A few years ago, eight high school seniors received a college scholarship. In addition to being intelligent these students were chosen because they were the first in their family to attend college. All eight winners allowed me to read and quote from their scholarship application letters. Each letter highlights a story offering an inspiring example of courage and faith. But, it wasn’t always easy.

  • “My life got off to a very bumpy start: literally. I was born in transit to the delivery room, somewhere between the back seat of a 1979 baby blue Volkswagen Rabbit and the fourth floor of the hospital. My father was sent to prison a few years ago –“
  • “I was four when my parents divorced. I can truly say that it was one of the worst experiences that I have had yet –“
  • “I was raised in a house full of people so I always had to fight for everything I wanted, including attention – “
  • “These seventeen years of my life have been filled with heartache, joy, compassion, love, and devotion. “


If there is a recipe for success, these youth started with the wrong ingredients. Yet they managed to succeed beyond all expectations. How did they do it? First, I noticed in the letters that each student knew what they wanted to do: Doctor, Prosecuting Attorney, Army Officer, Special Education Teacher, Certified Public Accountant, Child Counselor, Social worker. Each one set clear goals for the future. This is so important.


Peter gives his own recipe for success to a struggling church: “God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you. Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)

  1. God gives us gifts.
  2. Manage our gifts wisely.
  3. Use our gifts knowing God speaks through us.
  4. Do everything with all your strength and energy.
  5. Give God the glory for your success.

Success is the process of learning to understand and appreciate your God-given gifts and then managing them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you. Is your goal to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. These eight seniors are doing that. Here are some other valuable lessons from the letters of these remarkable youth:


Desire: “Despite the emotional distress that loomed due to those circumstances, I maintained my A’ average in school. I attribute this to my strong, independent character.”


Perspective: “I had a better understanding of how to pray. Throughout my entire life, religion and school seem to be the meaningful topics in my life.”


A Mentor: “I will be eternally grateful for my mother’s instruction. My academic success can be traced back to her taking the time to teach me, when others left it up to the schools.”


Appreciation: “I believe that there is no greater place on this earth than the United States of America. I want to put my life on the line for the country that has been so good to me.”


Service: “I will strive to help students with disabilities. The best thing that a person can do in life is to help someone else.”


Influence: “In my opinion, the difference between a child that sells drugs and a child that makes the honor roll is the encouragement and faith that adults instill in them.”


Faith: “I thank God every night for blessing me in so many ways and ask him to keep giving me the strength and knowledge to live a prosperous and positive long life.”


Everyone is not meant to receive a scholarship or attend a university, but we are all given unique abilities and talents by God. Are we applying them? At the same time, we have serious obstacles and character flaws to overcome. One way to measure success is the willingness to use our God given gifts and talents regardless of obstacles standing in the way.


Here is the recipe for success I discovered in our eight scholarship winners?

  • Knowing what you want to do.
  • A strong desire to succeed.
  • Maintaining your perspective.
  • Seeking a good mentor.
  • An appreciation for your blessings.
  • A willingness to serve.
  • Becoming an influence for others.
  • Faith in a loving God who will walk beside you.

I pray we all learn from their example.