Robert Jeffress - To Succeed More, Fail More
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Just walk into any library or bookstore, and you'll find countless books on how to find success in your marriage, your finances, and every other area of life. But worldly advice always falls short of God's timeless wisdom. Today, I'm introducing a new series titled, the Solomon secrets. And over the next two months, we'll uncover ten biblical keys to your success. We'll start today with secret number one, "To Succeed More, Fail More" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Did you know God does want you to be successful in life? That's not a heresy, that is a truth. God wants you to be successful. Now some people have twisted that truth to say that God wants everybody, every Christian to be rich, and free from problems - that's not true, but God does want you to experience success in every part of your life. Now the key to experiencing God's best in your life is wisdom. Wisdom is the skill to live life according to God's plan. And when you apply God's wisdom to every part of your life, you're going to be more successful than if you ignore God's wisdom. That's what the truth of God's word says.
The wisdom we're going to look at in Proverbs is uncommon sense because it goes against our natural inclination. You see, God's wisdom is different from man's wisdom. God's wisdom says: the way up is down. The way to rule is to serve. The way to live is to die. So if we're going to be successful we've got to learn a new way of thinking that comes straight from God's word. And today we're going to look at the first of the Solomon secrets. And that is to succeed more, fail more. Don't look at me that way.
Thomas Edison once said, "Most of life's failures are people who didn't realize how close they were to success before they gave up". And of course, what Thomas Edison was talking about was this quality of persistence. Did you know most people think the reason people, some people are successful in life is because of family connections, inherited wealth, talent or good luck. But the Bible says no. What really makes the difference between successful and unsuccessful people in life is this quality called persistence. Persistence is the courage to continue pursuing your dream in spite of unexpected setbacks, undeserved criticism and unrelenting hard work.
Some of my favorite words about persistence comes from president Calvin Coolidge. Listen to what Coolidge said, "Press on, nothing in the world can take place of persistence. Talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are overwhelmingly powerful". Now I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking: is this just more, this positive thinking mumbo-jumbo? No, it is a very biblical concept. The idea of persistence.
Consider in Joshua 6, the story of Joshua. God had given Joshua a promise, a dream and that is inheriting the Promised Land. He said: Joshua I'm going to give you and the Israelites this land but you are going to have to fight for every square inch of it. Now the biggest obstacle between Joshua and his dream was this fortified city called Jericho. Nine acre city, it had a big wall around it: that was the obstacle that Joshua had to overcome. And so God said to Joshua: now Joshua this is what I want you to do. I want you to take your men out and you're going to March around the city once a day for six days. And then on the seventh day you're to march around the city seven times and on the seventh time blow the trumpet, shout and the walls will come down.
So Joshua and his men went out day after day after day. I'm sure they got tired of hauling that armor around in the hot Palestinian sun. They got tired of residents of Jericho standing on the wall making fun of them. Yet they did it day after day. Now suppose on the final day, suppose on the seventh day, after about five times, the Israelites had said: we've had enough of this. There's not even a hairline fracture in the wall, we've got to come up with plan B. Had they not gone around that wall the seventh time they would not have experienced God's success in their life.
Remember Edison's comment? Most of life's failures are people who didn't realize how close they were to success before they gave up. Persistence. Or think about the words of Solomon himself. Remember Solomon was the wisest, the wealthiest man who ever lived, listen to what the book of Proverbs says about persistence. I could give you dozens of verses: we only have a time to look at a few. The synonym in the Bible for persistence is diligence. Look at Proverbs 10:4,5. Solomon says, "Poor is he who works with a negligent hand but the hand of the diligent, the persistent makes rich. Or he who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully".
You know what foolish people think? Foolish people think that opportunities in life are like trains. There'll be another one along in a few minutes. No reason to get excited when an opportunity comes, there'll be another one. No, the wise person, the diligent person takes advantage of opportunities while he still can. Proverbs 12:24 says, "The hand of the diligent, that is the persistent, will rule but the slack hand will be put to forced labor". Proverbs 21, jot this down, verses 25 and 26. "The desire of the sluggard puts him to death for his hands refuse to work. All day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back".
"All right, Robert", you might be thinking, "I understand that persistence is a biblical quality, I understand that it may be the key to success but how do I develop persistence in my life"? Man I'm so glad you asked that question. Do you desire to be successful in your business? Do you desire to be successful in your family life? Do you want to have greater financial stability in your life? Do you want to improve the most important relationship of all, your relationship with God? The key is persistence. And here's how to develop persistence in your life. Six keys to developing persistence, write them down.
First of all understand the value of persistence. Understand the value of persistence. Most people, most of you watching on television right now, you really don't understand the value of persistence. You think like most people that the reason some people are successful is because of family connections, wealth, giftedness, just plain luck. No, will you notice in these words we just looked at from Solomon the contrast that Solomon draws is not between the gifted and the ungifted, the lucky and the unlucky, the beautiful and ugly, the rich and the poor, the contrast is between the persistent person, the diligent person and the lazy person. That's the difference. I want you to understand that God has given you every tool you need already. God has endowed you with every gift you need to be successful in life. All you have to apply is this invaluable quality of persistence. Persistent people first of all understand the value of persistence.
Secondly, if you're going to be persistent you have to learn to let go of the past. Persistence means letting go of the past. At 83 years of age the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright was asked a question by a reporter. The reporter said Mr. Wright what is your greatest architectural achievement? Wright responded: the next one. That's what persistent people do. They refuse to look backwards, they are always looking forward. You know the writer of Hebrews said the same thing. In Hebrews 12, listen to what the writer of Hebrews said, "Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith".
The Bible compares living the Christian life to a foot race. The goal is to win the approval of Christ. But if we're going to run this race successfully, we have to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We have to keep looking forward instead of looking backward. Think about a runner who's running, nothing will slow that runner down any more than if he starts looking over his back, over ground that's already been covered. A runner needs to look forward. Gene Roddenberry, the Creator of the Star Trek series, said, "we travel in the direction in which we are looking". Persistent people learn how to refuse to look at the past.
What do I mean looking at the past? First of all it means refusing to look at past failures. If you're going to persist and be successful in life you got to let go of past failures in your life. There's some of you right now, some of you watching this service, you're paralyzed by some failure in your past. It may have been an unwanted divorce, an undeserved termination, an unfair law suit. If you're going to be successful in experiencing God's best for your life you have to let go of those things. I saw a plaque one time that read: yesterday ended last night.
A successful person, a persistent person lets go of past failures. You have to let go of past failures, sometimes we have to learn to let go of past successes as well. Moving forward and not looking back means not only not looking back at failures sometimes it means not looking back at past successes and being paralyzed by them. There ought to be a time if you've accomplished a big project that you ought to rest and you ought to celebrate what you've done. And by the way those of you who lead a company, you lead a team at your business, this piece of advice is invaluable. If you're company has achieved a great success make sure you take time to celebrate that. Celebration is a key to rejuvenation. But I tell you something else celebration does, it brings closure to that past success so that you and your team can move forward. If you're going to be successful in life learn to let go of the past.
Number three: persistent people learn the importance of beginning. You probably remember from your physics class the law of inertia. Remember the law of inertia? Inertia basically says a body at rest will remain at rest: a body in motion tends to remain in motion. Simply put, it takes a lot more energy to start an object moving than it does to keep that object moving. The key is beginning, summoning the energy to begin a project. Persistent people understand the importance of beginning.
Now that's opposed to the lazy individual who can think of any and every reason not to begin a project. Listen to Proverbs 26:13,14. This is really funny, when Solomon writes this. Verse 13, he said, "The sluggard, the lazy person says. 'There is a lion in the road. A lion is in the open square'. As the door turns on its hinges so the sluggard on his bed". The lazy person can't get out of bed. And he invents all kind of excuses of why he can't begin today that project. Let's face it we all have a little bit of a sluggard in us. We can all think of a reason not to begin that exercise program: well, I don't have the right shoes and the equipment.
We think of a reason not to get up and have our time with the Lord, praying and reading his word. "Well, God wants me to get my rest today". We can have a reason for you know not to go into the doctor, doctor maivly "oh, well, you know, he may discover something bad so I don't want to go". That's kind of stupid when you think about it, isn't it? But we always come up with reasons not to do what we're supposed to do. The great way to overcome inertia that we all have is to begin doing something. This is worth the price of the sermon today so I want you to listen carefully. If you know what it is, is going to make you successful in life just start doing something. Just start beginning. That can get you the energy you need to continue.
As Harvard psychologist Jerome Bruner says, "You're more likely to act yourself into a feeling then feel yourself into an action". So act. Whatever it is you know you should do, do it. Now here's that nugget of wisdom in that paragraph. "It is easier to act yourself into a feeling than feel yourself into an action". Some of you are waiting until the feeling hits you to do what you know God wants you to do: in your work, in your marriage, in your relationship with God. I just don't feel like it. If I did this that would be dishonest, because I don't feel like it. No. It's much easier to act yourself into a feeling than to feel yourself into an action. As somebody once said, "You don't have to be great to start. But you have to start to be great". The successful person, the persistent person understands the importance of beginning.
Number four. If you want to develop this quality of persistence, anticipate setbacks. Persistent people expect and accept setbacks rather than being paralyzed by them. They understand that setbacks are part of the tuition for moving forward in life. In fact some of our country's most successful people have had devastating setbacks. Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM corporation, said, "The way to succeed is to double your failure rate". That's where I got the title for today's message. What does Watson mean by that? What he's saying is the more times you try something, yes the more you're going to fail, but the more you're going to succeed as well. The way to succeed is to double your failure rate.
Did you know Thomas Watson was simply echoing what Solomon had said thousands of years before. Listen to ecclesiastics 11:1. These are Solomon's words. He said, "Cast your bread on the surface of the waters for you fill find it after many days". Here's how that applies to us. The more resumes you send out, the more interviews for a job you're going to get. The more sales calls you're going to make, yeah the more rejections you'll have but the more transactions you'll land as well. The more pounds you attempt to lose. The more pounds you'll actually lose. The more people you share your faith with, the more people you'll come to see know Christ as Savior. That's what he's talking about here. The way to succeed is to double your failure rate.
Number five. If you're going to be a persistent person and this is so key, expect to work hard. Expect to work hard. You have to hand it to Solomon he had a great sense of humor, listen to Proverbs 19:24, "The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth". Now let me illustrate that for you. How many of you here today watching on television know of one thing you could start doing that would make you more successful in your business or at your job? How many of you would say there's one thing I know if I start doing this I'd be more successful, raise your hand. Don't lie in church, ok? Raise your hand ok. How many of you, alright.
How many of you would say when you think about your marriage. You know, there is one thing I could do right now on my marriage that would get me a better relationship with my husband or wife. If I would start doing one thing how many of us can think of something? I can. Okay. Alright. How many of you would say you know there's one thing I could do that would improve my health, give me a better quality, perhaps quantity of life. If I started doing this one thing, I'd be healthier. How many of you can think of something? Okay. One more. How many of you could think of one thing if you started doing this, it would improve your relationship with God? Something you could do to improve the most important relationship of all, your relationship with God.
Now here's my question for you. Why aren't you doing it? Why aren't I doing it? I mean if we all can think of things that would make us more successful in our business, give us more money, better health, better relationship with our mate, a better relationship with God why aren't we doing it if we know what to do? You know what the answer is for most of us? Oh, that would require too much effort. That would just cause us to work too hard. If that's your excuse I've got some great news for you today. You're not going to die from hard work. Did you know that? You're not. You're just not going to die from hard work. You might die from some other things: it's not going to be hard work. Successful people understand the importance of working hard.
Finally and certainly most importantly: make sure that you're persisting in the right goals. Make sure you're persisting in the right goals if you truly want to be successful. Nothing is more tragic than spending your life climbing up the ladder of success reaching the top only to discover it was leaning against the wrong wall altogether. Make sure you're persisting in the right goals. I am confident that if Solomon were sitting here or standing here today he would say the same thing to you.
Solomon was the wisest, the wealthiest, the most powerful man of his day and yet he discovered that work is meaningless, pleasure is futile and death is certain. And that's why in his journal called ecclesiastics in the Old Testament he came to this conclusion: worthless, worthless everything in this life is worthless. Now he was speaking from a horizontal viewpoint. As you look at the world around you, apart from God it's all meaningless. Work is meaningless, pleasure is futile, death is certain. But when you look vertically it gives you a whole new perspective.
And in the final chapter of ecclesiastics 12, Solomon said: therefore, my advice to you as the most successful man who's ever lived, my advice to you is simply this - remember your Creator. "Remember God in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you say I find no pleasure in them". That word "Remember" does not mean in Hebrew: oh, just bring to mind. It's not like saying: oh I remember God. I remember God and I'm get on doing what I was doing. No, remember means to make God central. Make God central in your life in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come.
Remember this, no amount of success will fill the void of an empty life. If you apply these principals I gave you today from God's word you're going to be successful in your work, in your finances and every area of your life but no amount of success can fill that hole of an empty life, only God can fill that hole. As Solomon said there's nothing in this world that's going to satisfy that need you have in your life for God. There's a God-shaped vacuum in each one of us. Or as Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 2:25, "For who can work and who can find enjoyment apart from God"? Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Make sure you're persisting in the right goal.