Does success come from hard work, or does it have another origin? We can certainly manufacture success by doing some public relations, some spin, some creative promotion. And from the outside it can look very successful. Someone may even do such a good job manufacturing their success that they begin to believe their own press releases.
But manufactured success rarely lasts.
Consider the case of a man named Adonijah. He was the heir-apparent in Israel. As the oldest living son of the famed King David, Adonijah was the odds-on favorite to be the next king. And so Adonijah began to manufacture a successful transfer of power for himself. He invited all the right people, and ignored those who he knew wouldn’t go along with his plan. He set up everything just the way a prince ascending the throne should have it. His followers joined him for a party and begin to raise their glasses in a toast: Long live King Adonijah!
Except God — and King David — had other plans. David had his son Solomon anointed king. When the few followers that were toasting Adonijah heard this, they all bailed on him and ran away. Even Adonijah recognized that something else can trump manufactured success. Here’s what he said —
“As you know,” he said, “the kingdom was mine. All Israel looked to me as their king. But things changed, and the kingdom has gone to my brother; for it has come to him from the LORD.”
Success has come to him from the Lord. God’s success always trumps manufactured success.
Manufactured success leads to pride (the kingdom was mine). And pride over-exaggerates our self-worth and obscures reality (all Israel looked to me as their king). God’s success comes to the humble who recognize His lordship and their place in His Kingdom. God’s success lasts.
Although Adonijah eventually recognized this, he didn’t learn from it. In the next scene he is again trying to manufacture a way to ascend to the throne. And this time he not only loses his position, but his life as well.
Here’s what Jesus says: For whoever exalts himself will be humbled [manufactured success], and whoever humbles himself will be exalted [God’s success].