If you take a risk, say… A BIG RISK. You make a decision to step out and go for something. You give of your time, your talents, and your treasure (3 t’s means it’s easier to remember, right?). You make “all the right moves.” You cross every T and dot every i. You even told a whole bunch of people about your new “adventure.” To cap it all off, you had t-shirts made and you had a logo printed of your new endeavor, sealing the deal that this risk is a GO!
Then it fails.
Like, beyond repair, fails.
Like, you are now having to publicly answer questions about why you aren’t doing what you had originally set out to do, fails.
Do you see yourself as someone who failed at something or do you see yourself as a failure? There is a difference.
This is the subtle way living by the world’s standard of success will mark you. If Christ-followers choose to let the world define success for us, we won’t be able to help but take on the identity of “a failure” when we fail at something, and, possibly more dangerously, we’ll take all the credit when we succeed.
Today, if we were to say someone is successful, we might look at their wealth, their position in the world, their influence, their comfort level, and then aim to copy their business model. We will learn from them. We will study them. All of our efforts bent around achieving the same “level” of success that they have achieved.
Now, before we move on, success is not a bad thing. Success is actually NOT defined by wealth, comfort, security, or position. Success is simply defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” So, success is not the enemy here. Where we can get fuzzy and lose sight is in our aim or our purpose. For the Christ-follower, does the world define our goals and purpose or does God? Does God have an idea of success (aim or purpose) that we may have ignored? Have we adopted a way of success that we weren’t meant to?
To keep this short and sweet, what would success look like for a Christ-follower?
Jesus told us in multiple ways to “guard against every kind of greed” (Luke 12:15). He warned us of the very real possibility of “gaining the whole world, but losing your soul” (Matthew 16:26).
The book of Acts, paints for us a very different picture of success than the one the world paints. READ ACTS 2:42-47. After considering the ways of the church in this action packed book we can safely say, success looks different for a Christ-follower. For the one who has been redeemed, reconciled, and restored by the life, death, and resurrection, we now ask new questions about success.
1. Do I have a desire to know God’s Word and put it into practice? If not, why? Do I want to honor the Lord by loving His Word and His commands? Is this an aim or a purpose you have set out to accomplish? (Fully keeping in mind that the whole of Scripture explain to us that our keeping of or failure to keep His commands is not where our salvation hinges. Salvation is found in Christ alone, and now knowing He has done the saving work on the cross, do I aim to honor Him by obeying His words?)
2. Do I aim or purpose to “lean NOT on my own understanding and in all my ways acknowledge Him?” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Do I take joy in learning to hand over control of my life in every area to be led by His Holy Spirit? Am I still telling God that, “I got this?” or is my aim to let God lead more and more? Success is not self-reliance. Our aim is a full reliance on Christ.
3. Is my aim or purpose to pay attention and see to the lifting of burdens off the shoulders of others? As a result of a generous God meeting our greatest need, do I find myself praying about how I can meet the needs of others? One of the greatest ways we can re-define success in a self-centered world is by considering others better than ourselves. Do we purpose to value people over stuff?
Christ-followers must let God’s Word RE-define success for us. The world has tried, we have believed it, and we are confused. We must un-learn just as much as we need to learn. As we learn to let Jesus BE our success, not just our example of success, we will find our definition of success changing. As we learn of Jesus and His ways, we will find, we can risk, fail, and fail hard, because our success/failure is not in the results we see or don’t see. Our success is found in faithfulness. Faithfulness to His Word, to His Leading, and to His people.