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Defining Spiritual Success - 5 Spiritual Principles

There are two lessons I remember vividly that were taught to me by my parents as I was growing up. For some reason, these two lessons are the numerous lessons my parents taught me. The first was my dad drilling into my head, "Have a firm handshake, and while you are shaking the person's hand, look them in the eyes." I recall the day my dad taught me this lesson. It came as we left a conversation where my dad introduced me to someone new, whom I must not have greeted well because once we left that meeting, my dad pulled me aside and shared that valuable lesson with me. There are times, even now, many years later, when I think back to that day and the lesson of a firm handshake and good eye contact.

The second lesson is one I remember both of my parents sharing with me many times;

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might..." Ecclesiastes 9:10a (NKJV)

I am now trying to instill this oft-repeated principle in my two sons. “Boys work hard. Do your best at whatever you are doing. Don't do things halfway." Not only do I want to instill the importance of a strong work ethic, but I also want to demonstrate in both word and action that what we do reflects the One that we are called to serve.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 encourages us to work hard and to give our all to whatever task is at hand. The second half of the verse reminds us that our time on Earth is limited and that we must make the most of every opportunity. Rather than wasting time on idle pursuits or unimportant tasks, we should focus our energy on what is truly important.

I am grateful for the two principles instilled in me by my parents because they help me to strive towards doing things the proper way.

Paul, in this letter to the church in Colossae, writes the following;

“Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” Colossians 3:23-24 (The Message)

The passage addresses Christian believers, emphasizing the importance of living out one's faith in all aspects of life, including one's work. The passage encourages Christians to approach their work as if they are working for the Lord Himself rather than human supervisors or employers. When you stop and think about it, it is genuinely a fantastic concept: we are working for Christ Himself!

This concept means so many things, but I want to emphasize the following five principles of spiritual success;

1. Don't Just Do The Minimum

So often in life, we may be tempted to do just enough. Just enough to get by. Just enough not to stand out. Just enough to not "waste" our time or energy. (The older I get, the more I realize those two resources are limited.)

I don't know if that is our lazy human nature or just what we have allowed to become the acceptable norm, but Paul instructs us to go above and beyond. "...don’t just do the minimum that will get you by..." While we tend to take the path of least resistance, the easy route, Paul here instructs us that if we want to be spiritually successful, we must strive for more.

Take the more challenging path because, in the end, the sense of purpose and accomplishment will be far greater. We then rest well, knowing we have done our best for our Creator.

2. In All Things, Do Your Best

What is our best?

Luke, a disciple and follower of Jesus, recorded Jesus in a parable, teaching an essential lesson about serving two masters. He writes;

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. Luke 16:10

Jesus emphasizes the importance of remaining faithful to his listeners. This includes being faithful in small and big tasks and to the things we are enthusiastic about and those we are not. It means staying committed to serving God rather than the world or oneself.

Paul echoes this sentiment when he says, "Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." (1 Corinthians 4:2)

God entrusts us with carrying on the mission and message of Jesus. He isn't looking for perfection in accomplishing that task but rather doing it with faithfulness.

Doing one's best means staying faithful to the task at hand.

3. Motivated From The Heart

The King James Version translates verse 23 as, "...whatsoever ye do, do it heartily...." I like that idea. "Do it Heartily." This comes from the Greek word ψυχή, which happens to be the same root word as is found in Deuteronomy 6:5;

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."

Doing your best or doing something heartily biblically means doing with all that is within you. With all your heart, soul, and strength. These three elements are the core of who we are. Paul tells his audience they need to work from a place of genuine motivation that stems from the heart. Our driving force must be the love we have for the Lord, which, in turn, compels us to serve Him and others. This love is rooted in the fact that He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Even though it may seem like we're putting in a lot of effort on the outside, when our hearts are in the right place, serving others becomes a source of joy.

Think back to Jacob laboring for his love, Rachel. Genesis 29:20 tells us, "So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her."

Service to others becomes joyful when motivated by love for our Lord and Savior in our hearts.

4. Rewards Come Later

It is of utmost importance to understand that our work is not solely for temporal rewards. Instead, our sincere and dedicated service is ultimately rewarded with an inheritance from the Lord rather than earthly accolades or material wealth. Because of this, everyone should focus on serving with utmost sincerity and dedication, knowing that our ultimate reward is in the hands of the Lord, the one that is ultimately being served.

5. Our Master is Christ

We are working not only for what is seen but also for what is unseen. We are working not for man but for God.

In the first chapters of the book of Colossians, Paul teaches doctrine. However, there is a marked shift in chapter three. In chapter three, Paul focuses on how understanding theology should affect a person's behavior. After all, our professed beliefs should undoubtedly be seen in our behavior. (If not, a cognitive dissonance sets in.)

R.C. Lucas, commenting on this idea, writes;

"For him, (Paul) there cannot be substantial goodness without godliness."*

Lucas is presenting that goodness, or the things we attempt to do, must flow out of a relationship with God. That is the only way that those actions can be considered good. Out of our godliness flows our goodness. Another way of saying it is that we can't serve God's people by doing good things unless we know God. We can't do things for Him unless we have a relationship with Him. That relationship is our source of motivation. We must say, "Because He is my master, I will serve him faithfully."

It is all about faithful service. Understanding that success must be defined through Bible principles, which are different from modern-day principles, enables us to start living under God's view of success. It helps us engage in things that have both lasting significance and long-term impact. When we understand spiritual success, we can work enthusiastically for our Lord because we know we are working for far more than a paycheck or things that are just temporary. True spiritual success means implementing these five principles in all we do. As you strive for success, as defined by God, may you continue in your faithful service until you hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:23;

"Well done, good and faithful servant!"

* R. C. Lucas, Fullness & Freedom, 132.

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