Day 11

'Lord... Give Me Success Today'

Wisdom Psalm 8:1-4
New Testament Matthew 9:18–38
Old Testament Genesis 24:12-19

Introduction

How to Be a Huge Success is a little book of quotations and tips from a variety of well-known ‘successful’ people. The back cover asks, ‘Are you on a collision course with fame, fortune or greatness?’ This is so often how ‘success’ is perceived in our society.

Perhaps because of some of its negative connotations, sometimes in the church we are a little wary of the word ‘success’. However, ‘success’ is not a dirty word in the Bible. It occurs at least five times in our Old Testament passage for today (Genesis 24:12,21,40,42,56) – each time in a very positive light.

Success is a blessing from the Lord (vv.31,50). Success is a good thing. However, the ministry of Jesus and the message of the Bible redefine success.

Wisdom

Psalm 8:1-4

1 LORD, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
    in the heavens.

Commentary

Praise God for the success of his creation

In our galaxy there are probably over a hundred-billion stars like our sun. Our galaxy is one of a hundred-billion galaxies. When we consider the vastness of the universe it is easy to feel small and insignificant.

David starts and ends this psalm by worshipping God for the success of his creation (vv.19).

As he stares into the night sky, David says, ‘I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewellery, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?’ (vv.3–4, MSG).

David marvels at the fact that human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation – a masterpiece – made in his image. Not only does God love you and care about you (v.4), but he has given you extraordinary privileges: ‘You made them a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet’ (vv.5–6).

We have been put in charge of everything God has made. Knowing this, Christians should be at the forefront of the protection, preservation and care of God’s amazing creation.

Of course, God’s original plan for our dominion over creation has been distorted. However, in the New Testament, we see these verses are also applied directly to Jesus (Hebrews 2:8). In Christ, creation is restored (Ephesians 1:19–23; 2:5–6), and one day it will be complete and we will see everything under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:24–26).

Prayer

Lord, I see the vastness, beauty and success of your creation and proclaim: ‘O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!’ (Psalm 8:9).

New Testament

Matthew 9:18–38

18 ...a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Commentary

Pursue success modelled on Jesus

Jesus redefines success. If you want to know what true success looks like, study the model of Jesus – his vision, life and teaching. It is the kind of success that is not universally recognised as such.

Jesus was both admired and hated. Success does not necessarily mean popularity. Some admired him: ‘There’s never been anything like this’ (v.33, MSG). Others hated him. The Pharisees said, ‘It’s nothing but hocus-pocus. He’s probably made a pact with the Devil’ (v.34, MSG).

As followers of Jesus, you also may be both admired and hated. For example, because of his campaign to end the slave trade, it was said of William Wilberforce that he was the most admired and the most hated man in England.

In his Gospel, Matthew sets out the success of Jesus’ ministry (ch.5–9). He summarises, ‘Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness’ (9:35).

In word and action Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God, bringing the reality of God’s rule and presence into the lives of those around him. This is what Jesus-style success looks like and this is what you and I are called to emulate.

To achieve Jesus-style success you, like the twelve disciples, need to model your life on Jesus and share his vision:

  1. The need is urgent

    Jesus saw that ‘they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (v.36). Today, we see millions who don’t know Jesus and are spiritually lost. In addition, we see millions who are starving, homeless, suffering from preventable diseases and without even the most basic education.

  2. The motive is love

    Jesus had compassion (v.36). This is the strongest word for love in the Greek language (derived from the Greek word for ‘guts’). It is used only of Jesus. It could be translated ‘he was gutted’ – his heart broke.

    Jesus was unconcerned about worldly categories of importance or success. Here we see him helping two very different classes of people – an important ‘ruler’ (v.18) and a woman whose menstrual bleeding would have made her unclean and left her on the fringes of society (v.20). Yet Jesus had compassion on them both.

  3. The trigger is prayer

    Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ (v.38). Pray for more people to be raised up who will follow Jesus and reap the harvest.

  4. The potential is vast

    Jesus said, ‘The harvest is plentiful’ (v.37). Jesus has modelled what success looks like – proclaiming the kingdom and demonstrating its in-breaking into history. Now he calls you to follow his model – to share in his mission, multiplying its reach.

Prayer

Lord, there is so much need in our world yet it seems that the workers are few. I pray that you would raise up and send out more workers to go out into the harvest field and change the world.

Old Testament

Genesis 24:12-19

12 Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’ —let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”

18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.”

Commentary

Pray for success in guidance

Abraham’s servant was not embarrassed to pray for success. He prayed a prayer that we can all emulate: ‘Give me success today’ (v.12). It was not a selfish prayer. It was a prayer that God would bless someone else, ‘show kindness to my master Abraham’ (v.12). He asked to be guided by God.

This is one of the most remarkable stories of God’s guidance. On Alpha¹, we talk about five ways in which God guides us, under the heading of ‘the five CSs’. In this passage, we can see an example of all these working together and especially the fifth one, ‘Circumstantial Signs’.

  1. Commanding Scripture

    Obviously, Abraham did not have the Scriptures that we have – but he did have the commands of God that later became part of the Scriptures. God commanded his people to only marry other believers in him. Abraham told his servant he must not get a wife for his son from the Canaanites, but from his own people (vv.3–4).

  2. Compelling Spirit

    The Holy Spirit leads us as we pray. Although the words ‘Holy Spirit’ are not used in this passage, it is clear that all the participants are in a position to be guided by God, listening to him and being led by the Spirit. Abraham’s servant prayed from his heart (vv.12,45), Rebekah appeared ‘before he had finished praying’ (v.15), and when Rebekah appeared, Isaac was out in the field where he had gone to meditate (v.63).

  3. Common Sense

    The choice of Rebekah made sense. She was clearly someone who was appropriate for Isaac. It so happened that she was ‘very beautiful’ (v.16). She was also ‘a virgin; no man had ever lain with her’ (v.16). Most importantly, she was clearly generous, gracious and kind. Her immediate response to the request for water was not only to offer it, but also to say, ‘I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking’ (v.19).

  4. Counsel of the Saints

    One of the ways in which God guides us is through godly advice (‘Saints’ is used here in the New Testament sense to describe all God’s people.) Although Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage was very different from the modern western marriage, in that it involved a large element of arrangement, there was also an element of choice. Rebekah was asked, ‘“Will you go with this man?” “I will go,” she replied’ (v.57). Isaac chose to marry her and ‘loved her’ (v.67). They were following the counsel of the saints in the sense that everyone around, especially their parents, recognised, ‘This is from the Lord’ (v.50).

  5. Circumstantial Signs

    This is one of the clearest cases in the Bible of God guiding through circumstantial signs. The servant asks for a sign and was given exactly what he asked for (vv.12–26). However, as we have seen, the sign was not random. It was a test of Rebekah’s character, which she fulfilled.

As a result of being guided by God, not only was their meeting a great success, but more importantly, so was their marriage.

Prayer

Lord, I pray that you would multiply this wonderful example of successful guidance amongst us. May there be more and more couples coming together and being able to say, ‘This is from the Lord’ (v.50).

Pippa adds

Genesis 24

I have always loved this story, it is very romantic. Isaac was heir to great wealth, but he was possibly rather lonely. His half-brother had been sent away. His mother had died. But God provides this brave woman. She leaves her family. She marries someone miles from home whom she has never met. But God answers very specific prayers to guide them to this decision. Isaac goes to a lot of trouble to find a woman who shares his faith, which is so important in marriage. And I love the fact that Isaac loved her at first sight.

Verse of the Day

Genesis 24:7

‘He will send his angel before you’.

Thought for the Day

Christians should be at the forefront of the protection, preservation and care of God’s amazing creation.

Action for the Day

Model your day on Jesus.
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

¹Alpha is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith. Typically run over ten weeks, each session explores a different question of faith that inspires conversation in small groups. To find out more or to find an Alpha near you, visit alpha.org/try, or if you are interested in running Alpha, visit alpha.org/run.

Author anon, How to be a Huge Success, (Lagoon Books, 2003).

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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