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Sermon Outline

Managing for the Master—Till He Comes

Planning for Success

Lesson #8 for February 25, 2023

Scriptures:Ecclesiastes 12:1; Genesis 2:15; 39:2-5; 1 Timothy 5:8; Colossians 3:23-24; Proverbs 3:5-8.

  1. How do you define success? Would you say that these biblical characters were successful? Joseph? John the Baptist? Job? Paul?

[From the Bible study guide=BSG:] This week we are going to look at the idea of “success” in the context of basic stewardship and financial principles. No matter who we are or where we live, money and finances are going to be a part of our life, whether we like it or not. What, then, are some steps, practical steps, that we can take along the way that, though not guaranteeing “success,” can nevertheless help us avoid common pitfalls and mistakes that can make financial success a bit more difficult??Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Sabbath Afternoon, February 25.†‡

  1. If you want a successful life, how do you begin?

Ecclesiastes 12:1: So remember your Creator while you are still young, before those dismal days and years come when you will say, “I don’t enjoy life.”—American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation* (2nd ed.,Ecclesiastes 12:1). New York: American Bible Society [abbreviated as Good News Bible].

Matthew 6:33: [Jesus said:] “Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things.”?Good News Bible.*

  1. Could a person really live a life on this earth depending entirely upon God and expect Him to provide everything that person needs?
  2. Think of the life of Jacob. He lived at home with his parents until he was 77 years old! He was beloved by his mother and not so loved by his father. Then, after bargaining with his brother to buy the birthright, conniving with his mother to deceive his father, and fleeing for his life, he had the vision with the stairway or ladder to and from heaven.

Genesis 28:13,20-22: 13And there was the LORD standing beside him. “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham and Isaac,” he said. “I will give to you and to your descendants this land on which you are lying”….

20Then Jacob made a vow to the LORD: “If you will be with me and protect me on the journey I am making and give me food and clothing, 21and if I return safely to my father’s home, then you will be my God. 22This memorial stone which I have set up will be the place where you are worshipped, and I will give you a tenth of everything you give me.”?Good News Bible.*

  1. Fortunately, he managed to arrive at Haran, where Laban lived, and went to the well to see what he could learn.Genesis 29:9-20 tell us that he was incredibly successful there. At the well, he met the young woman who was to become his favorite wife. He was willing to work hard for seven years for her hand in marriage. Then, he was deceived by his father-in-law and given Leah, the older sister, instead of Rachel, the one he loved. A week later, he also married Rachel. It is surprising that Rachel and Leah were not married to other young men in their culture prior to Jacob’s arrival. We do not know how old the girls were when Jacob arrived. But, we do know how old Jacob was.

[From the SDA Bible Commentary:] When Isaac was old. From the following considerations, Isaac must have been about 137 years of age when the incident narrated in this chapter took place. Esau was already married (v. 46). This occurred when Isaac was 100 years old (see chs. [Genesis] 26:34; 25:26). But, as will be seen, the events recorded here must have occurred at a much later time even than that. Jacob was 130 years old when he went down to Egypt (ch. 47:9), and his son Joseph 39. This is clear from the fact that the latter was 30 years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh (ch. 41:46), and that since that time 7 abundant and 2 lean years had passed (chs. 41:54; 45:6). These 9 years must be added to the 30, making Joseph 39 years of age. Jacob was consequently 91 years old when Joseph was born. This had taken place at the end of 14 years of Jacob’s service in Laban’s house (chs. 29:18, 27; 30:25); therefore Jacob was 77 years old when he fled to Haran. Since Jacob’s flight probably followed soon after the events of this chapter, and since his father Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob was born (ch. 25:26), Isaac’s age in ch. 27 must have been about 137 years. Isaac lived for another 43 years, to the ripe age of 180 (ch. 35:28)—Nichol, F. D. (Ed.). (1978). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary,* vol. 1, 375-376. Review and Herald Publishing Association [Comment onGenesis 27:1].†‡§

  1. When Jacob arrived at Haran essentially penniless, did he seem like a good prospect for a husband?

[BSG:] It is fitting to make your spiritual decision and your lifework decision before committing to marriage. Your future spouse should know “what they are getting into.” Is this person a committed Christian? What type of work will he or she be involved in? Will this person be a teacher, a nurse, a lawyer, a laborer, whatever? What kind of life will I be committing to? Other questions that need answers before the marriage commitment are: What level of education has been completed? What amount of debt will come into the marriage? Am I willing to accept this situation as part of my responsibility??Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Sunday, February 19.†‡

2 Corinthians 6:14-15: 14 Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners? How can light and darkness live together? 15How can Christ and the Devil agree? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever??Good News Bible.*

  1. In addition to choosing a life mate, another very important decision one must make is what kind of work s/he will do. Ideally, one should find something to do that s/he is passionate about, that will provide a good income, that s/he can get training for, and that s/he can find a job doing it, and that one will enjoy working at it for years. Things do not always work out like that.
  2. In our day, many people think it would be nice to live a life of pleasure, never having to work. But, work is an important part of living a satisfying life.
  3. God gave Adam and Eve a pleasant form of work to do, even in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 2:15: Then the LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it.?Good News Bible.*

[From the writings of Ellen G. White=EGW:] And to Adam was given the work of caring for the Garden. The Creator knew that Adam could not be happy without employment. The beauty of the Garden delighted him, but this was not enough. He must have labor to call into exercise the wonderful organs of the body. Had happiness consisted in doing nothing, man, in his state of holy innocence, would have been left unemployed. But He who created man knew what would be for his happiness; and no sooner had He created him, than He gave him his appointed work. The promise of future glory, and the decree that man must toil for his daily bread, came from the same throne.—Ellen G. White, Youth’s Instructor,* February 27, 1902, par. 2.†‡ Our High Calling* 223.2.†‡

  1. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were forced to leave the Garden of Eden; God told them that they would be given work which would be for their benefit. Why is work a benefit for us each day of our lives?
  2. Let us consider the saying, “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop!”

This proverb is thought by some to originate from the Bible, the book of Proverbs chapter 16 verse 27 (Proverbs 16:27). Yet this is probably a misreading driven by an application of Protestant theological assumptions. The King James version of the verse refers only to ungodliness: An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.

Only The Living Bible of 1971 injects the idea of idleness into its translation: Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece. (TLB also adds the literal translation: A worthless man devises mischief; and in his lips there is a scorching fire.)

Proverbs 16:27 may have inspired St. Jerome to write in the late 4th century: fac et aliquid operis, ut semper te diabolus inveniat occupatum, or “engage in some occupation, so that the devil may always find you busy.” This was later repeated by Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales, which was probably the source of its popularity.—[Retrieved on Dec. 5, 2022].‡§


  1. King Solomon advised working hard at whatever one does.

Ecclesiastes 9:10: Work hard at whatever you do, because there will be no action, no thought, no knowledge, no wisdom in the world of the dead—and that is where you are going.?Good News Bible.*

  1. A major part of most people’s lives is consumed with what can be called the working years. Often, this includes making a living, raising children, developing a good relationship with one’s spouse, and planning for retirement.
  2. During this time, one must deal with the questions of housing, transportation, and raising and educating children. Women are often tasked with the responsibility of bearing and raising the children at home. The husband is often the main breadwinner. There are three very important points which parents need to remember in dealing with their children.

[BSG:] Provide a Christian home environment. This would include regular and interesting family worship, regular Sabbath School and church attendance, and faithfulness in tithes and offerings. These are great habits to form in early life.

Teach children a willingness to work and an appreciation for it. Children will discover that diligence and integrity at work are always noticed, appreciated, and rewarded. They will learn that money comes to us as a result of our giving time to others by performing tasks that are valuable to them.

Help with a good education. Education is expensive today—particularly Christian private-school education. But to parents with plans for their children not only for this life but also for that which is to come, it is well worth the cost.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Tuesday, February 21.†‡§

  1. Having said that, of course, we need to remember that children will eventually make their own decisions and choose their own paths in life.
  2. As Christians, whether we are employers or employees, we need to work with integrity. When we do so, all around us will appreciate our efforts and our work. As we grow older, we need to have sufficient funds to complete the payment for a house, for transportation, and have no lingering debts. Real Christians will be able to accomplish that because God’s law is written in their hearts.

Jeremiah 31:33-34: 33 “The new covenant that I will make with the people of Israel will be this: I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34None of them will have to teach his fellow-citizen to know the LORD, because all will know me, from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their sins and I will no longer remember their wrongs. I, the LORD, have spoken.”?Good News Bible.*

  1. Can you think of some employees in the biblical record who met these standards? Look at the comments that Laban made about Jacob.

Genesis 30:27: Laban said to him, “Let me say this: I have learnt by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.”?Good News Bible.*

  1. Consider the story of Joseph as recorded inGenesis 39:2-6 as he worked for Potiphar.

Genesis 39:2-6: 2The LORD was with Joseph and made him successful. He lived in the house of his Egyptian master, 3who saw that the LORD was with Joseph and had made him successful in everything he did. 4Potiphar was pleased with him and made him his personal servant; so he put him in charge of his house and everything he owned. 5From then on, because of Joseph the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian and everything that he had in his house and in his fields. 6Potiphar handed over everything he had to the care of Joseph and did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.?Good News Bible.*

  1. We do not know what kind of position Potiphar had in the government of Egypt. Was he gone a great deal of the time?
  2. Compare the story of Paul and how he worked so hard, sometimes, working much of the night so he could preach the gospel during the day! (2 Thessalonians 3:8-10) Paul worked vigorously, often putting his life on the line. Notice his words in1 Corinthians 10:31.

1 Corinthians 10:31: Well, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory.?Good News Bible.*

  1. So, what does it mean to eat and drink to the glory of the God? Does this mean eating a healthy diet and exercising adequately so that you will live a long time?
  2. Is there a place for seeking counsel from non-Christian sources?

Psalm 1:1-3: 1 Happy are those

who reject the advice of evil people,

who do not follow the example of sinners

or join those who have no use for God.

2 Instead, they find joy in obeying the Law of the LORD,

and they study it day and night.

3 They are like trees that grow beside a stream,

that bear fruit at the right time,

and whose leaves do not dry up.

They succeed in everything they do.?Good News Bible.*

  1. It is so easy to look at schemes that are represented in public media to earn quick money. Should we consider these words instead?

Proverbs 3:5-8: 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. 6Remember the LORD in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. 7Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the LORD and refuse to do wrong. 8If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains.?Good News Bible.*

  1. Let us consider some major points from the Bible study guide that would help us to avoid many pitfalls.
  2. Get organized. Develop a spending plan (Prov. 27:23, 24). Many families just exist from paycheck to paycheck. Without a simple plan for earning, spending, and saving, life is much more stressful.
  3. Spend less than you earn. Determine to live within your means (Prov. 15:16). Many families in Western countries actually spend more than they earn. This is made possible only because of the availability of credit and debt. Many problems plague those who are in debt.
  4. Save a portion from every pay period (Prov. 6:6–8). We save to make larger purchases in the future and to take care of unplanned expenses, such as accidents or illness. Some savings can be used to plan for the time when because of advancing age, we are no longer able to be employed.
  5. Avoid debt like COVID-19 (Prov. 22:7). Interest is one expense you can live without. A person or a family living with debt—that is, on borrowed money—is really living today on money they expect to earn in the future. If any life changes occur, then serious financial embarrassment can result.
  6. Be a diligent worker. “The soul of a lazy man desires and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (Prov. 13:4, NKJV).
  7. Be financially faithful with God (Deut. 28:1–14). No family can afford to live without God’s blessing.
  8. Remember that this earth is not our real home. Our management says a lot about where our ultimate priorities are (seeMatt. 25:14–21).?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, February 23.†§

Matthew 25:14-21: 14 “At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there was a man who was about to go on a journey; he called his servants and put them in charge of his property. 15He gave to each one according to his ability: to one he gave 5,000 gold coins, to another he gave 2,000, and to another he gave 1,000. Then he left on his journey. 16The servant who had received 5,000 coins went at once and invested his money and earned another 5,000. 17In the same way the servant who had received 2,000 coins earned another 2,000. 18But the servant who had received 1,000 coins went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. 20The servant who had received 5,000 coins came in and handed over the other 5,000. ‘You gave me 5,000 coins, sir,’ he said. ‘Look! Here are another 5,000 that I have earned.’ 21 ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’”?Good News Bible.*

  1. Consider these points from Ellen White.

[EGW:] No scheme of business or plan of life can be sound or complete that embraces only the brief years of this present life and makes no provision for the unending future....

No man can lay up treasure in heaven without finding his life on earth thereby enriched and ennobled.—Ellen G. White, Education* 145.2-3.†‡ CS* 346.4-347.1.†‡

[EGW:] That which lies at the foundation of business integrity and of true success is the recognition of God’s ownership. The Creator of all things, He is the original proprietor. We are His stewards. All that we have is a trust from Him, to be used according to His direction.?Ellen G. White, Education* 137.4.†‡

  1. Because of the pressure to provide for our families, many times we think that our work is simply to provide an income. But, as Christians, we also face doing our part in the Great Commission that Jesus gave to all His followers.

Mark 16:15: He [Jesus:] said to them, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to the whole human race.”?Good News Bible.*

[EGW:] Not ... all are called to be ministers or missionaries in the ordinary sense of the term; but all may be workers with Christ in giving the “glad tidings” to their fellow men. To all, great or small, learned or ignorant, old or young, the command is given.?Ellen G. White, General Conference Bulletin,* July 1, 1902, par. 5. Education* 264.1.

[EGW:] We need to follow more closely God’s plan of life. To do our best in the work that lies nearest, to commit our ways to God, and to watch for the indications of His providence—these are rules that ensure safe guidance in the choice of an occupation.?Ellen G. White, Education* 267.3.

  1. In light of what we have studied so far, what would you consider to be successful from a biblical perspective? Would you say that Paul was successful? Or, John the Baptist? Or, what about Job? Or, Joseph? Disasters such as sickness, natural disasters, even tornadoes, and earthquakes can happen.
  2. Scriptures make it very clear that the safest path is to begin with one’s determined conviction to follow God’s plans for his/her life, starting in his/her youth.

Proverbs 14:23: Work and you will earn a living; if you sit around talking you will be poor.?Good News Bible.*

2 Thessalonians 3:8: [Paul said:] We did not accept anyone’s support without paying for it. Instead, we worked and toiled; we kept working day and night so as not to be an expense to any of you.?Good News Bible.*

Proverbs 3:5-6: 5Trust in the LORD with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. 6Remember the LORD in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.?Good News Bible.*

[BSG:] When we seek counsel from the Lord, He directs our paths (Prov. 3:6). This divine guidance is important in forming a successful family with a prudent spouse from the Lord (Prov. 19:14; 2 Cor. 6:14, 15). [See item #6 above.]?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 106.‡§

Proverbs 19:14: A man can inherit a house and money from his parents, but only the LORD can give him a sensible wife.?Good News Bible.*

  1. It is important to think ahead and try to plan for any possible problem. That is why we should set aside a small portion of money every month to build a reserve.
  2. To follow God’s plan for one’s life, one must be determined and confident. One must move forward, following God’s guidance despite any difficulties that come. Think again about the story of Job.

John 16:33: [Jesus said:] “I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united to me. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world!”?Good News Bible.*

Proverbs 15:16: Better to be poor and fear the LORD than to be rich and in trouble.?Good News Bible.*

1 Timothy 6:6-8: 6 Well, religion does make a person very rich, if he is satisfied with what he has. 7What did we bring into the world? Nothing! What can we take out of the world? Nothing! 8So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us.?Good News Bible.*

  1. How far should we go with the idea that if we are faithful to Christ, He will take care of us?

[BSG:] When God bestows material prosperity, He expects to be honored with what He gives us (Prov. 3:9, 10). As the recipients of such largesse, we must ever bear in mind that true success is not dependent on riches, even those that are divinely bestowed. True success means being a faithful steward, regardless of the circumstances that we are going through. In prosperity, adversity, health, or illness, we must be faithful unto death that we, in the end, may inherit the crown of life (Rev. 2:10).?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 106.‡§

  1. But the Christian recognizes that success does not just involve material assets, including wealth or possessions. God promised to offer us abundant life; but, that is not all that is available to us.

Proverbs 3:16: Wisdom offers you long life, as well as wealth and honour.?Good News Bible.*

  1. So, what are the conditions for success?

[BSG:] God First: Success in our material and spiritual life depends on putting God first (Matt. 6:33,Deut. 28:1–14). God then calls us to keep His commandments, in order to establish us as a holy people (Deut. 28:9), who are called by His name (Deut. 28:10). Then, through material blessings, He sets His people and His name high above all nations (Deut. 28:1,Mal. 3:12)….

Diligence: In the Scriptures, diligence can refer to someone who is quick, skillful, and prepared (Heb. mahir) (Prov. 22:29). Another meaning of diligent [sic] is sharp, keen, and acute (Heb. harutz), said of someone who is efficient (Prov. 13:4). As such, a diligent person is one who acts promptly and competently. Indolence and idleness are not compatible with success.

Prosperity and Integrity: Joseph was prosperous because the Lord was with him, according toGenesis 39:2–5. [See item #18 above.] In this text from Genesis, “prosperous” (Hebrew: tsalah) means to “push forward,” “be profitable,” or to “be good.” Joseph was not a victim of circumstances or idleness, because he “pushed forward” and made things happen. He seized opportunities, always in consultation with the Lord, and, consequently, excelled at what he did.?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 107.†‡§

[EGW:] The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.—Ellen G. White, Education* 57.3.†‡

1 Timothy 6:9-10: 9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.?Good News Bible.*

[BSG:] Many times, the ambition to make a lot of money becomes an end in and of itself in the search to have more, even if the person is unable to enjoy everything he or she has acquired (Eccles. 4:6–8). Worse, one who did nothing to acquire this hard-earned wealth may end up enjoying it instead (Eccles. 6:2).?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 108.‡§

  1. What does the Bible give as examples of success?

[BSG:] Success and Wisdom: One word used in the Bible for good fortune (in Hebrew: sakal) can be translated in various scriptural passages as “good success,” “to be prudent,” and “to wisely understand.”…

Success in Marriage and the Family: Marriage and the family rely on wise and successful (in Hebrew: sakal) spouses, and, thus, the wise (sakal) woman is from the Lord (Prov. 19:14). On the other hand, there are foolish husbands, such as Nabal (1 Sam. 25:25), whose arrogance and folly can be detrimental….

Success in Any Situation: God desired to open the windows of heaven to bless the Israelites, so that they could move forward and progress (Heb. ashar) in His plan to make them a blessing to all nations. This blessing was contingent upon the nation’s faithfulness in returning tithes and offerings (Mal. 3:10–12). In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, rendered by the Jews (LXX), [sic] the word for “progress” was translated to the Greek as makarioi, which means blessed or happy (Mal. 3:12). This blessing (makarioi) would draw the attention of all nations to the Lord’s name.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus identifies the happy (in Greek: makarioi) of His kingdom as those who are poor in spirit, meek, merciful, peacemakers, and the pure in heart (Matt. 5:1–9). Jesus points out another group of happy people (makarioi): the ones who are persecuted and falsely accused for His name’s sake (Matt. 5:10, 11), as well as those who patiently endure trial and affliction for their faith (James 5:11).?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 108-109.†‡§

  1. Why did Jesus give us that list in the Beatitudes and call them blessed and happy? (Matthew 5:1-12) By contrast, what would the world call blessed and happy?
  2. Will the people who are living/surviving through the seven last plagues consider themselves blessed and happy?
  3. There are many people in our world who seem to be doing their best to do everything right; but, still misfortune attacks them. Everything from illness, bankruptcy, loss of a loved one, etc. damages their progress. But, when Christians remain faithful during these kinds of difficult situations, they are blessed, happy, and successful before God.

[EGW:] Many of the people of God are stupefied by the spirit of the world, and are denying their faith by their works. They cultivate a love for money, for houses and lands, until it absorbs the powers of mind and being, and shuts out love for the Creator and for souls for whom Christ died. The God [sic] of this world has blinded their eyes; their eternal interests are made secondary; and brain, bone, and muscle are taxed to the utmost to increase their worldly possessions. And all this accumulation of cares and burdens is borne in direct violation of the injunction of Christ, who said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.”

They forget that He said also, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven;” that in so doing they are working for their own interest. The treasure laid up in heaven is safe; no thief can approach nor moth corrupt it. But their treasure is upon the earth, and their affections are upon their treasure.?Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship* 209.1-2.‡§

  1. So, how does it look to you? Is it possible to put God first in all your activities and goals?
  2. Is there a difference between true success and “apparent success”?

[EGW:] It is in appearance, not in reality, that evil succeeds.?Ellen G. White, Education* 108.2.†‡

  1. ReadPsalm 73:1-20. We may be envious and perplexed by the fact that some wicked people seem to succeed beyond one’s wildest imagination. But, when we recognize the plans God has for us and keep that in our reckoning, suddenly, things come into focus.
  2. Do words like those console you when things seem to be going badly? Never forget:

1 Corinthians 13:7: Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.?Good News Bible.*

[EGW:] There is no branch of legitimate business for which the Bible does not afford an essential preparation. Its principles of diligence, honesty, thrift, temperance, and purity are the secret of true success.—Ellen G. White, Education* 135.1.

[BSG:] How do we prosper socially and financially without losing our faith along the way or falling prey to a love for mammon (Matt. 6:33; 1 Chron. 29:14–16;Prov. 3:9, 10)??Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 110.‡§

©2023, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution of all or of a portion of this material such as to a Bible study class is encouraged. *Electronic version. Bold type is added. Brackets and content in brackets are added. §Italic type is in the source. Compared with the first source, this source has punctuation and/or capitalization differences only. This source has minor wording differences compared with the first source and may also have punctuation and/or capitalization differences.         Info@theox.org

Last Modified: February 6, 2023