“You will make your way successful and . . . act wisely.”—JOSH. 1:8.
1, 2. (a) How do many people define success? (b) How might you gauge your view of success?
WHAT does it mean to be successful in life? Ask people that question, and you will find that their answers vary greatly. Many, for example, define success in terms of outstanding achievement in financial, professional, or academic pursuits. Others factor in relationships—how well they relate to family, friends, or workmates. One who serves God might even link success to a position of responsibility in the congregation or to achievements in the ministry.
2 To identify your personal view of success, you might write down the names of a few people whom you consider to be successful—those whom you most admire and respect. What outstanding characteristic do they have in common? Are they rich or famous? Are they prominent? The answers may well reveal what is in your heart, and that can profoundly influence the choices you make and the goals you pursue.—Luke 6:45.
3. (a) What was Joshua to do to make his way successful? (b) What will we now consider?
3 What matters most is whether Jehovah views us as successful, for our very lives depend on his approval. When giving Joshua the weighty assignment of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, Jehovah told him to read the Mosaic Law “day and night” and to be careful to obey what was written in it. God assured him: “Then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.” (Josh. 1:7, 8) And you know that Joshua did prove to be successful. What about us? How may we determine whether our view of success matches God’s view? To that end, consider the lives of two men mentioned in the Bible.
WAS SOLOMON SUCCESSFUL IN LIFE?
4. Why might it be said that Solomon was successful?
4 In many ways, Solomon was exceptionally successful. Why? Because for a number of years, he feared and obeyed Jehovah, who blessed him greatly. Recall that when Jehovah had Solomon make a request, the king asked for wisdom to guide the people. Thereupon God blessed him with both wisdom and riches. (Read 1 Kings 3:10-14.) His wisdom was “vaster than the wisdom of all the Orientals and than all the wisdom of Egypt.” Solomon’s fame came to be known “in all the nations all around.” (1 Ki. 4:30, 31) As to wealth, his annual revenue of gold alone weighed some 25 tons! (2 Chron. 9:13) He was brilliant in diplomacy, construction, and commerce. Yes, while he maintained his right standing with God, Solomon proved to be successful.—2 Chron. 9:22-24.
5. What did Solomon conclude about those who are successful before God?
5 What Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes shows that he was not misled into thinking that achievement and joy are limited to those having wealth or prominence. 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.” (Eccl. 3:12, 13) And he realized that such pleasures are truly meaningful for the one who has God’s approval, who has a good relationship with Him. Solomon rightly stated: “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.”—Eccl. 12:13.
6. What insight does Solomon’s example offer us as to measuring true success?
6 For years, Solomon walked in the fear of God. We read that he “continued to love Jehovah by walking in the statutes of David his father.” (1 Ki. 3:3) Would you not count that as true success? At God’s direction, Solomon built a magnificent temple for true worship and wrote three Bible books. While we may not expect to do the same, Solomon’s example when he was faithful to God should show us how to evaluate what is real success and should thus help us to achieve it. In this regard, remember that under inspiration Solomon wrote that wealth, wisdom, fame, and power—what most people today would view as benchmarks of success—are vain. Such things are really empty, “a striving after wind.” Have you not seen that many lovers of wealth yearn to have ever more? And they often worry about what they do have. Moreover, their riches will one day go to others.—Read Ecclesiastes 2:8-11, 17; 5:10-12.
7, 8. How did Solomon prove unfaithful, and with what result?
7 You also know that Solomon eventually strayed from the course of faithful obedience. God’s Word states: “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 Ki. 11:4-6.
8 Rightly displeased, Jehovah told Solomon: “For the reason that . . . you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I laid in command upon you, I shall without fail rip the kingdom away from off you, and I shall certainly give it to your servant.” (1 Ki. 11:11) How tragic! Though Solomon had been a success in many ways, in time he disappointed Jehovah. In the most important area of life—faithfulness to God—Solomon failed. Each of us can ask, ‘Am I determined to make sure that the lesson learned from Solomon’s life will help me to be a success?’
A TRULY SUCCESSFUL LIFE
9. By the world’s standards, was Paul successful? Explain.
9 The apostle Paul’s life differed greatly from King Solomon’s. For Paul, there was no ivory throne or feasting with kings. Instead, there were times of hunger, thirst, cold, and nakedness. (2 Cor. 11:24-27) Once he accepted Jesus as the Messiah, Paul held no position of honor in the Jewish religion. Rather, the Jewish religious leaders hated him. He was imprisoned, whipped, beaten with rods, and stoned. Paul acknowledged that he and his fellow Christians were reviled, persecuted, and defamed. “We have become as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things, until now.”—1 Cor. 4:11-13.
10. Why might it have seemed that Paul spurned success?
10 As a young man named Saul, the apostle Paul seemed to have so much going for him. Born into what may have been a prominent family, he studied with Gamaliel, a respected teacher, and later wrote: “I was making greater progress in Judaism than many of my own age.” (Gal. 1:14) Fluent in Hebrew and Greek, Saul had Roman citizenship, which accorded him much-coveted privileges and rights. Had he chosen to keep pursuing such worldly success, he could likely have gained personal prominence and financial security. Instead, he chose a course that to others—perhaps even to some relatives—seemed to be sheer folly. Why?
11. What values and goal did Paul hold dear, and why?
11 Paul loved Jehovah and desired his approval more than riches and prominence among men. Gaining an accurate knowledge of the truth, Paul came to value the ransom, the Christian ministry, the hope of life in heaven—things that the world largely ignores. Paul realized that there was an issue to be settled. Satan had charged that he could turn humans aside from serving God. (Job 1:9-11; 2:3-5) No matter what trials came his way, Paul was determined to be faithful to God, to endure in true worship. That is a goal that is lacking on the world’s agenda for success.
12. Why did you choose to rest your hope on God?
12 Do you share Paul’s determination? Though living a life of faithfulness is not always easy, we know that it brings Jehovah’s blessing and approval, and that is what makes one truly successful. (Prov. 10:22) We benefit now, and we certainly can expect blessings in the future. (Read Mark 10:29, 30.) Hence, we have every reason to rest our hope, “not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment.” We ‘safely treasure up for ourselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that we may get a firm hold on the real life.’ (1 Tim. 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 look back and say, “I definitely chose the course of real success!”
WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS
13. Jesus gave what counsel 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.”—Matt. 6:19-21.
14. Why is it unwise to seek earthly treasures?
14 A person’s earthly treasure may be more than just money. In a sense, it could include any of those things that Solomon wrote about that have to do with being successful in the eyes of men—prestige, fame, or power. Jesus made a point similar to the one Solomon made in the book of Ecclesiastes—worldly treasures are not lasting. As you have likely seen in the world around you, all such treasures are perishable and can be easily lost. Professor F. Dale Bruner writes of such treasures: “It is well known that fame is fickle. Last Saturday’s hero is next season’s has-been. This year’s financial success is next year’s bankruptcy. . . . [Jesus] loves human beings. He urges them to avoid the inevitable despair that comes with evanescent glory. It doesn’t last. Jesus does not want [his] disciples [to be] disappointed. ‘Every day the world turns over on someone who was just sitting on top of it.’” Though most people would agree with those comments, how many allow the reality behind them to alter their approach to life? Will you?
15. For what kind of success should we strive?
15 Some religious leaders have preached that it is wrong to strive after success and that all effort to succeed should be stifled. Note, though, that Jesus was not condemning all such effort. Rather, he was exhorting his disciples to redirect their effort, admonishing them to store up imperishable “treasures in heaven.” Our foremost desire should be to strive to be a success as Jehovah would view it. Yes, Jesus’ words remind us that we have a choice as to what we will pursue. The fact is, though, that we will pursue what is in our heart, what is of value to us.
16. In what can we have every confidence?
16 If it is in our heart to please Jehovah, we can trust that he will see to it that we have the things we need. He may permit us to experience temporary hunger or thirst, as the apostle Paul did. (1 Cor. 4:11) Nevertheless, we can have every confidence in Jesus’ wise 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.”—Matt. 6:31-33.
FIND SUCCESS IN GOD’S SIGHT
17, 18. (a) Upon what does true success depend? (b) Upon what does success not depend?
17 A key point is this: Our being truly successful does not depend on our achievements or position in the eyes of the world. Moreover, true success is not measured by having a certain responsibility in the Christian arrangement. Such a blessing, though, can be related to what truly is the basis for success, our obedience and faithfulness to God, who assures us: “What is looked for in stewards is for a man to be found faithful.” (1 Cor. 4:2) And we must endure in being faithful. Jesus said: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22) Would you not agree that being saved is an undeniable evidence of success?
18 Reflecting on the above, you can see that faithfulness to God is not linked to prominence, education, financial standing, or social status; nor is faithfulness dependent on intelligence, talent, or ability. In whatever circumstances we may find ourselves, we can prove faithful to God. Among God’s people in the first century, some were rich, others were poor. To the former, Paul’s counsel “to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share” was valid. Both those rich and those poor could “get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Tim. 6:17-19) That is true today too. All of us have the same opportunity and the same responsibility: We must remain faithful and be “rich in fine works.” If we are, we will be successful in the eyes of our Creator and have the joy of knowing that we are pleasing him.—Prov. 27:11.
19. In the matter of success, what is your resolve?
19 You may not be able to control your circumstances completely, but you can control how you deal with them. Strive to be faithful whatever your circumstances are. It is worth the effort. Be confident that Jehovah will bless you richly—now and throughout eternity. Never forget the words that Jesus directed to anointed Christians: “Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10) That indeed is real success!