How To Overcome The Temptation Of Idolizing Success

How Do You Know If You Are Idolizing Success?

 

This is one of those difficult posts to write.  To be honest, I didn’t want to write this because it hit home a little to much for my liking.  It brings up a pretty touchy subject about success and when it can be too much of a good thing.  When we begin idolizing success.

 

When I Walked Away From Success

 

There was a time when I was doing rather well at my job.  So well in fact that I got promoted rather quickly.  I started to set long-term goals in which I’d try to get a position within my job’s regional office.  I knew that as long as I applied myself I could get there on my own…no prayers necessary (yes, that was my thinking).  Long hours and time away from my family were all too familiar for me.  When I was home I was either too stressed or tired to spend any quality time with them.  For me it was worth the sacrifice because it was part of being successful at what I was doing.  It came with the territory and it was part of the hustle of becoming a so-called successful person.

It wasn’t long before I came to a crossroads.  Suddenly, my Husband wasn’t as supportive as he once was because he had to pick up all the slack at home.  My children began to call out for their Dad when they had a nightmares during the night because they were used to him comforting them…not me.  I had to miss birthday parties and family events.  I missed my best friend’s wedding because I had no way to cover my inventory.  My relationship with Christ was next to nothing because work was the priority.  Nothing else, just work.  Success was my idol.

Suddenly I was confronted with the reality that something had to give.  I could not realize this dream of being a corporate manager when my home life was falling apart.  I had a choice to make.  Was I going to continue sacrificing my walk with Christ and my family for a career so I could say I was successful?  Certainly not, I made the better choice for Christ and my family.  Unfortunately, this is the road less traveled.

 

Is It Wrong To Be Successful?

 

Please do not get me wrong.  I do believe that there is such thing as maintaining a successful career and having a good spiritual life.  In fact, I believe that it is imperative that you have a strong walk with Christ in order to be truly successful.  The issue is that there comes a point when that drive for success becomes front and center.  It becomes an idol.

“So be careful not to break the covenant the LORD your God has made with you.  Do not make idols of any shape or form, for the LORD your God has forbidden this.  The LORD your God is a devouring fire; he is a jealous God.”
Deuternonomy 4:23-24

 

I am keenly aware that I’m susceptible to falling into the same trap of idolizing success as a blogger.  After all, I am human and I believe that we all desire to be successful at what we do…whether it be ministry, family, or career.  What does God’s word tell us about being successful though?  Are there different types of success?  I believe so.

What are the signs that you might be falling into the trap of idolizing success? Learn how to overcome one of the most tempting sins out there and find out what the true key to success is.

The Temptation of Worldly Success

 

Worldly success is a cut-throat climb to the top of the ladder contest.  When stuck in it’s snares we will try and compete and out-do anyone who might be a threat, and all because we want to be the best at what we do.  Arrogance and pride are the torches we get to carry across the finish line.  What does that finish line possess?  The world says riches, fame, and notoriety are what successful people get to look forward to.  All things that are self-seeking and satisfy the flesh.  This desire for more becomes an endless obsession, and the thirst for it will never quenched.

 

Society teaches us that what defines someone as successful is how wealthy they are.  So, should we want to be successful by worldly standards?  Have we “made it” if we own the right car or a big enough house?  Thankfully God gives us instructions on these matters in His word.

 

His Word

“Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable.  Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.”
1 Timothy 6:17  NLT

 

“For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.  They are headed for destruction.  Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.”
Philippians 3:18-19  NLT

“Those who love money will never have enough.  How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!  The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it.  So what good is wealth–except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!”
Ecclesiastes 5:10-11

Godly Success Factors

 

When God created us He knew that we would be sinful in nature and enticed by the things this world has to offer.  He knew our propensity for wanting things we could see and touch.  However, he teaches us that in order to be truly successful we must seek Him first before all things.  We must trust in Him who we have not seen and be obedient to His call.  Our true success lies in finishing our race well, and  it is through our obedience that we inherit our blessing.

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Sometimes I think about King Solomon, and how God blessed him with wisdom and wealth.  When God had asked Solomon what we wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom and an understanding heart.  The Lord was so pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom instead of asking for his own desires that He gave him more wisdom than anyone else.  But get this, God also gave Solomon riches and fame.  God also said that if Solomon obeyed His decrees and commands that he would live a long life.  They were all blessings that were stemmed from a heart that was seeking God instead of self.

 

I believe that God wants the same from us today.  He desires a life that is fully committed to Him and that seeks out ways to give.  Not ways to get.  When we yield to this way of living and thinking than the abundance overflows from Him.  Not only that, but our frame of mind shifts to one that is grateful and content with all we have been given.

 

“Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”
Luke 9:23-25  NLT

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out for only your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
Philippians 2:3-5  NLT

 Our obedience to the call of God is the true key to our success. The relationship we have with Him is the measure of true success.

Where Do You Stand?

 

Take a look at these two types of success and honestly ask yourself which category you fall into.  If I’m honestly assessing myself I have to admit that I fall short and that sometimes I’m tempted by the lure of worldly success.  However, I have learned over time, that the things I own do not define me, and any title I hold does not decide my worth.  My value is found in Jesus and I am content with all that He has blessed me with.  The blessings that come from obedience.

 

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.  After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.  So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.  But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”
1 Timothy 6:6-10  NLT

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but are from this world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.  But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”
1 John 2:15-17  NLT

Take a stand with me in trusting that our Lord has more to offer than our selfish ambitions.  Let’s pick up our cross and create a true success story.  The one with His name above all others.

Be blessed,

  • I love how you focus on gratitude and contentment, Natalie. Pairing those with seeking God’s will is so vital to keeping “success” in perspective, especially in light of the way the world defines it. Focus on the give, not the get…well said!

    • It can be difficult to focus on being grateful instead of on what we feel we need. The truth is we have all we need because He meets our needs. He knows them all beforehand. I trust in Him.

  • I once battled with success over family and my walk with Christ. I kept working harder and harder because I just couldn’t feel content but the day I gave my job to God, I was all of a sudden full of peace. God truly is the peacemaker and the true success we will ever have! Thank you for sharing your heart and insight!

  • “However, he teaches us that in order to be truly successful we must seek Him first before all things. We must trust in Him who we have not seen and be obedient to His call. ”

    Yes! and if like Abraham in Rom 4:20,21 we trust Him and don’t waver in our faith, God will strengthen us and we will give glory to Him…whether we are in a mansion or a rented room (or Aunty’s attic room, or our in-laws house…) Suddenly the circumstances of our “success” are not the issue, as we focus our eyes on the God who desires to make us more like Jesus, and allow us to “finish our race well.”
    Thank you for challenging us today to keep our eyes fixed on the right thing.

    • Well said Ruth! God gives us so many scriptures warning us to keep our hearts in check and aligned with Him. It’s when we stray and give into temptation that our vision becomes cloudy. Suddenly the things the world offers don’t look so bad, oh but they are deadly. May our eyes always be fixed on Him.

    • Thank you so much Elaine! I deeply appreciate your support. His word never returns void and this post is chock full of scriptures 🙂

  • Yes, I agree, we can lose sight of what is really our goal as believers. We must keep our focus on Him and finishing the race well. That many times means giving up our own desires to follow after Him… and in the end it always turns out for our God when we seek His ways first! Thanks for this reminder! Blessings (Your neighbor at #HeartEncouragement)

    • Amen Rachel, I have found that as I put His ways before my own that there have been more blessings then when I tried to do things my way. Our Lord truly amazes me!

  • So many great thoughts here. “However, he teaches us that in order to be truly successful we must seek Him first before all things. We must trust in Him who we have not seen and be obedient to His call. Our true success lies in finishing our race well, and it is through our obedience that we inherit our blessing.” I have been on a quest for order in my life for years…it’s a challenge but a very worthwhile pursuit.

    • Hello Emily,
      I’m so glad you received something from this message on success. We think we know what’s best for our lives but ultimately God’s truth is our standard. Glad you stopped in!

  • Love this! As someone who also at one time wanted to be a corporate manager and let it consume her, I can identify with that struggle for wanting success. I nearly let wanting success ruin me. And I had to learn success doesn’t come from my empty, worldly pursuits. Thanks for sharing – the drive for success is not easy to admit so I appreciate your openness and transparency in this post.

    • Thank you Alisha,
      It was difficult to let go of my pursuits but so worthwhile because in turn I’ve learned to rely on Christ and follow His lead for my life. It has been a blessing in disguise : )

  • such an encouraging post, Natalie.
    I like how you said, “He knew our propensity for wanting things we could see and touch.” Oh boy! Is that ever true. It requires so much less faith to measure success by the tangible things- we can see and touch. It requires much more faith to to measure success through the abstract qualities-the fruit the Spirit produces as we walk in Him.
    Thank you for sharing
    blessings

    • Thank you so much for stopping by Paula!
      To trust and have faith goes against the grain of who we are. We want proof of things that are unseen. It’s our fleshly reality, but each day God grows us and shows us that the things we can touch are useless. Our faith and trust in Him far outweigh any material thing.

  • It’s so easy to get caught up in that, especially skewing our idea of what success really is. Are we looking at success through our own lense or are we looking at it through God’s? It takes a daily effort – checking ourselves to make sure we’re on the right path. Thank you for being transparent and sharing something we all fall short of.

    • God bless you Kelly,
      Everyday it is an uphill battle. I have to question my own motives and test myself against the word of God. While we all fall short it is so important that we hold ourselves accountable and stay obedient to His word. Thank you Jesus for protecting us from ourselves!

  • This verse kinda reminded me of what you’re talking about:

    “Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
    Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work;
    Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.
    These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray.
    Accept them when I place them on the morning altar…” Psalm 19:13-14 (The Message)

    Every day is a clean slate and an opportunity not to participate in ” stupid sins”. 🙂 I like this version.

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