ARE YOU SUCCESSFUL?
I am turning 29 this year and I can’t help but wonder to myself, “what have I achieved in the life that I have lived?” You see, I thought by 29 I would be somewhat successful, a brand manager of an internationally acclaimed company. Married with 3 children and living in a modest mansion in an estate and a pretty decent car (nothing too fancy as I’m not really into cars).
But I won’t even lie, the thought of being almost 30 makes me cringe, I feel like I have done nothing with my life and that I am far from being successful. How many of us feel like this way? Do we ever wonder why we feel like this? I think it has to do with the media, seeing our friends flourish and the fast, flashy Joburg lifestyle. We measure our success by comparing ourselves to those around us or by how much we can accumulate in this lifetime. I wonder if God was to look at us, was to look at me, would he deem me as someone successful? Does God even care whether I’m successful or not? How would he want me as a young Christian to go about being ambitious and wanting to be successful? I ask myself.
The definition for success is “the attainment of fame, wealth or social status” or “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” (Oxford dictionary). Of course many of us would argue that the meaning of success is a personal thing but what does the bible say about success? Some verses in the bible that speak about success Proverbs 3:1-4 “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favour and good success in the sight of God and man.” Or 1 Kings 2:3 “Do what the LORD your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go”
Seeing that the bible speaks of ‘success’ as reward I think it’s safe to say that there is nothing wrong with having a desire to be successful and that God does want us to be successful. How we define success however, is what we should be concerned about as believers because it will shape how we live. It will shape our drive and motivation, it will shape how we interact with others as well as what we do with what God has given us. We need to look at success through the gospel lens.
STRIVING FOR SUCCESS THROUGH THE GOSPEL LENS
If we have the big picture in our minds of what God has called us to do on this earth, it becomes a bit easier to know how we should address this topic of success. God has saved us from our sin, and therefore called us to serve him and others in accordance with our gifts and abilities. “10Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 11Whoever speaks, let it be with Gods words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)
STRIVING FOR SUCCESS THROUGH THE GOSPEL LENS MEANS THAT:
- Our motivation is rooted in God and that which pleases God. It means being more concerned about Christ and making him known rather than just fulfilling our selfish goals and accomplishments.
- We use our God-given gifts, abilities and possessions to serve God and others.
But how do we make sense of our ambition? When is it sinful? How will we know if we have taken off the gospel lens and are losing the plot?
DRIVEN BY SUCCESS OR DRIVEN BY GOD? (HAVE WE LOST THE PLOT?)
Our definition for success may differ but I think we all fall under the trap of measuring our success by how much we have, by our wealth and possessions. This is because money and possessions are what’s most visible to us, especially to our friends and family. The bible warns us about our pursuit for wealth “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and armful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10) What is condemned here is the desire to be rich, not material things per se when rightly used for the glory of God.
This is quite a difficult one to get right. On the one hand we shouldn’t be driven by the pursuit of wealth but on the other hand, we live in a world where money talks. School fees cost an arm and a leg, buying property is not cheap and the price of food just keeps going up. What ends up happening is that we pursue wealth in order to provide and live a comfortable life. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. The problem is when pursuing wealth takes priority over living for God and serving others. So how will we then know if we have lost the plot?
SOME PRACTICAL WAYS WE COULD TEST OURSELVES:
- We are willing to do anything and everything for the sake of getting more money (e.g. taking bribes, lie, cheat, steal) basically anything that doesn’t glorify God.
- Getting wealthy takes priority over spending time with our loved ones and our church community (Always working late, not being able to go to church or bible study because of work).
- We don’t use what God has blessed us with for his kingdom (e.g. having a house but never inviting people to your home or offering lodging, not giving at church or supporting missionaries, hoarding clothes and shoes and not giving to the needy).
- Finding identity in our possessions rather than Christ .Thinking that because we are wealthier than others, have better homes, drive better cars that somehow we are better than others. Not only that, but that we deserve God’s grace because “we have made it in life”.
In light of all that is said, I shouldn’t be freaking out about turning I’m 29. To the world I may not fall under the category of being successful. However, success to me is using the voice that God has given me to bring about change, Godly change. Success is being a servant hearted wife and to be a mother that ensures that my son grows up in a home that demonstrates the grace of God through my imperfections.