I can confidently say that I have never met someone who didn’t desire to be successful and prosperous. I believe no one in their right mind wants to fail. I know I don’t. But one day, as I began my meditation on the Word of God, a question struck my spirit: What is success to God?
People have inaccurately defined success as abundance. So, if a person has a career that makes money, houses, cars, things, or earthly legacies, people generally would identify them as successful. But, does God feel the same? You and I are believers, and we must see things as God sees them and define them according to our playbook, The Word of God.
What is Success?
Dictionaries define success as an accomplishment. But surprisingly, the word “success” is written only one time in the Bible.
Joshua 1:8 says, “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.”
There is so much to this Scripture, and it speaks volumes to the church. The words “prosperous” and “success” are terms that the church magnifies. Every person is seeking their path to prosperity and success. However, God’s Word does not base success and prosperity on the increase of goods, unlike the world. Look at the scripture; nowhere does it correlate success with business, finances, money, or blessings. Success is based on obedience to God.
We’ve all heard it before, the “prosperity gospel.” But, there were people all throughout Scripture, including our Savior, who were not increased with goods and found themselves “abased” at times (Phillipians 4:12), but they were successful. Is having money and possessions a sin? Certainly not. But, you and I must change our perspective on what success is and who we congratulate as successful when their success does not align with how God defines it.
Joshua 1:8 provides three stipulations to attaining success and prosperity:
- Not allowing God’s law to depart from your mouth.
- Meditate on His law day and night.
- To do all that is written in God’s law.
When all three are complete, the Scripture closes with a promise of prosperity and good success.
Desire Good Success
One thing I found very interesting about Joshua 1:8 is that it specifies a type of success. The term “good” precedes the word “success” as an adjective. Adjectives are potent in understanding Biblical revelation. For example, John 14:6, which speaks about Jesus being the way, truth, and life details to us through the article/adjective “the” that there is a single way, truth, and life. Therefore, phrases like “my truth” are Biblically incorrect because the Word declares there is no other truth than that of Jesus Christ. Joshua 1:8 teaches us in a like manner that the success God is referring to is “good.”
Moreover, since we can conclude that success can be good, then there must be an opposite. So, what is the opposite of “good” success?
I did a podcast episode about the word “good” and how its Biblical meaning is more than just the quality of a subject, but it’s also defined as approved. Understanding this, we can identify this kind of success as an accomplishment approved by God. On the other hand, we can also sum up the opposite of good success as accomplishments unapproved by God.
You might be wondering, what would make an accomplishment unapproved by God? Simple; it is when it breaks God’s law in any way.
All Good Success is not Good
Let me make it straightforward. You may see a person with a great career, houses, cars, equity, and label them as successful. Indeed they are, but they may have attained this success through drug dealing. As believers, there is no way we can label their “success” as good because God is not pleased with the way or method in which they became successful.
Or, what if a person is a believer, and gained their increase in goods the honest way? But they fail to complete the three stipulations of success, and never do the Word of God? Would this person be successful if they achieved much without godliness? Certainly not. The increase in goods is not what follows a person into eternity. We may be saved by grace, but we are judged according to our works (Revelation 20:12).
Here is another example, people are claiming success but are indirectly involved in sin. For example, a person may accomplish a lot by owning a brothel. Although they are not personally prostituting, they make way for others to sin against God. Their achievements are not an example of good success.
I am an author; if I become a New York Times bestseller by writing a book that glorifies any kind of sin, I am not successful. I would prefer two people to purchase my book containing the unadulterated truth of God, rather than one million purchasing a book that defies the law and promotes sin.
Jesus warned the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:17 of this “unapproved success.” These were people that had money and goods. Yet Jesus told them that they were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Those are sobering words coming from the King.
I write with great passion because it pains me to see many of my brothers and sisters striving for a success that God has not ordained. Or, secretly envious of those who compromise the faith in the name of success.
Live The Approved Life
I sincerely desire that you live the life God wants you to live. I want you to have prosperity and abundance, but not at the expense of your soul. The Bible says in Matthew 16:26, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
I want to illustrate something for you. Let’s say you receive a prophecy or a dream, and in it, someone tells you, “You are going to be a person of great influence. Many will follow you. You will lead. Your name will be written and remembered for generations to come.” At first glance, you may be praising God because this sounds like success. But this can be a “word” given to both a “Deborah” or a “Jezebel” if you are a woman. If you are a man, a “David” and a “Saul.” All four people had the fruit of success, but one man and one woman’s fruit was good, and the others, evil.
I hope this is clear to you because the fruit increase may seem right until evaluating the type of fruit produced.
So, What’s the Play Call?
I hear people say, “If Jesus were in my day, I would have followed Him.” How easy it is to utter those words, but the truth is, if we are not careful, we can be the very people that will reject Jesus now.
Jesus said that in the last days if it were possible, the very “elect” would be deceived (Matthew 24:24). That indicates to me that the cunningness of deceit in this last day is very strong. Think about it; if Jesus were here now, people would say he was not successful. He had nowhere to lay His head (Matthew 8:19-20). He had to go fishing to pay His taxes. He was incarcerated and died at 33. John the Baptist lived in the woods, eating locusts and honey. He wore animal hair for his clothing. But it was those in “high places” or those labeled as successful who are responsible for both Jesus’ and John’s deaths.
It is time that you and I seek a clearer vision. We have to look through the eyes of God and His Word, or we will find ourselves approving what God has rejected. To the world, godly success won’t look as prestigious. But, if you never inherit this earth’s good, think about the crown of life that will sit tall and beautifully upon your head when God, the Father, and Jesus our Lord welcomes you into the Kingdom.
Now. After all that you have read, what is success to you?