What is success? Before we think about how to succeed, we would be wise to understand what we think success looks like. If we define success as a financial goal, then I’d suggest that our fulfillment in life might be thin and elusive. If we define success as achievements or reaching goals, then we will likely need to keep setting goals to achieve so sustain our significance quotient. If popularity (YouTube subscribers, IG or Tik Tok followers, etc.) is our definition of success, then we give the keys of this pursuit to fickle crowds. Another popular definition of success is image – how we look and our physique. In my opinion, these are common indicators of success, easily observed in our daily living.
So how many of these common pursuits for success have affected our ideas about success?
Lest we throw the baby out with the bathwater, let’s be clear that the things I just listed are significant–not trivial nor irrelevant. But if these pursuits become our endgame–the primary focus of our efforts and time–then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, disillusionment, frustration, the breathless chasing after the wind; along with a despondent existence. It doesn’t take very long to look at various historical figures to see that these common ideas of success don’t satisfy. Consider:
- Oprah Winfrey: “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
- Amancio Ortega (founder of Zara, worth $70 billion) at 80 years old: “I’ll keep working until the end.”
- Marilyn Monroe: “If you’re gonna be two-faced at least make one of them pretty.”
- Benjamin Franklin: “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.”
So what would the Bible say about success? One of my all-time favorite verses on this comes from Jeremiah 9:23-24 which says, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24. but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things.”
From these verses, let’s keep our pursuit of knowing God scoped tight in the cross-hairs for what success means to us. So how do we go about knowing God, who is infinite, all-knowing, ever-present and all-powerful? Obviously, we can’t think of knowing God only from an achievement mindset: We read the Bible and therefore we know God. Nor does it mean that we know God because we’re scholarly theologians or benevolent humanitarians. Furthermore, just because we dress up for church and know the vocabulary and appropriate religious answers, this doesn’t mean that we know God either.
Although these things can certainly be helpful, I think the best way to know God is doing life together with God, deep in the weeds of our daily living. Knowing God is the process of including God in conversations, life activities, making decisions, pouring out our heart to God, and being mindful to connect with God throughout the various stages and seasons in our lives. In these things, we are accepting God’s invitation to be known and to reveal Themselves to us, since They are Triune.
If we want to be successful, then let’s pay attention to how we define success! In next week’s blog, I’ll share some helpful pointers to keep success practical and accessible for us!