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May 7, 2014, 12:20 PM

"There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:11)

What is success? How is success measured? Who would you call successful? Do you yearn for success? Success is practically on everybody’s lips these days. We would like all our endeavours to be crowned with success; why not? Success at work, success in our business, a successful marriage and a successful career – the list is endless. Everybody would like to taste success even if it is for a season. Therefore, we strive to ensure that in our lifetime we reach our set goals and targets – sometimes at any cost. We seek to realise our ambitions in a bid to leave footprints behind for posterity sake. We feel we must stamp an indelible mark on humanity’s calendar just for our ego. We draw attention to our transient passage on earth by seeking to plot a chart for others to see.

Nobody would like to embark on something that is doomed to fail. No one in his/her right mind would set out to fail. For that reason, nobody would like to identify with failure. I am yet to encounter someone on whom failure does not take its toll.

What price are we ready to pay in order to succeed? Stepping on people’s toes, cutting their throats, maiming them, using slander or gossip – anything, as long as things turn out good for us? When self-centeredness and selfish motives get in the way of our success trail, it becomes a matter of concern.

Being successful by human standards means using methods of the world, which is self-effort - to attain it. Personal effort becomes the yardstick. Our achievements become a result of our intelligence, our experience and our know-how; we take all the glory for ourselves – the God-element is deliberately set aside.

Success, dear reader, is transitory in nature – here today gone tomorrow. It is short-lived, however hard we push. In this time-bound race, such success is worldly and yields nothing of substance. Success is seen as the accumulation of more possessions or purchasing multiple material possessions – for our comfort, for our ego and self-image and for our pride. King Solomon, the richest man who ever lived, was blessed by God with wealth and fame. He was so successful that people crossed borders to tap from his God-given wisdom. As his sun began to set, he reviewed his achievements and summed it all thus: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless! What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3)

He wrote: “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work and this was the reward for all my labour. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands have done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)

God in his word has defined success for those who would care to listen. All the biblical characters who adhered to this divine formula experienced real success. The way to success prescribed by God is defined in scripture in the words he said to Joshua a young and brave soldier. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the laws my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8) God will take us places when we are obedient to his word and not baffle or trample it under our feet.

Whatever he touched

In Genesis chapter 39 verses 2 to 6, we read, “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered and he lived in the home of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything that he did Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.”

The success stories of Joseph and Joshua were neither hinged on the number of skyscrapers they had built nor the number of chariots in their stables. No, their success was built on the fact that they trusted in God and obeyed his word. Because he was obedient he could step into Moses’ shoes and he courageously led the Children of Israel into the Promised Land.

Joseph’s success is eye-catching; from prison he was catapulted to the position of prime minister. No sweat! He was the only one who could interpret Pharaoh’s dreams; the wisdom he displayed could only have been the result of his relationship with his God. His obedience and faithfulness, did it all. His elevation to this position saved Israel and his immediate family from starvation during a severe famine.

What about Moses and David? From the backwoods of the Midian desert God took Moses and charged him with delivering the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. David, from his humble beginnings as a shepherd boy, became Israel’s greatest king.

It is not by power nor by might that we shall become successful in this life, but by God’s spirit, by his move in our lives. God put us here for a purpose and when that purpose is fulfilled, no sorrow will be added to it.

It is said of Uzziah, aged sixteen when he became king; “He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” (2 Chronicles 26:5) Seek him while he may be found.