The View From 1776
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Success in God’s Eyes
Real success is following God’s will, not making lots of money.
Sunday’s sermon at the Long Ridge Congregational Church (non-UCC) in North Stamford, Connecticut, was delivered by Rev. Steve Treash. His message dealt with success in the things that really matter.
While confidence is, by some measures, thought to be the best predictor of academic and business success, it too easily becomes exclusively self-confidence. As with Peter’s wanting to walk across the water to meet Jesus, that sort of confidence falters the moment we take our eyes off Jesus as our savior. We begin to sink and can be saved only by calling for the Lord’s help.
True success in this life is doing God’s will to the best of our abilities.
The Old Testament story of Joseph in Egypt illustrates the right kind of confidence that leads to success.
Joseph had endured a string of grave misfortunes. His older brothers resented his ostentatiously seeking to be their father’s favorite son. The brothers took his bright coat and threw Joseph into a well, intending to leave him there to die. When a caravan bound for Egypt appeared, the brothers hauled Joseph out of the well and sold him to the caravan merchants as a slave.
In that adversity Joseph learned that his real strength came from having confidence in God and trusting Him to show the right thing to do.
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. (Genesis 39:1-4)
Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of sexual misconduct with her, and Joseph was thrown into prison. Once again, Joseph’s salvation was his unwavering confidence in God.
Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (Genesis 39: 20-23)
The same pattern was repeated and Joseph later became Pharaoh’s chief lieutenant in administrative charge of the Egyptian government. Throughout all of his ups and downs, Joseph maintained steadfast confidence that God had a purpose and that he must follow God’s will. This understanding was clearly revealed in the climactic scene when his famine-stricken brothers come to Egypt pleading for food and are shown into Joseph’s presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. (Genesis 45: 4-5)
Along with confidence in God, we must have resilience, vigilance, and reverence that allows us to maintain our focus on God’s will and to forgive our transgressors, as Joseph did his brothers.
We must be vigilant to seek God’s guidance in keeping to proper moral standards and in fighting off temptation. The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, reminds them of the historical tribulations of the Israelites and how God repeatedly delivered them from temptation.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
As Paul counseled Timothy, worldly success is not the goal:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6: 6-12)