6 June 2012
Success! The concept can't help but be noticed. Advertising via TV, movies, and the Internet all tell us what the world thinks we should be to be successful.
Sometimes, I wrestle with what it means to be successful as I gaze upon the seemingly successful persons in the world. Such struggle ensues because I look (i.e., walk)
in the wrong place. The world defines success based on status and materialism. How big is your paycheck? What kind of car do you drive?
What does your physical body look like? What's your level of education? What gadgets do you have? What neighborhood do you live in? Who are your friends? And so on. Those are the wrong places to look for
success. And while I have mentioned success elsewhere1, 2, 3
, struggling prompts me to revisit the topic again.
During a time in the Word, I encountered these verses in Genesis 39 (NASB):
- v. 2: The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.
- v. 21: But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.
- v. 23: The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph's charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper.
I looked at such verses and saw the phrase, "the Lord was with" followed by words like successful, favor, and prosper. And that is when I was reminded what
true success is all about. Success isn't about the things I listed above. It comes from the Lord. This does not mean that those with whom the Lord walks are not sometimes
in need or struggling as that is part of life for many. However, walking with the Lord will result in significance. And true success is really what Phil Downer calls significance.
Success mostly has become diluted to a temporary achievement that will be forgotten after
one leaves the
world in which s/he tried to be so successful. In contrast, significance is speaking into the lives of others, serving others, leaving a legacy. Significance makes an
"eternal impact" (Phil Downer, Eternal Impact) when one is walking with the Lord.
Both Hebrews 11:5 and Genesis 5:22 mention Enoch, the latter stating, "Enoch walked with God." During a retreat I attended, Pastor Ken Watson, father of NFL football player Ben
Watson, shared from these and other verses. He asked, "What's most important? Business? House? What you have? Or is it how you walk with God?" He then mentioned how Noah was a great-grandson of
Enoch. He reflected on Genesis 6:9 stating that "Noah walked with God." Echoing what I read about Joseph in Genesis 39 and what Pastor Watson shared with regards to Enoch, the most important thing -- not just in regards to success, but
in regards to everything -- is God.
Jesus states in Matthew 6:20-21 (NASB), "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves
do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Material blessings in and of themselves are not bad, but they become evil if they compete with
God, thus becoming idols. Praise the One who gives, not that which He gives. If we are storing up our treasures in Heaven, then we are walking with God and the Lord is with us. That
is true success and out of such a position, significant impact occurs. However, don't try to be "godly" to attempt to gain "success" or you will miss the point. Intimacy with God is the key and it may or may not involve success in material things. It will
involve success in the things that matter.
I was sharing recently with a very accomplished man in the worldly sense. He has a PhD, drives a nice sports car, lives in a large home, and makes a lot of money. He shared with
me how he was struggling with grief upon losing a pet. We talked about this and eventually, he mentioned that he wasn't sure if God was on his side or not or if he was on God's side or
not. He admitted that he had done his share of misdeeds and added that he asked God to help him get his daughter through college and he did. He then said that maybe he was on God's side
and God was on his side after all. I mentioned to him that in and of ourselves, we have all failed God and therefore we were not on His side. I then mentioned what I call The Great
Resumé Swap. I mentioned how due to our failures against God (sin), we have resumés that are imperfect, overshadowed by our wrongs. Then I mentioned the hope. God sent One (Jesus) who is perfect and has a perfect resumé. He freely provides this and will give us His perfect resumé in exchange
for our imperfect ones. We just have to trust His provision. My friend asked, "What if His resumé is bad in the end?" I said that if He is perfect, then how can His resumé be bad?
Keep praying for this man.
The resumé discussion prompted further thoughts. Not only does Jesus impute His righteousness to us (give us His resumé) while nailing our resumés (sins) to the
cross, but this has something to say about success. Typically, we think of resumés as objectives, goals, vision, rewards, work, activities, and education to brag and sell our way into
jobs and positions. What if we revisited it and asked the following questions:
- Are my objectives Jesus' objectives?
- Are my goals Jesus' goals?
- Is my vision Jesus' vision?
- Am I trusting His current and future rewards?
- Is my work His work?
- Are my activities His activities?
- In education, am I learning from His Word, the Bible?
Aligned with Him, such questions challenge us in the power of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate the fruit of significance, true success, and heavenly success. In Christ, His objectives become ours; His righteousness becomes ours! What
resumé are you trusting? Are you trusting His work or your own? What or who is the basis for your success? If you are trusting in His work, then the Lord is with you (and will never leave you nor forsake you) and fruit should follow.
Ultimately, may you walk with Christ. At the end of your days, may you look back at how "the Lord was with" you and upon entering His glory, hear the greatest declaration of success of all - to His glory: "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
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