What Constitutes a Successful Life?
Sermon Summary
This message is the first in a series entitled “Success Redefined!” The world tells us we need more money, more things, bigger houses and better automobiles if we want to be more successful. However, the Bible consistently tells us a successful life in God’s eyes has little or nothing to do with financial prosperity! Worldly possessions are not the gauge of true wealth or an indicator of God’s pleasure or displeasure with a person. There are those who have great financial wealth, but who are poor in every other area of their lives, while there are those who have very little in the way of financial success, but who are extremely wealthy in other areas of their lives. This message looks at a prayer written by a man named Agur, who was a contributing author in the book of Proverbs. In this prayer, Agur says, “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” From this prayer and other comments made by Agur in this one chapter, we learn what constitutes a truly successful life!

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. How does the world typically define a successful life?
2. What are some of the things that define a truly successful life from a Biblical perspective? Luke 12:15 “Then he (Jesus) said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
3. Pastor Larry came up with five things that constitute a truly successful life from Proverbs chapter 30:1-9. While not an exhaustive list, take turns discussing which of these five concepts was especially meaningful to you and why.
True Humility vs 2-3
Pure Integrity vs 7-8
Healthy Balance vs 8
Proper Perspective vs 8
Proper Priorities vs 9
Proverbs 30:1 The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh—an oracle : This man declared to Ithiel, to Ithiel and to Ucal:
2 “I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding.
3 I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.
4 Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his
son? Tell me if you know!
5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
6 Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
7 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Full Sermon Notes
"Oh how I need Your grace more than words can say!" If only this could be the heart cry of more people in this world! So many only cry for the things of this world. They've been taught through media bombardment, and unfortunately by the example those around them that success is tied to things! We think we need more stuff to be truly happy. We think we need a better job, a better car, a bigger house, filled with more stuff. But let me tell you this truth. A better, higher paying job does not mean you will find satisfaction or purpose in that job. Having a better car will not bring you to a better destination! Having a bigger house will not cause you to have a better home! And more stuff, no matter how costly and high quality, will only clutter your life if those things do not help you achieve the higher purpose for which God created you!

Today we're going to look at a passage of Scripture that totally redefines success! It's a prayer found in the book of Proverbs. It's a prayer I've never heard a prosperity preacher pray or preach. Let's pray and we'll begin a series in which success will be redefined! Let's pray...

"Father God I pray with all my heart this morning for You to speak truth to our hearts. Help us to understand what truly constitutes a successful life! It's not what our culture tries to hammer into our brains on a daily basis. Show us, teach us, and lead us to embrace Godly success! I trust You to speak through me Your words, Your wisdom, Your truth! In Jesus name I pray and believe, amen!!"

Get out your Bibles and let's turn to the book of Proverbs in The Old Testament. One of my favorite books! 31 chapters so there's one for each day of the month. Not a bad daily devotional! Okay, let's look at that prayer I've never heard a "prosperity preacher" preach or pray. But wait just one more moment. I need to tell you something. I'm not judging or being a hater, I'm just saying, I've never heard this verse preached on by those who believe it's always God's will for a child of God to be financially prosperous. Now I want to make it clear, I know God does sometime allow some people to become wealthy. And when He does, those people have a responsibility to be good stewards of that wealth. In fact whether you have a little or a lot, you have a responsibility to be a good steward of what God has given you to manage!.

Some go to the opposite extreme and tell us to be a really Godly person we need to take a vow of poverty. I don't believe either extreme is taught in God's Word! But here's what I hope we all learn today: your success in life is not dependent on how much financial wealth you acquire! Ok, let's just see what God's Word says in Proverbs 30:7-9, where the writer prays this...

Proverbs 30:7 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

What a beautiful and simple prayer, but what a profound prayer with deep implications for each of us! Before we dig into this prayer let me give you some really important background info that will help us better understand why this writer prayed what he prayed and will also help us understand our very first truth as to what constitutes a truly successful life.

What Constitutes a Successful Life?
True Humility!

My definition of Humility - A Humble Dependence on God Rather Than Self!

The only thing we know about this writer comes from this one chapter in the Bible. He's not mentioned any other time in the Bible. His name is Agur, which is a personal name meaning "hired hand!" And the only things we know about him come through analysis of his words in this one chapter.  

When I read these words, the first thing that comes to my mind is wow, what a wise man. But he didn't think he was so smart. Listen to what he said a few verses earlier...

Proverbs 30:2 “I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding.
3 I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.

The world says success is based on how smart you are! God says success is based on acknowledgement of His wisdom! In fact, listen to what God's word says in the very first Psalm.
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Notice it says whatever he does prospers, not just financially! Following God's principles and seeking God's wisdom will help you prosper in your relationships, your schooling, your career, your spiritual life and your financial life. The Psalmist goes on to say...

Psalm 1:4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

This writer Agur, understood what the Psalmist was talking about. He was a humble man who realized that his knowledge compared to God's wisdom, was nothing.

And this realization, was the very thing that allowed him to be in a position to recognize just how awesome God really is. Listen to the next few verses…

Proverbs 30:4 Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!
5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

This man recognizes the majesty, the power, and the shear awesomeness of our Creator God! He acknowledges that God's abilities and wisdom go so far beyond any human capabilities or capacities! And his words about the Word of God! "Every word of God is flawless!" And then he points out that God is a shield to those who are willing to take refuge in Him! Why mention taking refuge in God? There are those who take refuge in something else.

Proverbs 11:28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

Yes there are those who trust in their riches. For some people it's not "In God We Trust," but "In money we trust!" Ever wonder why "In God We Trust" was printed on our money? Maybe someone was hoping to convey a very important message, like...

"No matter how wealthy you become, never stop trusting God!" And the writer of our text this morning is saying the same thing. He in essence is redefining success! He's telling us God's idea of success and the world's idea of success is two different things! A truly smart person will recognize and understand their need for God, His wisdom and His leadership! So what constitutes a successful life? Humility! A humble dependence on God rather than self!

What Constitutes a Successful Life?
Pure Integrity!

Integrity - adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. Dictionary.com

Let's see if our writer had this...

Proverbs 30:7 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:

8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me...

Keep falsehood and lies far from me! Some people in our old world think it's okay to toss honesty out the door as long as you get what you want and they are willing to lie if they think it will advance their chances at worldly success! Here's the problem with this type of reasoning.

It places advancement of self above all others including spouse, children, friends, co-workers, and especially God! Why is this a problem? Because when you place self above all others, it will eventually destroy those relationships. It hurts others and eventually leads to self-destruction!

In fact, God says there are seven things He hates and it has to do with a lack of integrity in a person's life… Proverbs 6:16-19…

Proverbs 6:16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Obviously the writer of our text today knew about these seven things, probably written by Solomon, and his prayer to God was to keep him from transgressing in any of these areas. The book of Proverbs connects humility and integrity together in chapter 11:2-4...

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

And then Solomon, probably the wealthiest man who ever lived says this in verese 4...

Proverbs 11:4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

Which leads us to the next thing that constitutes a successful life and it's found in the our writer's prayer in the second part of Proverbs 30:8…

What Constitutes a Successful Life?
Healthy Balance!

Proverbs 30:8 ...give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

As I eluded to earlier, God's will is rarely found in extreme wealth or extreme poverty.
This writer wants balance in his life. He knows success in life is not based on acquisition of wealth. Two things you need to understand about this balance.

First thing: He promised to meet our needs not our wants!
 
Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Max Lucado put it this way…"God is committed to caring for our needs. . .After all, how can we fulfill His mission unless our needs are met? How can we teach or minister or influence unless we have our basic needs satisfied?"

Second thing: Worldly possessions are not the gauge of true wealth or an indicator of God’s pleasure or displeasure with you! Some people have been taught if they aren't financially prosperous it's because God's favor is not on them.

Now I know some folks are not good stewards of money and God won't bless selfish disregard of His financial principles. I get that! But let me be quick to say this…Worldly possessions are not the gauge of true wealth!

Some of the poorest people in third world countries understand true wealth and have better ...
Relationships with God
Relationships with family
Relationships with friends
Maybe they have avoided the rat race and the “gotta outdo the neighbors” syndrome!

Maybe they've read Proverbs 21:21

Proverbs 21:21 He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

So what constitutes a successful life? Humility, Integrity, Balance and ...

What Constitutes a Successful Life?
Proper Perspective!


Proverbs 30:8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

Did this guy know a thing or two about prayer? Yes he did. Remember this is Old Testament! Now listen to what Jesus taught the disciples to pray in the New Testament…

Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.

If your basic needs are met, consider yourself prosperous. Here are some figures to consider...

Today, across the world, 1.3 billion people live on less than one dollar a day; 3 billion live on under two dollars a day; 1.3 billion have no access to clean water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation; 2 billion have no access to electricity.”

I've got to quote Max Lucado again...

“In fact, many of us in the United States have trouble relating to the phrase ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ because our pantries are so packed and our bellies so full we seldom ask for food. We ask for self-control. We don’t say, ‘God let me eat.’ We say, ‘God help me not eat so much.’”

Parents of college kids. Every complain about the cost of education. Perspective.
"Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names."
Proper perspective can make the difference between satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

Without proper perspective, you will always focus on those who have more than you, or better circumstances than you, but if you want a successful life in God's eyes, you must let God help you put things into His perspective. And how can we do this?

What Constitutes a Successful Life?
Proper Priorities!

What this writer says next gives us a glimpse into the priorities of his heart!

Proverbs 30:8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

This guy had his priorities right! He knew material wealth is not always a blessing and he knew harsh poverty could lead to desperate things, and his priority in life was to honor God regardless of his circumstances! What are your priorities in life?

Your answer will reveal a ton of information about the real success of your life. Jesus put it this way...

Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

An archbishop who served in Brazil back in the 70's and 80's and passed away in 1999 once said these very poignant words...

“I used to think, when I was a child, that Christ might have been exaggerating when He warned about the dangers of wealth. Today I know better. I know how very hard it is to be rich and still keep the milk of human kindness. Money has a dangerous way of putting scales on one’s eyes, a dangerous way of freezing people’s hands, eyes, lips, and hearts.     

Paul put it this way to young Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:10-11...

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and
pierced themselves with many griefs.
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

What constitutes a truly successful life?
True Humility
Pure Integrity
Healthy Balance
Proper Perspective
Proper Priorities

If your desire is to have a truly successful life, and you want the traits we've discussed today in your life, your first step is to allow Jesus to become your Savior and guide! He wants to help you more than you could ever know. Come to Him today!
Let's pray!