Turn on the TV and you’ll see all kinds of gurus telling you how to be successful and fulfilled.
You’ll see Oprah and Doctor Phil dispensing advice on successful relationships. You’ll see Joel Osteen telling you how to have your best life now. Go to a Barnes and Noble and you’ll find books like: The Real Truth About Success: What the Top 1% Do Differently, Why They Won’t Tell You, and How You Can Do It. (Why won’t they tell me?)
Proverbs 2 is a father’s appeal to a son. This father wants what’s best for his son. The dad is Solomon, the wisest man who had ever lived. He wants his son to be a success, but not in the way we usually think about it. He wants his son to be a SPIRITUAL success. But Proverbs 2 is more than an ancient sage appealing to his son. It’s God appealing to and instructing us. GOD wants us to be spiritually successful.
So what does Solomon (and God) have to say to us about spiritual success?
My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God. —Proverbs 2:1-5
First of all, spiritual success is conditional. It won’t happen automatically. Notice how many times Solomon says, “IF” before he gets to the “THEN” – IF you receive my words … IF you call out … IF you seek it like silver … THEN you will understand …
We must pursue God whole-heartedly. Though God pours out all things freely as gifts of grace, he gives us what the puritans called “means of grace” – things like Bible intake, prayer, fellowship, preaching and reading books – means by which we receive grace. IF we pursue God through these means, God promises to freely give grace.
Seeking God is like turning on a faucet. Millions of gallons of water are just waiting to quench our thirst, but we have to turn on the faucet. God has bags and bags of grace stored up for us, but we must pursue Him. James said, “You have not because you ask not.” Jesus said if we keep asking, seeking and knocking we will receive, find, and the door will be opened.
Solomon tells his son that the two most important things in life are to know God and to fear him:
Then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. —Proverbs 2:5
This is true success. Parents, this is all that really matters with your kids. Things like education, sports, learning a musical instrument, dance and art classes – all these are fine, but really don’t matter in eternity. When my kids were little, as Stephen mentioned last week, I told them I don’t care what you do in life – whether you are “successful” or not – all I care about is that you would love and serve Jesus.
The fear of the Lord is not slavish, groveling fear but a healthy knowledge of God’s holiness. It’s knowing that God hates sin and will not be mocked if we willfully go on in it.
I don’t go around all the time fearing that God will suddenly strike me down with lightning. But I know that if I give in to certain temptations, God will deal with it. He’s not mocked. When I’m all by myself in an airport somewhere, maybe no one I know would see me buy an impure magazine, but I know God surely would. This is a healthy fear of the Lord.
“Find the knowledge of God” doesn’t mean we merely get knowledge ABOUT God. It means to KNOW GOD PERSONALLY.
In John 17:3 Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
We can know God! There is no greater joy. Jesus came to reveal the Father and bring us to Him. There is nothing sweeter than an intimate relationship with God through Jesus. This is the ultimate success. The ultimate in happiness, joy and satisfaction. This should be our ultimate goal in life.
The Apostle Paul would have been considered a huge success before Jesus saved him. An expert in the Jewish law, he was at the top of his game, a rising star, respected and admired by many. Yet here’s what he said about all his achievements after Jesus saved him.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. —Philippians 3:7-8
Nothing mattered more to Paul than knowing Jesus. That’s the success he was running after.
Make Paul’s pursuit yours. Read God’s word. Cry out to him for wisdom, strength and help. You won’t cry out in vain. You’ll find healthy fear and you’ll know Jesus more and more. That’s the ultimate success.