No one sets out to fail in life. It isn’t our goal to be last in line, unnoticed or forgotten. Instead, we are taught we must market ourselves, go for the gold, develop our platform, increase our following. Yet, God’s Word instructs: “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:10)
If Scripture actually contained the verse “God helps those who help themselves,” then every Christian could rightfully be in a race with one another to secure God’s help with their success. Yet, Psalm 75:6-7 tells us there’s ultimately nothing we can do to promote ourselves: “For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” Want to get that job promotion, that coveted award, that position of honor? Humble yourself by acknowledging you are in God’s hands and He is the One who promotes and exalts.
2. Quit fighting and win.
The world – and your own flesh – will tell you to work harder and strive more in order to win, but Scripture tells us: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In the King James Version, the phrase “Be still” is translated “Cease striving.” While our human nature will tell us to insist upon our own way or fight for our rights, especially when we feel we’re being harassed, God’s way is always different. It always involves trust, rest, and surrender.
When you find yourself in a battle or you feel like you’re facing a sea of uncertainty, not sure where to go next, remember Moses’ words to the Israelites as they were trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).
When you give up the fight, that’s often when you realize through Christ you have already won. True success is found in peace, not striving.
3. Go last and become first.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “The one with the most toys wins”–not in God’s kingdom. Jesus said: “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30).
When we surrender the need to accumulate, to have the best of everything and the most of anything, and we no longer have to be first in line, we begin to understand God’s way of doing things. Volunteer to be last and discover the unexpected joy of God giving you a “front-of-the-line” pass.
4. Give it away and you’ll have more.
I grew up learning a tithing principle that sounds like this: God can do more with 10 percent of your money than you can do with 100 percent of it. I believe a more accurate saying is God can do more with all of your money when you recognize it’s all His, anyway.
In Second Corinthians 9, we are told “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work….You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion….” (verses 6-8, 11)
Giving to God, financially, is a matter of trust. And whether or not you succeed, financially, depends on your trust as well as your goals: Is it your goal to own it all or acknowledge that God owns it all and be a part of the work that He is doing in your local church, your community, and around the world? Is your goal to give or to receive? The more you give, the more you’ll have to give. That is God’s math. And that is financial success in God’s eyes.
5. Give it up and get it back, only better.
God tested Abraham’s level of surrender by asking him to give up his only heir and long-awaited son, Isaac, after promising him years earlier that through Isaac, his descendants would outnumber the sand on the seashore. Abraham was obedient to God’s request and God not only spared the life of Abraham’s son, but reiterated His promise to give Abraham so much more. (Genesis 22:1-18)
There may be days when God asks something of you that seems impossible, but God honors complete obedience and surrender. Often, when he asks for something, it’s so He can give you something far better in return. Jesus said: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29)
6. Give up your “Plan A” for God’s “Plan B.”
We all struggle with this one. We have our idea of what’s best for us. But God, as our perfect Heavenly Father, knows so much more what is best for His children. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Yet, we focus on what God doesn’t give or what He appears to be taking away. Psalm 84:11 tells us, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Some of God’s best gifts to us are the very things He decides to withhold – sometimes as a gift in themselves. Surrender to His best by realizing that what He withholds is often for your protection. And when God says, “No,” it might be that He has something far better to give you instead. Trust that when you surrender to “Plan B,” it might actually be God’s “Plan A,” and if so, it amounts to success every time.
7. Rest and you’ll be more productive.
Busyness is today’s badge of success. We even carry this over to ministry, thinking the busier we are for God, the more He must be blessing our church, our business, or our ministry project. But God would rather have us be with Him than do a bunch of things for Him. After all, Jesus told a man that in order to win the favor of God we must not work for it, but “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
Yes, we are to do our work “heartily, as to the Lord,” but we aren’t to ignore His command to rest. (Colossians 3:23) To rest is to trust. Psalm 127:2 says: “It is vain for you to rise up early,to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” That means that as you rest and trust in Him, He can provide for you.
Serve Him out of love for Him, not to earn His love for you, and not in order for Him to bless you. When you take time to rest and to remember that you were created to love God and enjoy Him forever, He brings a satisfaction to your soul and a joy to your heart (and a productivity to your work, as well.) That is restful and successful living.
8. Prefer the secret life, not the spotlight.
“No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret… show yourself to the world.” No, that’s not marketing advice for today’s entrepreneurs. Nor is it Rule No. 1 in “Building a Social Media Following.” It’s what Jesus’ unbelieving brothers said to Him when He refused to “go public” at the Festival of Booths in John 7:1-4. Jesus eventually went to the festival “not publicly, but in secret” (verse 10) because His time had not yet come.
What are you doing in secret? Communing with Him? Studying His Word? Letting Him examine your heart and motives? Be willing to lead more of a secret, quiet life of holiness than a public one professing it. That is success to God.
9. Get there faster with God aboard.
We all have our plans. And we think they’re pretty good. Until God intervenes. Or life intervenes. Or self intervenes and we find ourselves off course. In John 6, Jesus’ followers got into a boat without Him and found themselves straining at the oars, trying to push through a storm when the wind and waves got rough. They rowed about three or four miles and then saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. When they saw him, they were terrified. “Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading” (verse 21).
Be willing to let God into your boat, (or your marriage, or your project, or your plan) so He can more quickly get you where He wants you to go. It might not seem like the best plan to you. It might seem a little unconventional (walking on the water is certainly “out of the box”), but God’s way always trumps your way and mine, every time.
10. Lose your life and you’ll find it.
Jesus said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”(Matthew 10:39)To lose your life is to surrender, to admit it’s not your own and you belong to someone else. That smacks in the face of self-ambition, directing one’s own life, being the master of your domain. But when you realize you were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:20) and you submit to your Master and Savior, the life you find in return is the only one worth living.
In essence, you and I must die in order to live. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Die to self. Live to Christ. When you live the life of Christ through you, you are living a life successful in the eyes of your Creator, Master, Savior and Lord.