How would you define success?  It is vital that you adopt the Biblical definition.  Without it, you are wide open to Satanic attack.  If you can’t define true success, you can’t achieve it!

Joshua 1:8“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”

Everyone wants to be successful. No one is born desiring to be a failure.  When asked what they want to be when they grow up, children don’t say, “I want to be unsuccessful!”  They usually dream of meaningful careers like a fireman, policeman, doctor, lawyer, businessman, superhero, etc.

Thoughts of success usually include money, influence, fame, or transformation.

What do you imagine when you think of success?  An executive in an expensive suit working in corporate America?  A large ministry with a national platform? Someone who owns their own business making tons of money?  A large, expensive home?  A few high-end cars sitting in the driveway?  Large numbers of people who adore you?

These are the typical images of success. These earthly ideas of success are imprinted on us from birth.  

They are NOT Biblical success.  We must reject these carnal ideas of success and search the answer in God’s Word.  Why?

The incorrect definition of success will hinder your influence for God.  Worse, it may destroy you.  Many good people have thrown in the towel and quit because they “felt like a failure.”  Satan loves to beat people with the failure stick.  He brings up all the people you let down, all the money you wasted, all the times you blew it.  He tells you that “you just don’t have it in you,” “you aren’t like those people,” “if they were in your situation they couldn’t have made it either,” “you must have misunderstood God’s leading,” “What were you thinking?”, etc.  

Sound familiar?  Satan uses the tools of doubt, fear, confusion, and unbelief.  However, the proper definition of success takes the “failure stick” away from him.    

Success isn’t measured in a moment.  It’s measured over a lifetime.  You can lose innings and still win the game!  

Ezekiel preached a lifetime with no “success,” yet he was successful in God’s eyes.  Joseph’s life got off to a rough start, yet his faithfulness in adversity allowed God to use him mightily.  Daniel’s life plan probably didn’t include being a eunuch in Babylon, but God had a unique plan for him. 

It may look like you are failing today, but if you have a Biblical definition of success, you can stay on track fulfilling God’s will for your life.

“Failing is part of success. You are not a failure until you quit.”

Misunderstood success manifests itself in two extremes we see in church work.  You can identify them by the common myths people believe.

Myth #1 – Size is Success

This myth says:

Big = success.  A crowd = a church.  Fame = God’s blessing.  Large offerings = attainment.  Happiness = triumph.

The problems with this myth are easy to point out.  Simply consider the life of our Lord.  Was Jesus unsuccessful because He only had 12 followers most of His Earthly ministry?  Did He fail in John chapter six when the multitude walked away?  Was it a failure when He was arrested and hung on the Cross?  Of course not!

Big is not always better.  

Your success is not defined by your size.  Your worth is not determined by public opinion.  Your value is not determined by your bank account.  

God calls people with different potential to areas with various opportunities in times with distinct challenges.  Focus on reaching your potential and fulfilling God’s will for your life.

“Success is on the same road as failure; success is just a little further down the road.”

When God moved in my heart with the idea of the Save New England ministry, one of my objections was “Lord, I don’t have a big church.  No one will care what I have to say.  Also, I feel like a failure much of the time in my own ministry, how can I help other people with theirs?” 

God had to teach me some valuable lessons!  A Biblical definition of success helped me overcome my doubt and fear so I can be a blessing to others.  It can do the same for you.

Myth #2 – Standing is Success

This myth says that standing (faithfulness) is success.  While faithfulness is a necessary ingredient to success, it is not enough alone.  It matters how you define “faithful.”  It is possible to be faithful (consistent) doing the wrong things.  

This philosophy is the opposite of myth #1.  Those that hold it usually don’t want a big church.  Typically, they assume if you have numerical success you compromised to get it. Often, they tear down “more successful” preachers to make themselves feel better.  Not good.

Proponents of this philosophy think small.  Usually, there is no stated vision for the church or communicated goals of how they will make a difference in their community.  They are so focused on being faithful that they hide their talent in the dirt waiting for the Master to return.  

They say things like “numbers don’t matter,” or “we don’t take attendance, we leave that up to God.”  Next time someone tells you that ask them if they count the offering.  Oh yes, my friend!  We tend to track what is important in every other area of life, we should do it in church too. Every number on an attendance sheet is a life you are influencing for God.  Who in their right mind wouldn’t want more of those?  Do numbers alone equal success?  Of course not, but they are important.

Also, adherents to this ideology may say things like, “It’s the last days” or “People just don’t get saved anymore.”  They may even have an “us four and no more” manifesto about their church.

Some people live as though there is an eternal crown for failure.  There is not!  It is possible to be in the right place at the right time doing the wrong things.  In the parables of Christ, those who were not faithful doing the RIGHT things were rebuked.

There will be times of satanic attack in your life and ministry so severe that if you are still standing at the end of it, you are victorious. (Ephesians 6)  I’ve been there more than once, and it’s no fun.  But God is faithful! 

Don’t allow adversity to keep you down and buy into this faulty philosophy.  Sometimes after a devilish attack, church split, health crises, or personal trauma, it is hard to get back to where you want to be.  I understand. You can do it with God’s help. You are not alone.  We at Save New England are here to help you too. 

Don’t let your vision for what God can do die!  Don’t think small regarding God’s work in your life and community.

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What Is Biblical Success?

We’ve discussed what success is not.  So what is success?  It has been given many appropriate definitions over the years.  One man said, “Success is to find the will of God and do it.”  Another has said, “Your success is determined by the amount of God’s control in your life.”  Amen to both of those definitions!

Here is the definition that God gave to me when working this philosophy out for my own life.

“Success is relentless obedience to the Word and Will of God.”

Relentless speaks of faithfulness.  You can’t be a success without being faithful.  

Obedience speaks of doing the right things.  Obedience is the key to everything God has.  Without obedience, there is no success.  

Let’s break the idea of success down a bit further.  Focus on being relentlessly obedient in these areas, and you will find Biblical Success.

1.  Success is in the Word.

Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”

This is the only time the word “success” is found in the Bible.  Success and God’s Word are inextricably linked.  You cannot have success without the Bible.  

No wonder the Devil works tirelessly to disrupt your connection with the Bible. He will make you so busy that you “don’t have time” to read it.  He will confuse you with counterfeits.  Just stick with the King James Bible.  Don’t fall for the next “Bible of the Month” translation fad.  He will tell you that you can choose what to obey or ignore.  Don’t fall for his tricks!

Joshua 1:8 tells us that we should be so filled with God’s Word that we speak of it, meditate on it, and obey it.  That is the path to real success.  

2. Success is in the Will.

Ephesians 6:6 “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;”

God created you with a divine plan for your life.  His will for you is unique. Success is when you discover God’s will for you and do it.  

God’s will is comparable to driving a car at night.  Your headlights don’t illuminate your entire journey.  They give you light for the next few hundred feet.  As you drive, the next portion of your trip is revealed.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t understand His will in the future.  Accomplish His will TODAY, and the next step will be revealed.  

You cannot please God and everyone else.  In order to accomplish God’s will, you must focus on Him.  Be kind and considerate, but don’t let anyone stop you from God’s plan for your life.

The will of God will be trying.  It will be difficult at times.  If you are in the habit of doing the right thing merely to please others, you will quit when the going gets tough.  Keep your eyes on the Master and do His will from the heart.  Desire to please God above all else and you will survive to thrive.   

3. Success is in the Way.

1 Corinthians 9:24 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.”

Many people want to win the race, but it matters how you run!

2 Timothy 2:5 “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”

Lawfully in this verse means “legitimately – agreeable to the rules.” 

If we were running a 400-yard dash (once around a track), the goal would be to cross the finish line first.  But what if we as we were running through the second turn, I cut through the midfield towards the finish line.  Of course, I would get there before you. I won, right?  No.  I would be disqualified for not running the race according to the rules.

Many people look like they are winning today, but they have broken the precepts of God’s Word.  They are disqualified.  

Run your personal race and conduct your ministry by following the Bible.  Don’t worry about those who look “successful” as they attempt to do God’s work in worldly ways.  God will sort all of that mess out.  

Success is doing the right things in the right way.

4. Success is in the Work.

Success is a journey, not a destination.  Success is ongoing action.  

Luke 12:43 “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”

Christians never arrive this side of Heaven.  We can’t get to the place where we stop doing what we know to do.  

Too many church members and pastors are “used-to” Christians.  They used to go soul winning.  They used to have a God-given vision.  They used to be faithful. Your workload or responsibilities may change, but don’t ever stop the work.

Maybe you have felt like a failure.  The church is struggling.  Things are not progressing as you had hoped.  Attendance is down, and the spirit of the church is stale. Perhaps you are ready to throw in the towel.  Maybe someone is reading this who already gave up. Don’t lose hope, my friend!  Failing is a part of success.  You won’t be a permanent failure unless you quit for good.  Turn to God right now.  Reenlist in God’s army today.  Decide to do what you know you should do.  It’s not too late!

Others will read this who are in the midst of God’s blessing.  Things have never been better.  Attendance and offerings are up.  You are seeing people saved, baptized, and added to the church.  You are on the mountaintop.  I’m happy for you.  Enjoy God’s blessings!  Allow me to give you a piece of advice.  Settle this matter of Biblical Success in your heart so you can stay on track for the long haul.  Too many have been blessed for a time, but are out of the ministry today because they never learned this foundational truth. 

Once you understand the Biblical definition of success, you are empowered afresh to reach your potential and fulfill God’s will.

This article was originally published in the Save New England Quarterly Magazine.

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