Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

In Sunday’s message, I talked about third base, our competency. It is about our career and our work. You probably didn’t hear anything you didn’t expect. We should set goals. By all means, work hard. And, please, never give up. But if you only set goals, work hard, and never give up in terms of career and success, then you will ultimately be a failure because that is not what competency is all about.

Here is what I mean. People who put their careers and work above all else in life tend to give up more than they gain by success. They elevate their projects higher than their family. They are stressed, and have no margin. Their kids grow up while they are working their way up the corporate ladder. And they usually find that all they have achieved is temporary.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a powerful and well-known verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  But look at what he adds in verses 10, and 12-14. “This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. … In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

There is a time when the Lord will give the exiles a great hope and a great future. When is it? The Lord says in verses 12-13. “…I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.” So how do the captives exiled to Babylon acquire a great future and a hope? It is not by buying a large home, expensive cars or a six-figure salary. It is not by working more hours than anyone else. None of those things is bad, but they should be secondary to seeking the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. Then “all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Success is discovering what God wants me to do and then doing it. Follow Jesus first, because your identity is in Him. If you do that first and above all else, there is no other secret to success, for in Him you have all that you will ever need. Our goal as parents is to teach our children that they cannot find their identity and their purpose in life in the size of their house or a corner office with their name on it.  We need to teach them that when you seek Jesus first, you have everything you need.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some ways the American view of success has filtered into your everyday life? How can you fight this?
  2. Is it wrong to seek to be successful in our jobs? How do motives fit in?
  3. God’s blessing is not necessarily related to favorable circumstances. Agree or disagree?
  4. How can we sort out whether our motives to succeed are selfish or for God’s glory? Read the story of the rich man in Luke 16:19-31: What evidence from the story tells us that the rich man fouled up the greatest priority in life? If this rich man could do his life all over again, do you think he would change anything? What and why?
  5. What can we do this week to give our children the courage to trust Him in everything?