Who doesn’t want to be successful? I don’t know of anyone who has set out with dreams of failure. Oftentimes, however, we can be distracted by unfortunate circumstances, lack of early success, and the negative words hurled our way by short-sighted and not-so-well-meaning people. There are millions of self-help books that purport to have the secret to success, but as good as they are, most are focused on a misguided view of what success really is.
So, if we want to learn how to be successful, we must first define success. As I see it, success is measured, not by the magnitude of our accomplishments, but by what we accomplish with what we’ve been given. Success is standing before the throne of God and hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents. In the parable, the master entrusted his servants with money (a talent was roughly 75-80 lbs of silver) to invest while he is away. He doesn’t give the same amount to each of them; rather he gives “to each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15b). Is it a coincidence that the measure of currency and our skill-sets share the name talent? I don’t think so.
Now that we have an idea of what we’re shooting for, what are the three steps?
1. Humble Yourself
I’ve seen it happen (and lived it myself!) where God gives direction, but we feel that the task is beneath us. Or maybe we don’t act because we can’t see the point.
In 2 Kings 5:1-14, Naaman the Syrian was offended that Elisha didn’t come see him personally to heal him of his leprosy, but rather sent a messenger with instructions for him. He was even more put out by the instructions which made no sense to him whatsoever. His servant spoke with wisdom and encouraged Naaman to humble himself and follow Elisha’s instructions. He did and was healed.
Sometimes God uses “what is foolish in the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27 ESV). God doesn’t need to explain Himself. Sometimes obedience means humility.
2. Be Faithful In The Little Things!
The master tells the good servants, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” It’s true in nearly every aspect in life, that one works from the bottom up. Michael Jordan didn’t become a basketball superstar overnight. He didn’t make the varsity team his first time out. He spent hundreds of hours, perhaps thousands, building the skills that he would need to be great.
Likewise, God is unlikely to take a new believer and give him the stature and world-wide respect of Billy Graham overnight. That’s not to say that someone can’t get to that place, but faithfulness in the small tasks leads to faithfulness in bigger tasks. This advise ties in closely with the first point. There is no task that is beneath the follower of Christ. A willingness to be faithful in menial tasks builds the character necessary to be a productive and “successful” Christian.
3. Put Others Before Yourself
In the parable, two of the servants went about the task given them for the benefit of the master. The other servant was concerned only about himself. The first two had no reason to believe that they would be so handsomely rewarded. They were servants!
Paul laid it out as plainly as possible when he said, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV emphasis mine).
Zig Ziglar said, “You can have anything you want in life as long as you help enough other people get what they want.” While he spoke primarily of earthly desires, the saying holds true spiritually as well. If you put others first, God will make sure that you are always taken care of. And He will speak to you the words of a successful Christian life, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!