God’s great key to ultimate success in life


When I was in third grade, my brother and I would do math speed drills. We were homeschooled, so Mom just decided to give him one of my speed drills, even though he was a year younger. I think he finished in half the time it took me.

Well, I couldn’t have that. I was older. I needed to be better, smarter, faster. So the next time we did a speed drill, I rushed. We finished closer to the same time, but all of his answers were right. Practically none of mine were.

I stink at math. True story. I can do it, but I have to go very slowly and think about every equation three times before I decide on an answer. And for those of you who know my geekwad, nerd-faced little brother, you know he’s faster and more efficient than some calculators.

Eventually, Mom convinced me that I didn’t have to be brilliant at math. I was great at writing, so that’s what I needed to focus on. (Props to Mom. I did!) But my drive to beat my brother at math speed drills didn’t come from a desire to be better at math; it came because I thought I already was better.

And that’s kind of how the world sees it, isn’t it? I was the older sibling, so I was supposed to be more advanced. Or, like in a work place, maybe you have a degree, so you’re supposed to be a better employee than someone who only has a high school diploma. There’s always something about us that makes us better than the next person, right?

That’s not what the Bible teaches. Probably one of the most confusing verses in all of Scripture (practically speaking) is James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” Does that even compute?

God’s great key to ultimate success: Let someone else go first.

Really? What sense does that make? We can’t go out into our cutthroat world and let others go ahead of us. We can’t walk out into the savage landscape of commerce and think of others as better than ourselves. We can’t forfeit our rights to make our own decisions and expect to succeed. Can we?

[su_pullquote align=”right”]God’s great key to ultimate success: Let someone else go first.[/su_pullquote]

The straight facts are pretty simple. The Bible is true. All of the Bible has to be true, or none of it is. So if I believe one part of it, I must believe the rest of it. And that means, God is right, and humility is the key to getting ahead in life.

No, that doesn’t mean you have to let people treat you like a doormat, but it doesn’t mean you get to think you’re better than everyone else for any reason. Nobody is better than anyone else. Some people are gifted in areas others are not, but that’s because we all have different functions. God made us each unique and perfect just the way we are, and instead of competing with each other, we should be more concerned about helping each other.

So be humble. Do what God says is right. Give up your place in line to help someone who needs it. Say nice things about your competitors and treat them with respect.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense in our perspective, but since when have God’s rules ever made sense to our broken world? God is the one who is responsible for exalting us. Success comes from Him. Yes, we can work hard. Yes, we should work hard. But if we succeed in life, we do it through His strength, His grace, and His gifts.

Don’t forget it. Recognize God’s authority in your life, and He’ll take care of the details.

Do you suppose tortoises are good at math?

I remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. I think I remember my teachers (probably Mom) telling me that I didn’t need to rush through my math assignments, that I should take my time and do them correctly and stop trying to compete with my genius nerd-face little brother. And I genuinely tried to listen, but it was so hard not to rush when I wanted to beat him so badly. Big sister pride was at stake, after all. I was older than he was and should have been able to finish my math assignments more quickly and more accurately than him.

Right. Those of you who know my brother know he’s faster and more effecient than some calculators.

Eventually I gave up trying to beat him because I knew his talent with numbers was beyond me. I never stopped learning, but I stopped trying to beat him. There’s a big difference there.

I finally got to the point where I understood I wasn’t trying to beat him because I was better; I was trying to beat him becuase I thought I was better.

Similarly in the story of the tortoise and the hare, the hare didn’t rush through the whole race (only to lose in the end) becuase he was better at racing than the tortoise was; he did it because he simply thought he was better than the tortoise and could afford to take a few rest breaks. What happened? The hare lost; the tortoise won.

And what happened to me? I stopped trying to excel in an area where I had no gift and focused instead on the gift I had been given (writing) and now I’m actually using those gifts on a daily basis.

This random analogy is what came to me when I read the verse for today.

James 4:10

10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

 James is one of those Books in the Bible that hits hard. James doesn’t pull his punches, and if you can really get the meat of what he’s talking about, most of the book will make you cringe. (It’s a short, easy read; I’d recommend it.) But this verse doesn’t really seem to make a whole lot of sense at first blush. It goes against everything we are taught.

Make progress in your life through being humble. What sense does that make?

When you’re at work you’re supposed to be cutthroat and savage, aren’t you? When you’re out in the world, you have to fight for every scrap you can get, every penny you can get, every inch you can get. You’re supposed to be merciless, and when you’re all done getting ahead of everyone else, you can pat yourself on the back because you’ve done right by yourself. Isn’t that what we’re taught? Isn’t that what’s expected of us? To look out for number one?

Well, that’s not what I get from this verse. This verse says to be humble. Be humble before God and understand that everything you have, He gave you — and He can just as easily take it away. Be humble. Live your life the way He commands. And He will see to it that you are taken care of because that’s what He does.

Stop trying to run your race better and faster than your brothers and sisters and instead stop to help the ones who fall down.

When you get a chance to do something nice for somebody, do it. It’s a good reminder that God loves them as much as He loves you.

Treat other people the way you want to be treated.

And above all else, don’t take credit for anything in your life. Maybe you can sit there and point out all the good things you have and explain how you worked to get them, but I can tell you right now that I don’t deserve any of the blessings I have. I’m not a good enough person to have earned my wonderful family or my awesome job or my great church (I’m running out of modifiers); God has given me everything I have and I give Him the credit for it.

Be humble. Realize that you aren’t better than everyone else. You’re different and God made you that way, so stop trying to compete against people you aren’t gifted to compete against. Why do you need to win anyway? To prove something?

If you’re trying to prove something, who are you trying to prove it to? The world? Your family? Your friends? Yourself?

What good will that do? Yes, maybe you’ll get some respect. And maybe you’ll gain some independence. But what good will it do you?

It’s worth thinking about.

And take your time. There are plenty of miles left in the race and there’s no need to rush.