One Sunday morning early last year, I was sitting in church (admittedly, when I should have been listening more intently to the pastor’s sermon) reading a particular story in my Bible. The story is found in the book of Genesis, and it recounts how Abraham sent his senior servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac.
As the story goes, the servant swears to Abraham that he will do his best to find a wife for Isaac. The servant then sets off on a journey to Abraham’s land of origin. When he arrives in the land, the servant says a prayer that, when I read it that Sunday morning, just blew me away! It’s found it Genesis, chapter 24, verse 12, which states:
“Then he prayed, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.’” (NIV)
When I read that verse, I thought, ‘Wow! Did he just ask God to make him successful? What audacity!’ Then I thought, ‘What was it about this servant that allowed him to be so audacious?’ To me, the key in the follow-up clause – “and show kindness to my master Abraham.”
You see, the servant was not concerned with being successful out of selfish ambitions or selfish motivations. No, he wanted to be successful out of concern for another – his master, Abraham. This, in part, is why I believe God honored his request. Indeed, if you read on in Chapter 24, the servant is successful in finding Isaac a wife.
I then thought to myself, ‘Can I have this same audacity? Can others who love God have this same audacity?’ The answer that kept coming back to me was this: that I (and others) can be as audacious as this servant, so long as our motivations are the same. That is, our desire for success is not me-centric, but rather is other-centric.
As James so aptly wrote in chapter 4, verses 2-3, of his epistle:
“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (NIV)
It’s all about our motivations.
And so, there are many days (I wish I could honestly say it is every day, but I’d be lying if I did) that I awaken and begin by saying this prayer, “God, make me successful today. Not for me, but for You. Not for me, but for my wife and family. Not for me, but for my business partners, my co-workers, my clients. Not for me, but for those who are less fortunate than me.”
This year, and for years to come, I want to encourage you, as a resolution, to join me and begin asking God to make you successful each and every day. Not in just some areas of our lives, but in all areas of our lives. Not to enhance our status, not to enrich our egos, not to inflate our bank accounts; but to enhance our relationship with Him, to strengthen and enrich our families, to impact others for Him, and to finance His kingdom, so that above all else others will see how great He is and be drawn to relationship with Him.
As a start, here are some of the most important areas of my life that I plan to focus on, and encourage others to do so, as well. The order I’m presenting these in is significant, because this is the order I believe that God truly wants to see success come to fruition in our lives.
1. Make Me a Successful Christian
First and foremost, God wants to make each of us successful Christians. And so, that is always first on my list. I pray “God, make me a successful Christian today.” Not so that I can be looked upon as some upright man, or so that people will admire me for my integrity, or so that people will say what a nice, humble, joyful man I am. No, it is so that Christ is glorified, so that others are drawn to Him, and so that others see the emptiness of a life apart from Him.
When we ask God to help us be successful Christians, and do so with the correct motives, we will inevitably be looked upon as upright, admired for our integrity, be viewed as nice, humble, and joyful. These are the fruit of our willingness to ask with the right motives. And these right motives are so that Christ is glorified.
2. Make Me a Successful Spouse
Secondly, God wants to make each of us successful spouses and parents. I mean, think about it. Marriage was the very first institution God created. Genesis 2:22-24 (NIV) states:
“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
Clearly, our marriage is very important to God. As such, it should be a priority for us. So, as you may have guessed, that is second on my list – “God, make me a successful husband and father today.” Not so my wife will fulfill all my needs, not so others will admire me for being such a loving husband and father, not so that my children think I am the most amazing man in their lives. No, it is so that my wife sees You in me, so that my children will see You in me, so that my children will respect authority.
This is not an easy task, which is why it requires prayer.
3. Make Me Successful Vocationally
God is a worker, and he created us to work. Genesis 2:15 (NIV) says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” I think our work is also very important to God. Our work matters to God. So, I also think that God wants us to be successful in our chosen vocations – no matter what that might be. Whether a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a teacher, a customer service representative, an automobile mechanic, a truck driver, a janitor, or a garbage man.
And so, that is third on my list – “God, make me successful at my job today.” Not so that I can boast about, or be admired for, my job or position. Not so that I can coddle favor with my boss, or kindle envy from my co-workers. No, it is so that my employer is profitable, my co-workers remain employed, my family has provision, and that others that count on my employer can be successful.
Again, it’s not about us, it’s about others; mainly, it’s about God. According to one translation, Colossians 3:22-25 (MSG) reads as follows:
“Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.”
Being a good worker makes us a good witness. Even on our most difficult days, if we will bear in mind that we are not working to be successful for ourselves, but for others and for God, we can, should, and will, be productive and cheerful in our work.
4. Make Me Successful Financially
I do believe that God wants to bless each and every one of us financially. Maybe not to the same level, but to the level that we can prove ourselves responsibly. Luke 12:48 says, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” While this verse isn’t speaking directly to finances, I believe it can be applied to our finances. I know that in my own life God has blessed me beyond belief. But before He did so, I needed to learn some hard lessons.
Here again, God does not want us to be financially successful so that we can buy more stuff. Not so that we can take lavish vacations. Not so that we can simply build up our bank accounts. No, it is so that we can give to His kingdom – God’s plan for His church was that it be self-financed. It is so we can adequately provide for our family’s future, and so we can give to those in need. To do so, however, we have to first be good stewards with what God is presently entrusting us.
It’s All About Motives
Asking God to make us successful may seem audacious, but only if we have the wrong motives. If our desire for success is all about us, and we do indeed become successful, it will all be emptiness anyway. Just ask King Solomon, who wrote:
“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 (NIV)
Do you want to be successful? If so, ask yourself ‘why.’ If your motives are self-centered, begin asking God to open your heart and mind to change. As your heart and mind become other-centric instead of me-centric, become audacious, begin to ask God to make you successful in every area of your life.
See that He will come through in 2017, and for years to come.