By: R. Henry Migliore

Success. Is it a mark of a Spirit-led Christian or merely the product of human effort? Does God expect our lives to be an overwhelming success story?

Most Christians would agree that God did not create us to fail; after all He created us in His image, And as such, we should have the mind-set of a success-oriented person.

Success at selfish goals is no success at all from a spiritual viewpoint, But, if we’re seeking to please God-to fulfill scriptural commands regarding the spiritual, moral, physical, financial and other areas of life then God expects our best efforts. Of all people on earth, Christians should be in the best position to rise above circumstances, to remain standing when everything around us has crumbled to the ground.

In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul outlines the troubles awaiting us in this life: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, even martyrdom. Then he points out the distinguishing mark of the Christian: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom, 8:37, NKJV).

We are designated for success through trials, called to be “more than conquerors.” But this success doesn’t come without effort on our part. In order to fulfill God’s design for our lives, we must follow His outline for successful living, set goals in all areas of our lives and be accountable for our plans.


The prophet Jeremiah gave his fellow Israelites a hard message from the Lord: Prepare for 70 years of captivity in Babylon. But even in the light of the forthcoming hardship, God has a promise for success: “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”‘ (Jer. 29:ll,NIV).

Just as God has a good plan for the Israelites, He has a plan to prosper us, How do we find that plan? God’s word to Joshua gives us the key: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it’ Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Josh, 1:8).

Meditating on Scripture reveals to us God’s outline for a successful life. “Success verses” abound once we start looking for them,

* “I will bless you. . . and you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2).
* “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” (Prov. 16:3).
* “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life” (Prov, 22:4).
* “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

In his book Success, Motivation and the Scriptures (Broadman, 1974), William Cook says: “Man was so designed that the only way failure could gain entrance to his life was for him to consider some plan other than the plan of God and some other will than the will of God.” Both Old and New Testaments offer insights to make a winner out of anyone. Our role is to find them, study them and –most important–obey them,


You may build the biggest, strongest, fastest, most luxurious yacht on the seas, but if you don’t plot a course for it to take, the boat is just a hunk of wood and metal taking up space in the water.

In the same way, our lives are aimless without goals to get us from one place to the next, As a management consultant to corporations and ministries, I’ve found that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Goal setting does not guarantee successful results, but not setting goals will ensure failure.

Imagine an archer, with arrow on string ready to shoot, The archer who aims at nothing is liable to hit anything, but usually not the right target, But an archer who carefully aims at the center of the target has a good chance of hitting the mark. Selecting a target and checking our aim is the difference between succeeding and failing.

God has a good plan for my life and it’s revealed throughout the pages of the Bible. But does that mean this plan will fall into place in my life without effort on my part? By no means. I want to be able to look back over my life and know that I did my best to accomplish all that God wanted from my home here on earth, And the best way to be all I can be is to chart a course for success.

The first marker on the map of success is a vision or dream for your life. What is your heart’s longing, your calling? Perhaps your desire is to be a teacher at the local college, or to have your own business. Maybe your dream is to leave your well-paying job and go on the mission field. Your vision could be to raise your children in a godly manner, or to pay off your debts. Without such a vision, the writer of Proverbs tells us, we will perish (see Prov, 29:18).

Don’t be afraid to dream big, impossible dreams. Goal setting allows you to break a big dream into small steps, Remember, you can never do the impossible until you take the first possible step.

Next, you must analyze your environment. This involves simple research into the area of your vision, For example, find out if there’s a market for your teaching skills, or a need for you on the mission field of your desire.

At the same time, analyze your personal strengths and weaknesses-and be honest. Do you have a “head” for business? Do you have time and diligence to get that degree necessary before you can be a college professor?

After this period of analysis, you can draw some basic conclusions, You may realize that there is a need for your business idea, but you cannot do it alone. You may have to change your dream to include a business partner. Or analysis may show you that you could best serve missions by staying where you are and providing supplies for those overseas.

Your basic conclusions now lead to goal setting. Some Christians think that setting goals removes God from one’s life. But even Jesus set goals, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luk, 19:10, NKJV) and “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10) are two of His stated goals.

Goals should be set in all areas of life including spiritual, vocational, family, health, financial and entertainment, Each of these areas can be broken down further. For instance, objectives for your career may include satisfying your boss, increasing your salary and job security, and gaining a promotion.

Each goal should be specific, measurable, and deadline-oriented, Goals must be written down; otherwise they’re only dreams, not attainable objectives. And goals should be made for various time frames: today, this week, this month, five years from now. An example of personal goals might be (1) to tithe 10 percent of my income; (2) to save 2 percent of my earnings; (3) to lose five pounds by the end of this month; and (4) to read the entire Bible in one year.

Each of these goals is specific, with the activity and result clear. They are measurable: I know I have met my monthly goal if my scale reads five pounds lower at the end of the month. And they are deadline-oriented: I have only 12 months to read through all 66 books of the Bible,

To stay on the success track, you must be constantly reviewing your progress. Consider a simple analogy: You want to drive from New York to New Orleans. So you get a map from the auto club, with every road you should take clearly marked, even scenic routes offered. You look over the entire map before leaving New York.

Then you pack the map away in your suitcase until you reach your destination!

How helpful would your map be if you never consulted it on the road? Wouldn’t it be better to review the map periodically to be sure you’re staying on the right route to New Orleans? Of course! And the same is true of reviewing your life goals,

Finally, you must work occasional rewards into your plans, Going from goal to goal without giving yourself a “pat on the back” leads to burnout, After reaching your goal of losing five pounds in a month, I may not want to reward myself with a hot-fudge sundae, but I might buy a new book or take my wife to a movie, The promise of a reward for a job well-done can offer extra incentive to help you attain a difficult goal.


Many people start down the path toward success with great eagerness and enthusiasm, but lose ground because they’re not accountable to anyone for their goals. We all like to think we are. But deceiving ourselves becomes easy when meeting a goal gets tough.

If my goal to lose five pounds in one month has not been written down and shared with at least one other person, it will probably be a hollow goal. How easy it will be to tell myself it’s all right to eat that second helping of mashed potatoes or take that extra slice of pie. But if I’m accountable, if I report my weight weekly to a close friend who holds me to my plan, that pie will be tough to swallow.

Accountability is not easy. It may involve sharing your most intimate secrets and confessing your most embarrassing failures. On the other hand, a good friend can be a great source of encouragement after a failure to lift you up and get you back on the road to success.

Meanwhile, don’t expect to be successful overnight. Growth in Christ doesn’t come all at once; it’s a lifetime process. Organizations as well as individuals are healthier and sturdier if growth is gradual, I’ve known people who became overnight successes in their businesses simply by being in the right place at the right time.

These people thought their abilities brought about success. But over time, their lack of planning, goal setting and accountability wrote an unhappy ending to their seeming success stories, They hadn’t disciplined themselves for success in the long run. Success in life is based on developing your strengths and applying them in service to the Lord. Goals are the map to take you to that destination. If you set your goals and follow them wisely and prayerfully, you’ll chart a path to success.

(The above material appeared in the May/June 1992 Christian Management Report Magazine.)

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