in a very patriotic household. One of my ancestors was George Washington’s personal physician. I have been to Washington’s headquarters in White Plains, NY, not far from the hospital where I was born. I did not know growing up how committed Washington was to God and the Bible. He spent from 9:00-10:00 PM and 4:00-5:00 AM daily in private devotions, on his knees with a Bible open before him. Success for George Washington could probably be summed up in one verse of Scripture, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
George Washington, as well as most of America’s other Founding Fathers, considered liberty a gift of God. In Ten Truths About America’s Christian Heritage, Dr. D. James Kennedy remarks: “America’s Founding Fathers acknowledged that God is the source of both law and liberty. Likewise, they understood that our nation’s government must adhere to His immutable principles in order to prosper. George Washington, in his first Inaugural Address, stated: ‘The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.'”
Success, according to Samuel Adams, the “Father of the American Revolution” and instigator of the Boston Tea Party, involved putting the Right King on the throne. Adams made the following statement as the Declaration of Independence was being signed in 1776: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His Kingdom come.” The patriots even had a favorite rallying cry: “No king but King Jesus.”
Success for the Patriots of the early American colonies was freedom from the tyranny of a king across the ocean. Just as the Pilgrims and the Puritans wanted freedom to worship in their own way, the colonists wanted freedom to govern themselves. They were passionate for liberty. That was their goal, and the attainment of it would be success. In response to the 1774 closing of the Boston Harbor by the British, Josiah Quincy II, an American Revolutionary patriot, made this declaration: “Under God, we are determined that wheresoever, whensoever, or howsoever we shall be called to make our exit, we will die free men.”
God Wants You to Succeed!
There are many verses in the Bible that testify to the truth of God’s desire to see His children succeed/prosper. Three in the Psalms stand out: “…Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant” (Ps. 35:27). “God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity…” (Ps. 68:6). “Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity” (Ps. 118:25). A special verse from the New Covenant also expresses God’s heart for His children, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 Jn. 1:2). The real question is: What does success look like for a child of God? We know what it looks like in the world: WEALTH, POWER, and PRESTIGE. Sociologists say that when people possess one of these, they tend to have the other two also. In our society, the usual path to success begins with acquiring wealth. Wealthy people are often treated differently. They may be looked up to and honored, admired or envied. Is God against wealth? No. God doesn’t mind if we have money, as long as money doesn’t have us. It is “the LOVE [emphasis ours] of money that is a root of all kinds of evil…” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Success for the Child of God
Success for a child of God begins with having a major life purpose. This can only come from the Lord, once we are His child, born again into His Kingdom. While an all-encompassing goal might be to glorify God with our lives, there are as many secondary goals or life purposes as there are children of God. Consider the Apostle Paul, Rabbi Saul, who said, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Phil. 3:10). That was success to him. Finishing his spiritual race with joy was also Saul’s standard for success (Acts 20:24).
Believers need spiritual goals so that we can chart our success. Some of these might be: pleasing God, being rich in faith, dying daily to our prideful selves, becoming others-centered instead of self- centered, becoming a more generous and giving person, making “love” our highest aim, replacing the fear of man with the fear of God, and becoming more like Yeshua.
Along with goals that focus on our spiritual maturity, we must ask God to put in our hearts His dreams for our lives—what He has ordained for us to do on this earth. These dreams will always include the blessing of others through our lives. We are successful as we cause others to flourish. Yeshua set the pattern for this. And note that this did not exempt Him from great trials, nor a horrific death. But success did come, with the resurrection, as prophesied in Isaiah 53:11-12.
Many years ago, we read a book called The Success Fantasy by Anthony Campolo, Jr. The author made a statement that we have pondered since then: “We are successful if the most significant people in our lives deem us successful.” This begins in childhood when children experience delight when they do something that makes Mommy or Daddy proud of them. The people whose approval gives us the inner feeling of success are not the same throughout the lifecycle. However, adults may still be affected by the opinions of their parents. A man may have accomplished great things in his career but lack any sense of fulfillment because he has not achieved success in the eyes of his father. A shift of focus is necessary. We are successful in the eyes of our Heavenly Father because we have done the one thing that pleases Him most—we have believed in His Son and received His Gift of love (Jn. 6:29).
Success: A Ladder or a Way Out?
There is an expression often connected with the idea of success: the ladder of success. The definition of this phrase on the internet says, “First, a ladder is made for vertical and not horizontal use. It is used for an upward climb. Also, a ladder can’t be safely climbed except by using one rung at a time. Just like people don’t explode into success, but grow into it, a ladder offers only a progressive means of travel.” We would agree that success for the believer is a journey, upward in the sense of “aliyah” (ah-lee-YAH), going up to God, “looking unto Yeshua, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2). Sanctification, becoming like the Lord, is a process. We go from strength to strength. (See Psalm 84:7.) Work, faith, obedience, and time are involved. The wonderful thing about the ladder of success for Messianic believers is that we have a LIVING LADDER—Yeshua—who has sent His Spirit to live inside of us, causing us to succeed as we rely on and abide in Him! (See Gen. 28:12 and Jn. 1:51.)
Richard Briley in a fascinating little book, Everything I Needed to Know About Success, I Learned in the Bible, sees success not as the way UP, but the way OUT. He bases this concept on the Spanish word for success, “éxito,” which looks like our English word for escape or exit. Mr. Briley maintains that success is not the start of winning, but the end of losing. It is the way out of a bad situation to something better. To be sure, when we receive Yeshua, we leave darkness and enter light. We exit death and enter life. We exchange hopelessness for hope, and sin for salvation.
The “Secret” of Success
George Washington Carver, the agricultural chemist who introduced hundreds of uses for the peanut, soybean, pecan, and sweet potato, said of success: “The secret to my success? It is simple. It is found in the Bible, ‘In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.'” We are sure that Mr. Carver would also say that while knowing God’s will is important, obeying it is crucial. Obedience is certainly an integral part of success for a Messianic believer. Do the will of God, the good works that He has prepared for you to walk in (Eph. 2:10).
Another secret of success was articulated succinctly by Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the most influential associate justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: “The great act of faith is when man decides that he is not God.” Humility places the Creator in His rightful place and opens the door to God-given success.
Neil has his personal “secret” of success. He calls it “contentment.” Just the other day he said to me, “I’m 82 years old and completely content. I love our little condo. I am grateful for all that the Lord has given me. I am in awe of His beautiful creation. I am still ministering. God is so Good.” The Bible agrees with Neil’s definition of success: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).
A Summer Kiss to Promote Success
I have loved you since you were created in your mother’s womb. I will never stop loving you, or reaching
out to you. I LOVE you. If you let me, I will help you to love yourself so that you can love others. I bless you with
the knowledge of my LOVE.
You are created in My image. I see all of your good qualities, and I ACCEPT all of your shortcomings. I bless you with a heart to pray, “Lord, change me.”
I will never leave you nor forsake you. Some may turn their backs on you, others may walk out on you, but
I will always be there for you. I bless you with the knowledge of MY PRESENCE.
IN MY EYES, YOU ARE A SUCCESS, but I want more good things for you. I desire that others want to
help you succeed. I want you to have the favor that Joseph had with Pharaoh, and that Daniel had with the
lions. I bless you with FAVOR. FAVOR with Me, and FAVOR with man.
It is my desire that your life be filled with JOY. Not the happiness of the world which only lasts for a
moment, but the deep JOY which can sustain you through every trial you will face in life. I bless you with MY
JOY, and proclaim that it will be your strength.
Life is filled with choices, and every choice comes with consequences. I bless you with the WISDOM to
make good choices—to choose God, to choose good, and to choose to be a blessing in the lives of others.
And finally, I bless you with the FAITH to believe Me and My Word. Choose wisely, and all the blessings
with which I have blessed you today will come to pass.
With love, Your Heavenly Father
Praying for your success—Love,
P.S. We believers also have WEALTH, POWER, and PRESTIGE, but of another coin.
WEALTH – the riches of God’s goodness, the riches of His glory, the riches of His grace, the
unsearchable riches of Messiah.
POWER – the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the power over unclean spirits, the power to
heal, the power to forgive, the power to live a life pleasing to God, the power to be a witness.
PRESTIGE – going lower instead of higher, servanthood as greatness, esteeming others better
than ourselves, denying ourselves and giving to others, following the way of love.
P.P.S. We are going to Israel – just the two of us – at the beginning of August, and want to bring love
gifts to all our Mercy Mission ministries. Please help us fill our Love Baskets. Thank you!
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