Success 101: A Biblical Primer on Success

Signing up for any college course means studying. You listen to lectures. Read textbooks. Conduct research online. Education helps you become an expert in your field.

Learning about success is much the same. We can sign up for webinars about productivity. Listen to leadership podcasts. Buy one of the 80,000 books on success that online retailers have to offer. 

But the best source for wisdom on success is found in a book you probably already own—the Bible. Inside this familiar book, you can find timeless principles about achievement, accomplishment, and prosperity. The values taught in Scripture are just as true today as they were when they were written thousands of years ago.

Read God’s textbook and learn His view of success. Below, you’ll find eight passages on the subject—plus a few questions to get you thinking about how you can apply God’s perspective to your work and personal success:

Proverbs 3:3-5

"Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;

    bind them around your neck;

    write them on the tablet of your heart.

So you will find favor and good success

    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    and do not lean on your own understanding." (ESV)

The world's formula for success may be: Claw your way to the top. Don’t worry about stepping on others’ toes on the way up. And don't depend on anyone else for your success. 

But the Bible says love and faithfulness are keys to success. Hesed, the Hebrew word for love used in this verse, is characterized by strength and kindness. Instead of clawing our way to the top, God asks us to show grace and consideration to others. And faithfulness leads to success because people will turn to reliable and stable workers rather than those who seem changeable and erratic.

This passage also instructs us to trust and rely on God instead of ourselves. When we depend on the Lord’s wisdom instead of our limited understanding, we have an advantage over others. Plus, wholeheartedly leaning on God will make you successful in His eyes.

Questions to consider:

How can you apply steadfast love and faithfulness to your work?

What do you need to trust God with regarding your job or home responsibilities?

Where have you perhaps leaned on your own abilities instead of God? How can you change this?

Proverbs 16:3

"Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established." (ESV)

In our world, it seems like whatever success we have totally hinges on our efforts. So we work longer and longer hours to get ahead. We take on more and more responsibility to attract praise from our bosses.

But God says we can commit our work to Him. Another version of the Bible says it this way, “Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him]” (Proverbs 16:3 AMPC). Our heavenly Father invites us to roll all our burdens of balancing budgets and managing schedules onto Him. We can trust Him to help us with everything from gigantic corporate projects to our weekly menu planning. God will establish our plans when we first go to Him in prayer and ask Him to show us His will.

Questions to consider:

What work and plans do you want to commit to the Lord?

How does faith make a difference in your work?

How does praying that God’s will be done change your attitude about your plans?

Joshua 1:8

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." (ESV)

Studying to become an expert in your field will certainly help you do your job better. But the most important textbook to study is the Bible. In a secular field, you might think that Scripture has no relevance. But the principles you glean from God’s Word can apply to any job situation. Employers will appreciate your faithfulness to the commandment, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15), when you are trustworthy in your financial dealings with the company. “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16) means honesty in all your work communication which will lead to respect in your workplace.

The more we study and meditate on God’s Word, the more mindful we become of its lessons and their relevance to our everyday lives. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see how Scripture can help you in your everyday work.

Questions to consider:

What principles of Scripture can apply to your work?

What are some ways that you can meditate on God’s Word?

What are some ways this study can make you prosperous?

Ecclesiastes 10:10

"If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge,
    he must use more strength,
    but wisdom helps one to succeed." (ESV)

At times we may wonder why our attempts to succeed continue to fall flat. Methods and techniques we’ve used to propel us ahead in the past now leave us lagging behind. We try harder and harder yet don’t see any results.

Ecclesiastes 10:10 tells us that when the work gets difficult, we may need to sharpen our tools. After we’ve consulted God’s Word for general principles of work and success, we can also take steps to improve the skills specific to our work. Sign up for a night course at a college.  Enroll in an online class. Read a book relevant to your job. Find wisdom and knowledge that will help you work smarter whether you manage a corporation or a household.

Questions to consider:

In what area of work do you struggle?

What skills will help you do your job better?

Where can you find help to improve your work skills?

Proverbs 15:22

"Plans go wrong for lack of advice;
    many advisers bring success." (NLT)

Pride can become a stumbling block to our success if we rely on our own ideas. We may think we have all the answers, but when failure happens, we can discover we missed one crucial piece of information. Success would have come if we had someone to guide us through uncharted territory.

Proverbs, the book of wisdom, suggests that “plans go wrong for lack of advice.” Sometimes we need someone who has traveled our path before to guide us. We need someone with a new perspective, more experience, or an intuitive grasp of the situation. To find success, we can seek out mentors who help us avoid pitfalls. We can search for advisers who know more than we do. We can look for knowledgeable counselors to give us needed information for wise decisions.

Questions to consider:

In what area of your job could you use guidance or advice?

What kind of adviser would help most? Counselor? Tutor? Mentor?

Who could you ask to fill this role in your life?

Deuteronomy 8:18

"You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day." (ESV)

A modern, popular philosophy promotes the idea that the power of positive thinking will bring accomplishment and wealth. According to this viewpoint, you can achieve anything as long as you can dream it. You can find success through positive energy.

However, the Bible tells us that power to get wealth comes from God, not from positive thinking. He gives us our talents and abilities. He provides jobs and opportunities for us to use our gifts. 

When you remember this, you can start your workday thanking Him for your natural gift for numbers. Or express gratitude for the education degree you received. You can acknowledge that your current job and means of supporting yourself are gifts from the heavenly Father. This perspective will help you appreciate your current position, which in turn will help you prosper.

Questions to consider:

What is your current philosophy on how people succeed or get wealth? Does it align with God’s Word?

What gifts and talents have God given you?

What work and opportunities has He provided? Have you thanked Him recently?

Ecclesiastes 11:6

"Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both." (NLT)

Many experts tout their method of success. “Use my no-fail strategy for attracting customers!” “Buy my unique technique for online success!” “Utilize my routine for more clicks on your website!” If we believe them, we purchase their system and find success—or not. 

Truth is—not everything will work for everyone. Sure, we can learn basic business principles. But Ecclesiastes 11:6 tells us to try various activities, numerous strategies to see what will grow. This principle tells me that I can experiment with different systems. Sure, some might fail, but this will help me learn what works and what doesn’t. 

This strategy may also help us when we feel paralyzed with a business decision. Instead of staying stuck, Proverbs tells us to keep busy, move ahead, and try something. Use common sense and test out different low-risk, low-cost options and see what makes your work profitable.

Questions to consider:

Where have you felt stuck or paralyzed in a decision?

What “seed” can you plant? What kernel of an idea can you try?

What low-risk, low-cost strategies can you test out?

Matthew 16:26-27

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done." (ESV)

In our modern culture, success equals wealth and fame. This perspective means only those with seven-figure bank accounts can qualify as flourishing. Only those with their names on Broadway marquees count as thriving. 

But the Bible warns against basing our success on worldly trophies. In this Matthew passage, Jesus asks, “If you gain everything the world has to offer—spectacular mansions, luxury cars, corner offices, your name in lights—yet lose the part of you that lives forever, what will it matter?” According to Jesus, the greatest success doesn’t look like worldly gain because that doesn’t last. True success means aligning my soul with Jesus and accepting His grace and mercy. Worldly success doesn’t matter for eternity. So we need to invest more time into things that will endure—God’s Word and people—rather than what will dissolve when we are gone.

Questions to consider:

What kind of success are you working for?

How do you define true success?

How can you work for eternal success and not just for success here on earth?

God’s Word offers us the best course on success that we can find. There, we learn that love and faithfulness will give true success. We discover that prosperity doesn’t hinge on our efforts alone. When we study and apply Scriptural principles, we will find the right kind of success. Sharpening our skills and finding expert mentors will help us work smarter. As we remember that God gives us our talents and opportunities to excel, we live in gratitude. When we feel stuck, we can try different strategies and see what “grows.” 

But most importantly, studying God’s textbook will help us focus on eternal success rather than achievements that fade.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

Sharla Fritz is a Christian author and speaker who weaves honest and humorous stories into life-changing Bible study. Author of the new book Measured by Grace: How God Defines Success, Sharla writes about God’s transforming grace and unfailing love. Sharla lives in the Chicago suburbs with her amusing pastor husband. Get her FREE ebook 21 Five-Minute Soul-Rest Practices or connect with Sharla at www.sharlafritz.com and Facebook.

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