How to Be a Success

My Advice to a Christian at Crossroads

I think it was maybe thirty years ago my niece asked my opinion about what to do with her life, and the advice I gave her seemed so good, I made it my own goal. It was for a Christian perspective, but recently I rethought the question for a guy who probably lacks that advantage. So here is the "Right" answer, what I wish I could tell him if I thought he'd listen. It's basically the same thing, but in reverse order.

The best thing you can do with your life is to find out what God wants you to do and be, and then be and do that. God is Good, and He knew what he was doing when He made you. You will be most satisfied and happy if you are in the center of where God made you to be. Don't waste your effort and energy trying to be somebody other than what God made you. You can do that -- especially in our economy, there are people who love (to get paid for) helping you be something other than what God made you -- but you won't be happy with the result.

Some guy came to Jesus and asked him how to be a success, and Jesus gave him a simple answer in two parts. They are the same two parts God gave Moses, and they apply to all people everywhere, even if they don't know it (but the Apostle Paul told the church in Rome that everybody really does know it). The two parts (plus one I sort of added) are:

1. God is #1

Whatever God says to do, you should do it. Sometimes people will tell you what they think God tells you to do, and sometimes they are right, but mostly the people who do that are looking for a way to take advantage of you. Your best bet is to read the Bible -- all of it, over and over again, preferably in a modern English translation you understand, like the NLT -- to see what God told other people to do, and then think about how that applies in your situation. Often it doesn't, except as general principles. Talk to Good people. Watch them, and if they behave in ways that you can honestly call "good" then listen to what they have to say, and compare it to what the Bible tells you.

The main thing God tells you in the Bible -- check it out, don't just take my (or anybody else's) word for it -- besides that God is #1, is

2. The Golden Rule (GR)

Everybody you meet, whether you like them or not, whether they deserve it or not, you treat them as you want to be treated, if you were in their place. Sometimes that's hard to figure out, so God gave us a bunch or "rules" that basically explain what it means. Some of those rules are not obviously instances of the GR, but if you think about them long and hard, it turns out they are. If they are repeated in the New Testament, they probably are. Other rules (in the Old Testament) were for ancient Israel only, and are really part of #1 for them at that time, so they don't apply to you. But reading them at least once might help you to understand what #1 means to you.

3. Karma

Jesus didn't talk about this much -- he certainly didn't use the Hindu word for it -- but it captures what he (and later his Apostles) did say about it. When you do Bad Things (violate the GR), people get hurt. You need to make that right. Most often you cannot make it right, but God is bigger than we are, and He is Good, and He both can and will make that right -- if you want Him to. That's what the Cross is all about, erasing bad karma. You get a clean slate, so Be Good (do #1 and #2) starting now. But you have to want to.


So my advice to my niece was simple: Find something you like doing, because it's really hard to love God when you hate your job. That's #1. Then make sure that whatever you do, it helps other people. That's #2.

If you help other people, if you Make the World a Better Place, then many -- perhaps most -- people will think of you as "good" and they will be right! You will feel good about yourself. That helps a lot with the motivation. So you see, I'm starting at the back of the secular version. Being Good trumps everything.

What about luck? There's no such thing, God is in charge. When I use the word "luck" (and I do sometimes) I am careful to spell it P-R-O-V-I-D-E-N-C-E, God will provide, and God is Good, so whatever God gives you to work with, it will be Good for you. That's "Good" with a capital "G". Sometimes it doesn't feel so good, like when God had this bet with Satan, and the Bad Guys came and took everything away. God told Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, he gets everything Right." The Devil retorted, "Of course, silly, you paid him to!" So the bet was, if Job lost everything, he would stop the #1 thing. God said not. He won the bet, but of course He couldn't tell Job that was what He was doing, it would have spoiled the bet. In the end, He paid it all back double. Not a bad investment. God is Good. We do not know how God will square up the accounts, but He will. Our job is to Do The Right Thing with what we have, like Job.

So how do we Do The Right Thing? God made you good at something. Find out what it is, then practice doing it. Use it to Make the World a Better Place. It takes effort, but it's Good effort, it will feel good when other people benefit.

And when you know you are doing Good, when you are doing what God made you good at, you will want to do it. That's motivation, the tail that wags the dog. Maybe not 24/7: God made us to need rest. It's in our nature, created in the Image of God, and God rested the Seventh day. So take a day off and think God-thoughts on that day. It will charge you up for doing GR things the rest of the week.

So now, go back and read the secular version, but think about how God made it so. It's what I did, and here well past my Biblical "threescore and ten" I have no regrets. Well, I screwed up a lot, but mostly it was Clue Deficit Disorder. I did the best I could with what I had. Mostly. God is into erasing the mistakes.

Tom Pittman
Rev. 2019 May 18


What's Really Important, finding faith without "Religion"