What does it really mean to be successful? And how do I know when I've achieved it?
Who defines success? Me?
Or is it my parents? My boss? My spouse? God?
Types of Bible Verses About Success
The Bible says a lot about success. Some parts, like Proverbs, give practical tips on becoming more successful. Other books tell stories about successful people like Joseph, Daniel, and David. Yet much of the Bible forces us to question conventional ideas of success.
This is the breakdown of topics covered in this article and the number of passages quoted under each topic.
Number of Passages
How to be Successful
The Key to Success
Worldly vs. Godly Success
Biblical Examples of Success
Psalms About Success
For other similar posts on Bible verses about money, check out our full list here.
Bible Verses About How to Be Successful
We start with the most practical Bible verses about success. If you want to become successful, become a person who is
- Open to advice
- Willing to fail
These six qualities come up again and again as we study Bible verses about success.
Open to advice
Openness to advice is a prerequisite for success. We all know people who are unable to hear even the tiniest criticism. They are stagnant, never changing, growing, or developing. They don't realize they are sabotaging their own success.
Some totally isolate themselves from other people. Others constantly cycle through relationships. In their minds, every failed relationship is the other person's fault. Overprotective egos keep them from realizing they are the constant point of failure in all their relationships.
Criticism, and sometimes even simple advice, is hard to hear. My first instinct is to explain exactly why the criticism or advice does not apply to me. It takes time for it to sink in. But when I take time to reflect quietly on criticism, it usually contains valuable truth.
- Whoever despises instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command will be rewarded. (Proverbs 13:13)
- Where there is no counsel, plans fail; but in a multitude of counselors they are established. (Proverbs 15:22)
- Plans are established by advice; by wise guidance you wage war! (Proverbs 20:18)
- My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, 2 for they will add to you length of days, years of life, and peace. 3 Don’t let kindness and truth forsake you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 So you will find favor, and good understanding in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:1–6)
Willing to fail
Success often comes after many failures. Sometimes success and failure alternate quickly, as in this conversation between Jesus and Peter. The important thing is that Peter didn't get discouraged. He kept trying, even when Jesus rebuked him for saying something selfish.
Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 They said, “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” 20 Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.
21 From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.” 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will render to everyone according to his deeds. 28 Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.” (Matthew 16:13–28)
Even Jesus had failures:
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house.” 5 He could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 He marveled because of their unbelief. He went around the villages teaching. (Mark 6:4–6)
Sometimes, success is disguised as failure. Jesus said "It is finished" to signal the completion of his mission. The world saw defeat, he knew it was a temporary step on the path to victory.
After this, Jesus, seeing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I am thirsty!” 29 Now a vessel full of vinegar was set there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop, and held it at his mouth. 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28–30)
Jesus said careful planning and commitment was necessary to successfully build a tower or win a battle. Paul said the same thing about success in sports. Both were using these illustrations to show how much commitment is required to succeed as Jesus's disciple.
- Now great multitudes were going with him. He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t disregard his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple. 27 Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross and come after me, can’t be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Or perhaps, when he has laid a foundation and isn’t able to finish, everyone who sees begins to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, as he goes to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an envoy and asks for conditions of peace. 33 So therefore, whoever of you who doesn’t renounce all that he has, he can’t be my disciple. (Luke 14:25–33)
- Now I do this for the sake of the Good News, that I may be a joint partaker of it. 24 Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, so that you may win. 25 Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore run like that, not aimlessly. I fight like that, not beating the air, 27 but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:19–23)
Solomon explained that the danger in many every day activities can be overcome by skill. But how do we acquire skill? The only way is commitment and consistent practice.
He who digs a pit may fall into it; and whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake. 9 Whoever carves out stones may be injured by them. Whoever splits wood may be endangered by it. 10 If the ax is blunt, and one doesn’t sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but skill brings success. (Ecclesiastes 10:8–10)
Solomon also said that cooperation with other people is essential for success.
- Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls, and doesn’t have another to lift him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one keep warm alone? 12 If a man prevails against one who is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12)
- With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, but the righteous will be delivered through knowledge. 10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices. When the wicked perish, there is shouting. 11 By the blessing of the upright, the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. (Proverbs 11:9–11)
The Bible says working hard is also an important ingredient for success. I won't repeat it all here because I have an entire post about hard work.
Talking about humility and success together seems strange. If I've been open to advice, willing to fail, committed, cooperating, and hardworking, shouldn't I be proud of MY success?
It's not that we have no role to play, or no claim to healthy pride in our successes. But the problem with this statement is that success ultimately comes from God (see the next section). It's not "mine" per se. The only logical thing to do is give God credit for our success.
- The result of humility and the fear of the LORD is wealth, honor, and life. (Proverbs 22:4)
- Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8–10)
We should also remember that chance plays a role in our successes and failures:
- There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is heavy on men: 2 a man to whom God gives riches, wealth, and honor, so that he lacks nothing for his soul of all that he desires, yet God gives him no power to eat of it, but an alien eats it. This is vanity, and it is an evil disease. (Ecclesiastes 6:1–2)
- I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
Even Jesus and John the Baptist were humble:
- And he went down with them and came to Nazareth. He was subject to them, and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:51–52)
- They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, he baptizes, and everyone is coming to him.” 27 John answered, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore my joy is made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:26–30)
Bible Verses About the Key to Success
The previous section on humility hinted at this. Guess what are (by far) the most common things the Bible says about success?
- All success comes from God, and
- the fast track to success is obedience to God.
All Success Comes from God
- Then I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven will prosper us. Therefore we, his servants, will arise and build; but you have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem.” (Nehemiah 2:20)
- Commit your deeds to the LORD, and your plans shall succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)
- “Behold, I have created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame, and forges a weapon for his work; and I have created the destroyer to destroy. 17 No weapon that is formed against you will prevail; and you will condemn every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the LORD’s servants, and their righteousness is of me,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 54:16–17)
- For as the rain comes down and the snow from the sky, and doesn’t return there, but waters the earth, and makes it grow and bud, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 so is my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return to me void, but it will accomplish that which I please, and it will prosper in the thing I sent it to do. (Isaiah 55:10–11)
- “You therefore put your belt on your waist, arise, and say to them all that I command you. Don’t be dismayed at them, lest I dismay you before them. 18 For behold, I have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you, but they will not prevail against you; for I am with you”, says the LORD, “to rescue you.” (Jeremiah 1:17–19)
- For I have heard the defaming of many: “Terror on every side! Denounce, and we will denounce him!” say all my familiar friends, those who watch for my fall. “Perhaps he will be persuaded, and we will prevail against him, and we will take our revenge on him.” 11 But the LORD is with me as an awesome mighty one. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they won’t prevail. They will be utterly disappointed because they have not dealt wisely, even with an everlasting dishonor which will never be forgotten. (Jeremiah 20:10–11)
- Then the king said to Haman, “You have spoken well. Do so for Mordecai the Jew, who waits in the palace, and let not a word of what you have spoken be neglected!” 11 So Haman took the robe and the horse, dressed Mordecai, mounted him on the horse, and went through the streets of the city, proclaiming, “This is what will be done for every man whom the king wishes to honor.” 12 Then Mordecai returned to the palace; but Haman went home mourning, with his head covered. 13 Haman related the events that had happened to him to Zeresh his wife and to his friends. His friends and his wife said to him, “If Mordecai is of the race of the Jews, and you have begun to be humbled before him, you will assuredly fall; and you will not be able to withstand him, for the living God is with him.” (Esther 6:10–13)
- “You must observe the Festival of Shelters for seven days at the end of the harvest season, after the grain has been threshed and the grapes have been pressed. 14 This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows from your towns. 15 For seven days you must celebrate this festival to honor the Lord your God at the place he chooses, for it is he who blesses you with bountiful harvests and gives you success in all your work. This festival will be a time of great joy for all. 16 “Each year every man in Israel must celebrate these three festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Shelters. On each of these occasions, all men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he chooses, but they must not appear before the Lord without a gift for him. 17 All must give as they are able, according to the blessings given to them by the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 16:13–17 NLT)
- “The Lord your God will then make you successful in everything you do. He will give you many children and numerous livestock, and he will cause your fields to produce abundant harvests, for the Lord will again delight in being good to you as he was to your ancestors. 10 The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. (Deuteronomy 30:9–10 NLT)
- “He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness. No one will succeed by strength alone. 10 Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered. He thunders against them from heaven; the Lord judges throughout the earth. He gives power to his king; he increases the strength of his anointed one.” 11 Then Elkanah returned home to Ramah without Samuel. And the boy served the Lord by assisting Eli the priest. (1 Samuel 2:9–11 NLT)
- "Call your councils of war, but they will be worthless. Develop your strategies, but they will not succeed. For God is with us!” 11 The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, 12 “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. 13 Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. (Isaiah 8:10–13 NLT)
- Jerusalem was then under siege from the Babylonian army, and Jeremiah was imprisoned in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace. 3 King Zedekiah had put him there, asking why he kept giving this prophecy: “This is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will take it. 4 King Zedekiah will be captured by the Babylonians and taken to meet the king of Babylon face to face. 5 He will take Zedekiah to Babylon, and I will deal with him there,’ says the Lord. ‘If you fight against the Babylonians, you will never succeed.’ ” (Jeremiah 32:2–5 NLT)
When the Israelites were at the edge of the Promised Land, they refused to enter into it because of a scary report given by their scouts. They did not have faith that God would give them success over the Canaanites.
But when he rebuked them, and said they would die in the wilderness, they changed their minds and decided to go fight. God was not satisfied by this. He had already said he would not allow them to enter the land. Moses explained that God would not go with them or give them success, but they insisted on going to fight anyway.
They rose up early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Behold, we are here, and will go up to the place which the LORD has promised; for we have sinned.” 41 Moses said, “Why now do you disobey the commandment of the LORD, since it shall not prosper? 42 Don’t go up, for the LORD isn’t among you; that way you won’t be struck down before your enemies. 43 For there the Amalekite and the Canaanite are before you, and you will fall by the sword because you turned back from following the LORD; therefore the LORD will not be with you.” 44 But they presumed to go up to the top of the mountain. Nevertheless, the ark of the LORD’s covenant and Moses didn’t depart out of the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites who lived in that mountain, and struck them and beat them down even to Hormah. (Numbers 14:40–45)
Disobedience led to losing God's help, which meant they were doomed to fail.
Obedience is the Fast Track to Success
After that defeat, Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until every adult died except Joshua and Caleb. Finally, they returned to the edge of the promised land. Joshua took up the leadership of Israel, and God explained (again) the key to success. Everything hinged on Israel's obedience.
Be strong and courageous; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous. Be careful to observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you. Don’t turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. 9 Haven’t I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:6–9)
Here are a few more examples of this principle. Definitely not comprehensive, because the Bible repeats this concept over and over again.
- Now the days of David came near that he should die; and he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am going the way of all the earth. You be strong therefore, and show yourself a man; 3 and keep the instruction of the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, according to that which is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn yourself. (1 Kings 2:1–3)
- Now, my son, may the LORD be with you and prosper you, and build the house of the LORD your God, as he has spoken concerning you. 12 May the LORD give you discretion and understanding, and put you in charge of Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. 13 Then you will prosper, if you observe to do the statutes and the ordinances which the LORD gave Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid and don’t be dismayed. (1 Chronicles 22:11–13)
- When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. 12 For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, 13 and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful!
14 Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. 15 Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! 16 He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. 17 He did all this so you would never say to yourself, "I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy."
18 Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. 19 But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed. 20 Just as the Lord has destroyed other nations in your path, you also will be destroyed if you refuse to obey the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 8:10–20 NLT)
But how do we interpret this statement by Paul?
What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. 31 But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. 32 Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. (Romans 9:30–32 NLT)
Paul explains that the point was never really keeping the law. It was faith and trust in God. Faith would include a sincere attempt at keeping the law (as Jesus said, if you love me you will obey my commands). But faith would not fall into the trap of believing it was the law itself that was the point. The point was always their relationship with God.
Worldly Success vs. Godly Success
What is the difference between worldly success and godly success? Part of it has to do with our motivations:
- The rich man is wise in his own eyes; but the poor who has understanding sees through him. 12 When the righteous triumph, there is great glory; but when the wicked rise, men hide themselves. 13 He who conceals his sins doesn’t prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:11–13)
- Then I saw all the labor and achievement that is the envy of a man’s neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
In this video we look at the Rich Young Ruler as an example of worldly success. From the outside, he was also spiritually successful as he followed the Law. But when Jesus asked him to give up all his wealth to become a disciple, he "went away sad."
Another distinguishing factor is how long they last. The Bible reminds us that the worldly success of evil people is only temporary.
- Are we only fish to be caught and killed?
Are we only sea creatures that have no leader?
15 Must we be strung up on their hooks
and caught in their nets while they rejoice and celebrate?
16 Then they will worship their nets
and burn incense in front of them.
“These nets are the gods who have made us rich!”
they will claim.
17 Will you let them get away with this forever?
Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests?
1 I will climb up to my watchtower
and stand at my guardpost.
There I will wait to see what the LORD says
and how he will answer my complaint.
2:1 Then the LORD said to me,
“Write my answer plainly on tablets,
so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.
3 This vision is for a future time.
It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.
If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
for it will surely take place.
It will not be delayed.
4 “Look at the proud!
They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked.
But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.
5 Wealth is treacherous,
and the arrogant are never at rest.
They open their mouths as wide as the grave,
and like death, they are never satisfied.
In their greed they have gathered up many nations
and swallowed many peoples.
6 “But soon their captives will taunt them.
They will mock them, saying,
‘What sorrow awaits you thieves!
Now you will get what you deserve! (Habakkuk 1:14–2:6)
- "At the end of their rule, when their sin is at its height, a fierce king, a master of intrigue, will rise to power. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause a shocking amount of destruction and succeed in everything he does. He will destroy powerful leaders and devastate the holy people. 25 He will be a master of deception and will become arrogant; he will destroy many without warning. He will even take on the Prince of princes in battle, but he will be broken, though not by human power. 26 This vision about the 2,300 evenings and mornings is true. But none of these things will happen for a long time, so keep this vision a secret.” 27 Then I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for several days. Afterward I got up and performed my duties for the king, but I was greatly troubled by the vision and could not understand it. (Daniel 8:23–27 NLT)
- The king will do as he pleases, exalting himself and claiming to be greater than every god, even blaspheming the God of gods. He will succeed, but only until the time of wrath is completed. For what has been determined will surely take place. 37 He will have no respect for the gods of his ancestors, or for the god loved by women, or for any other god, for he will boast that he is greater than them all. (Daniel 11:36–37 NLT)
Jesus and Paul described what true, godly success looks like. Worldly success is too short-sighted. True success is investing in eternity.
- Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, "What will we eat?", "What will we drink?" or, "With what will we be clothed?" 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31–33)
- "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 If you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to one and despise the other. You aren’t able to serve God and Mammon.”
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they scoffed at him. 15 He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God." (Luke 16:10–15)
- For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh; 4 though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he has confidence in the flesh, I yet more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the assembly; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.
7 However, I consider those things that were gain to me as a loss for Christ. 8 Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith, 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death, 11 if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do: forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:3–14)
Biblical Examples of Success
Joseph’s Success in Egypt
Although Joseph ended up as a slave in Egypt, God was still with him. The WEB version says "the LORD made all that he did prosper in his hand." In other words, he was successful in everything he did. Joseph was given responsibility first over Potiphar's household, then over the prison, and finally over all of Egypt.
Joseph was brought down to Egypt. Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the hand of the Ishmaelites that had brought him down there. 2 the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man. He was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 His master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did prosper in his hand. 4 Joseph found favor in his sight. He ministered to him, and Potiphar made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. 5 From the time that he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake. the LORD’s blessing was on all that he had, in the house and in the field. 6 He left all that he had in Joseph’s hand. He didn’t concern himself with anything, except for the food which he ate
...[Joseph is framed for acting inappropriately towards Potiphar's wife]...
20 Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were bound, and he was there in custody. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 The keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever they did there, he was responsible for it. 23 The keeper of the prison didn’t look after anything that was under his hand, because the LORD was with him; and that which he did, the LORD made it prosper. (Genesis 39:1–6, 20-23)
The thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants. 38 Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Because God has shown you all of this, there is no one so discreet and wise as you. 40 You shall be over my house. All my people will be ruled according to your word. Only in the throne I will be greater than you.” 41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in robes of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 He made him ride in the second chariot which he had. They cried before him, “Bow the knee!” He set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh. Without you, no man shall lift up his hand or his foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-Paneah. He gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On as a wife. Joseph went out over the land of Egypt. 46 Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:37–46)
Daniel’s Success in Babylon
Daniel's story is very similar to Joseph's. He was exiled to a foreign country. But whatever he did there was successful. Over time he was given more and more responsibility over Babylon and later Persia.
Why was Daniel so successful? He was obedient to God, even when it was hard.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank. Therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God made Daniel find kindness and compassion in the sight of the prince of the eunuchs. 10 The prince of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink. For why should he see your faces worse looking than the youths who are of your own age? Then you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the prince of the eunuchs had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 12 “Test your servants, I beg you, ten days; and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our faces be examined before you, and the face of the youths who eat of the king’s delicacies; and as you see, deal with your servants.”
14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days, their faces appeared fairer and they were fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate of the king’s delicacies. 16 So the steward took away their delicacies and the wine that they were given to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 Now as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the days which the king had appointed for bringing them in, the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them; and among them all was found no one like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore stood they before the king. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters who were in all his realm. (Daniel 1:8–20)
46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, worshiped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an offering and sweet odors to him. 47 The king answered to Daniel, and said, “Of a truth your God is the God of gods, and the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you have been able to reveal this secret.” 48 Then the king made Daniel great and gave him many great gifts, and made him rule over the whole province of Babylon and to be chief governor over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel requested of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon, but Daniel was in the king’s gate. (Daniel 2:46–49)
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred twenty local governors, who should be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, that these local governors might give account to them, and that the king should suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel was distinguished above the presidents and the local governors, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. 4 Then the presidents and the local governors sought to find occasion against Daniel as touching the kingdom; but they could find no occasion or fault, because he was faithful. There wasn’t any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We won’t find any occasion against this Daniel, unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:1–5)
Daniel's faithfulness was constantly tested. Some high officials who were a step below Daniel plotted to kill him. He ended up in the lions' den, but still God was with him. God miraculously stopped the lions from eating him, King Darius saw the miracle, and this led Darius to acknowledge the LORD God of Israel.
Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 When he came near to the den to Daniel, he cried with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, is your God, whom you serve continually, able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God has sent his angel, and has shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not hurt me, because innocence was found in me before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
24 The king commanded, and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions—them, their children, and their wives; and the lions mauled them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they came to the bottom of the den. 25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages who dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and steadfast forever. His kingdom is that which will not be destroyed. His dominion will be even to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues. He works signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Daniel 6:19–28)
David: Successful Warrior and King
David also had a period of exile from Israel, but it was much shorter than Joseph and Daniel's. He was so successful as a warrior and commander that King Saul became jealous. Saul tried to kill David multiple times. David lived among the Philistines and stayed away from Jerusalem until Saul was killed. Then David himself became king.
Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike. 6 When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. 7 This was their song: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” (1 Samuel 18:5–7 NLT)
David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul recognized this, he became even more afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David because he was so successful at leading his troops into battle. (1 Samuel 18:14–16 NLT)
When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and how much his daughter Michal loved him, 29 Saul became even more afraid of him, and he remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life. 30 Every time the commanders of the Philistines attacked, David was more successful against them than all the rest of Saul’s officers. So David’s name became very famous. (1 Samuel 18:28–30 NLT)
“Here is your spear, O king,” David replied. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. 23 The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord’s anointed one. 24 Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles.” 25 And Saul said to David, “Blessings on you, my son David. You will do many heroic deeds, and you will surely succeed.” Then David went away, and Saul returned home. (1 Samuel 26:22–25 NLT)
Job: A Misunderstood Success
This story needs some explanation. Like Ecclesiastes, the book of Job must be interpreted with care. Much of it sounds wise but is stated from a non-Christian perspective. We cannot naively lift quotes from Job and Ecclesiastes out of context.
Job was one of the richest people of his day. He was always faithful to God, so much so that he became a pawn in a kind of proxy war between God and Satan. The LORD allowed Satan to destroy everything Job had, but still Job refused to curse God for the bad things that happened to him.
Job's friends came to "console" him, but mostly they hammered him with a version of the prosperity gospel: "If you are truly righteous, why did all this bad stuff happen to you? You'd better repent!" Although the main thrust of their arguments was off, Job's friends did make some statements about success that are worth quoting here:
Surely resentment destroys the fool, and jealousy kills the simple. 3 I have seen that fools may be successful for the moment, but then comes sudden disaster. (Job 5:2–3 NLT)
He gives prosperity to the poor and protects those who suffer. 12 He frustrates the plans of schemers so the work of their hands will not succeed. 13 He traps the wise in their own cleverness so their cunning schemes are thwarted. (Job 5:11–13 NLT)
If someone wanted to take God to court, would it be possible to answer him even once in a thousand times? 4 For God is so wise and so mighty. Who has ever challenged him successfully? (Job 9:3–4 NLT)
“Then you will take delight in the Almighty and look up to God. 27 You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows to him. 28 You will succeed in whatever you choose to do, and light will shine on the road ahead of you. (Job 22:26–28 NLT)
At the end of the book, Job was vindicated and God restored double of everything that Job had lost.
Paul’s Success as an Apostle
At first, Paul was a huge success at persecuting and destroying the church. Then he had a vision of Jesus and started working to build what he had previously destroyed. He was so genuine in his transformation that the apostles accepted him and his ministry.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? For if I were still pleasing men, I wouldn’t be a servant of Christ. 11 But I make known to you, brothers, concerning the Good News which was preached by me, that it is not according to man. 12 For I didn’t receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my way of living in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the assembly of God and ravaged it. 14 I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of my own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through his grace, 16 to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I didn’t immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia. Then I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But of the other apostles I saw no one except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 Now about the things which I write to you, behold, before God, I’m not lying. 21 Then I came to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by face to the assemblies of Judea which were in Christ, 23 but they only heard, “He who once persecuted us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy.” 24 So they glorified God in me.
2:1 Then after a period of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. 2 I went up by revelation, and I laid before them the Good News which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately before those who were respected, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 This was because of the false brothers secretly brought in, who stole in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage, 5 to whom we gave no place in the way of subjection, not for an hour, that the truth of the Good News might continue with you.
6 But from those who were reputed to be important—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God doesn’t show partiality to man—they, I say, who were respected imparted nothing to me, 7 but to the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the uncircumcised, even as Peter with the Good News for the circumcised— 8 for he who worked through Peter in the apostleship with the circumcised also worked through me with the Gentiles— 9 and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, those who were reputed to be pillars, gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision. (Galatians 1:10–2:9)
In his own day, the impact of Paul's work was felt across the entire Mediterranean. The letters he wrote were treasured by the recipients. They were preserved and read again to later generations. Those letters make up much of the New Testament and have continued to be read by billions of people for two thousand years.
Very, very few in the history of the world have been more successful than Paul, in both a worldly and spiritual sense. Only Jesus and possibly Moses have made a bigger positive impact on the world. If we really want to understand what success means, we have to wrestle with Paul's writings about it.
I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6 I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Philippians 3:5–11 NLT)
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to himself the elders of the assembly. 18 When they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you all the time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears, and with trials which happened to me by the plots of the Jews; 20 how I didn’t shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus. 22 Now, behold, I go bound by the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there; 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions wait for me. 24 But these things don’t count; nor do I hold my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to fully testify to the Good News of the grace of God. (Acts 20:17–24)
For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. 8 From now on, the crown of righteousness is stored up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6–8)
That Philippians passage is similar to something that happened at the church in Ephesus, another church that Paul spent a lot of time with. The Ephesian church burned $10,000,000 worth of rare spell books in order to fully commit to obeying God.
Other Examples of Success in the Bible
Solomon's success was mixed. He had worldly fame, wealth, and power. Early on he followed God, but he made many bad decisions later. These quotes are from earlier in his reign.
Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him. 24 All the princes, the mighty men, and also all of the sons of King David submitted themselves to Solomon the king. 25 the LORD magnified Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and gave to him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel. 26 Now David the son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. 27 The time that he reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and he reigned thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 28 He died at a good old age, full of days, riches, and honor; and Solomon his son reigned in his place. (1 Chronicles 29:23–28)
Thus Solomon finished the LORD’s house and the king’s house; and he successfully completed all that came into Solomon’s heart to make in the LORD’s house and in his own house. (2 Chronicles 7:11)
God gave Abraham's servant success in finding a wife for Abraham's son Isaac.
He said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water. The daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let it happen, that the young lady to whom I will say, ‘Please let down your pitcher, that I may drink,’ then she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink,’—let her be the one you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher on her shoulder. 16 The young lady was very beautiful to look at, a virgin. No man had known her. She went down to the spring, filled her pitcher, and came up.
17 The servant ran to meet her, and said, “Please give me a drink, a little water from your pitcher.” 18 She said, “Drink, my lord.” She hurried, and let down her pitcher on her hand, and gave him a drink. 19 When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will also draw for your camels, until they have finished drinking.” 20 She hurried, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again to the well to draw, and drew for all his camels.
21 The man looked steadfastly at her, remaining silent, to know whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not. 22 As the camels had done drinking, the man took a golden ring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold, 23 and said, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me. Is there room in your father’s house for us to stay?” 24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25 She said moreover to him, “We have both straw and feed enough, and room to lodge in.” 26 The man bowed his head, and worshiped the LORD. 27 He said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his loving kindness and his truth toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the way to the house of my master’s relatives.” (Genesis 24:12–27)
The success of Jacob is a puzzle. He gained the birthright and blessing by scheming and deception. Yet God still blessed him more than his brother Esau.
Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done what you asked me to do. Please arise, sit and eat of my venison, that your soul may bless me.” 20 Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He said, “Because the LORD your God gave me success.” 21 Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 Jacob went near to Isaac his father. He felt him, and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He didn’t recognize him, because his hands were hairy, like his brother Esau’s hands. So he blessed him. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He said, “I am.” 25 He said, “Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless you.” He brought it near to him, and he ate. He brought him wine, and he drank.
26 His father Isaac said to him, “Come near now, and kiss me, my son.” 27 He came near, and kissed him. He smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him, and said, “Behold, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed. 28 God give you of the dew of the sky, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and new wine. 29 Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers. Let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you. Blessed be everyone who blesses you.” (Genesis 27:19–29)
Hezekiah was a successful king. He followed God and the Law, and God blessed him with wealth, power, and victory over his enemies because of it.
He wasn't perfect, as alluded to in two different instances here. He became prideful after God healed him, and he showed off his wealth to the Babylonians. This second mistake helped contribute to Israel's downfall and exile.
Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. 6 He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. 7 So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute. 8 He also conquered the Philistines as far distant as Gaza and its territory, from their smallest outpost to their largest walled city. (2 Kings 18:5–8 NLT)
Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to God in heaven. 21 And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land. And when he entered the temple of his god, some of his own sons killed him there with a sword. 22 That is how the Lord rescued Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria and from all the others who threatened them. So there was peace throughout the land.
23 From then on King Hezekiah became highly respected among all the surrounding nations, and many gifts for the Lord arrived at Jerusalem, with valuable presents for King Hezekiah, too. 24 About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill. He prayed to the Lord, who healed him and gave him a miraculous sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him, and he became proud. So the Lord’s anger came against him and against Judah and Jerusalem. 26 Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem. So the Lord’s anger did not fall on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime.
27 Hezekiah was very wealthy and highly honored. He built special treasury buildings for his silver, gold, precious stones, and spices, and for his shields and other valuable items. 28 He also constructed many storehouses for his grain, new wine, and olive oil; and he made many stalls for his cattle and pens for his flocks of sheep and goats. 29 He built many towns and acquired vast flocks and herds, for God had given him great wealth. 30 He blocked up the upper spring of Gihon and brought the water down through a tunnel to the west side of the City of David. And so he succeeded in everything he did. 31 However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:20–31 NLT)
“Now these are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 Lord, I beg you, let your ear be attentive now to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name; and please prosper your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cup bearer to the king. (Nehemiah 1:10–11)
Jabez's life started out badly, but he prayed that God would give him success. And God answered his prayer. Watch this video to hear the full story:
Uzziah's story starts out well but ends poorly. He obeyed and honored God and was successful as a result. But the success went to his head, leading to pride and to his downfall.
Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother was Jecoliah from Jerusalem. 4 He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Amaziah, had done. 5 Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God. And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success...15 And he built structures on the walls of Jerusalem, designed by experts to protect those who shot arrows and hurled large stones from the towers and the corners of the wall. His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful. 16 But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar...21 So King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house, for he was excluded from the Temple of the Lord. His son Jotham was put in charge of the royal palace, and he governed the people of the land. (2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 15-16, 22–23 NLT)
Psalms About Success
The Psalms reiterate many of the points about success that we've already discussed.
Psalm 1: Success is Delighting in God's Law
Blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand on the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the LORD’s law. On his law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water, that produces its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither. Whatever he does shall prosper. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish.
Psalm 20: Success Comes From God
For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David. 1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble. May the name of the God of Jacob set you up on high, 2 send you help from the sanctuary, grant you support from Zion, 3 remember all your offerings, and accept your burned sacrifice. Selah. 4 May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your counsel. 5 We will triumph in your salvation. In the name of our God, we will set up our banners. May the LORD grant all your requests. 6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed. He will answer him from his holy heaven, with the saving strength of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 8 They are bowed down and fallen, but we rise up, and stand upright. 9 Save, the LORD! Let the King answer us when we call!
Psalm 21: God Determines Success and Failure
For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David. 1 The king rejoices in your strength, the LORD! How greatly he rejoices in your salvation! 2 You have given him his heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah. 3 For you meet him with the blessings of goodness. You set a crown of fine gold on his head. 4 He asked life of you and you gave it to him, even length of days forever and ever. 5 His glory is great in your salvation. You lay honor and majesty on him. 6 For you make him most blessed forever. You make him glad with joy in your presence. 7 For the king trusts in the LORD. Through the loving kindness of the Most High, he shall not be moved. 8 Your hand will find out all of your enemies. Your right hand will find out those who hate you. 9 You will make them as a fiery furnace in the time of your anger. the LORD will swallow them up in his wrath. The fire shall devour them. 10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth, their posterity from among the children of men. 11 For they intended evil against you. They plotted evil against you which cannot succeed. 12 For you will make them turn their back, when you aim drawn bows at their face. 13 Be exalted, the LORD, in your strength, so we will sing and praise your power.
Psalm 84: Success is Being Close to God
For the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm by the sons of Korah. 1 How lovely are your dwellings, the LORD of Armies! 2 My soul longs, and even faints for the courts of the LORD. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Yes, the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young, near your altars, the LORD of Armies, my King, and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house. They are always praising you. Selah. 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on a pilgrimage. 6 Passing through the valley of Weeping, they make it a place of springs. Yes, the autumn rain covers it with blessings. 7 They go from strength to strength. Every one of them appears before God in Zion. 8 the LORD, God of Armies, hear my prayer. Listen, God of Jacob. Selah. 9 Behold, God our shield, look at the face of your anointed. 10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and a shield. the LORD will give grace and glory. He withholds no good thing from those who walk blamelessly. 12 the LORD of Armies, blessed is the man who trusts in you. (Psalm 84)
Psalm 112: Success is Fearing God
Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who delights greatly in his commandments. 2 His offspring will be mighty in the land. The generation of the upright will be blessed. 3 Wealth and riches are in his house. His righteousness endures forever. 4 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright, gracious, merciful, and righteous. 5 It is well with the man who deals graciously and lends. He will maintain his cause in judgment. 6 For he will never be shaken. The righteous will be remembered forever. 7 He will not be afraid of evil news. His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. 8 His heart is established. He will not be afraid in the end when he sees his adversaries. 9 He has dispersed, he has given to the poor. His righteousness endures forever. His horn will be exalted with honor. 10 The wicked will see it, and be grieved. He shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away. The desire of the wicked will perish.
These Psalms touch on the topic of success, but it's not the main point. So here we only include the relevant Bible verses about success.
- The wicked, in the pride of his face, has no room in his thoughts for God. 5 His ways are prosperous at all times. He is arrogant, and your laws are far from his sight. As for all his adversaries, he sneers at them. 6 He says in his heart, “I shall not be shaken. For generations I shall have no trouble.” (Psalm 10:4–6)
- The wicked wait in ambush for the godly, looking for an excuse to kill them. 33 But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial. (Psalm 37:32–33 NLT)
- So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich and their homes become ever more splendid. 17 For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. 18 In this life they consider themselves fortunate and are applauded for their success. 19 But they will die like all before them and never again see the light of day. 20 People who boast of their wealth don’t understand; they will die, just like animals. (Psalm 49:16–20 NLT)
- Satisfy us in the morning with your loving kindness, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work appear to your servants, your glory to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us. Establish the work of our hands for us. Yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:14–17)
- This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. 24 This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Please, LORD, please save us. Please, LORD, please give us success. (Psalm 118:23–25)
- I said to the LORD, “You are my God.” Listen to the cry of my petitions, the LORD. 7 LORD, o Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle. 8 LORD, don’t grant the desires of the wicked. Don’t let their evil plans succeed, or they will become proud. Selah. (Psalm 140:6–8)
Bible version: the public domain World English Bible (WEB) has been used throughout this post. The WEB translation of "Yahweh" has been changed to "the LORD" which is more familiar to most readers.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.