We all have goals and desire success. How we construct and pursue our goals and what we view as success determines how we choose to live each day. It’s important for us to have a correct perspective and to build on a sure foundation.
Correctly define success. It’s important that we align our definition of success to God. Zig Ziglar said, “The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love, and loyalty.” Stephen R. Covey said, “If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.” We all want to hear those words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” but are we living each day aligned with God to bring Him honor and glory in our calling? Are you truly living to one day have Jesus say those words to you, or are you living for a pat on the back from someone else?
Submit to God. He works in the present, regardless of our past. Look at some of the major players in God’s Word—Moses, King David, and Paul. They all committed murder, yet as they sought God and turned away from themselves, God used them in mighty ways. Psalm 37:4-5 advises us all to “delight thyself also in the Lord: and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.”
Set goals. Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” God’s Word instructs us to seek Him, plan wisely, and work diligently, having our confidence in Him and not ourselves. Planning in the Lord is a must for success. Luke 14:28 asks, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”
Understand your timeline. What’s it based on? Is it set in stone or flexible? Remember that God’s timeline may not match our expectations for reaching our goal. God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”
Enjoy what you do. God’s work is not drudgery. There’s a joy and peace in knowing that you are doing what God calls you to. Charles Stanley shares in the foreword to his book God Has a Plan for Your Life, “It all begins with faith in an all-powerful, loving Savior who has your very best in mind—always. Once you place your faith in Him, nothing can hold you back from gaining the peace and contentment that He has for you.” Is your work drudgery or workplay? Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Hard work is enjoyable when you have peace and joy in your heart. That doesn’t remove difficulty, but it does take away drudgery.
Do it daily. Work diligently every day with your goal in mind. Zig Ziglar said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.” To borrow from the beloved deceased American writer and motivational speaker, Napoleon Hill, “It’s not what you are going to do, but it’s what you are doing now that counts.” Zig Ziglar also said, “You don’t have to be great at something to start, but you have to start to be great at something.” Consider the advice to the sluggard in Proverbs 6:6-8, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” The ant gets it done, working day in and day out, for the present and the future.
Develop good habits. To begin working toward your goal, “Begin with the end in mind,” Stephen R. Covey teaches in his best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He defines a habit as “the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire.” In order to develop good habits, it’s important to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), cast “down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2Corinthians 10:5), and think on things that are “true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue and praise” (Philippians 4:8).
Don’t stop short. God calls us to work diligently in well doing and know that “in due season we will reap if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Proverbs 12:27 says, “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.” Don’t waste what God has blessed. You must finish the job, persevering to the end, to enjoy the fruit of your labor.
You reap what you sow. Effort reaps results, not perfection. Do your part and trust God for the harvest. Psalm 85:8 says, “I will listen to what God the Lord says; He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.” If we sow peace in faithfulness to God, we will reap that peace. If we sow in folly, that will we also reap. You cannot plant green beans and expect to harvest tomatoes.
Know if you are content or complacent. Being content means knowing that you are diligently seeking God, and you are working as He leads. Complacency results from stagnating and becoming satisfied with your current success. John C. Maxwell states in his book, The Success Journey, “Complacency kills growth.”
Don’t live in the past. In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul encourages believers to persevere: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Don’t let fear freeze you. Former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton said, “Fear causes people to draw back from situations; it brings on mediocrity; it dulls creativity; it sets one up to be a loser in life.” American Businessman David Joseph Schwartz said, “Do what you fear and fear disappears.” 1 Peter 5:7 encourages, “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
Don’t be dissuaded by critics. Understand that others may not understand or support your goals. Regardless, God calls us to live peaceably as much as possible. Charles R. Swindoll says in A Life Well Lived, “Humility chooses a gentle response to the petty hostility of critics.” Psalm 119:165 says, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Rest assured that in doing God’s will, you will encounter opposition and criticism, often from surprising sources, but you can remain in God’s peace by not engaging in confrontation with your critics.
Carefully craft your circle. American Businessman David Joseph Schwartz said, “If you want to be the best, hang out with the best.” Colin Powell said, “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.” Proverbs 13:20 says, He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”
Know that you set an example, no matter what you do. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that we always affect others with what we do, good or bad: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
Pair success with leadership. According to Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “The basic task of leadership is to increase the standard of living and the quality of life for all stakeholders.” We should seek to improve our craft and share with others. Many writers who’ve “made it” with dozens of New York Times bestsellers continue to mentor younger writers. Jerry B. Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series, is just one example. “Those who continue along the path of a life well lived will not only gain the pleasure of spending their years in a worthy pursuit; they will also enjoy the crowning reward of finishing well.” (Charles R. Swindoll, A Life Well Lived).
So if you want to be successful, seek God, and the rest will surely follow, just as Jesus promises in Matthew 6:33.
Let me leave you with these wise words from Dr. Charles F. Stanley:
“The circumstances of your life are extremely important. Never ignore them because they are exactly what God uses to direct your life and to reveal His promise to you. When God is involved, it is never a matter of luck or good fortune. There is no such thing as luck in the life of a believer. It is the hand of God that opens and closes the doors you face each day. There is no chance encounter—just the divine moments when God moves to answer your prayers and accomplish His purposes.”
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey
The Book of Joshua in the Bible
The Success Journey: The Process of Living Your Dreams, John C. Maxwell
The One Year Daily Insights, Zig Ziglar
Developing the Qualities of Success: How to Stay Motivated, Zig Ziglar
Born to Win: Find Your Success, Zig Ziglar
A Life Well Lived, Charles R. Swindoll
God Has a Plan for Your Life, Charles F. Stanley