Christians and Success. Can we rely on God’s help?

Does God provide extra benefits that allow us to succeed in life? That’s an interesting question. We all would like to think that God is on our side, cheering us on, blessing and guiding us to success. The problem though is that this implies that God is working against whoever our competition is. That hardly seems fair does it? Why should God show favoritism? Shouldn’t people fail or succeed based on their own merits?  Isn’t that the American way? Often people get around this by saying that God helps us to succeed only when we are not competing against someone else. This hardly seems realistic, and is not reflected in our prayers.  Often we pray that God will bless us in many types of endeavors, successes that would come at the cost of someone else (if we stopped to think about it). So what is a good Christian to do?  How do we pray?  Can we ask God to help us even at the expense of others?

For answers, let’s look at the story of Daniel. Daniel was a young man who was taken form an upper class, privileged life into slavery. While in slavery, he was chosen for a special program; to educate young men to work in the new king’s administration. One special bonus of this program is that all participants were allowed to eat from the Kings table. To a young man who had just travelled through the desert in chains, this had to seem like a great opportunity. Daniel and three of his friends faced a problem though. Eating the Kings food would interfere with the way they worshiped God (it would violate their food laws). What to do? Daniel talks it over with the chief guard, who informs him he must eat the food because the guard will suffer if Daniel and his friends look malnourished. Daniel has a choice. A golden opportunity is before him, an open door that could lead to a lucrative career, something few slaves ever could hope for. A chance to get back to the upper class lifestyle that he was born into in his old country. But it would cost him. He would have to go against his principles, and it would damage how he worshipped God. Daniel chose to stick to his principles, to do what he knew to be right, and to value honoring God above getting ahead in life.  So he makes a deal with the guard. He and his friends will survive on only vegetables and water (not a very balanced diet) and not partake in the good food offered by the king (putting him at a disadvantage in this program). He trusted that God would watch over him and provide the nourishment and strength he needed to succeed in his studies. The result, God responded and blessed Daniel with wisdom and special abilities so that not only did he outclass his fellow students, but all the other advisers to the King as well (Daniel 1).

Why did God intervene? Daniels success is clearly because God gave him a blessing; abilities and strength he would not normally have. There are 2 key truths here: 1) Daniel regarded honoring God as more important than finishing first or experiencing riches. God honors Daniel’s commitment. 2) God blesses Daniel for success not for Daniel’s own glory, but to prepare and position him for what God has in store.  God has further plans for Israel and Daniel will play a vital role. Those two important truths should always guide us as we ask God for a blessing. We must be honoring God first in our life choices and we need to ask not for our own glory, but instead so that we can glorify God and build his kingdom. As long as we follow those truths, we can feel free to ask God for anything, trusting in His wisdom to provide that right answers and blessings to our requests.

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