When you think of success, what words spring to mind? If you are like most people, probably words like money, career, luxury, and ambition. All of these are tell-tale signs of the world’s influence on us. The world’s view of success is money-centered. Jesus mentioned birds and flowers when describing true success (Matthew 6:26-30). True, He was specifically referring to controlling worry, but I think not worrying is key to biblical success. Success is not all about getting money. The world (society) does not see it that way.
Society defines success by day-to-day jobs. And that’s how society judges us—by our job, our career, our income, our wealth. The more cash and objects we acquire, the more we are honored. Having a paying job is seen as primary; accomplishing something meaningful is secondary. Work has become more than a vehicle to support the family unit. Jobs have become status symbols. They have become institutions that delegate status by their very existence. Many are as devoted to them as to religions. Lost souls are seeking for something to give them lasting happiness.
In the world’s view, money and career equals this happiness. Does it really? Does it really bring a true happiness? The pleasure that does ensue is a passing, synthetic happiness that masquerades as joy. However, real joy is not an actual result. Joy is only found in God, not in riches. The rich man who trusts in his riches for meaning is chasing after the wind. Jesus realized the additional hardship rich people had. He said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). We continually seek after what is enough.
There is never enough. There is never a lasting contentment in anything. The only way to be even closely content in this world is to realize we’ll never be content with anything in it. We must realize that we do not belong to it. The burning, incessant desire we feel will never be entirely quenched until we enter heaven.
A lasting satisfaction is never reached on this plane. Eventually you are dissatisfied with everything. Why is that? The simple answer: We are all members of the human race. I ate breakfast this morning. I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I know that satisfaction won’t last. In a couple of hours I will be hungry again and the cycle will repeat. After we have more, we want more and better more.
Kids yearn for new toys; not long after getting a desired toy they grow tired of it. Before you know it, it is lying forgotten and forlorn on the floor and they want something else. This is the cycle that continues throughout our lives. We are all grown-up children. We constantly want new toys. We want that exercise machine, that new car, that bigger house, that gadget that looks so enticing on the infomercial. More will never be enough. We get more, then we want more more, then more more more, then more more more more, and so on.
Welcome to life in the world. We have a choice: we can rush toward God or we can rush toward the world. If we choose God, we choose eternal satisfaction; if we choose worldliness, we choose temporal satisfaction. In essence, the temporal satisfaction of worldliness is an insatiable desire. The Bible has several meanings for the word world: the earth, the nations, and fallen mankind. The fallen mankind aspect is what we are referring to here.
All men apart from God are failures—true success in life comes from God (Psalm 20:4; 1 Samuel 18:14; 2 Kings 18:7). Success is a blessing He bestows. David prayed for such a blessing. And he received such a blessing. David and Hezekiah are both described as being successful at whatever they undertook because God was with them. They were not successful because they were rich and powerful. The success here was defined by a full trust in God.
Lasting contentment via success comes only through seeking after the everlasting food of heaven. Working is a necessity. It is necessary to earn money so we can live. However, Jesus said that our whole intent should not be set on earthly food that spoils; it should be on heavenly food that satisfies for all eternity (John 6:27).
Working for God and the furtherance of His kingdom—that is success. There are those of us who work the night shift, but most of us work during the day. Jesus used this analogy to explain how we are to labor for Him (John 9:4). Jesus was specifically talking to His disciples to explain their need to work while He, the Light, was still shining in the world. His light is still shining in the world. It shines through us. We are to work for His glory until the end of day (time) when the judgment will come. In the daylight of that night (the end), each person’s life and work will be judged for what it is to God, not for what has been to men (1 Corinthians 3:12-13).
Let’s go back to the birds of Matthew 6. Flocks of flying birds are such a mysterious thing to behold. For the past few weeks there have been enormous flocks circling here and there about my town. The dense flocks move as one entity. I wonder: Who are the leaders? Why do they move when they do? What brings them here? How do they know when to land? Such questions would be trivial to the birds. They have found true success; they do not worry about these things. They trust only in the Lord who gives them what they need. That is true success—to find joy and satisfaction in what the Lord provides. True success is not being unhappy with what the Lord has not given you. It is the curse of man to long for more. We will always long for it; we will never possess it. We must come to understand we will never be content with this world.