Society puts a lot of emphasis on our ability to achieve success, but this actually isn’t a recent phenomenon. Many of the kings described in the Bible were achievement-minded. And no one achieved quite as much as Solomon. Israel flourished under his reign. He oversaw the construction of God’s temple. He built himself a royal palace. Rulers would travel long distances to see his wealth and grandeur, bringing with them gifts of gold and jewels. He could answer any question posed to him. He had his choice of women. He had been blessed with every good thing one might wish for in a lifetime.
It would be easy to think that if anyone should have been happy with what they had achieved in life, it should have been Solomon. But in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon paints a different picture of his experiences:
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. … I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. Ecclesiastes 2:11,18 NIV
Solomon chased achievement long enough to come to an important realization: In the end, the worldly things we accomplish are meaningless. No matter what school we graduate from, or what promotion we get, or what neighborhood we live in. When we die, we won’t bring any of our worldly possessions or achievements with us.
Great pep talk, I know. But it should leave you wondering, “If none of that matters, what does?”
Solomon had an answer for that as well (I told you, the guy had an answer for everything). At the end of Ecclesiastes, he wrote, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV
At first glance, this might not seem like the most inspiring news you’ve ever heard, but take another look. Solomon says that these are the ways we achieve success in life: by fearing God—which is Old Testament language for loving Him and respecting Him—and doing good.
We’re used to the world saying, “Run! Don’t stop. See these expensive things? See these accolades? Thousands of other people want them, but don’t let that stop you. Fight for them! Go! What else are you doing with your life? Life is a competition, and only the best will succeed.”
God’s Word says, “Love God. Do good.” And what’s great about this command is how accessible it is to everyone. No matter who we are. No matter where we live. No matter whether we’re single or married. Rich or poor. Young or old. Healthy or sick. We’re all capable of loving God and doing good. Each of us can achieve success. We can all accomplish what’s truly important in life.