“You will make your way successful and . . . act wisely.”—JOSHUA 1:8.
1, 2. (a) What do many people think success is? (b) What is one way to find out what you think success is?
WHAT does it mean to be successful in life? Ask people that question, and you will get many different answers. For example, many think that a person is successful if he has a lot of money, has a rewarding career, or is well educated. Others say that to be successful one also needs a good relationship with family, friends, or workmates. Some who serve God might even think that a person is successful if he has certain responsibilities in the congregation or if he has good results in the preaching work.
2 What do you think it means to be successful? One way to find out is to write down the names of a few people who you think are successful and whom you most admire and respect. What kind of people are they? Are they rich or famous? Are they powerful? The answers may show what is in your heart. What you value can strongly influence the choices you make and the goals you set.—Luke 6:45.
3. (a) What did Joshua have to do to be successful? (b) What will we now consider?
3 What matters most to us is what Jehovah thinks success is. We can have eternal life only if he views us as successful. When he gave Joshua the assignment of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, Jehovah told him to read the Law “day and night” and to obey what was written in it. God promised him: “Then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.” (Joshua 1:7, 8) And you know that Joshua really was successful. What about us? How can we know whether we view success the same way God does? To help us answer these questions, let us consider the lives of two men mentioned in the Bible.
WAS SOLOMON SUCCESSFUL IN LIFE?
4. Why was Solomon successful?
4 In many ways, Solomon was extremely successful. Why? Because for many years he feared and obeyed Jehovah, and Jehovah blessed him greatly. Remember that when Jehovah told Solomon he could ask for anything he wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom to guide the people. Jehovah answered his prayer by giving him both wisdom and riches. (Read 1 Kings 3:10-14.) Solomon’s wisdom was greater “than the wisdom of all the Orientals and than all the wisdom of Egypt.” People “in all the nations all around” knew about Solomon. (1 Kings 4:30, 31) Solomon was also very rich. Every year he received 25 tons of gold! (2 Chronicles 9:13) He built many beautiful things. He also did very well in dealing with other nations and in doing business with them. While Solomon was faithful to God, he was successful.—2 Chronicles 9:22-24.
While Solomon was faithful to God, he was successful
5. What did Solomon realize about those who are truly successful?
5 What Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes shows that he had the right view of success. He did not think that only those who are rich and powerful can have success and joy. Not at all. He wrote: “I have come to know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13) Solomon also realized that these good things in life give a person true joy only if he has a good relationship with God. Solomon said: “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.”—Ecclesiastes 12:13.
6. How does Solomon’s example help us to understand what true success is?
6 For many years, Solomon feared and obeyed God. The Bible says that he “continued to love Jehovah by walking in the statutes of David his father.” (1 Kings 3:3) While he did that, he was truly successful. Solomon built a glorious temple for true worship and wrote three Bible books. Of course, we will not be able to do the same things that Solomon did. But Solomon’s example while he was faithful to God can help us to understand what true success is and what we need to do to be successful. For example, God inspired Solomon to write about riches, wisdom, fame, and power. Many people think they need these things to be successful. But Solomon said that people who work hard to get these things are “striving after wind,” or trying to get something that does not make them truly happy. People who love money always want to have more. And they worry about losing what they already have. Also, their riches will one day belong to others.—Read Ecclesiastes 2:8-11, 17; 5:10-12.
7, 8. How did Solomon become unfaithful? What was the result?
7 When Solomon got old, he stopped obeying Jehovah. The Bible says: “It came about in the time of Solomon’s growing old that his wives themselves had inclined his heart to follow other gods; and his heart did not prove to be complete with Jehovah his God like the heart of David his father.” Solomon “began to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah.”—1 Kings 11:4-6.
8 Jehovah was not pleased with Solomon and told him what the sad results of his disobedience would be. God said: “I shall without fail rip the kingdom away from off you, and I shall certainly give it to your servant.” (1 Kings 11:11) Even though Solomon had been successful in many ways, in the end he disappointed Jehovah. Solomon became unsuccessful because he did not continue to do the most important thing in life. He did not continue to be faithful to Jehovah. Each of us can ask, ‘Will I use the lesson I learned from Solomon’s life to help me become successful?’
A TRULY SUCCESSFUL LIFE
9. Did most people think that Paul was successful? Explain.
9 The apostle Paul’s life was very different from King Solomon’s life. Paul did not live a comfortable life in a palace or eat and drink with kings. There were times when Paul had little to eat, to drink, or to wear. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) After he accepted Jesus as the Messiah, Paul no longer received honor from many in the Jewish religion. Instead, the Jewish religious leaders hated him. He was put in prison, whipped, beaten with rods, and stoned. Paul said that he and his Christian brothers were insulted, hated, and persecuted. He added: “We have become as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things, until now.”—1 Corinthians 4:11-13.
10. Why might people have thought that Paul wasted his opportunity to be successful?
10 Many who knew Paul as a young man, when he was still known as Saul, would have thought that he had many advantages. It seems that he was from an important family. And he studied with Gamaliel, a respected teacher. Paul later wrote: “I was making greater progress in Judaism than many of my own age.” (Galatians 1:14) He spoke Hebrew and Greek fluently. He was also a Roman citizen and, because of that, had special advantages and rights. If Paul had kept trying to be successful in the world, he would probably have become even richer and more respected. But he chose a way of life that others, perhaps even his own family, thought was foolish. Why?
11. What did Paul value, and what was his goal? Why?
11 Paul loved Jehovah and wanted his approval. He did not want to be rich and famous. When Paul learned the truth, he started to value things that most people in the world do not know or care about, such as Christ’s sacrifice, the preaching work, and the hope of life in heaven. Paul knew what Satan had said about humans. Satan had said that he could make any human stop serving God. Paul realized that he could have a part in proving that Satan is wrong. (Job 1:9-11; 2:3-5) So Paul’s goal was to continue to worship the true God faithfully no matter what trials he had to endure. That is a goal that most people in the world who want to be successful do not have.
Paul wanted Jehovah’s approval, not to be rich and famous
12. Why should you trust in God?
12 Do you have the same goal that Paul had? It is not always easy to be faithful. But if we stay faithful to Jehovah, he will be pleased with us and will bless us. That is what makes us truly successful. (Proverbs 10:22) We can have blessings now and more in the future. (Read Mark 10:29, 30.) So we should trust, not in “uncertain riches,” but in “God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment.” If we do, we can be sure of having “the real life” that God promises us. (1 Timothy 6:17-19) Yes, we can be absolutely sure that a hundred years from now, even a thousand years or more from now, we will be able to think back and say, “My life has truly been successful!”
WHERE IS YOUR TREASURE?
13. What did Jesus say about storing up treasures?
13 Jesus said about treasures: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”—Matthew 6:19-21.
14. Why is it unwise to store up treasures on earth?
14 A person’s “treasures upon the earth” may include more than just money. They could involve any of those things that Solomon wrote about and that people value so much, such as fame and power. What Jesus said is similar to what Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes. Treasures on earth do not last forever. As you know, such things can be destroyed or easily lost. Professor F. Dale Bruner commented on Jesus’ words about these treasures. He wrote that fame does not last for long. A person who is famous today may soon be forgotten. Someone who makes a lot of money this year may lose it all next year. Because Jesus loves humans, he warns them about how glory can quickly disappear and leave them without hope. The writer added that every day, people who trust in money and glory get disappointed, and Jesus does not want his disciples to be disappointed. Most people would agree with what this writer said. But how many allow Jesus’ words to affect the way they live? Will you allow Jesus’ counsel to affect your life?
Jesus encouraged his disciples to store up “treasures in heaven” that will last forever
15. What kind of success should we work hard to have?
15 Some religious leaders have preached that it is wrong to make efforts to succeed. But Jesus was not saying that we should not try to be successful. He was saying that his disciples should make efforts to have the right kind of success. He encouraged them to store up “treasures in heaven” that will last forever. What we want most of all is for Jehovah to think of us as successful. Jesus’ words remind us that each person chooses what he will work hard for in life. The truth is that what is in our heart, or what we value the most, is what we will make the most effort to get in life.
16. Of what can we be sure?
16 If we choose to work hard to please Jehovah, we can be sure that he will give us the things we need. Like the apostle Paul, we may at times not have anything to eat or drink. (1 Corinthians 4:11) But we should follow Jesus’ advice: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:31-33.
BE TRULY SUCCESSFUL
17, 18. (a) On what does true success depend? (b) On what does success not depend?
17 What we want to remember is that true success does not depend on how many great things we have done or on how important we are in this world. True success also does not depend on how much responsibility we have in the congregation. That kind of blessing can simply be a result of our obedience and faithfulness to God. He tells us: “What is looked for in stewards is for a man to be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2) And we must continue to be faithful. Jesus said: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22) When faithful ones are saved, it will be clear that they were truly successful!
18 True success depends on faithfulness to God, and any of us can be faithful to him whatever our situation may be. Our faithfulness does not depend on how much fame, education, or money we have. And it does not depend on our intelligence, talents, or abilities. In the first century, some of God’s people were rich and others were poor. Paul told rich Christians that they too had “to work at good” and “to be rich in fine works.” Both the rich and the poor could “get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19) That is true today too. All of us have the same opportunity and the same responsibility, that is, to stay faithful and be “rich in fine works.” If we are, our Creator will think of us as successful, and we will have the joy of knowing that we are pleasing him.—Proverbs 27:11.
19. What will you do to be successful?
19 We may not be able to change the way the world views us, but we can change the way we view our own situation. Whatever your situation might be, you are successful if you are working hard to be faithful. You will be glad you made the effort. Jehovah will bless you greatly, now and for eternity. Never forget what Jesus told anointed Christians: “Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) That is definitely true success!