“Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear Me and obey all My commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.
To read today’s portion of scripture, you can purchase The One Year Bible (paid link) or find the following in your Bible:
Here, in one tidy, succinct statement, we have the one true secret of a successful life. But the majority of the world has never heard this, because their ears are full of lesser-advice on how to achieve a successful life:
- Always do your best
- Look out for #1
- Take matters in your own hands—make it happen
- Set concrete goals
- Believe in yourself
- Balance work with passion
- Surround yourself with the right people
- Love yourself first
- Learn to say no
- Control your own destiny
Those are just the first ten nuggets I found when I googled this topic. Let’s compare those with scripture:
Always do your best — Except that our “best,” according to scripture, is a filthy rag compared to the purity and holiness of God. “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all of our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
Look out for #1 — Except that we have a misconception about who is #1. It isn’t us. We are the creatures; He is the Creator, and wholly superior to us. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts“ (Isaiah 55:9).
Take matters in your own hands—make it happen. Except that God’s purposes will not be thwarted, and that includes the plans He has for us. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21)
Set concrete goals —There’s nothing wrong with setting goals, but life has a wonderful way of turning us around corners we didn’t intend to go around, and opening doors we didn’t know existed. And if we are rigid in our plans, that will frustrate us. And then there’s the verse in the paragraph above.
Believe in yourself — Except that we are usually our own worst enemy. How many times do we sabotage our own plans with our actions or reactions? “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) And though we may forge ahead with self-determination, our strength, talents, knowledge, means, and wisdom are all limited when compared to the infinite strengths, ability and wisdom of the Lord.
Balance work with passion — Except that there’s a better formula than a 50/50 split of time and attention: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).
Surround yourself with the right people — The thought is that if you hang out with people who are wealthier than you, or smarter or more successful, they will up your game and raise you to their level. In other words, surround yourself with people who can help you get where you want to go. But what example did Jesus give us? He hung out with outcasts and ragamuffins. He sought out the broken, the lame, the diseased, the despised, the disreputable. He surrounded Himself with a ragtag group of sinners and poured His love into them, and then through those broken vessels He spread hope to the rest of the world. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:32-35)
Love yourself first — Not even. This is not something than any of us have to work at. We already love ourselves plenty. Instead, we need to work more at loving our neighbors as much as we already love ourselves. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Phillipians 2:3)
Learn to say no — In other words, set some boundaries for your life. Do the things you want to do and don’t do the things you don’t want to do and don’t let anyone infringe on your time. Except … “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you“ (Matthew 5:39-42).
Control your own destiny — Except, can you? Do you have control over this day, this minute, this second? Can you keep your heart beating and your lungs filling with air? If we cannot even control these basic bodily functions, why would we deceive ourselves into thinking that we can control our entire destiny? Better to place your destiny in the loving hands of your Father. ”Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? So if you cannot do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Matthew 6:25).
How loving of God to simplify this issue for us. If we want to have live a successful life, all we have to do is fear (respect) Him and obey His commands.