Yesterday, at two different times during the day, I was confronted with the idea of God granting success to people. The first time occurred while I was reading the story of David and Jonathan where, in one chapter, the idea is repeated several times.
1 Samuel 18:5 — And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.
1 Samuel 18:14 — And David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him.
1 Samuel 18:15 — And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him.
1 Samuel 18:30 — Then the princes of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed.
Then, later in the day, someone reminded me of a verse in Nehemiah:
Nehemiah 1:11 — O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.
In fact there are also several other examples of God giving success to his people and/or them asking him for it.
Psalm 118:25 — Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!
Genesis 39:2 — The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.
Proverbs 3:3-6 — Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make straight your paths.
It struck me that those of us who believe in the sovereignty of God have a common temptation to react so strongly against “faith” teaching that we feel fearful to ever follow this biblical example and ask for success. But it really does seem that a mark of the Lord being “with” someone is this surprising success that seems disproportionate to a person’s natural ability. This is what the grace of God is all about. It means that God often chooses someone and plucks them from obscurity to be successful. It also means that we should not feel so shy about asking for God to grant us success.
God doesn’t grant such favor in order for us to be proud. Quite the opposite, because it is his to give and he makes us look better than we are, the glory goes to him alone.
1 Corinthians 1: 26-29 — For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.