On behalf of the NCHE board of directors, I offer congratulations to our graduates! A common question directed to graduates is, “What’s next after you graduate?” Your answers may include: college or trade school, become a missionary, work, start a business, join the military, do a GAP year activity, or even get married. As you graduate and take the next steps toward your dreams, I want you think about having big dreams, I want you to know what biblical success for those dreams looks like, and I want you to follow God’s Word on how you should pursue those dreams.
A good rule of thumb for success is to find someone who is successful and investigate the thinking and actions that helped them succeed. Certainly, the Apostle Paul was a very well-educated Jew who persecuted Christians prior to coming to Christ. After his conversion, he became a great missionary and authored many of the books in the New Testament. Let’s investigate four biblical principles of success he offers in his letters to the Corinthians and the Colossians.
Run in such a way as to win.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NKJV)
Whatever you do will have a standard or goal that defines success. Set the goal, and then focus your efforts on achieving that goal. You may come up short of your goal. That is part of life. Paul is telling us here that the biblical standard is not that you win, but that you “run in such a way” that you focus your effort and attitude on winning.
The issue is the attitude of your heart. Ask yourself along the way, “Am I really doing what is needed to win, or am I giving half effort?” If you find you are not running in such a way as to win, ask Jesus to renew your mind and motivation to help you get back on track.
Discipline your body and bring it into submission.
Therefore, I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus, I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into submission, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (NKJV)
Paul faced challenges and so will you. Whether your challenge is over-sleeping, not eating well, not exercising, being anxious or discouraged, not spending time in God’s Word, or just not giving your best effort, Paul tells you how to overcome these challenges.
He has already set the standard that you are to run in such a way as to win. Now he is telling you that it’s going to be hard. Just because something is hard does not mean that it’s bad. Self-control and self-discipline are often hard but will be critical keys to success.
If you find you are struggling in this area, I encourage you to enlist a close friend or parent to help you be accountable to the daily spiritual and physical disciplines necessary for you to reach your goals. Most of your growth as a young man or woman will come through learning how to bring your body (physically and mentally) into submission as God grows you from where you are to where He wants you to be for the work He has for you to do with your life.
Work for an audience of One.
And, whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Colossians 3:23 (NKJV)
As you move from high school to becoming an adult, you are likely to have many people with some type of authority over you. Whether they are a college professor, coach, boss, drill instructor, dorm leader, pastor, or parent, they will have expectations about your actions, attitude, and work.
Paul offers here, in my opinion, the best advice ever written on how we are to work to be successful in anything. He first addresses clearly what kind of activity to which this verse applies. He states simply, “whatever you do.” In Ecclesiastes 9:10, Solomon states, “Whatever your hand finds to do.” The word “whatever” applies to everything you do—always.
Next, he states how we are to do our work when he states, “do it heartily.” Solomon states, “do it will all your might.”
Finally, Paul tells you for Whom we are doing it when he states, “as to the Lord and not to men.” Working for an audience of One requires choosing your focus no matter what is going on around you. When Peter was walking on the water, the waves were big and real. You will face challenges that are big and real. Keep your focus on Jesus. If your work pleases Him, that is all that matters.
Apply the principles of this verse to your life, and you will be wildly successful. Why? Because if you see Jesus as your only audience and you work heartily unto Him in whatever you do, you are likely to outperform all expectations of any human overseer—plus, your attitude and work ethic will inspire others around you and bring glory to the Lord.
Know that the rewards of your work come from the Lord.
…knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:24 (NKJV)
When we understand that our Lord Jesus is the one we are to serve, it changes our approach to our work. Ultimately, it is the Lord who provides the rewards of our labor.
Be sensitive to your motivation and whom you are trying to please or honor with your work. Paul is telling us here, along with verse twenty-three above, that our focus should not be primarily on pleasing people and/or looking for the applause of man but on serving the Lord Jesus. Trust in Him to provide you with the reward for your work. He is always faithful and fair.
Wherever your next steps take you, remember that Jesus is the standard. Whatever you do, do it heartily unto Him knowing that He is the one that rewards you. He also wants you to discipline yourself and run in such a way as to win. If you follow these biblical principles, I promise you that you will have godly success.