* Don’t compare your success with others’
Jacob’s wealth made Laban’s sons jealous. It is sometimes difficult to be happy when others are doing better than we are. To compare our success with that of others is a dangerous way to judge the quality of our lives. By comparing ourselves to others, we may be giving jealousy a foothold. We can avoid jealousy by rejoicing in others’ successes (see Romans 12:151). (NLT)
Genesis 31:1-2 – But Jacob soon learned that Laban’s sons were beginning to grumble. “Jacob has robbed our father!” they said. “All his wealth has been gained at our father’s expense.” And Jacob began to notice a considerable cooling in Laban’s attitude toward him.
* What true success is
Many people think that prosperity and success come from having power, influential personal contacts, and a relentless desire to get ahead. But the strategy for gaining prosperity that God taught Joshua goes against such criteria. He said that to succeed Joshua must (1) be strong and courageous because the task ahead would not be easy, (2) obey God’s law, and (3) constantly read and study the Book of the Law—God’s Word. To be successful, follow God’s words to Joshua. You may not succeed by the world’s standards, but you will be a success in God’s eyes—and his opinion lasts forever. (NLT)
Joshua 1:6-8 – “Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors. Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then you will succeed.
* When Scripture says, “In all they do, they prosper,” it does not mean immunity to failure or difficulties. Nor is it a guarantee of health, wealth, and happiness. What the Bible means by prosperity is this: When we apply God’s wisdom, the fruit (results or by-products) we bear will be good and receive God’s approval. Just as a tree soaks up water and bears luscious fruit, we also are to soak up God’s Word, producing actions and attitudes that honor God. To achieve anything worthwhile, we must have God’s Word in our hearts. (NLT)
Psalm 1:3 – They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.
* In the world’s eyes, Jeremiah looked totally unsuccessful. He had no money, family, or friends. He prophesied the destruction of the nation, the capital city, and the Temple, but the political and religious leaders would not accept or follow his advice. No group of people liked him or listened to him. Yet as we look back, we see that he successfully completed the work God gave him to do. Success must never be measured by popularity, fame, or fortune, for these are temporal measures. King Zedekiah, for example, lost everything by pursuing selfish goals. God measures our success with the yardsticks of obedience, faithfulness, and righteousness. If you are faithfully doing the work God has given you, you are successful in his eyes. (NLT)
Jeremiah 52:34 – The Babylonian king also gave him a regular allowance to cover his living expenses until the day of his death
* The world of business defines success in terms of giving customers what they want. Ezekiel, however, was called to give God’s message to the people, whether they would listen or not. The measure of Ezekiel’s success would not be how well the people responded, but how well he obeyed God and thus fulfilled God’s purpose for him. Isaiah and Jeremiah also prophesied with little positive response. God’s truth does not depend on how people respond. God will not judge us for how well others respond to our faith but for how faithful we have been. God always gives us the strength to accomplish what he asks us to do. (NLT)
Ezekiel 2:3-5 – “Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a nation that is rebelling against me. Their ancestors have rebelled against me from the beginning, and they are still un revolt to this very day. They are a hard-hearted and stubborn people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ And whether they listen or not—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.
* Success doesn’t always indicate God’s approval
Just because the Danites successfully defeated Laish doesn’t mean their actions were right. Their idolatry showed that God was not guiding them. Today many justify their wrong actions by outward signs of success. They think that wealth, popularity, or lack of suffering is an indication of God’s blessing. But many stories in the Bible indicate that evil and earthly success can go hand in hand (see, for example, 2 Kings 14:23-292). Success doesn’t indicate God’s approval. Don’t allow personal success to become a measuring rod of whether or not you are pleasing God. (NLT)
Judges 18:27 – Then, with Micah’s idols and his priest, the men of Dan came to the town of Laish, whose people were peaceful and secure. They attacked and killed all the people and burned the town to the ground.
* Why was Saul successful despite evil deeds?
Why was Saul so successful right after he had disobeyed God and been told that his reign would end (1 Samuel 13:13-143)? Sometimes ungodly people win battles. Victory is neither guaranteed nor limited to the righteous. God provides according to his will. God might have given Saul success for the sake of the people, not for Saul. He may have left Saul on the throne for a while to utilize his military talents so that David, Israel’s next king, could spend more time focusing on the nation’s spiritual battles. Regardless of God’s reasons for delaying Saul’s demise, his reign ended exactly the way God had foretold. The timing of God’s plans and promises is known only to him. Our task is to commit our ways to God and then trust him for the outcome. (NLT)
1 Samuel 14:47 – Now when Saul had secured his grasp on Israel’s throne, he fought against his enemies in every direction—against Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. And wherever he turned, he was victorious.
* Success didn’t make David proud
While Saul’s popularity made him proud and arrogant, David remained humble, even when the entire nation praised him. Although David succeeded in almost everything he tried and became famous throughout the land, he refused to use his popular support to his advantage against Saul. Don’t allow popularity to twist your perception of your own importance. It’s comparatively easy to be humble when you’re not on center stage, but how will you react to praise and honor? (NLT)
1 Samuel 18:14-18 – David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him. When Saul recognized this, he became even more afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David because he was so successful at leading his troops into battle.
One day Saul said to David, “I am ready to give you my older daughter, Merab, as your wife. But first you must prove yourself to be a real warrior by fighting the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought to himself, “I’ll send him out against the Philistines and let them kill him rather than doing it myself.”
“Who am I, and what is my family in Israel that I should be the king’s son-in-law?” David exclaimed. “My father’s family is nothing!”
* Success comes from controlling ambition
“David realized that the Lord had made him king. . .” Although the pagan kingdoms based their greatness on conquest, power, armies, and wealth, David knew that his greatness came only from God. To be great means keeping a close relationship with God personally and nationally. To do this, David had to keep his ambition under control. Although he was famous, successful, and well liked, he gave God first place in his life and served the people according to God’s purposes. Do you seek greatness from God or from people? In the drive for success, remember to keep your ambition under God’s control. (NLT)
2 Samuel 5:12 – And David realized that the Lord had made him king over Israel and had made his kingdom great for the sake of his people Israel.
* Acknowledge God’s role in your success
The list of battles in this chapter shows how God gave David victory after victory. Unbelieving people think that victory comes from their own skill plus a little luck. Just as David acknowledged God’s role in his success, so should we. Don’t take credit for the work God does. (NLT)
1 Chronicle 18:13 – He placed army garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became David’s subjects. This was another example of how the Lord made David victorious wherever he went.
* Real success doesn’t compromise integrity
To have deep roots and to be stable means to be successful. Real success comes only to those who do what is right. Their efforts stand the test of time. Then, what kind of success does wickedness bring? We may know people who cheated to pass the course or to get a larger tax refund—is this not success? And what about the person who ignores his family commitments and mistreats his workers but gets ahead in business? These apparent successes are only temporary. They are bought at the expense of character. Cheaters grow more and more dishonest, and those who hurt others become callous and cruel. In the long run, evil behavior does not lead to success; it leads only to more evil. Real success maintains personal integrity. If you are not a success by God’s standards, you have not achieved true success. (NLT)
Proverbs 12:3 – Wickedness never brings stability; only the godly have deep roots.
* Disciples preoccupied with success
The disciples, caught up in their constant struggle for personal success, were embarrassed to answer Jesus’ question. It is always painful to compare our motives with Christ’s. It is not wrong for believers to be industrious or ambitious. But when ambition pushes obedience and service to one side, it becomes sin. Pride or insecurity can cause us to overvalue position and prestige. In God’s Kingdom, such motives are destructive. The only safe ambition is directed toward Christ’s Kingdom, not our own advancement. (NLT)
Mark 9:33-34 – After they arrived at Capernaum, Jesus and his disciples settled in the house where they would be staying. Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest.
* How to succeed in God’s eyes
Proverbs notes two significant by-products of wise living: success and good reputation. Several verses also point out what caused failure and poor reputation. (NLT)
Qualities that promote success and a good reputation:
Godliness (righteousness) – Proverbs 10:7 – We all have happy memories of the godly, but the name of a wicked person rots away. Proverbs 12:3 – Wickedness never brings stability; only the godly have deep roots. Proverbs 28:12 – When the godly succeed, everyone is glad. When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding.
Hating what is false – Proverbs 13:5 – Those who are godly hate lies; the wicked come to shame and disgrace.
Committing all work to the Lord – Proverbs 16:3 – Commit your work to the Lord, and then your plans will succeed.
Using words with restraint; being even-tempered – Proverbs 17:27-28 – A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent; when they keep their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.
Loving wisdom and understanding – Proverbs 19:8 – To acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.
Humility and fear of the Lord – Proverbs 22:4 – True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.
Willingness to confess and forsake sin – Proverbs 28:13 – People who cover over their sins will not prosper. But if they confess and forsake them, they will receive mercy.
Qualities that prevent success and cause a bad reputation:
Wickedness – Proverbs 10:7 – We all have happy memories of the godly, but the name of a wicked person rots away. Proverbs 12:3 – Wickedness never brings stability; only the godly have deep roots. Proverbs 28:12 – When the godly succeed, everyone is glad. When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding.
Seeking honor – Proverbs 25:27 – Just as it is not good to eat too much honey, it is not good for people to think about all the honors they deserve.
Hatred – Proverbs 26:24-26 – People with hate in their hearts may sound pleasant enough, but don’t believe them. Though they pretend to be kind, their hearts are full of all kinds of evil. While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, it will finally come to light for all to see.
Praising oneself – Proverbs 27:2 – Don’t praise yourself; let others do it!
Concealing sin – Proverbs 28:13 – People who cover over their sins will not prosper. But if they confess and forsake them, they will receive mercy.
Other verses dealing with one’s reputation are:
Proverbs 11:10 – The whole city celebrated when the godly succeed; they shout for joy when the godless die.
Proverbs 11:16 – Beautiful women obtain wealth, and violent men get rich.
Proverbs 14:3 – The talk of fools is a rod for their backs, but the words of the wise keep them out of trouble.
Proverbs 19:10 – It isn’t right for a fool to live in luxury or for a slave to rule over princes!
Proverbs 22:1 – Choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold.
Proverbs 23:17-18 – Don’t envy sinners, but always continue to fear the Lord. For surely you have a future ahead of you; your hope will not be disappointed.
Proverbs 24:13-14 – My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the honeycomb is sweet to the taste. In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul. If you find it, you will have a bright future, and your hopes will not be cut short.
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1 Romans 12:15 – When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow.
2 Jeroboam II had no devotion to God, yet under his warlike policies and skillful administration, Israel enjoyed more national power and material prosperity than at any time since the days of Solomon. Jeroboam’s administration ignored policies of justice and fairness. As a result, the rich became richer, and the poor, poorer. The people became self-centered, relying more on their power, security, and possessions than on God. The poor were so oppressed that it was hard for them to believe God noticed their plight. Material prosperity is not always an indication of God’s blessing. It can also be a result of self-centeredness. If you are experiencing prosperity, remember that God holds us accountable for how we attain success and how we use our wealth. Everything we have really belongs to him. We must use God’s gifts with his interests in mind. (NLT)
2 Kings 14:23-29 – Jerobaom II, the son of Jehoash, began to rule over Israel in the fifteenth year of King Amaziah’s reign in Judah. Jeroboam reigned in Samaria forty-one years. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. He refused to turn from sins of idolatry that Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel to commit. Jeroboam II recovered the territories of Israel between Lebo-hamath and the Dead Sea, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had promised through Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath-hepher. For the Lord saw the bitter suffering of everyone in Israel, and how they had absolutely no one to help them. And because the Lord had not said he would blot out the name of Israel completely, he used Jeroboam II, the son of Jehoash, to save them.
The rest of the events in the reign of Jeroboam II and all his deeds, including the extent of his power, his wars, and how he recovered for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah, are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel. When Jeroboam II died, he was buried with his ancestors, the kings of Israel. Then his son Zechariah became the next king.
3 Saul had plenty of excuses for his disobedience. But Samuel zeroed in on the real issue: “You have disobeyed the command of the Lord your God.” Like Saul, we often gloss over our mistakes and sins, trying to justify and spiritualize our actions because of our “special” circumstances. Our excuses, however, are nothing more than disobedience. God knows our true motives. He forgives, restores, and blesses only when we are honest about our sins. By trying to hide his sins behind excuses, Saul lost his kingship. (NLT)
1 Samuel 13:13-14 – “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have disobeyed the command of the Lord your God. Had you obeyed, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your dynasty must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already chosen him to be king over his people, for you have not obeyed the Lord’s command.”
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