After months of being out from this blog, I’ll continue on the series I began five months ago. This time we will be talking about success.
The reason I’ll be talking about success today is because we are in the season when many young people are entering into the new chapter of their life, the chapter of chasing after success. This month is Graduation month in the Philippines.
Many people are spending much of their lifetime chasing after success. And success by the world’s definition is having much money, becoming famous, having good connections, insured life, insured car, insured body parts, etc. This problem has even infected many Christians. Charles Spurgeon once said: “One reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.”
If we look at the lifestyle of the world and compare it to how “Christians” act today, we can seldom see a difference. We spend money as much as the worldly people spend. We look at the same entertainment the world is enjoying. We spend as much time as unbelievers watching materialistic and morally polluted programs in the television and in the movies. We download the same apps. We play the same games. We spend more time in the pleasures of this world than in the presence of God. We even allow the world to control our life by chasing after success according to the expectations of the world and not of God.
I’m not saying that striving to become successful is wrong. What I’m saying is becoming successful in the temporary things is stupid. Remember Jesus’ parable about the rich man who thought that he has everything he needed (Luke 12:20). God said to him: “You fool! Don’t you know that tonight you will die? Who’s going to take care of what you’ve earned?” What good is a man even when he gains the world yet forfeits his soul?
A Look At David’s Success
1 Samuel 18 talks about David’s rise in favor of the Israelites. It follows right after David defeated the giant Goliath. We will be looking on David’s life with two scopes. The first view is the outward look at David’s success:
1. He has friends (18:1-4; 6; 16). – Not just ordinary friends, he is the prince’s friend, king’s friend, women’s friend, and people’s friend. Who would not like to be friends of everybody?
2. He has fame (18:6-7; 16; 30) – David became very known to all the people of Israel. They made songs for him. He was even more famous than the king! Imagine yourself like him. Imagine it when people make a song about you.
3. He has family (18:18; 20; 27-29) – Not just an ordinary family but a royal family! If David is alive today, we can liken him to someone like Kate Middleton. Imagine yourself marrying a president’s daughter. That’s success!
4. He has fortune (18:4-5; 27). – He was given gifts. He has men with him.
5. He has a good future (18:27; 30). – He was given an important job. He would be the king’s son-in-law.
These five things—friends, fame, family, fortune, and future—are what the people of this world is chasing after. David had them. But are they the measure of his success? Are these things the only evidence of David’s success? I’ll give you a hint: in the next chapters, these things were taken away from David!
Not let’s have an inward look at David’s success.
The word “success” or “successful” or “prosper” in Hebrew is “SAKAL” (saw-kal). It appears three to four times in this chapter: 18:5; 18:14; 18:15; 18:30. The use of this word is very interesting. The word “success” in the Hebrew, particularly in this chapter means “act wisely” or “behaved wisely.” That is why, to some of the Bible versions, it says there “behaved wisely” or “act wisely” or “skillfully” (e.g. NKJV). Verse 14 tells us how David was this successful/prosperous/wise/skillful: “The LORD was with him.”
So What Now?
The first lesson is this: Success always involves character! And character comes because of God’s abiding presence. Read verse 14. David was successful or behaved wisely because the “Lord was with him.”
If you want to be successful in life take this: Be successful in character! You may not have all the things in the world but if you have character, the character based on God’s standard, you are more successful than any other people. The greatest obstacle to success is your own self. And the greatest obstacle to enjoying God’s presence is you. No wonder David, in the height of his success, was able to humble himself. He was able because he is after God’s own heart.
Interestingly, the English word “success” comes from the Latin which means “come after.” Success “comes after” following God’s own heart.
Secondly, success is not measured by our ability but by how we act wisely! Remember what made David this successful. What made him prosper, act wisely, behave wisely, or skillfully? Look at verse 14 again: “And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him.” This gives us the main principle: Success is not measured by gold, glory, or girl’s presence but by God’s presence. It is not about the pleasures of the world, but about the presence of God in our lives.
We must remember that worldly pleasures and success is always a struggle. It is always what the enemy is throwing at us. Remember Jesus’ temptation, it is the same thing that Satan throws at him: “Just worship me and all the kingdoms and riches of the world will be given to you,” says Satan.
But our response should be like that of Apostle Paul’s:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11 (ESV)