Dear Pastor Andy, what is your personal definition of “success”? “Finding fulfillment, freedom, quality of time with loved ones and a sense of well being” are common phrases in personal definitions of success. What is yours? Is there a definition for success, or is everyone’s different?
The world gives us millions of different definitions for what it means to be successful, and I agree, it is difficult to figure out which are correct.
Among the ones you mentioned are those that look at what you do for a living, how much money you make, what “toys” you have bought for yourself, or how big your house is as the measuring stick for success. But then, there are a lot of lonely and unhappy people with lots of stuff.
The world also gives us many different instructions on how to become successful. “Positive Thinking”; “hard work’; ‘focus on your dream’; ‘follow every instruction in this book or that book’; ‘be passionate about what you do’; All promising to lead to “success”. But even with all these guides, whether we obtain these goals or not, our quest for real success ends up meaningless, and success seems to be something too far to obtain. Like climbing a mountain, only to get to the top and realize, “that’s it?”
The truth is, God has already revealed to us the secret of what it means to be successful, and how to get there:
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:7-8)
I believe that as Christians, we can also look to God’s command to Joshua:
- “Be strong and very courageous.” This includes standing firm in our faith and trust in God. Don’t change your stance based on what others say, but remain firm on what God has said in His Word.
- “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you.” Remember, the Bible was not meant just to be read, but to be obeyed. James (James 1:22-25) said that those who don’t obey what they read in Scripture are like people who look at themselves in the mirror, then once they look away, forget what they looked like. So don’t just simply read or listen to the Word of God, thus deceiving yourselves. Do what it says! For “whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
- “Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Remember, being a Christian means having a close relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but it must begin with first denying yourself, taking up our cross, and following Him (see my previous post on this) Be careful not to fall behind, due to the struggles and worries of this world, and don’t allow yourself to turn to the left or to the right, but stay right up to Him.
- “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” – When I first began reading the Bible, I read it so often that I actually began to talk like that of the New King James that I was reading. Still to this day, when reading God’s Word, I will highlight, underline, and write notes in the margins. I will also sometimes ponder what I read and pray for better understanding and help with obeying it.
Notice, Joshua, Moses’ successor, had the HUGE task of continuing the leadership of the Israelites into the Promised Land. But even with such a big task, God encouraged and gave Joshua a foolproof way to become successful: “meditate (on the Book of the Law) day and night so that (he) may be careful to do all that is written in it.”
In seminary, one of my professors had a poster in the Christian Education room that said, “Success is judged by your faithfulness to your mission, not by your results.” I liked that so much that I asked him for it when I graduated. I believe this is so important because, especially in ministry, not everybody’s going to accept Jesus, no matter how much you put your heart into it, and this can often burn one out. So I put it up in my office wherever I serve to remind me that whether or not I’m successful in my ministry is not judged by the results that I can see with my physical eye, and that failure cannot come as long as I remain faithful to my mission (because if I lose my faithfulness to my mission, then I’ve already failed).
And that is what I believe is the meaning of real success.