Bible Study
Study Topic: Achieving Godly success

Richard F. Ames

We all know ambitious individuals who drive themselves. They want success at all costs. We also know people who consider themselves failures, who constantly feel like giving up and are convinced they can never be successful. But what is true success? There is a standard of godly success, given in Scripture—and there are proven principles that can help us achieve success. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong called these principles the “Seven Laws of Success.” Applied properly, they can help Christians find true success in life.

The Bible comments on mankind’s desire for money and wealth. King Solomon, a man to whom God gave great wisdom, wrote most of the Proverbs. Solomon had everything a human being could wish for, yet he gave this warning: “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be wise enough to desist. When your eyes light upon it, it is gone; for suddenly it takes to itself wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven” (Proverbs 23:4–5, RSV).

King Solomon was striving to experience “life to the full.” But he retained his wisdom in examining the effect of his experiences. What was the result? “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10–11). In other words, all his possessions and pleasure amounted to nothing—because they produced nothing of lasting value!

Some look for success in status, power and position, rather than in wealth. Is that true success? The mother of James and John—two of Jesus’ disciples—came to Him with a request: “She said to Him, ‘Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.’ But Jesus answered and said, ‘You do not know what you ask’” (Matthew 20:21–22). He then told them that those positions were for those chosen and “prepared by My Father.”

Jesus then shared a great key to true success, in contrast to the vanity of rulers lording over others. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25–28).

The greatest is one who is a true servant—one who truly cares for and helps others! Notice that it was the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, who took little children up in His arms and who stooped over to wash the feet of His disciples. You can read about that foot-washing service in John 13. It was Jesus who sacrificed His life for us all! As the Apostle Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Jesus’ example was one of service, sacrifice and love. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).

Whatever position we may hold in this life, we will never find true success unless we have an attitude of godly service toward others. One of the measures of true success is the degree of godly service one is willing to give. False success depends on the get principle, the standard carnal condition—or “default characteristic”—of human nature.

True success depends on the give principle.

Can we find success through the pursuit of knowledge? Certainly God wants us to use our minds to learn godly values and true knowledge. But unless we practice genuine humility, material knowledge may lead to intellectual vanity—a feeling of superiority and even arrogance. Knowledge puffs up, as the Apostle Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 8:1). Without God, education and learning is little more than vanity. As Paul wrote: “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile’” (1 Corinthians 3:18–20).

Ask yourself: how many times have you seen so-called history or theology “experts” on television, using their “expertise” to twist or pervert the plain truth of Scripture? How often have you seen the “entertainment” industry demean God’s law and Jesus Christ’s sacrifice? Truly, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”

Can one find success through the pursuit of physical pleasure? King Solomon, who “had it all,” said: “I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure’; but surely, this also was vanity’” (Ecclesiastes 2:1).

Today’s society seeks pleasure in sexual licentiousness, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and almost every imaginable form of stimulation. The Apostle John summed it up: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15–17).

Billions have been deceived by sexual temptations. They are sowing to the flesh, and of the flesh they will reap corruption (Galatians 6:8). God intends human beings to enjoy sexual pleasure in marriage; He wants us to enjoy life to the full within His laws and His precepts.

After all of King Solomon’s experimentation, he came to a final conclusion. “And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:12–14).

The NRSV states it a little differently: “fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.”

Seven Laws of Success

Once we understand what success is, we still need to devise a plan to achieve it. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong pioneered what he called the “Seven Laws of Success”—a series of steps, or guidelines, for achieving success in a biblically based and Christian framework. What are those laws?

Law 1: Set the Right Goal

Successful people know that to accomplish anything of value, one needs to set goals. Unless you know where you are going, you will never arrive there!

Perhaps you have a specific career in mind. Learn all you can about the career you may be considering. And ask God to guide you. Remember Jesus Christ’s wonderful promise: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7–8).

And no matter what our short-term goals, we must always pursue them in the context of the right ultimate goal. Jesus told his followers that they should not become anxious about food and clothing; He said that if God provides food for the birds of the air, surely He will much more provide for His children. His point was that all the necessities of life, about which we humans so often worry, are secondary to the most important goal of all. As Jesus said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

A Christian’s ultimate destiny is the Kingdom of God. In order to be successful, we must set goals. And to be a true success—in this life and for eternity—we need to set the right goal!

Law 2: Educate (or Prepare) Yourself

What knowledge do you need to achieve your goal? What preparations must you make? If you are choosing a career as a craftsman, you will need to work as an apprentice before you can be a journeyman. And many professions require at least a college education, if not an advanced degree. More than ever, we need to increase our knowledge just to keep up with our goals. As God told the prophet Daniel concerning the end-time: “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4).

One should never stop learning. But make sure that the knowledge you are learning is true knowledge, and not false education. Scripture teaches us that true knowledge begins with an awe and reverence toward God, and an acknowledgment that He is the source of wisdom and knowledge. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

We find a similar instruction in Proverbs 9:10. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

True Christians apply the second law of success by preparing for the coming Kingdom of God. Are you preparing? Are you growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)? To reach your goal, you need to educate yourself and prepare to achieve that goal, both physically and spiritually.

Law 3: Maintain Good Health

How healthy are you? Do you have energy and vigor to work hard? Do you have the well-being to accomplish? Our very environment may be detrimental to our health. We have come to expect pollution in our 21st century. We have polluted our air, water and food. It may be difficult to obtain genuinely organic food and pure drinking water, but we must do the best we can. You might consider starting your own vegetable garden. Our fast-food, high-fat, high-sugar diet is not the steady diet God intended for humans.

In addition to a good diet, regular exercise is important. The Apostle Paul told the evangelist Timothy: “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Again, the Bible emphasizes the spiritual dimension in our lives as priority. But we have a responsibility to honor God in our body as well as in our spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20). Other laws of health include maintaining a positive and tranquil mind, and avoiding accidents. You will be able to produce more effectively and efficiently if you have good physical fitness.

But we also need to understand our limitations, and do the best we can within them. Because of our physical limitations we may not always have the same opportunities to serve as others with different skills and limitations. Still, no matter what our physical limitations, God will provide ways in which we can serve Him, and serve our neighbors, effectively.

Law 4: Drive Yourself

Mr. Herbert Armstrong called this an “all-important law.” He wrote: “You will always find that the executive head of any growing, successful organization employs drive. He puts a constant prod on himself. He not only drives himself, he drives those under him, else they might lag, let down and stagnate” (The Seven Laws of Success, 1974, p. 40).

Yes, we have to put a prod on ourselves to move. Scripture provides a graphic illustration. “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep; so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6–11).

Proper rest is essential, but God warns against being slothful and lazy! The ant, in this case, keeps moving a little grain of food or grain of sand at a time, and accomplishes much over a long period of time. We all need energy and purpose. We need to discipline ourselves to work effectively.

Law 5: Apply Resourcefulness

Mr. Armstrong called this “the emergency law.” Perhaps the road ahead to your planned career or goal looks clear and smooth. But life often meets us with unexpected obstacles. You may suddenly face a financial problem, or health emergency. What are you going to do?

Always investigate alternatives and options. What resources are available? What agencies or individuals might be of help? Of course, the first step to take in any serious emergency is to ask for God’s help. Remember the time Jesus came walking on the water to His disciples? The Apostle Peter wanted to do the same. So Jesus told Peter: “‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:29–30).

We often overlook the obvious when we are in trouble. In this case, Peter quickly cried out for help. And what does it say Jesus did? “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31).

Ask God to deliver you from your predicament. But be sure to do your part and search out all the resources available. Never just give up. Ask for wise counsel. “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22).

Law 6: Persevere Toward Your Goal

Always have perseverance—-stick-to-it-iveness. During World War II, when the future looked gloomy for Great Britain, Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke on October 29, 1941 at Harrow School. He inspired his audience to persevere. He stated: “Surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished.”

Those who respond to God’s calling are in a spiritual race to persevere. Hebrews 11 is called the “faith chapter.” It mentions successful men and women of faith. Chapter 12 encourages us to remember their example, and to look forward to the final goal. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2).

Apply the sixth law of success. Run the race with endurance, or “patience” as the KJV has it, or “perseverance” as the NRSV translates it. Never give up! Run the race of life with perseverance.

Law 7: Seek God’s Continual Guidance

If you are going to practice the first six laws successfully, you need the vital seventh law. You need to seek God’s continual guidance. Billions of men and women may carnally be practicing some of the first six laws, but unless they seek God’s continual guidance, their efforts are but vanity.

You may ask: “How can I have God’s continual guidance?” The answer is that if God is calling you to understand His truth, you need to respond to that calling and seek Him. As you read your Bible, you will find priceless promises. Isaiah gives the following: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6–7).

As you begin to pray—as you begin to change your whole way of life to God’s way of true success—He will forgive you through the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. God has promised that He will have mercy on you and pardon you, if you repent and seek Him.

God gives us many promises of His continuing and loving guidance. For example: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6). God promises that He will direct your paths, and that He will guide you through life to fulfill your human potential and ultimate destiny. When you come to a crossroads, and are faced with a decision, pray and ask for God’s will to be done in your life. As Jesus promised us: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Finally, what is the right goal of a successful Christian? The right goal is the Kingdom of God! As Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Can You Really Succeed?

True success comes at a price—but not the kind of “price” many might expect. As Mr. Armstrong wrote: “You can’t buy it with money. It comes to you FREE—without money and without price. There is a price, of course—your own application of these definite laws. It is not guaranteed to be the easy way—but it is guaranteed to be the only way to real success!” (The Seven Laws of Success, 1974, p. 10).

Can you really achieve success? As the Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The Bible reveals the unseen, immutable laws of life. When we are in harmony with those principles and instructions, we are blessed. In fact, from the beginning of the Bible to the end, you will find that obedience to God’s way of life brings blessings, and disobedience to God’s way of life brings curses. The world’s criteria for success: possessions, power, position and pleasure—-only bring pain, suffering, failure and death. Those who define success as “getting ahead” of others, and engaging in selfish indulgence, will not only harm others; they will ultimately harm themselves. True success comes only through the Savior of the world, who taught us to love our enemies, lay down our lives for one another and live by every word of God. When we do this through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live truly happy, productive and successful lives, because we will be helping others into the family of God, and into the Kingdom of God.

So apply all seven laws of success. If you do, you will come to find the true abundant life Jesus promised: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).