“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier
I found this quote in my children’s reading curriculum when I started teaching. I have found this principle to be true in my life experience and in light of all I have read in biographies of successful people and Biblical heroes. Success is rarely accidental.
Think of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Elijah, Daniel, Jeremiah, the Apostles—people who served God in ways both large and small.
Of Noah, when he built the ark, it is recorded:
“Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”
~ Gen. 6.22, ESV
Noah could have chosen to do things his own way—using different wood, different dimensions, or gathered different animals. He could have said, “Oh, the Lord won’t notice if I take an extra kangaroo or two…” He could have done that and he would have failed. I’m confident if he had this kind of mindset, God would not have chosen Noah. Noah was the type of man to do what God commanded to the letter—and he did. It took him 100 years to build the ark and they survived the largest catastrophe in the history of the world because they obeyed God day in and day out.
Of Abraham, more is said in Hebrews 11 than any other person:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God…
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead…”
Joseph—who I suspect did not immediately understand why God allowed him to be stuck in prison for a crime he didn’t commit—still continued to do what was right. He was faithful in his part, and eventually Joseph went from prisoner to second in command in all Egypt.
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.
Moses served God diligently for decades, and while he did not get to enter the promised land, listen to what is recorded of Him in Deuteronomy and Hebrews:
“And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face…“
~ Deuteronomy 34.10, ESV
“Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,”
~ Hebrews 3:5, ESV
I could go on and on down the list. Keep in mind how often they didn’t see the benefit of their choices until decades had passed. As Hebrews notes, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11.13, 16)
None of these people were perfect. All of them made errors in judgment. All of them were given substantial grace by God. Their success came in their relationship with the Lord of heaven and earth, and they diligently pursued His favor day in and day out.
On this New Year’s Day, we begin a new trip around the sun, full of expectations, hopes, and goals. Is one of your goals to draw nearer to God? He longs for each of us to know Him more, to trust Him more, to love Him more. Success comes from joining our small efforts with His great will. It comes as we study His word daily, call on Him daily (sometimes hourly!) and trust Him even when nothing makes sense. We are not saved by our efforts, we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. Note, however, that the faithful didn’t sit around on their hands; they sought to obey God and serve Him because they loved Him. God gave them grace not so they could keep on sinning, but because He knew they could never serve Him to perfection and he saw hearts bent on pleasing Him.
Pray before making goals, asking God’s guidance. Commit your goals to the Lord, ask His will to be done each day, and then be diligent in your efforts day in and day out until he returns or calls you home.