Our Mondays have more meaning than we may give them credit. Whether you’re in the marketplace, in school, or in the home, God has a purpose for you. In this series, we discover what it looks like to go from simply working a job to fulfilling God’s unique mission for each of us.
Scroll down for the sermon notes.
Today, I want to talk to you about success! I want to start by sharing some inspirational and interesting quotes I found online about success.
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
Coming together is a beginning; staying together is progress; working together is success.
The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking spaces.
Behind every successful student, there is a deactivated Facebook account.
You’ll never have a successful relationship with a woman if you can’t tell the difference between a smile and a warning.
And here’s one more really important one.
A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.
Success is a funny thing.
Some people who want it, already have it. Some others who think they have it, actually don’t. It’s really all about perspective.
There’s an interesting story about Charles Francis Adams that I learned from preacher Silas Shotwell. Charles Adams was a writer, political figure, and diplomat in the 19th century and he would always write in his diary about his day. After spending some time fishing with his son, he wrote in his diary: “Went fishing with my son today; a day wasted.” His son, Brook Adams, also wrote in his own diary. On that same day, he wrote, “Went fishing with my father; the most wonderful day of my life.”
Success is a funny thing. Did you know that when bubble wrap was invented, its original purpose was to be wallpaper? I learned about it from the Houston Chronicle. They were trying to come up with a new type of textured wallpaper but it never took off. So two guys by the name of Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding thought of a different use for bubble wrap and started an industry that made $4 billion a year.
Most people, if not all people want to be successful.I don’t think anyone ever wakes up thinking, “Today I want to fail.” Let’s try something.Everyone please close your eyes. Picture your next birthday. Think of your age. Maybe it’s written in candles on a cake or on big balloons. Think of the people who will probably be there celebrating with you. Now picture your birthday 5 years later. How old will you be? Picture who will be involved in your life then. If you’re successful, what would that look like? What would that feel like? Ok, now open your eyes.
I think as Christians, we need to talk about how we can succeed at work and in life but we must ask the question, “What does success even look like?”I’ll tell you this: it doesn’t look like what most people think it looks like.
How do we measure success at work, in our career, or at school?
- Is it the amount of money we’ve made in a given year?
- Is it the amount of clients we’ve had?
- Is it the average number of days we felt happy?
- Have we succeeded when our parents tell us they’re proud of us?
- Have we succeeded when we’re able to help someone else financially or when we can finally afford to purchase a house?
Success is a funny thing.If we don’t bother to ask what success looks like, then we might very well find ourselves running a rat race and at the end, find that we were chasing after the wrong thing, or we’ve had success all along but missed it. I think we can all agree that we want to be successful at work. We want to feel accomplished. But the truth is, most of us are just plain tired. Who in here is just tired? We’re trying so hard to make ends meet, to feed our children, to just get through the week for a chance to relax a little bit during the weekend. But even the weekend brings a lot of stress and issues. I hear you.
That’s why today I want to answer the question: “How can we succeed at work?” By the end of this message, we will answer this question according to what we find in the Bible. We’ll do so by reading my favorite Old Testament story: the story of Joseph! I love this story because there’s so much to relate to. There are so many lessons we can learn from Joseph. So we’re going to skip around through the story and extract three ways we can succeed at work. So grab your Bible and open up to Genesis 39. Feel free to open up the sermon notes on our church app.
So the story begins in Genesis 37.
It starts with a 17 year old boy named Joseph who had 11 brothers who were really really jealous of him. And not jealous like when an older sibling can stay out longer than us. They were so jealous of Joseph that they planned to kill him. But after much arguing and discussing it, they decided not to kill him. They just decided to sell him as a slave instead. And I thought I had issues with my sisters!
So we’ll pick up the story from there.
1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.
So Joseph’s life took a turn when he became a slave. But it took another turn when he became a successful man as a slave. How in the world did that happen Did you catch it in verse 2? It says, “The Lord was with Joseph.”Here’s the first way to be successful:
1. Put God at the center of your life.
If anyone could complain about their job, it was Joseph. He was a slave. He didn’t have any rights. He couldn’t boycott or march outside with a sign in protest because of bad working conditions. No! He was forced to do whatever his master told him to do. Yet, he was successful. How?He put God at the center of his life. Joseph chose to stay faithful to God despite his circumstances. He could have been thinking, “Wait a minute. My own brothers sold me! Why on earth would I think God is on my side and that He is a good God?” But he didn’t think that. He didn’t allow his circumstances to determine how faithful he was to God. He continued allowing God to lead him in everything he did. His master recognized that and put him in charge of everything.
I’m pretty sure his first few jobs felt meaningless and small. Sometimes that’s how we feel right? Our job may require us to do something that no one really cares about. We have a list of tasks that bore us or annoy us, or quite simply, have no purpose. But Joseph, didn’t care. He remained faithful to God and God blessed it. That’s the first way to be successful. Put God at the center of your life. Let’s check out the second way Joseph was successful.
6b Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.
Here’s the second way we can become successful.
2. Work for God, not your boss.
Joseph was thinking, “I know Potiphar is my master, but ultimately, my master is God. My purpose is to please God.” Now the Bible says that Joseph was hot. Ok. It says he was “handsome in form and appearance”.Translation: Good looking and built. We’re talking nice eyes and a sick pack. And guess who noticed? His master’s wife.
So she tried to seduce Joseph but he said “No!” But notice that Joseph didn’t say, “How can I sin against my master?” He said in verse 9, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against” WHO? God!Joseph knew that the way he lived his life, the decisions he made, the things he said and the things he did, was known to God. Joseph knew that at the end, it wasn’t his brothers he would have to answer to. At the end, he wouldn’t have to answer to his master. Joseph knew that at the end, he would have to answer to God.
I absolutely LOVE what Paul says in Colossians.
23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.
colossians 3:23-24 NLT
Church, work for God, not your boss.“What if I’m going to school and I don’t work?” Work hard for God. Study hard for God! Christians should be the best workers in our society Unfortunately, Christians are not always known for being hard working and easy to work with! We’re usually known to be judgmental, picky, and preachy right?
What if we became more like Joseph and began to lead the way in the marketplace? What if we began leading in business, leading in the arts, leading in schools, and leading in politics? Not because we’re more talented and more skilled, but because we are working for God, because we are men and women of integrity and hard work ethics. We should be the best because we’re not just working for a paycheck; we are working for the God who will give us an eternal inheritance when we meet Him face to face.
It’s tough to be like Joseph right?When our boss is not around, we might get tempted to cheat a little. It’s tempting to cut corners, to get paid for things we don’t do, to treat ourselves when we know it’s wrong. But we must remember that while our earthly boss is not around, God is.
Joseph could have slept with his master’s wife. He could have justified it by saying, “I didn’t choose to be sold as a slave. I need to treat myself with this. I deserve this!” But he didn’t. He put God at the center of his life and he knew he was ultimately working for God.
I remember when I used to work at Gold’s Gym 6 years ago.My job was to greet people coming in, make protein shakes, answer phone calls, and pick up sweaty paper towels from the floor. I knew that I was actually working for God. So I wanted to be the best sweaty paper towel picker-upper and protein shake maker Gold’s Gym had ever seen. So I did my best at it! After a month or two of working there, I was given a new task: I had to clean all of the mirrors. All of the mirrors. Do you know how many mirrors there are in a gym? But I knew that I wasn’t working for my boss, I was working for God. So I was determined to be the best mirror cleaner Gold’s Gym had ever seen! I split up the mirrors by the days of the week to make sure I cleaned them all. My mom is in the cleaning business so I asked her, “Mom, what’s the best and most efficient way to clean mirrors.” I took her advice, and then asked the manager if I could implement my new plan, and I became the best mirror cleaner at Gold’s Gym.
When the manager wasn’t around, it was so tempting to just skip a mirror or two and do it quickly, but I knew that I was working for God, not my manager. It sounds so small, unimportant, and trivial, but throughout those four months, I was able to share the love of Jesus with some of them. I was able to pray with a co-worker when he was going through a tough time at work and encourage someone else to seek God. I knew that I was there for a purpose. I knew that my work ethic and my integrity needed to match what I believed about God. We must work for God, not our boss.
After Joseph refused to sleep with his master’s wife, she falsely accused Joseph of seducing her.So Joseph was thrown into prison for something he didn’t even do! Can you imagine being sold as a slave by your own family? Then later when things are finally getting better, being thrown into prison because you decided to obey God instead of committing sin?
Psalm 105 describes how prison was for Joseph.
17b Joseph, who was sold as a slave. 18 His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron.
Joseph could have complained about literally everything in his life but he didn’t! What did he do in prison? He put God at the center of his life and He worked for God and not for people. So then the keeper at the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners! Joseph still succeeded! He succeeded at being the best prisoner! He was a man of such integrity that even the guard trusted him with the other prisoners.
Now fast forward to chapter 41. In prison, Joseph reached out to another prisoner who had a direct connection to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. After two whole years of being in prison, because Joseph reached out to that prisoner and helped him, it gave Joseph the opportunity to help Pharaoh.
Check out what happened next.
38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.”
Here’s the third way we can be successful.
3. Remember that God will never waste time.
We can read this entire story in one sitting but this took many years to take place. Joseph became a slave when he was about 17 years old, and after being in prison for over two years, he became second in command in Egypt at the age of 30. Joseph could have looked back at his life and though, “Wow God! You wasted 13 years of my life! Why did it take this long to get here?” But that’s not what Joseph thought.
See at the end of the story, his brothers, the ones who sold him into slavery, went to Egypt to seek financial help and they ended up facing…guess who? Their little brother Joseph.
Check out what Joseph told his brothers.
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
God didn’t waste time. He had an entire plan in mind.Even when it seemed like Joseph was failing, he was actually succeeding. So while it seems like Joseph only succeeded at the end of the story, in reality, he was succeeding all throughout his life and he died a successful man.
So how can we be successful? We talked about three ways but really, it all comes down to one thing.
If you want to succeed in life, make Jesus your life.
Church, we don’t succeed when God is only part of our life. We don’t succeed when we make going to church on Sundays the only godly thing that we commit to. Jesus didn’t die for us so we can give him Sundays. He died for us to give him Mondays through Saturdays as well. How is success measured?
Success is measured by how much of your life belongs to God.
Success is measured by how big God is in your life.
What does real success look like?It looks like Joseph’s life. Success is when someone, after going through the ups and downs in life, continues to make God their life. Success is when someone, after being betrayed by family and friends and being falsely accused, remains faithful to God. When Jesus is your life, then you’re succeeding. When Jesus is your life, then just like He was with Joseph, Jesus is with you.
So let me as you some questions to ponder, and I’m including myself in these questions.
- Is Jesus the God of your Sunday, or is He also the God of your Mondays through Saturdays?
- Do you try to work God around your schedule and resources, or do you work your schedule and resources around God?
- When you’re working, are you working as if you’re working for God or your boss?
- Do you have good ethics at work? Are you a man or a woman of integrity?
I read an article by Stephen Crosby where he listed some ethics he lived by. I want to share some of them with you. He wrote:
- I tried to pay my employees better than the going rate in the area, even if it meant I personally got less.
- I practiced consistent charitable giving, even out of my lack, even to my hurt.
- I kept my word, even if doing so was going to cost me more money, time, or inconvenience.
- The Lord’s testimony in me to others was more important than my personal bottom line.
- I paid my bills on time . . . always . . . never late, never, not once in 34 years.
- I didn’t lie to, or steal from, my clients.
- I didn’t cheat on my taxes. I paid them on time.
We might not all be at that level, but are we seeking to get there? Are there areas of your life where you need to change so that you can please God in everything you do?
Now I must say this: The problem may very well be your job.Joseph didn’t choose to be a slave. He didn’t have the privilege of choosing his job, but we do. You might need to find a job where you agree with the vision of the company and how things are done. You might need to spend some time taking personality tests to figure out where you would fit best and thrive the most. But regardless of where you are right now, remember that God never wastes time if He’s our life.
I don’t know about you, but I look forward to the day Jesus looks me in the eye and says, “Well done.”
If you want to succeed in life, make Jesus your life.