A Measure of Success

Psalm 139:7-10 “Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.”

“When Jesus is near, all is well and nothing seems difficult. When He is absent, all is hard. When Jesus does not speak within, all other comfort is empty, but if He says only a Word, it brings great consolation.”

Thomas a’ Kempis

Have you ever been going through a trial and had a friend give you advice that lifted your spirits and gave you hope? Maybe there was a time when the advice was bad and you knew it was bad and so you ignored it.

How do we know what good and bad advice looks like? How do we differentiate between wisdom and foolishness?

Social media is a great platform for giving advice, many responses start with the statement, “You should do….”, or “Have you tried….”, or better yet, “Why don’t you…”. With each short quip or rhetorical question, the one enduring the trial finds there is no shortage of suggestions. When sifting through all the options and possible avenues that might alleviate the struggle, people are often faced with the same concerns they began with…what direction to go?

1 Corinthians 2:9-12 “But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”

Spirit Led

There are many different forms of advice in this world but most of them come down to two options:

*The wisdom of man and the wisdom of God

Man brings forth wisdom that is learned. Man-made wisdom may be coupled with common sense, or based off some scientific study they read, but most is formed through experience. Many people have had success by following certain patterns of advice but success by the world’s standard isn’t necessarily good.

Isaiah 29:13 “Therefore the Lord said: “In as much as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men”

Godly wisdom originates with God. When godly wisdom is given through a follower of Christ it is because that person is led by the Spirit. If a man or woman of God is walking in the Spirit, then they are submitting to God’s leading in their lives.

Godly wisdom comes by way of godly instruction. The revelation of God’s Truth, coupled with obedient faith, rewards the one with riches that last forever. The path of the wise may not lead to worldly riches, worldly honor, or even what the world deems as a success, but God doesn’t concern Himself with how the world measures the life of a believer.

1 Corinthians 1:20 “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”

Have you ever wondered how to decipher between godly and worldly wisdom?

Worldly Wisdom

Worldly wisdom comes by way of a world perspective. A perspective that was established by worldly values. By embracing those values, the advice given is in how to navigate the world by the world’s schemes. Worldly values change like the tide, they ebb and flow based off the cultural expectations and politically correct trends.

Isaiah 6:9 “And He replied: “Go and tell this people, ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

When you consider the end point of the wisdom of this age, that which draws people’s interest is usually what they focus upon.

By manipulating the image of success, the world gives the perception that riches buy happiness. Success is presented as one driving an expensive car, living in an expensive house, or wearing expensive clothes. None of these things give any indication that within the subgroups of people who own these things, there is any greater measure of happiness. To the contrary, when examining the trends of depression, anxiety, or any other form of mental distress, the difficulty of trying to sustain a lifestyle often brings greater distress.

The world says, “This is what you must do to be successful”, and so people take the advice thinking that is what they want.

How do we measure success?

Is success found within the process or at the endpoint? The world says that you can’t have success unless you reach the goal you set and many people have dedicated their lives to reaching those goals.

But what will they have to show for it in the end? A name that everyone remembers? Even some of the greatest success stories in history have been forgotten.

If all a person lives for is to be recognized by this world, the world will eventually forget them.

Godly Wisdom

Psalm 1:6 “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

By submitting to God’s wisdom, believers will find that they are not alone in the journey. They don’t place their hope in their own ability to reason or in the luck of the draw, they commit their way toward a direction that is God led. If the Lord is doing the leading, there isn’t a mountain that can stand in the way of what He intends to accomplish in through His people.

All good work is inspired by God and it is accomplished by God, for His glory. If a person sees a good work occurring it’s because they have the discernment to understand what good work looks like—inspired by God, and led by God. Listening for God’s leading and responding to His leading is the goal of every true believer.

If someone relies on worldly wisdom to determine what is right then it is typically based off an emotional response to something they see or something that had an impact in their life previously. Rather than rushing into ministry, establish a foundation of prayer first, seek wise counsel and allow the Lord to reveal His plans by His Word. If we recognize that God is fully aware of the need we will see that He has a process in place to fulfill it—you might just discover that He has a particular way He wants to fit you into those plans.

The sanctifying work of God is meant to prepare a believer for ministry. The responsibility is to obediently walk in faith down the path He has set before His people. Let Him worry about the details, He is quite good at it.

The journey of faith is blessed, the reward waiting at the end is blessed and the fulfillment of obedience brings the peace and freedom that rewards those who submit in humility to the wisdom and purposes of God.

Psalm 118:8 “It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in princes.”

Each of us must conclude which type of advice and wisdom we want to heed. We must decide whether the world or the Lord holds the answers and where the power lies in which to see our hopes realized.

Where is your hope? Is it to see your plans realized or to fulfill God’s plan in you?

We have a choice to either walk according the world’s standards or walk according to God’s standards—the two do not intermingle.

Psalm 118:19-20 “Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord,
Through which the righteous shall enter.”

Who do you want to receive acknowledgement from when your life is complete? I guarantee you, not one person of the world will be there when you stand before the Lord your Creator and give account for how you lived. Believers will be judged as to whether their actions were brought forth in righteousness or in selfishness.

2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Live wisely in the wisdom of the Lord and you will see His goodness realized in your life—this is the true measure of success.

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