I don’t believe in the “prosperity gospel” but I do think we can get a feel for what God considers “success” by looking at a number of passages in Proverbs.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes ; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones. Honor the LORD from your wealth And from the first of all your produce ; So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.
A lot of times we make things more complicated than they need to be. Sometimes it helps just to push everything aside and consider things from God’s perspective. What would God consider important in this situation?
Start with the fear of the Lord and honor Him “from your wealth.” I take this to mean tithes and generosity. The result may in fact be a literal expansion of your future wealth, but it might also mean that you’ll have that much more opportunity to serve God – which is a much greater currency than coin.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you alone will bear it.
Once again, start with the fear of the Lord. Get your mind set on the things that God is focused on.
“For by me your days will be multiplied.” I think the “me” in this is Wisdom. So by increasing your wisdom, you will live longer. Makes sense in that a wise person would live longer (and be more prosperous) than a fool. Interesting that the passage also follows a sort of reap what you sow message at the end.
In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, That one may avoid the snares of death.
Once again, fear the Lord. Seeing a theme? This just might be important.
Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.
I think if your plans are God centered and God focused, the God will make sure they are “established.”
Note: Planning to be rich and famous isn’t necessarily a God focused plan.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower ; The righteous runs into it and is safe
The fear of the LORD leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.
Do not say, “I will repay evil “; Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.
The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches, honor and life
An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.
The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.
Again, I don’t think we can pull these quotes out of proverbs and interpret them without the proper context of the rest of the Bible. We are reminded that the path of a believer can be difficult and even treacherous. It isn’t always about a lack of faith or some kind of sin in our lives either. Godly men and women are persecuted and tested in the Bible and there’s plenty of evidence for that in the rest of history.
Still, the message is the same. Focusing on God’s will and taking his perspective (the best you can, aided by the wisdom of his Word) gets you on the right track to following God’s plan. And when you are board with God’s plan, he’s in charge. And of course, when God’s in charge, he’s successful every time (even if we can’t see or comprehend what that success means).