What does the Bible say about Success?
Recently, I added coaching other writers and creatives to my business. When I began the process of coaching, I learned in my program the difference between an ok coach and a really great coach. An ok coach is eager to teach and tell the client what to think or do next. A really great coach knows how to ask the right questions.
The biggest way this shows up in my practice is when assumptions are made about what "success" looks like. With writers, there are many different paths to take. Some desire a traditional book deal, others want to write and self-publish a memoir for their family, others want to write a blog, some want to earn an income, and some want to just exercise a creative part of themselves more regularly.
Success looks different to all of them. The best question I can ask in any given coaching session is,
"What does success look like for you?"
Instead of assuming it's a number of book sales, a number of email subscribers, or a certain outcome, I like to know what success would look like and what it would feel like.
Success is defined as, "the accomplishment or aim of a purpose."
So, when we ask "what does the Bible say about success?" the first question we have to answer is actually "what does the Bible say about purpose?"
I believe we each have a unique and specific purpose given to us by God. It goes far beyond simply being a good mom or being diligent at work. I think God has a purpose for every conversation we have, every coworker in our lives, and intention in every conversation or encounter we have. That being said, for the sake of this blog post we'll keep "purpose" really broad and you can pray and seek God's purpose for your season in your prayer time.
Today, let's define purpose as being at the center of God's will for our lives by being obedient to His Spirit and Word. When this is your purpose,
what does the Bible say about success?
Success comes from the Lord
"Every good and perfect gift is from above." James 1:17
Success is being aimed at God's purpose for our lives and any gift that comes from being in God's will comes from Him. There is something freeing about recognizing that God is the one who exalts us, in His timing and in His way. "Success" as defined by the world might include financial provision, fame or certain milestones in life like owning a house or getting a promotion.
God is a giver of good gifts so He may give us those things. Any good gift we receive from God is simply a gift and it's our responsibility to steward it well in this life. God promotes, and we can trust Him in any season when our focus is kept on staying centered on His will for our lives.
Success requires surrender
Success is a gift from God, just like how He has given us faith, He gives us the ability to believe in Him and follow Him and this often results in success as the desire in us increases to pursue His plan and purpose for our lives. Receiving the gift requires surrender. Francis Chan wrote,
"Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter."
One of the most famous Bible passages about success was when King Solomon was invited to ask God for anything. When he asked for wisdom, God gave him both wisdom and all sorts of other gifts like fame and financial abundance. Solomon's heart of surrender toward God's plan for Him and for the Kingdom allowed God to entrust more to him (2 chronicles 1).
When we surrender our lives to God, He is able to do immeasurably more (Ephesians 3:20) as we walk with him and rely on Him.
Success isn't promised but should be pursued
At this point, you might be wondering about bills that keep piling up, health problems in your family, or any incredible loss you've experienced. You might even be thinking, if success comes from God why hasn't He given it to me.
First, let's remember the definition of success: it's being aimed at God's purpose for our lives. That requires surrender of our own.
I do believe God loves giving His kids good gifts. We've all experienced God's unmistakable favor on our lives.
Sin and evil are still present in the world today and those experiences aren't a result of God's purpose for your life, they're a result of spiritual opposition or our own sin.
This means that success (in a worldly sense and as we defined it) isn't promised. We have to pursue God's plan for our lives, and that requires us to take action and lay down our lives (John 13:38). Not an easy task, but a worthwhile one.
Pursuing success looks different for all of us because it requires us to seek God's purpose for our current season. Start by "seeking first the kingdom" (Matthew 6:33) by aiming for God's purpose for your life. As David Wilkerson wrote,
"When God calls you to something, He is not always calling you to succeed, He’s calling you to obey! The success of the calling is up to Him; the obedience is up to you."