Morning Meditation: Examining Success, Failure, and What it Means to Live Skillfully

I was doing morning devotionals with my partner this morning with a reading of Psalm Chapter 33.

In our second round through, he pointed verse 3 to me, which states that we are “to play skillfully”.

We briefly thought about what that meant in a work context, and I started thinking about the relationship between skilled work, living in excellence and the word success. Our conversation inspired me to meditate further on these two words, and brought me to some very important things to remember:

The Abstract

Fact: God demands, no, requires excellence – OUI!

Examination: Does playing skillfully = success with my desired goals, milestones, specific aims? – NON! Pas nécessairement.

Self-examination: Do I evaluate outcomes as successes or failures through the world’s eyes, or God’s eyes? – TO BE DETERMINED!

Remember that the excellence God calls us to live and embody does not always beget an “outcome” looking like success as defined by modern culture and the world

The world’s definition of success, according to Oxford Languages:

noun: success; plural noun: successes

  1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. – Psalm 33:10“he foils the plans of the earth, he thwarts the purposes of the people” – sometimes he thwarts my purposes, even with my good intentions, because I am thinking very small, very short term, compared to his very big, longer term picture of excellence and success.
    • the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status. – Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one or despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”  Replace ‘money’ with social status, your personal goals-vision, wealth, fame “her success owed more to hard work than luck”
  2. the good or bad outcome of an undertaking. – One of the first things we discover as Christians is that God’s value system is incredibly different from the world’s. I have to always challenge my thinking in seeing an outcome or situation as good or bad, the way I (human, not omniscient) shaped by the world’s education am led to see, and instead shift to thinking of how God sees it.

Remember to be realistic (for God loves his people shrewd) about what is in our control

In addition to our observance and acceptance that God is ultimately sovereign, omni-potent, etc., we must accept that often, there are 163947290 other forces (genetics! people with different motives and inputs!) influencing the outcome of our aims and purposes– things which are completely out of our control.

Accepting how the world actually works looks like acknowledging that an undesired outcome is not correlated with how “right,”– efficiently, productively, intelligently, or hard we worked. Thoughts such as “I could have done better,” “I am not good enough,” or “I am a failure” have no place in the world of a true pragmatist!

So…why am I trying to overcompensate and work even longer, bio-hack myself even further? Why am I defaulting to a self-induced state of anxiety, blaming myself, blaming another for an undesired outcome, proclaiming something a failure, instead of seeing something for what it actually was? What am I really trying to do here?

subvert God’s plan?

Remember that God’s view of time is different

Consider the probability that a decade for us is merely a blip, like, fractions of a nano-second (billionth of a second), for God. Try to see a situation, an outcome, or a pursuit the way God sees it.

Some questions to maybe ask:

Am I expecting God to fulfill an aim and purpose of mine? Do I have disordered expectations? Maybe I can have a conversation with him, ask God to let go of my expectations of him and what I believe an outcome should look like, or a situation should be played out like.

Remain in remembrance of God’s definition of excellence and success

In order to do that, we must constantly re-learn, memorize, elaborately rehearse, etc. etc. his aims and purpose is for us; we must have his view– his definition of success and skillful living committed to heart. So below are some:

Fruit of the Spirit


  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Forbearance – patience, self-control, restraint and tolerance
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness 
  • Self-control


  • Hungering & thirsting for righteousness
  • Being merciful
  • Being pure in heart
  • Being peacemakers

I respect Ray Dalio for amplifying a life principle of being radically open to feedback (love this book and re-read it yearly!), but the OG call is here before 4th century B.C.:

Proverbs 15:22; 12

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”

“Mockers resent correction, so they avoid the wise.”

God’s will/aim/purpose is for us to be skillful and diligent in work

Proverbs 31: 13; 15-17

Depictions of a woman of noble character: “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands… She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her family servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”

Exodus 31: 2-3

The Lord to Moses about Bezalel: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills.”

Proverbs 18:9

“One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.”

Mark 16:16-18

Jesus to his disciples: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

God’s will/aim/purpose is for us to embody forbearance, particularly in exhibiting control of our tongue:

Proverbs 18:21

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

James 3:3-6; 9

“When we put bits in the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder where the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell…. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Some songs to encourage yes and amen’ing and inspire prayer:

Situation – Jonathan McReynolds : “There is a limit to what I can see, so I am not asking for an outcome, or praying for results, I’m not hoping that it all goes, exactly how I want, no I’m not asking you to do it, or asking that you don’t, I’m just inviting you to my situation”.

Yes and Amen – Housefires : We say yes and Amen (let it be!) to his plan and his desired outcomes, not ours 🙂

End thought: A conscious pursuit of aims and purposes in line and being on-board with God’s will does not create anxiety, a lack of peace, and it never leads to failure.



Coverphoto is Charlotte Greenwood

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