If you are thinking of ways for how to get ahead in life, some pretty predictable things might come to mind like landing a high paying first job or going straight into grad school. Yet, very few people actually think of “being nice”, “being positive” or “trusting God” as the prominent path to worldly success. We live in a culture where success is the carrot held in front of our view, leading us to dream, work hard, and reach. There is nothing wrong with this; God delights in a hard worker and in giving His children the desires of their hearts. The thing is, when it comes to your future, you can’t leave God out. I don’t mean in the sense that “you shouldn’t leave God out”, but rather that you literally cannot leave Him out of the equation. Either He is going to come first or He is going to come after whatever it is that you have put before Him, making Him “not first”. Either first or not, He will still land somewhere in the ranking system and at some point we will all have to face where we decided to put God in our lives. The point is, we can’t ignore Him.
- God first! Putting God first starts with your seeking Him. If you draw closer to Him, He will draw closer to you (James 4:8). He is always right there waiting. The closer you get to God, the easier it is to put Him first. And when you put Him first, He begins to concern Himself with moving in your affairs in a greater way. There is nothing like the favor of God, which is to open doors for you that you cannot open for yourself. But that is not the reason why you should seek God. Seek Him because of who He is. He is love. He is hope. In fact, as you get older, it is my hope that you will know Him as your only hope. The advice to put God first is not given in order to induce anxiety within you—that’s religious and legalistic. It is given to inspire you to seek the one who loves you the most and experience an abundant life that only He can give you. We get so caught up with what we can do for ourselves that we forget that God can exceed are imagination in meeting our needs and even granting us our hearts’ desires (Ephesians 3:20). God knows your dream job. He knows what you are passionate about. He also knows the things that you don’t know, like what you would desire more if you knew about it. Trust Him to guide you and be sure that He occupies the right place in your life.
- Stay Humble. You might hear this a lot from successful people and it’s true: humble people tend to be more successful in the long run because humility keeps them from the blindness and over-estimation that comes with pride. When you are humble, you are more apt to put someone else in a higher esteem than yourself. Always be willing to acknowledge another person’s strengths and be willing to learn from them. Never let your own sense of accomplishment bring about a spirit of competition and pride, which can set you up for an embarrassing failure. Moreover, God loves the humble. Proverbs 3:34 says that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 29:23 says “A man’s pride and sense of self-importance will bring him down, But he who has humble spirit will obtain honor.” If you want God to remain on your team in a situation with other people, take my advice and stay humble! Humble people also rarely over-exaggerate their own contributions and accomplishments, which puts them in a position to know that they could always improve and subsequently succeed.
- Be nice, and don’t sweat the small stuff. It is just the way it is: people mess up. Big time. Some people make mistakes and hurt you, others make decisions. Either way, it can be easy to turn inward or become more fragile that what you ought. Never underestimate the destruction that an offended heart can cause. When you let offense in, you stand ready to point the finger at another about what they have done (while ignoring your faults) and you can even become cynical. Understand that in God’s eyes, no one is righteous except Jesus, and it is only when we come under His blood that we can ever be considered righteous by the perfect judge. Yet, everyone makes mistakes and wrong decisions, even you! Humble yourself and admit your own wrongs. Be willing to face your bad habits, your wrong thinking, and the evil in your own heart. Also be willing to extend grace and forgiveness to those who have wronged you. When you don’t you give the devil any foothold to come in and wreak havoc on your life. This especially happens to Christians because the enemy does not want Christians succeeding in their walk with the Lord. Church hurt is all too often an excuse used by offended people to turn away from God. But know that God is there to take your hurt. Offer it to Him. You will have to do something with it. Being gracious and forgiving will help you be a nicer person. This will not always guarantee material success, but it will help you get where God wants you.
Life is about your relationship with God and others. True success comes when you are free to love God in everything that you do; that your entire life is an expression of love for God. When it shows in how you treat others, how you think of other people, and your desire to please God, no doubt you will end up where you always wanted to be. After all, Luke 12:32 says, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”