September 7, 2018 • Life for Leaders
LORD, save us!
LORD, grant us success!
I must confess that the second half of Psalm 118:25 makes me nervous. I guess I have seen too many Christians shrink the God of the universe down to a tool for personal success. God, or so the story goes, will give you success in your business, your bank account, and your bowl game. God will give you success in your family, an attractive spouse and high achieving children. If you only discover the secret of having God on your side, then your success at whatever you desire is guaranteed.
In reaction to this kind of minimization of God, I find myself reticent to ask God for success. While rightly aware of the human tendency to make everything “all about me,” I can neglect the truth and example of biblical passages like Psalm 118:25. This verse asks not only for God to save us, something I am quite comfortable praying, but also for God to “grant us success.” This, by the way, is a faithful rendering of the Hebrew original. The psalm writer is indeed asking God, without embarrassment or hesitation, to help him succeed. Does this mean I should do the same?
Yes, I believe it does. Scripture encourages us to be honest with God, to say what’s truly on our hearts. If I really want God to help me to succeed at something I care about, then I have the freedom to speak openly to God about it. It’s not as if I can fake out God by hiding the desires God already knows are in my heart.
When I ask God for success, I am also confessing that I can’t make it happen on my own. I’m admitting my weakness, my dependency, my neediness. I’m reminded that my life and my work are not my own but are gifts of God given for his purposes.
Plus, when I ask God for success, if indeed things turn out as I have hoped and prayed, then I can’t take all the credit for myself. Or at least I shouldn’t, at any rate. When success comes my way, I recognize it as a demonstration of God’s grace. I don’t own my success. I don’t have reason to become puffed up and proud. Rather, I humbly give thanks to the God who not only saves me, but also gives me success.
Something to Think About:
Do you pray for success? If so, why? If not, why not?
How can your prayers for success be something other than a selfish attempt to get God to give you exactly what you want?
Can you think of successes that you attribute to God’s grace in your life?
Something to Do:
Imitate the psalmist and pray for God to give you success. As you do, surrender to him your project or challenge.
Gracious God, thank you for the example of the psalm writer. Thank you for the permission this psalm gives us to cry out to you for salvation and for success. How good it is to know that I can tell you whatever is on my heart, without pretending or hiding.
Lord, keep me from seeking success that is only about me. May I yearn, work, and pray for success that is honoring to you and that contributes to your kingdom. May “my” success be truly and fully “your” success. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
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, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.