He wants us to be firmly rooted in Him, to demonstrate to the world the beauty of a life transformed by Christ, and to be fruitful in our characters and in every good work He’s prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10). In other words, God’s goal is that we be spiritually successful.
But sometimes we’re too busy pursuing our own personal advancement to notice we may be climbing the world’s ladder of success rather than God’s. His ladder has different rungs or principles that lead us step by step into eternity. Of course, I’m not saying it’s wrong to have wealth or prominence. There are many biblical examples of prosperous, influential servants of God—Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, and Daniel are just a few. But God’s ladder must come first.
It’s hard for us to accurately evaluate spiritual success because earthly evidence is easier to see. From a human perspective, Jesus could have seemed like a failure. He didn’t change the culture for the better by erasing poverty, slavery, and injustice. He ended his life with only a handful of followers and many enemies. But in His Father’s eyes, Jesus’ ministry was a complete success because He fully obeyed the will of His Father, even to the point of death on a cross for sinners. His exultation didn’t come until He returned to heaven, and the same will be true of us as well.
You don’t have to feel like a failure simply because you aren’t measuring up to the culture’s standards of prosperity. Christians live according to divine truths, not the world’s expectations. If you want to live a truly successful life, read Psalm 1—it explains God’s path to a fruitful life.
First the psalmist gives a warning. “Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1). The imagery is of increasing toleration and comfort with sin. The downward slide begins by listening to ungodly ideas and counsel. Then it progresses to participating in sinful practices, and it culminates with becoming like the ungodly by adopting their irreverent attitudes toward God and His Word.
Now, you can certainly have unbelieving friends and acquaintances. In fact, that gives you an important opportunity to be a witness for Christ. But we must always guard against following their ways, because bad company has a corrupting influence on us (1 Cor. 15:33-34).
Many people are on this ungodly path today, and externally they may appear very successful. But ultimately, without Christ all their achievements will be blown away like chaff when they stand before God (Psalm 1:4).
Next, the Lord calls His people to a higher path.“But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on His Law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Genuine success is determined by our attitude toward Scripture. God tells us not to boast in our wisdom, might, or riches, but in understanding and knowing Him (Jer. 9:23-24). And one of the best ways to know the Lord is through His Word.
Can you honestly say that the Bible is a delight to you, or is it more of a Christian duty? Do you take great pleasure and satisfaction in Scripture? If you don’t desire the Word as much as you’d like, there is a solution. Ask the Lord to teach you to delight in it. Then start reading and meditating on a passage.
Meditation isn’t some mystical experience. It simply means to think deeply about what you’ve read. Don’t just skim a passage so you can check it off your list, but ask questions as you read. What do these verses say about God and His character, ways, purposes, and desires? Is there a command to obey, a warning to heed, or a promise to believe? Then, consider how you can apply what you’ve learned. Let God’s Word shape your thinking, attitudes, emotions, words, and actions. Remember that the more familiar you become with Scripture, the greater your enjoyment and satisfaction in it will be.
Finally, the result of staying on God’s path is a fruitful life (Psalm 1:3). “He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” The picture is that of a stable life that stands firm in times of adversity, because it’s deeply rooted in biblical truth and continually sustained by Christ.
We all want productive, prosperous lives, but we must make certain we’re pursuing the right kind. Material prosperity can be useful, yet we’ll lose it all when we die. But if our delight is in following God and His Word, we’ll have eternal treasure waiting for us in heaven.