All of us desire success from our endeavors, but what does God expect? Since we are created in His image, Scripture implies that God did not create us to fail. For the Christian leader, this prompts a question: Is success dependent on our own effort or the will and work of God?
Success comes from weaving God's will for our lives with our own hard work. God builds within us an incredible capacity for achievement. To please Him, we must seek diligently to find our purpose in Him. We must follow His outline for successful living, setting goals that further His kingdom.
We can take no credit for the unique set of gifts, passions, experiences and relationships that make up our lives. God's gifts are not given by accident, nor are they to be used for our own ends but to fulfill a purpose in His larger plan.
In Jeremiah 29:11, God told Judah that He had "plans ... to give you a future and a hope." But this passage was written to exiled Jews, unhappy residents of Babylon. The promise serves as a reminder that God's plans for us are made within the larger plan of human history, which is sometimes tumultuous. He has good plans for us, just as He did for the Jews in exile—who became very wealthy.
God has provided a framework for success in His Word, which offers insights for living that would make a success out of anyone. Because these principles are part of God's providence, even non-Christians who use them unawares can experience success. But if these principles are ignored, even Christians will suffer. We must find, study and, most importantly, follow these principles.
One summer, I decided to take my family on a cross-country road trip to Los Angeles. We knew what our destination was, but we still had to plan which roads to take, gas stops to make and, best of all, attractions to visit. In the same way, knowing your calling does not mean God's plan will fall into place without effort.
Some Christians think goal-setting diminishes God's work, but this is not true. Unless you sense God leading you otherwise, any effort that moves you toward your goal is fine. Remember Paul's missionary journeys? Except for the Holy Spirit's sudden leading to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10), he went to the towns he had already planned to visit.
Many roads will take you to your destination, some faster, some slower. And there are many ways to realize success. First, assess what you need to reach your goal, including your strengths, resources and environment. After analysis, plan which paths to take to reach your destination.
When you travel, you wouldn't chart your course on a map and never look at it again. Instead, you would continually reference your map to make sure you were on course. In life, setting and working toward your goals serves as a road map.
Each of your goals should be specific, measurable, deadline-oriented and written, because you will need to review them regularly to ensure you stay on track. Also, be sure to plan milestones as significant accomplishments. To achieve these, divide your plan into smaller steps. You cannot drive cross-country in one long trip, so plan for gas stops along the way. In the same way, some of your milestones should be celebratory to encourage and refresh you.
Without true accountability, good intentions can fade over time. Accountability is an easy concept but hard to carry out because it involves vulnerability and transparency.
Any goal not written and shared with at least one person is probably hollow. If you are willing to be accountable, ask someone to support your goal by following up with you.
We find it too easy to let ourselves slide. For instance, I run with a partner at 5 a.m. If I ran alone, I might choose to sleep in, but I would never leave my friend waiting in the dark. In the same way, knowing there is someone to whom you are answerable will keep you committed in hard times.
Oral Roberts once said: "Your life is God's gift to you. What you make of your life is your gift to God."
God wants us to be successful, but that won't happen without significant effort. If we set our goals and follow them wisely and prayerfully, we will chart a path to success.
Mark Tedford is a partner at Tedford Insurance, a second-generation insurance brokerage, and has business interests in transportation and real estate. After obtaining a Master of Business Administration at Tulsa University, he went to Biola University to broaden his studies and received a Master of Christian Apologetics. A regular speaker for business organizations, he serves on several boards and is chairman of the Oklahoma Apologetics Alliance.
Dr. Henry Migliore, president of Managing for Success and former professor and dean at Oral Roberts University, contributed to this column.
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