What does it mean to be successful? I mean what does it REALLY mean…past the ideas we often first think of like becoming popular/famous, making lots of money, or receiving accolades. Beyond all of that, what is the deeper meaning of success?
Several years ago I defined success in my life as having a strong marriage and family, being the leader of a growing and vibrant ministry, being asked to speak at conferences/events/camps/etc, having people read my blogs and books and think of me as a gifted teacher, and making enough money to cover bills and be comfortable as well. These were many of the ways I defined being successful. When they were accomplished, or as I believed they were being accomplished, I would see myself and my life as being a success.
I think it’s safe to say that nothing in that list is a bad dream or desire to have. It is good to have dreams and desires for your life. And none of what I listed above would be considered sinful, so those things I shared are all good things to aspire for.
But, are those dreams and desires, or rather the accomplishment of those dreams and desires, what defines success?
I honestly used to think so. But then I lost my marriage despite all I did to try and save it, I lost my ministry and most of the opportunities that came with it, and I lost my ability to be financially sound and comfortable. In the span of 5 months near the end of 2015, I went from defining my life as successful to not knowing how to define my life or what being successful looked like anymore. And it took me another 23 months of recovering, healing, searching, and growing before I was able to finally change my mindset and be able to see and understand the deeper meaning of success.
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful – 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. – Proverbs 28:20
One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. – Luke 16:10
The success of my life is not determined by what I am able to accomplish. It is not determined by how many people I know or the number of people who follow my teaching or buy my books. It’s not determined by how much money I make, where I live, or what job I have. The real success of my life will be determined by my faithfulness. My faithfulness to what I’ve made commitments to, faithfulness to not giving into what is wrong when doing what is right is hard, faithfulness to take serious my role as a Pastor and teacher to those I have been given the opportunity and privilege to minister to. Ultimately, it is determined by my faithfulness to God.
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. – Matthew 25:21 (and 23)
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells the parable of a master who entrusts a different amount of ‘talents’ to 3 of his servants. After the master returns from a long journey, he asks each servant to give an account of what they did with what he entrusted to them. Two of the servants share how they used what he gave them and gained more, and the verse above is the masters response to both of them. The third servant shares how he didn’t do anything with what he had been entrusted, and the master condemns him.
This parable is an example of us and God. God entrusts to each of his servants, those who are followers of Christ, with doing his will in this life. In the parable, the two servants didn’t accomplish the same amount as each other, but because they were faithful with what they had been entrusted with, they both received the same praise from their Master. Because it’s not about what we accomplish, but rather our faithfulness with what he has entrusted us with.
Not all of us are entrusted with the same things in this life (although when we read scripture, we see that we are all entrusted with many of the same things: loving others, sharing the gospel, living righteously, serving God by serving those around us, trusting God, etc). However, we are all to be faithful with what we have been entrusted with in this life. And true success is not determined by what we have been specifically entrusted with, or what exactly we accomplish, but rather if we are faithful.
All the things I listed at the beginning are great dreams and desires, and it is always good to have dreams and desires in this life. But, they are not what define success. They are blessings the Lord can choose to give me because of my faithfulness, but I must be faithful first. And even if he chooses to withhold some of those blessings…or take them away, I must still remain faithful. Because true success is determined by my faithfulness.
Regardless of the hand we are dealt in this life, we are to remain faithful to God above all else. No matter how large or small of a ministry or sphere of influence God gives us, we are to simply be faithful with what God has given us. In the midst of great tragedy, even when we don’t understand why, our focus must continue to be on faithfully living for our Lord and Savior.
When being faithful above all else is how we seek to live, then no matter what we do or do not accomplish, and no matter what circumstances we deal with in this life, we can be confident that our lives have been successful.