Recently, Robert and I were in conversation with some friends and the topic of success came up. One friend discussed that he was looking at what he was doing at work and it didn’t look like his “success graph” was going up and to the right. He talked about what he had envisioned his “success graph” would look like 10 years in and with honesty he determined that his graph did not go up and to the right. Yet, he talked about many wonderful things that had happened over 10 years. He admitted he didn’t know quite where to go next and whether he should even continue. Our conversation continued and we moved on to different topics. However, my mind, spun the next morning about the “success graph”.
As I pondered this concept of success I asked this question, ” Does the graph have to go up and to the right”? That’s when it occurred to me that I needed to bring God into this conversation! So I ask, “God, does my success graph need to go up and to the right? What does success look like to you ?” So I turned to the Bible and I turned to Jesus as my example and here is what I learned.
God’s view of success
Let’s take a look at Jesus.
He spent 30 years of his life, being with his family as a carpenter. He spent three years explaining to people that He was the Messiah. During those 3 years he healed countless number of people, performed countless miracles, raised people from the dead, preached to 1000’s upon 1000’s and yet…he wasn’t accepted by the very people he came to be the Messiah for and he only had 12 disciples! 12, yes just 12. Jesus’ graph goes way up and then goes way down. Can you kind of visualize how his graph might look?
But, he was ultimately successful because he fulfilled his purpose which was to die. Upon death, his success graph would point severely down and to the left by the worlds standards at this point right? Then, he was raised from the dead. Now his graph goes back up and to the right severely doesn’t it?
Doesn’t it become hard to measure the success of Jesus based on an up and to the right graph?
From Jesus’ life it’s very easy to argue that in God’s world (and yes, this IS His world) success is not defined or measured by a graph that goes up and to the right. In Jesus’ life, God distinctly shows us that by obeying and doing what God designed us to do, we are successful in His economy. Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus endured through his design (to be sacrificed so we might be saved) and that because he obeyed, he now sits in “the place of honor beside God’s throne”. This shows us that in God’s economy the pay out may not come in this lifetime!
Ephesians 2:10 says We are God’s masterpiece, Psalms 139 talks about God knowing us before we are born, that he knit us together in our mother’s womb. In Jeremiah 29, God says to us that He has plans for us, to prosper us and not harm us. In Genesis He tells us we are created in His image. In Ephesians 4 He tells us that each of us has a specific role, a part that is completely integral to His entire plan. In Ephesians 6 He tells us whether master or slave on earth, we all report back in to Him and He has no favorites! And these are just a few verses in the Bible that tell us we are each designed with a purpose, that God is counting on each of us to do what He designed us to do and that He is the one who designed us and that He will be the one who will determine if we have done what we were designed to do.
World success compared to God success
The world says your graph must go up and to the right versus God’s graph which may go all over the place.
World success is determined in this life time and ends when this life is over versus God success says that it doesn’t end or stop when we die and our reward may come after we die.
Worlds success is exclusive and elusive versus God’s success which is customized for EACH one of us and is thereby inclusive and clear. We just need to do what He designed us to do.
World success is public and visible versus God’s success which may or may not be public and may or may not be visible.
World success changes and is defined by our culture versus God’s success which was determined long before we were born and doesn’t change.
World success is determined by others versus God’s success which is determined by Him and only Him.
That’s some kind of difference isn’t it? You know, it is just exactly this question of success that led me to a little church in Niwot, Colorado.
By the world’s standards I had been pretty successful and the likelihood of even more success at 39 yrs old was highly probable. I looked up and to the right on my success graph and I looked around me at those I perceived to be further up and to the right. When I did that, I didn’t necessarily think that it looked happier or more satisfying or more purposeful over “there” in that upper right hand quadrant. So, I began to say that there HAS got to be something better. And I found that something better, God’s way, God’s design available to me because Jesus did what He was designed to do!
It has been 10 years since I went to that little church in Niwot, Colorado and accepted Jesus as my savior. And no, I didn’t say adios to the world’s view of success as quickly as I wish I would have. And yes, nearly everyday I struggle to remember that I answer ONLY to God and that my success lies ONLY in doing what He has designed me to do. It’s not easy to stay clear and focused in such a powerfully charged environment as the world is.
So, I’m ever grateful that God has made success simple and clear and unchanging! And I’m ever grateful that I’m not left floundering in a rough and fickle world where success is constantly changing and where others can set me up high and drop me down low.
God made me, God made you. He knows me and He knows you. You are free from the pressures. Just do and be what He made you to be!! I have to remind myself of this all the time and it is relieving. These truths definitely clear the fog and the undue pressure i often try to subject myself to. God helps me establish priorities and gives me the hope and courage to keep trying to live each day like I want to live my life – as a success in His eyes!