Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 13, 15, 29, 44
I’ve been reading a good deal lately about “success.” I think I have had an allergic reaction to discussions about success in the past because of their associations with “get-rich-quick” schemes or the antics of health-and-wealth gospel proponents…both of which seem to define success with words related to money, stature, pleasure, power, comfort, etc., – basically whatever appeals to our basest desires to exalt ourselves.
But as I’ve been reading about success, I’ve appreciated the attempts to define success as reaching one’s potential, serving others by being the best you can be, etc. This seems to be positive…as far as it goes. But something is missing – namely “God.”
I certainly want to be the best I can possibly be – for God. I want to be the best husband I can be, the best father I can be, the best pastor I can be, and so on. Fortunately, God has revealed some parameters for us. In Deuteronomy, we read,
Deut. 28:1-2 – If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.  All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
Verse 13 continues,
The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.
In contrast to these blessings, Moses then says in verse 15,
However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
Finally, he adds in verses 29 and 44:
At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.
He will lend to you, but you will not lend to him. He will be the head, but you will be the tail.
Now, there are many issues and questions that we don’t have time to address – like why then do the wicked prosper? Or why are faithful believers martyred? Those are questions that do have answers.
What I want to highlight, however, is the main principle expressed in these verses. Covenantally speaking, true God-glorifying success comes through being rightly related to God (as Israel was) and then obeying God, and thus receiving God’s blessings for so doing. Success may take as many forms as there are people, but success that honors God is found only in this way. Conversely, not being rightly related to God and not obeying him brings on God’s curses. It’s the difference between heads and tails.
If we would honor God, love God, serve God, worship God, bear witness for God, and so on, then we must do so according to God’s standards and rules…not our own. God alone sets the standard. It is only when we are faithful in obeying God that we should have any expectation of real success.
The New Testament version of this has to do with fruitfulness. Fruit cannot fully blossom apart from its relationship to its root. We cannot bear much good and lasting fruit if we are not abiding in Christ and Christ in us – our root. In fact, our Lord says that apart from him we can do nothing (John 15).
And so, in the world we find many thoughts about success. Some are helpful – some…not so much. But if we as followers of Christ would be truly successful, bearing much good and lasting fruit, then obedience to our King is a non-negotiable, foundational principle. There’s no real success without it…just life as a tail instead of a head.
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