Reflections on Success: Part 5 – Success is Fleeting

By Mark D. Roberts

July 27, 2018

The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master… When his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, saying, “This is the way your servant treated me,” he became enraged. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison.

Genesis 39:2, 19-20


We know that success is fleeting. One year, a coach leads his team to the Super Bowl. The next year, he is fired. One year, a company leads the pack in innovation and income. A few years later, the same company files for bankruptcy. And so it goes in almost every area of life. There are precious few John Woodens, Meryl Streeps, and Paul McCartneys, people who are able to be successful year after year after year.

An overhead view of a person at work in the middle of a giant clock.Joseph learned this lesson the hard way. Because God blessed his work for Potiphar, Joseph soon became the manager of his master’s household. In fact, Joseph said to Potiphar’s wife about her husband, “He is not greater in this house than I am” (39:9). But when she couldn’t lure Joseph into her bed, this woman chose to bring Joseph down. She accused him of trying to rape her (39:19). The next thing he knew, Joseph was thrown into prison by Potiphar, where he remained for a long time (39:20). Talk about success as fleeting! Joseph fell from being Potiphar’s golden boy to enemy number one in a single day.

As I consider this story, I wonder why we often strive so diligently for success that won’t last. Why do we invest our lives for returns that are so ephemeral? What is it in us that seeks momentary glory?

The biblical answer to these questions is surprising. It begins with our creation. We were made in God’s own image, a truth that suggests we share in some measure in God’s glory. This suggestion is confirmed in Romans 8, where we learn that one day we will be glorified with Christ (8:17). 2 Corinthians 4:17 adds that we are being prepared for “an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.” Thus, our desire for glory isn’t a result of sin. It is built into our spiritual DNA.

But, as it always does, sin corrupts our godly desire for glory. Sin convinces us that fleeting success and momentary glory will satisfy our hearts. Sin keeps us from seeking success that lasts. It moves us to seek our own glory, rather than to share in the glory of God along with our sisters and brothers in Christ.

But sin does not have to get the last word. By God’s grace, our yearning for success can be redirected, our desire for glory purified. We can invest our lives in God’s kingdom work, thus earning treasure that will last. We can live for God’s glory now, because Christ in us is “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Guided by God’s Word and Spirit, we can walk now in the good works God has prepared for us, knowing that the day will come when God will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Our success in Christ will not be fleeting; it will give glory to God, who will share his glory with us.

Something to Think About:

Why do you think so many people strive for success that is fleeting? Are you ever tempted to do this?

Do you find in yourself a desire for glory? How do you think about that desire?

As you think about your life, in what ways are you investing yourself in things that will last? How might the success of your life matter—not just in the moment, but throughout eternity?


Gracious God, I admit it. There are plenty of times when I seek success that I know is fleeting. There are times I seek my own glory rather than your glory. Forgive me for how often my desires show evidence of sin’s corruption.

Help me, Lord, to seek after that which will last. May I seek first your kingdom, your righteousness and justice. May I seek to live for the praise of your glory in all I do.

Thank you for the privilege of doing good works that you have prepared for me, so that my success might last. Thank you for the hope of one day not only beholding your glory but also sharing in it. Amen.

This post was originally published on January 22, 2016.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
God Wants Me To Be Successful?

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

More on Mark

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Learn Learn Learn Learn

the Life for Leaders newsletter

Learn Learn Learn Learn