Written by Natalie Hanna Tan, Singapore
We know what success looks like and how to achieve it. Study hard to get into our dream university so that we can clinch our dream job later on, eat well and exercise so that we will have good health, love people around us so we can enjoy good relationships . . . and the list goes on.
We all want to be successful in life, don’t we?
How about when it comes to our walk with God? Can we live “successful” lives in our faith? Here are a few ways God has shown me how a “successful” life as a Christian looks like:
1. Spend Unhurried Time with God
If you, like me, have grown up in church, this phrase will not be foreign. I used to think that spending time with God was reading the Bible and jotting down things I’ve learned for 15 minutes, followed by praying for five minutes.
But recently, God has impressed on me the need to spend unhurried time with Him. That means taking time to enjoy His presence, to commune with Him, and to do things with Him—over and beyond the usual 20 minutes I allot to Him every day. Spending time with God isn’t a waste of time; it’s the secret to spending the rest of our day well.
This may work differently for different people. It could mean spending an evening instead of morning with God, hanging out at a café—as if we’re on a date with Him—or even journaling and telling God about our day over an ice cream.
When we spend time with God as though He’s physically here with us, the way we communicate with Him changes—and we grow in our understanding of Him. Not only will we see Him as our God, but we will also learn to see Him as a father, a partner, and a friend.
2. Take Time to Rest
In today’s society, we tend to be so busy packing our days with activities and rushing from point A to B that we’ve lost the art of resting. We often don’t realize that rest is actually a godly concept, first created by God in Genesis 2:2-3.
God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day—not because He was tired (Isaiah 40:28), but because He wanted to bless it and make it holy for man to rest. God emphasized the importance of resting by creating an entire day for it.
How often do we really rest and take time out of our usual routines? It could be spending a whole day with God or going for an afternoon run in the park. Whatever reinvigorates and recharges us can also help us draw closer to God.
3. Practise Gratitude
In her book One Thousand Gifts, Canadian author Ann Voskamp wrote that “Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle” and that our problem is that “we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”
A few years ago, I found myself struggling to thank God. I just couldn’t see how He was good in my life, and I didn’t see anything to thank Him for. That’s when a leader challenged me to keep a thanksgiving journal. For 90 days, I was to write down three things to thank God for daily. That’s 270 things to be thankful for—without any repeats! I ended up thanking God for the minute details in life that I tended to take for granted: blue skies and sunny days, good health, and for hands and feet to do His work.
Psalm 118:24 says, “The Lord has done it this very day: let us rejoice today and be glad.” God sustains us with His breath and life each day—how can we not be thankful? When we practise gratitude daily, we will see God’s fingerprints in life and find joy and contentment in it.
4. Focus on God
Try this: hold up a Bible at arm’s length, before slowly bringing it closer to you. Eventually, the Bible will occupy your view and you won’t be able to see anything else. Of course, it doesn’t mean that everything else isn’t there; it simply is a change of view and perspective. Your focus is now on God.
As the classic hymn “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” goes, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”. How true! When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will find ourselves less tempted and overwhelmed by the lures and challenges of this world.
When we wait on God daily, we also find strength and rest in Him (Isaiah 40:31). Successful living begins when we recognize that we are weak and that we need God’s help. He, not ourselves, becomes our strength to get through each day.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
5. Die to Yourself
Being a successful Christian in daily pursuit of Christ means constantly saying “no” to the world and dying to fleshly desires. In Galatians 5:19-26, Paul talks about how we ought to move away from fleshly desires and seek the Spirit’s leading and guidance. Matthew 16:24 also notes that anyone who wants to be a disciple of Christ has to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him.
We can do so by examining our lives in the light of God’s standards, and by seeking His forgiveness for our shortcomings. When we are convicted of our sins and make a consistent effort to change, we are renewed by His grace and can experience a closer relationship with Him.
6. Manage and Organize Your Life
Colossians 3:23 writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord . . .” This verse urges us to work with excellence, putting the best of our efforts into whatever job we’re given, however big or small, because we want to please our Master.
One way we can do this practically is to manage and organize our lives well. Keeping track of our daily appointments and to-do lists, and allocating time to rest, sleep, and eat well all play a part in helping us live the best lives God intends for us. Not only does this help us to be productive in our tasks, it also helps us to prioritize time to spend with God and others around us.
Something I’ve been trying to do more of is to keep track of my days on a personal scheduler. Writing down my plans and to-do items daily helps me keep track of what and where I’m investing my time and energy in. This allows me to lead a meaningful and purposeful life, and not while away the time on things that don’t matter.
7. Give to God and Others
When it comes to our money, time, or energy, I’ve realized it’s always a blessing to give to the kingdom of God and to people in need.
When I was in high school, God began tugging at my heart to give back to the community. I eventually found a volunteer opportunity in my neighborhood: To teach and play with children who had cerebral palsy every Monday morning. To me, it wasn’t a big investment—just four hours a week. But it seemed to mean a lot to the children whom I met and worked with. Their big smiles never failed to make my day and they’d always sit with me during breaks to tell me about their lives and their families.
This experience made me realize that I was gaining more than I was giving. I gained a new heart for children with disabilities, seeing them in the way God sees them, and I learned how to see life from a simple and childlike perspective.
In Acts 20:35, Paul writes, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. We ought to give to the work of God and do our part in building His kingdom. Not only will the work be expanded by our offering of money, time, energy, and expertise, but we will also find fulfilment and joy.
These seven ways are by no means an exhaustive list to successful Christian living. They are simply things God has impressed on me in my Christian walk. As I journey and discipline myself to use these as a guide to live, I find myself taking one step closer to Christ every single day.
Ultimately, whatever form it takes, a successful life is one where we rely on God and draw closer to Him.