Success – Whose Definition Will You Choose
In today’s culture we are bombarded with many definitions of success. It is defined by what car you drive, where you live, and what you wear. Success can be determined by the job and title you’ve attained, the people you associate with, and where your children attend school. Success can even be dictated by the restaurants you visit or the coffee you drink. All of these definitions when consider at their source illustrate the prevailing sentiment that exists in our culture today:
success is measured through personal material gain.
In an entertainment driven society, this concept of success is reinforced by every television show, commercial advertisement, magazine, or movie we view.
In addition, we see these ideals of success being carried out in the lives of our “friends” in social media. Only the best selfies, highlighting your best smile, with your best friends, had at the best restaurant, is presented for the world to see.
For many, actually achieving success is not the most important thing, simply looking successful is the goal.
We “comment” and “like” these representations reinforcing the need to been seen as successful while creating a false image to the world. Why should one work hard to climb the corporate ladder when all one needs to do is fake the part well enough, and still receive all of the accolades?
Many people mortgage their lives to drive the best cars and live in the best houses. They sacrifice everything to gain the approval or envy of people they seek to impress. Meanwhile, they lead lives of quiet desperation fearing that at any moment their house of cards will fall. They are terrified that their internal need for acceptance will be exposed, and they’ll be revealed for the frauds they truly are. They have become paper doll cut outs; looking the same, wearing the same designers, driving the same cars, living the same empty lives.
As Christians we must ask: Have we allowed ourselves to fall into this trap of chasing worldly success?
Have we bought into what the culture pronounces as success? Have we created glass houses filled with the worlds standard of success to appease those around us and build ourselves up to gain favor in their sight? For many the answer is an unfortunate yes. We have allowed the cultural standard of success to infiltrate the church, and it is having a devastating effect. While we should be living lives of freedom and peace in Christ, we have become slaves to cultural expectations and subjected ourselves to the turmoil created by the pursuit of material wealth and status. Often we are so enmeshed with the culture that we are not aware that we have started down a path that leads outside of God’s plan for our lives. Even worse, some in the church have incorporated the worlds standard of success as part of their doctrine. Promoting the idea that to truly be blessed, you must pursue and possess the best of everything the world has to offer. The Bible does speak of provision for believers, as well as success and prosperity.
The questions that must be asked are what does that success look like and why is it provided?
Are we called to merely mimic the cultural standard of success or does God have a different standard by which we are called to operate and exist? We must be willing to examine every area of our life in light of who Christ is and has called each of us to be. We should not blindly follow the culture into a bottomless pit filled with empty pursuits. We should no longer walk aimlessly down the wide path to the broad gate that leads to destruction but choose the narrow way through the small gate that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14)
In Matthew 6:22-34, Jesus diagnosis the problem and provides us with solution:
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
As followers of Christ our responsibility is to follow Jesus as our example, His Word is our instruction, and the Holy Spirit is our teacher. Together, these entities define success in our lives. Rather than following the cookie cutter example provided by the culture for success, allow what Christ reveals about you as an individual to provide you with road map to His success for your life. The life of a follower of Christ should be greater than the pursuit of worldly gain but encompass a desire to live in a way that glorifies God, and uplifts his fellow man. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 14:17-19:
“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore, let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
This scripture describes what the Kingdom of God is and illustrates the necessity to take the emphasis off the cultural standard and place it on the adoption of God’s plan. This is the only way we will be “acceptable to God and approved by men”.
By understanding God’s standard for success we shift our focus from the material things we desire for this life, to the One who is the giver and sustainer of life. We effectively break the grip the culture has on our futures breaking the chains of materialism that would seek to hold us captive. Choose to seek God, choose to follow Christ, choose to listen to the Holy Spirit and begin to live the life He designed and created specifically for you.
Renatha E. Lollis is the Director of Operations for Destiny Institute, a Christian advocacy non-profit primarily focused on promoting the importance of adopting a Biblical worldview within the Christian Church. She is a wife, Bible teacher and conference speaker. To contact Renatha, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.