“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
- Mark 8:36

We all want to have success in life. This is a very common desire. The culture that surrounds us is constantly telling us to pursue success. We tell our children to get educated so that they may have a successful life. But is success intrinsically good? Is it something that believers should seek after? What does God have to say about success? Can success become toxic to my life and my relationship with God? Or can success be something good for me and my relationship with God and others? In Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:6 we find an answer. The preacher tells us that success with God is good, but success without God will only deceive us.

Success without God is something that tends to deceive us, because it takes the place of God in our lives. The appeal of success is rooted in the lie that success can satisfy us. At a very foundational level, we humans are always looking for satisfaction for our lives. There is an emptiness that can only be satisfied by the love of God. We want to be loved unconditionally and when we do not know God, it is very easy to try to fill that void with success. Success (with all of its perceived benefits) has become a currency so powerful that it convinces many people it can buy or replace love. Money is not love. It can become a tool to love others, but it can never take the place of love. In fact, 1 Corinthians 13 says that even giving all your possessions to the poor without love has no value.

Another delusion of success without God is that it can solve all of our problems. The preacher gently reminds us that having more money will only create a life with more expenses and more preoccupations. Perhaps the scariest reality is that earthly success has the capacity to hide our spiritual poverty. Jesus alludes to this when he says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Jesus reminds us that even the greatest earthly successes in our life will not give us eternal gain. Success can become a great distraction from our real spiritual poverty.

So we have learned what success is not. But what about the success that is good—the success that comes from the hand of God?

The preacher tells us that true success is when we learn to be happy with all the things that God has given us already. He goes on to explain that true success in life comes from the capacity to enjoy what we have. It is God who gives us the right way to see, the right way to taste, the right way to hear, the right way to smell, the right way to feel all the good things of life that he has already given us.

In short, real success is the recognition that everything you have comes from the hand of God, regardless of whether one is rich or poor. When you accept this, then you will be enabled to enjoy life. The amount of money that you have does not define true success. True success is having the ability to enjoy the relationships that God has already given you. Your husband, your wife, your children, your parents, your brothers and sisters, your friends, your life as a Christian! Your salvation in Christ! These are the things that make life a success. God wants you to know that wealth or poverty does not define your success! The One who defines your success is God!

José González

José serves Cornerstone by overseeing the Spanish language ministry “Nueva Vida Ministerios”.

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