Proverbs 21:20-21 > The Great Single Minded Christian Pursuit of Success.

Proverbs 21:20-21 Amplified Bible

There is precious treasure and oil in the house of the wise [who prepare for the future],
But a short-sighted and foolish man swallows it up and wastes it.
He who earnestly seeks righteousness and loyalty
Finds life, righteousness, and honor.

The Word of God for the Children of God.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Should Christians Be Pursuing Success?

“It is, of course, always a joyful thing to succeed. But the joy is very deceptive if it comes from the satisfaction of an ambition that is contrary to the will of God. What is success and what is failure? The answer of the Bible is, ‘What is the will of God? Are you obeying Him?’” Paul Tournier, Breakfast for the Soul

Should “Sermon in Shoes” Christians be pursuing success?

The answer is an emphatic “yes” if we understand that a successful life is one that is intent on knowing God as He has revealed Himself, seeks to believe and obey all that the Word of God proclaims, views life through the lens of eternity.

The answer is, however, as should be expected, a tad bit more complicated if we are defining the single minded pursuit of our success only by the world’s terms.

At its core, the word “success” is quite ambiguous, defined rather simply as a favorable or desired outcome.

It means to reach one’s expectations, to accomplish a predefined goal.

Today’s culture sees a successful person as one who is either famous, wealthy, or comfortable, or has a certain level of influence and power.

We succeed when we make good grades, earn high honors, or earn promotions, lifetime achievements, start and successfully build, grow our own businesses, gain material possessions which set us apart from those less-successful peers.

Success is achieved when we we can “retire early,” no longer need to work hard, ride around in private airplanes, and still have all of our desires and wants met.

The world also acknowledges success as accomplishing humanitarian goals – becoming missionaries, disaster relief workers, feeding the hungry, providing for the sick or mentally ill or homeless, or helping people overcome addictions.

None of these would necessarily make a person rich or famous, but they would certainly be considered successful in Christian life for their accomplishments.

However, if our focus is simply on the physical needs of this world without concern for the eternal souls of men, does God interpret this as “success?”

What Does God Say About Success?

If we are ourselves tempted to pursue the kind of success as the world defines it, we should first examine what God says about success.

One of the more familiar passages about success in the Hebrew Testament was given to Joshua.

God’s words to Joshua as he humbles himself, accepts an important assignment are a good place to begin.

Joshua 1:7-8 Amplified Bible

Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do [everything] in accordance with the entire law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may prosper and be successful wherever you go.  This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall read [and meditate on] it day and night, so that you may be careful to do [everything] in accordance with all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will be [a]successful.

The Hebrew word is śāḵal, meaning to be prudent or circumspect, to have insight and understanding, or to prosper.

Joshua was charged with a great task.

He was to take up the mantle of his beloved mentor, Moses, and finish the work of bringing God’s people into the Promised Land.

His success would be guaranteed, according to God’s promise, if he continued to obey the commands set forth in the Law of God.

As He sought God’s wisdom, meditating on God’s Word, he would have what he needed to make right decisions and succeed in his mission.

The prosperous, the successful way, for Joshua, would be the path of obedience.

In fact, in the King James Version of the Bible, the only time the word “success” is used is right here in this passage of text from Joshua.

In truth, the word “success” is not to be found in the New Testament writings.

To the New Testament writers, success is defined by the eternal – the prosperity of the soul.

Health and prosperity in the physical world would be meaningless if one’s soul languished in the pursuit of temporal, earthly things.

Matthew 16:26Amplified Bible

26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world [wealth, fame, success], but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mark 8:36 Amplified Bible

36 For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world [with all its pleasures], and forfeit his soul?

Luke 9:25 Amplified Bible

25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world [wealth, fame, success], and loses or forfeits himself?

Rabbi Jesus made this distinction clear as he addressed both His disciples, the unbelieving Pharisees, and to the crowds pursuing Him for physical provision after He fed five thousand with a small boy’s rather meager lunch.

John 6:27-29 Amplified Bible

27 Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures [and leads] to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you; for God the Father has authorized Him and put His seal on Him.” 28 Then they asked Him, “What are we to do, so that we may habitually be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered, “This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One whom He has sent.”

Success Through Obedience and Service

God defines success as living in obedience to His commands and seeing our physical work as ultimately serving Him.

1 Chronicles 22:9-12 Amplified Bible

Behold, a son will be born to you, who will be a man of peace. I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for My Name (Presence). He shall be My son and I will be his father; and I will establish his royal throne over Israel forever.’ 11 Now, my son, may the Lord be with you so that you may be successful and build the house of the Lord your God, just as He has spoken concerning you. 12 Only may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God.

Proverbs 6:6-8 Amplified Bible

Go to the ant, O lazy one;
Observe her ways and be wise,

Which, having no chief,
Overseer or ruler,

She prepares her food in the summer
And brings in her provisions [of food for the winter] in the harvest.

Proverbs 21:20 Amplified Bible

There is precious treasure and oil in the house of the wise [who prepare for the future],
But a short-sighted and foolish man swallows it up and wastes it.

God often gives physical and spiritual success to His people as they employ their talents and spiritual gifts.

Missionaries would not be on the field without the financial generosity of those who have a talent for business and the gift of giving.

The gospel can be proclaimed with great influence as we live with a kingdom perspective while succeeding in our earthly work.

Humanitarian work can be a great blessing to a hurting world, but is successful when we see past physical needs to the spiritual needs of those we are serving.

The very real danger comes actualized, and too realized when the success of the work of our hands and its benefits distracts us from the higher purpose of God’s glory and the proclamation of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 16:1-3Amplified Bible

Contrast the Upright and the Wicked

16 The plans and reflections of the heart belong to man,
But the [wise] answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

All the ways of a man are clean and innocent in his own eyes [and he may see nothing wrong with his actions],
But the Lord weighs and examines the motives and intents [of the heart and knows the truth].

[a]Commit your works to the Lord [submit and trust them to Him],
And your plans will succeed [if you respond to His will and guidance].

The Word of God: The Rewards of Working Hard

2 Thessalonians 3:7-10Amplified Bible

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined or inappropriate manner when we were with you [we were never idle or lazy, nor did we avoid our duties], nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we worked night and day [to pay our own way] so that we would not be a financial burden on any of you [for our support]; not because we do not have a right to such support, but [we provided our own financial support] to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10 For even while we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is [a]not to eat, either.

Warning Against The Love of Money

God also gives us guidance on the purpose of wealth, and the dangers of the love of money and possessions.

Luke 12:13-21 Amplified Bible

Covetousness Denounced

13 Someone from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or an arbitrator over [the two of] you?” 15 Then He said to them, “Watch out and guard yourselves against every form of greed; for not even when one has an overflowing abundance does his life consist of nor is it derived from his possessions.”

Parable of the Wealthy Fool

16 Then He told them a parable, saying, “There was a rich man whose land was very fertile and productive. 17 And he began thinking to himself, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place [large enough in which] to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my storehouses and build larger ones, and I will store all my grain and my goods there. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many good things stored up, [enough] for many years; rest and relax, eat, drink and be merry (celebrate continually).”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own all the things you have prepared?’ 21 So it is for the one who continues to store up and hoard possessions for himself, and is not rich [in his relationship] toward God.”

I didn’t think I was greedy until I read this passage again.

Jesus warns us to watch out for all kinds of greed.

The kind of greed I usually thought about had to do with very wealthy people always wanting more – but Jesus does not focus on that kind of greed here.

In the context of this passage, a man is arguing with his brother over their inheritance.

The family has enough to hand down, but Rabbi Jesus sees that this man is still worried if he will truly have enough.

He is greedy not for luxury but for security.

In the second Parable, the wealthy man looks to build “bigger storehouses” to 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many good things stored up, [enough] for many years; rest and relax, eat, drink and be merry (celebrate continually).”’

Kind of sounds like “Just in case of the worst possible scenario” or “Just in Case I might actually find one use for it ten or twenty years from now” Hoarding.

It’s in this context that Jesus goes on to teach some familiar lessons.

Be faithful in the little things, so that God can trust you with the big things.

Don’t fall into the trap of serving and living and striving and possessing for money; it will master you and you will be unfaithful to your Master, Jesus.

Ouch! I didn’t even realize the extent of that kind of unfaithfulness ­existed.

But many of us have it and do not realize how deeply we are entrenched in it.

We want a little bit more so that we don’t have to worry.

Jesus points us away from greed based on worry.

So long as we aim to live God’s way, aligning ourselves with God’s purpose for us in this world (seeking his kingdom), and so long as it is not yet time for our heavenly inheritance, God will give us what we need to live for him each day.

Wanting more than that is a type of greed.

And that will distract us from fully living the life of joy, peace we are created for.

So let’s remember this admonition, learn to let go of our worry-based greed.

Hebrews 13:5-6 Amplified Bible

Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed—be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently say,

“The Lord is my Helper [in time of need], I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?”

Summarizing: Should Christians Pursue Success?

By all means.

Work hard where God has put you.

Be a faithful, dependable, honest employee.

Use the influence and position God gives you to boldly proclaim the gospel.

Be generous with your material possessions and financial blessings and use them wisely and prudently for kingdom purposes.

Take care of your spouses, your loved ones and leave your children and your grandchildren an “inheritance” – including a spiritual one – your witness!

Psalm 119:9-16Amplified Bible


How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping watch [on himself] according to Your word [conforming his life to Your precepts].
With all my heart I have sought You, [inquiring of You and longing for You];
Do not let me wander from Your commandments [neither through ignorance nor by willful disobedience].
Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
Blessed and reverently praised are You, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.
With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.

I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts
And [thoughtfully] regard Your ways [the path of life established by Your precepts].
I will delight in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.

Live your life to glorify God alone, and according to Him, you WILL find success.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Psalm 23 The Message

23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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