What is success?
How do you measure success?
The Christian believer has a bit of an advantage over his unbelieving friends, family, and co-workers. How so? Our worldview determines how we should view success.
1. God Defines Success.
Success and the pursuit of success can be such a trap. Some measure it by physical health or attractiveness. Many measure it by career advancement and the accumulation of wealth. Still others measure success by how others perceive their status in the community, company, or civic organization.
What is interesting is that a person can be a stellar success in one or all of these areas, yet not be a success in what really matters most. If we let God define success and help set our priorities, then we have a legitimate opportunity to be successful in the most important areas of life:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” Matthew 6:33
God’s kingdom and righteousness is simply understood as allowing Him to rule in our life in a way that causes us to love Him and those around us. We need to be successful at loving God, loving ourselves, and loving each other—even THAT person—the one who appears to be unlovable.
2. Success is Being Who God Created You to Be.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31 is a lengthy explanation by Paul declaring the legitimacy of the differences between believers. Paul shares the heart of God by helping us to understand that God made each of us differently and gifted us uniquely so that we may serve in different roles in the church and His kingdom. Paul points out that one gift is not better than another—simply different. This difference is determined by God.
What is important is knowing Who God is and who you are in Him. Your life is meant to bring glory to Him. What unfolds before us each day is an opportunity to follow God and live our life to its greatest potential—or do something else.
3. Success is Not Measureable, but it is Knowable.
We live in day where you are not successful unless you are the best. Each year, 20 college football coaches are fired because they did not win a conference or national championship. If that handful of coaches had won their conference over the other guys, then the “shoe” would simply be on the other foot. We all know there is more to being a successful college football coach than winning a national championship—things like building character, graduating student-athletes, and developing leadership.
The problem is character-building and leadership-development are more abstract and extremely difficult to measure. Wins and losses, championship trophies, and alumni and booster donations are much easier to quantify.
This mentality bleeds over into the life of a believer. It’s much easier to measure success by church attendance, your 401k, or your credit score. It is much harder to determine if you really love God and other people. It is more difficult to measure the depth of a person’s character or the strength of their integrity.
While success is difficult to measure, quantify, and track—it can be known. David was considered a man after God’s heart and it was not because of his military success. It was due to his ability to repent after complete failure. John the Baptist lost his entire movement, was politically incorrect, and lost his life in prison. Yet Jesus said, “He is the greatest man ever born of a woman.” Consider Jesus. He lost thousands of followers, failed to observe political protocols of the day, refused to yield to popular consensus, and was abandoned by all followers and family except for three people. If you hold to a secular view of leadership and success all of these are abject failures.
Yet, we speak of these men thousands of years after they have come and gone—and the world will continue to be inspired by their example thousands of years after the Trumps, Gates, and Buffets are forgotten. Why? Because genuine success is achieved in your mind, heart, and relationships—not on a scoreboard, a financial statement, or a bronze plaque.
When I go to sleep at night I want to know a three things: I want my wife to believe I am a good man, I want my daughters to believe I am a good father, and I want God to believe I have followed Him. If I can have this, then I am successful. If I can string together 10,000 more days like that, then I will be happy with the success God has given to me. I am not competing with anyone other than myself!
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014